Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor am I giving medical advice. The following information is from my own experiences and research and should not be used in place of medical advice. If you think you may have a medical condition, please seek medical attention from an actual doctor, which is NOT me.
What does Type 1 diabetes feel like? What do you look for? As an adult, I had no idea Type 1 was a possibility. However, it happened so fast that I didn’t have much time to wrap my head around it before I was full-blown living with a disease that I didn’t think I could ever have.
It was June of last year and the weather was starting to move from the warm days of spring to the sweltering days of summer in southern Texas. Normally, my body adjusts well when the temperatures start changing, but this time things were different. We had spent the evening hiking through a local park and actually getting locked inside the park (a story for another time). It was pretty warm during our hike and definitely humid. I was tired and my body was telling me I had done enough for the day.
Once we were home, I showered, changed into some comfortable clothes, and posted our adventure online. I was actually working out some details to start a blog, and the excitement of starting a blog kept me up a little later than usual, until a nauseating feeling sent me to bed. I began starting to feel quite ill and thought I had just pushed too hard on our hike. I’m sure I would feel better in the morning after a good night’s sleep.
Unfortunately, that was not the case. The next morning I was groggy and light-headed. I figured I had caught a bug and needed some extra rest. I went about my day and worked from bed due to the waves of nausea. I don’t make a doctor’s appointment unless I really need one.
This was how my days went for about 3 weeks – Waves of nausea, fatigue, light-headedness, then… weight loss! What? I have been trying to lose weight for years, only to lose a couple of pounds here and there, as a result of an underactive thyroid. Now I was losing weight every day! As exciting as this was, I knew this couldn’t be good. I mean who doesn’t get excited about losing weight, am I right? But, this wasn’t intentional and it was every day. My appetite had increased, and I should have been gaining, NOT losing.
I had also started to recognize that I was drinking a lot of water. I have always been a good water drinker, but this was on a whole new level. We’re talking A LOT of water. So you know what this means now, right? Yep, time to call in Dr. Google. However, first, I need to get my cheater glasses because I can no longer read the computer screen or my phone or a book, as my eyesight was starting to go as well. I could not read close up and my contact prescription hadn’t changed in years.
The first thing I find in my search is Diabetes. Yeah, I knew the disease would rear its ugly head sooner or later. Type 2 runs in my family, but really not until later in life. I was about to turn 46, so as far as my genetics go, this was a little early. So I made the appointment I had been putting off for nearly a month.
I fasted, knowing they would want more blood tests, and as I waited for my results, I curled up on the examination table and closed my eyes. I was so tired and the nausea was starting to make it difficult to sit upright. In reality, I have no idea how I drove myself to that appointment. But as I laid there, I already knew what the results would be, but I was not expecting what came next.
“Well, diabetes got you. Your fasting is 500.” 500?!?! How is that possible? How am I even functioning? Why? When? What??? Normal fasting should be under 100 for a person without diabetes, and here I was 5 times that amount.
“No big deal,” the PA reassures me. “Just take this prescription, and you will start feeling better. Oh, and there are quite a lot of ketones in your urine. If you feel faint and confused go to the hospital, as this is a sign of ketoacidosis.”
Seriously? I feel faint now, and I have for the last 3 weeks!! Needless to say, I was in the ER within 5 hours, getting fluids to flush out the keystone, with a blood sugar of 473 when I was discharged.
So for the next month that was my life. Taking a prescribed drug that didn’t work, always feeling nauseated, drinking water until I thought I was going to drown, even a scary 580 blood glucose that I was told would be okay, and my eyesight wasn’t getting any better. I called my family doctor every day, scared that I wasn’t going to wake up one morning. She kept throwing more basal insulin at me, but the numbers would not budge. I learned quickly that basal insulin is our base or background insulin, not fast-acting insulin that works to handle the carbohydrates we eat.
At this point, I asked for fast-acting insulin, which she gave me but did not really help me to understand what was going on (I’m not sure she understood either). I had already stopped the first prescription since it wasn’t working and just making me sicker. Now I was taking insulin at meals but had no idea what I was doing. So I read everything I could get my hands on and researched how insulin works and why I seemed to no longer have enough. The book Think Like A Pancreas was recommended to me by someone in a diabetes forum. I couldn’t put it down. It explained so much on how our pancreas works and what happens when it doesn’t. I finally was understanding what was happening to my body.
The more I educated myself, the more I realized my doctor really wasn’t getting to the root cause. There was something seriously wrong, and I wasn’t getting answers from my family doctor. After a lot of prayer and research, I called my doctor, yet again, and said that I wanted to see an endocrinologist. Now, she either agreed to this because she thought it would help, or she just wanted to shut me up. Regardless, this was exactly what I needed to do. Due to my symptoms, I got an appointment relatively quickly and that very first visit resulted in more bloodwork.
It’s now September, I have been ill since June, and treating Type 2 diabetes for about a month, unsuccessfully. This one blood test changed everything.
Have you ever had a gnawing feeling in your gut that you know the answer to something, but you don’t want to admit to it for fear you will make it come to pass? Yeah, I had that. The results came back, and I learned that I had every antibody that they tested for, and not only that, I had A LOT of them.
The dictionary defines an antibody as a blood protein produced in response to and counteracting a specific antigen. Antibodies combine chemically with substances which the body recognizes as alien, such as bacteria, viruses, and foreign substances in the blood. My body saw my beta cells in my pancreas as a foreign substance. This is what caused an aggressive attack on those beta cells. The beta cells are what produces insulin in our pancreas. My body was attacking these cells as if they were a threat to my body. I was being treated for the wrong disease; I actually had Type 1 diabetes, an auto-immune disease. My pancreas was no longer secreting enough insulin to feed my cells with the glucose they needed.
How could this happen though, isn’t T1D found in children and young adults? The short answer – yes, but you can get Type 1 at any age. Realization set in that my life was about to drastically change.
So what does Type 1 Diabetes feel like? It feels like a giant pain in the ass. Nothing in my life has been the same since my diagnosis. Can I still live a full and exciting life having Type 1 Diabetes? Of course! Can I still enjoy all the things I enjoyed prior to the diagnosis? Yes, absolutely!
The first thing I do is I make sure I am trusting God and His healing power within my life. I do have some limitations, but I will not let this disease control my life. I realize that it will not be an easy battle, but it is one that I will win because I have a very strong relationship with God and an amazing support system in my family. Diabetes has changed my life but it is not controlling it. I fight every day to have the best day possible, and with God, all things are possible.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
If you notice these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, please seek medical attention, preferably an endocrinologist, as this is what they specialize in.
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Bed-wetting in children who previously didn’t wet the bed during the night
- Extreme hunger
- Unintended weight loss
- Irritability and other mood changes
- Fatigue and weakness
- Blurred vision