Living with Type 1 Diabetes

Life When Every Day Can Be a Medical Emergency

When I woke up this morning, I felt tired. My mouth was dry. My head hurt. I had to pee. I even threw up a little.

I had been drinking last night, so I thought I was just a bit hung over. I made my way downstairs and drew blood from my finger – a morning ritual since I was 14. The meter read 22mm/oL (396 mg/dL).

“Well, that explains it,” I said to myself.

Feeling tired and dehydrated are classic symptoms of hyperglycemia. Briefly, I considered calling in sick, or at least coming in around lunch. The moment didn’t last –  I didn’t look or sound sick. Instead, I dialed up four units of insulin, skipped breakfast, and got myself ready for work. In my sorry state I ran out of the house without my meter.

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After an hour of sitting at my desk, I finally started to feel hungry. Then my fingers began to tremble and I had that weird feeling in my stomach I get whenever I begin to drop. I know the feeling well because I get it several times a week – that absolute need for sugar.

I ate some of my breakfast – yogurt and a banana, but it wasn’t enough. I began shoving glucose pills in my mouth.

People were walking by. Nobody noticed. Why would they? To them I’m just eating breakfast at my desk. To the people at work, in my classes, on the street, even most of my friends, my diabetes is invisible.

What people don’t realize is that having diabetes is a full-time job, with no vacation time.

What they don’t see is the carb counting I’m mentally doing every time I put food in my mouth. They aren’t there when I’m jabbing my stomach to change my site. They went about their day and I went about mine, except mine involved a near medical emergency.

This is my every-day, and it always will be.

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I’m not sharing this story to get pity, but to let people know what living with a chronic condition like Type 1 diabetes feels like. There are people walking among you quietly dealing with this. You can’t balance our blood sugars for us, but you can give us patience and compassion – and that will help us immensely.

This submission has been edited for length and clarity.

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Gillian Campbell lives in Toronto, Canada. She is an avid traveller and aspiring communications professional.

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