Occasionally, someone will ask me about my diabetes. When this happens, the subject of needles is rarely far behind. I have been asked things like ‘You don’t have to inject, do you?’ and ‘Do you have the type with the needles?’
Yes, I inject myself with insulin. When I inform someone of this, they tend to react with horror. Then I tell them I inject myself at least 5 times a day, and prick my finger 8-10 times a day. Hands are raised to mouths. Fake swooning occurs. And then, the oh so common phrase. ‘I could never do that!’
Firstly, I was never handed the form that gave me a choice. When the alternative is certain death of a slow and painful variety, you’d be amazed what you can achieve. Secondly, I have no problem injecting.
I was 3 when I was diagnosed. I’m now 29. That means that I have spent more than a quarter of a century with insulin injections. I should say, my view of them is just that; my view. There are some diabetics that struggle with the idea of injections, and that’s a totally valid struggle. I actually think it’s harder to be diagnosed later in life, because you have experience of not injecting. For me though, it’s just a thing that happens.
People also ask me ‘does it hurt?’ That’s a fair question. It does a bit. I actually rely on it hurting. If it doesn’t, I question whether I actually took my insulin. Missing a dose and taking a double dose both have their own separate dangers. But a small ache in my stomach/leg/bum for a couple of minutes helps me to be certain I have injected. The pain is generally a small sting or ache, and it’s so run of the mill that I don’t really think about it.
Of course, I wouldn’t do it if it was unnecessary. So it’s fair to wonder why I need to inject. Essentially, I have manual control of a process that non diabetics do automatically. If someone eats a meal and they have a normal pancreas, that pancreas will release the correct amount of insulin. Their body will then be able to power their cells with the required glucose, and store any excess in their fat cells.
Type 1 diabetics have to do this job themselves. When I eat a meal, I have to give myself enough insulin to cover the things that affect my blood sugars; carbohydrate (including sugar) and protein. For many, this is a tightrope act. Too much insulin causes low blood sugars. Symptoms can range from appearing drunk, to unconsciousness, fits, brain damage and death. So best to be avoided. However, too little insulin causes high blood sugars. This causes damage to the body over a number of years/decades. Extreme high blood sugars can be fatal in the short term, but even slightly raised levels are best avoided. Blindness, kidney failure and limb amputation are just three of the many, many possible long term complications.
That’s where the previously mentioned finger pricks come in. I can take a small drop of blood from my finger, and use it to measure my current blood sugars. When I was diagnosed around 1990, this process took over 2 minutes. Now, the machine can do it in 5 seconds. Through regular blood testing and planned insulin doses, it is entirely possible to keep blood sugars at a safe level.
I’d say that testing my blood and doing my injections robs me of around 5-10 minutes of my day. I actually find shaving more inconvenient. I definitely find doing my taxes more hassle. When people seem distressed when I mention my injections, I have a simple message for them. If I had never taken injections, I would not have seen my fourth birthday. Seems like a price worth paying in my opinion.
Thanks for reading, and if you want to know anything more, feel free to ask! I am happy to talk about absolutely anything regarding my diabetes.