10 ways in which Type One Diabetes made me a better human being

This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

Type One Diabetes is an exhausting autoimmune disease that is a 24/7, 365 day job. And as any job, if I do it long enough I get better and better at it.

After two years of managing my own health in the peculiar way people with Type One Diabetes do, I managed to develop a surprising skillset that hopefully some of I can relate to.

  • Maths skills: There are 56grams of carbs per 100 grams of chocolate and there are 8 pieces in this 75 gram package, how many grams of carbs per piece does that make?
  • Organisation skills: Not only in our day to day, but also before vacations, I need to make sure I have enough supplies. Keeping track of how much insulin is still in the fridge and how many pen needles etc are still there and when I need the next prescription to not run out is a skill that should not be underestimated.
  • Time management, planning skills: Statistics say that Type One Diabetics need about two hours per day to manage their condition. What do these two hours consist of? Well:
    • Making appointments to several doctors once every three months or more often: dia doc / endo, ophthalmologist, neurologist
    • Visiting to the doctor for blood testing, eye screening / foot screening
    • Going to the pharmacy (or several ones because they don’t have what I need) and later picking up said supplies from the pharmacy
    • Talking to insurance companies
    • Ordering supplies online, calling the post office because they lost the shipment (again)
    • Getting letters from the doctor stating that I have T1D (needed for several purposes)
    • Writing down BG numbers in a diary, doing the carb maths and injecting
    • Scanning sensor or testing 8 times during the day and then injecting / eating to correct a number

With these many things going on, many type one diabetics also have a family, pets, school or a full-time job and friends and hobbies too. This is a lot, yet we manage our time so well and so efficiently that in many cases if someone didn’t know we had diabetes, they would never notice – we are just that good at planning and managing our time!

  • Research: If I want the latest tech for the best care, I gotta do the research. If I want to find out how to manage diabetes well and live my life the best way I can, I can’t rely on the information I receive from I doctor I maybe see once every three months. I have to be proactive in looking for the information I need or I won’t get the best possible treatment.
  • Tech skills
  • Loop. But even if I don’t loop, technology advances and there are always new and better ways to treat Type One and if we want to benefit from those technological advances, we need to be a bit tech savvy. Social media and the Diabetes Online Community is a huge help and there are loads of people to connect with if I know what tools to use.
  • Multitasking skills. Pricking my finger and testing my blood sugar while ordering or while talking with friends while figuring out how much insulin to inject, sometimes we need to do a little multitasking.
  • Crisis management, problem solving skills. Everyone gets sick every once in a while and while a cold or the flu is never great, with diabetes things can get messy pretty quickly. Sometimes things just happen too, we take an empty pen with us by accident, a cannula bends on out pump or we forget the spare batteries for our meter. More times than we’d think, we have to fix a crisis. On the one hand, this means more stress, but on the other hand this also means that we get used to dealing with little crisis a lot more than the average person and so we get used to it and there are not very many things that can truly shake us up.
  • Communication skills – explaining to people what T1D is can be a challenge. As soon as the word “diabetes” is mentioned, thanks to the media, people have misconceptions. They confuse us with being lazy, being overweight, thinking it’s our own fault that we got this because they have relatives who deal with diabetes. It takes patience and skill to explain what we deal with to people who have already made up their mind about us. Then there are situations like job interviews, where I not only have to convince someone that I’ll be doing a great job, but also that diabetes will in no way hinder my performance.
  • Talking to insurance skills: This is also a skillset I had to develop as a newly diagnosed diabetic. Never in my life before have I talked that much to my insurance company, there was simply no need to. Now, I know a lot more about how the system works and how to talk to people so I get what I need. I also now know what not to say and when to follow up, so things go way more smoothly. I would be surprised at the amount of things that can go wrong and at the amount of documents that people (not me) just “misplace” and then the whole process starts all over again.
  • Empathy skills: Having an invisible illness, we know that what I can see on the outside if often not the full story. Sleepless nights and wonky blood sugars are invisible to anybody but ourselves, so we know first hand that even though people may look fine, they may not be fine. We know how helplessness feels like and so we watch out to see if others need our help. We know that if we were in the position of the helpless person, we would want someone to help us, so we are more likely to step in and to speak up and to actually help.

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