We're always happy to find new friends in the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) who are sharing their stories about life with D with all of us.
Today, we're excited to introduce Daley Kinsey, a 20-something in California who's hitting her 10th diaversary later this year and has been blogging for a few years now at the cleverly-named I Run On Batteries. Love the blog name, Daley, and we join you in praising the battery power we depend on so much to run our insulin pumps, meters, CGMs, and even the mobile devices we often use to keep track of our health.
Take it away, Daley!
My name is Daley. I'm married, thinking about children, am currently an admin for a youth department in Fresno where I live and I will have had type 1 diabetes for 10 years in November.
I was diagnosed at the age of 18, and had just moved away from home to attend my first year of college. I'm terrible at dates so cannot remember the exact day, but it was in November, and I definitely had a lot of adjusting to do in my first year of college! At the time, I was living far away from my family and completely overwhelmed by the news. I called my mom immediately and bawled the moment the words, "I have diabetes" escaped my lips. My mom handled the news well, while my dad immediately was in denial. My mom drove to Santa Cruz the next day to go to my follow-up appointment with me. Then she took me to the pharmacy and helped me stock my fridge with anything that seemed diabetes-friendly. But the moment she left was the first moment I felt totally and completely alone in this new world.
Diabetes immediately took over my life. I dropped my dance class because I thought, "I have diabetes I can't do that." It caused many mental breakdowns whenever food was involved. It disrupted my schedule. It interrupted anything and everything life threw at me. And the worst part was that I didn't have anyone who understood what I was going through. I wanted to give up so badly, but I knew I couldn't; all I could do was put on my big girl pants and handle it myself.
I can't believe that in November 2015 it will be 10 years since I was diagnosed.
Now, I have a Bachelor's degree in Communication. Originally I was going to school to be a radiological technician, which was very helpful while learning everything I could about diabetes. But then I changed my major after falling in love with my public speaking class. I wanted to share my story to help encourage anyone going through some change in their life that might make them want to give up. And I felt that I could do that best with a degree in Communication. Now my long-term goal is to become a motivational speaker to some extent where I can use my story to help people.
Along with all of those things, I have a blog called I Run on Batteries. I started my blog in 2012, because I wanted to share my stories about living with diabetes to help show others that being diabetic isn't the end of the world -- it's now just a part of it. Thankfully, my insulin pump only uses one AAA battery and my meter only uses one of those fancy round watch-type batteries, while my Dexcom just needs to be plugged into the wall every so often. I came up with I Run on Batteries because I swear by my pump, and I didn't have my pump my diabetes management would go down the drain.
It's so easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the diabetes world, that sometimes it feels easier to ignore it. But we can't do that; our lives depend on our awareness and care of it. And though I am just one voice out of the many who live with it, I hope that I can help that one person on the verge of giving up to not give up and instead welcome diabetes into their world.
Something that I wished someone had told me when I was first diagnosed was that learning how to manage your diabetes takes time. It's so much more than just checking your blood sugars and bolusing 30 minutes before a meal. It's also learning how your body will react and handle the things you eat. There are foods that your body will register right away and other foods like hamburgers that are complex, so your body will first handle the proteins and fats before it can even begin taking care of the carbs. I remember being so frustrated when I would eat out with friends because I would give myself the amount of insulin needed for my meal, then end up having low blood sugars shortly after that meal and spiking into the 300's two to three hours later. But over time I learned that with my insulin pump I could split up my meal bolus to give myself a little insulin in the beginning and then give me the remaining amount a couple hours later.
You not only have to learn how your body will handle the things you eat, but you also have to learn how your body will handle being sick. When we are sick our body usually fights back by releasing hormones, and unfortunately, those hormones can cause higher blood sugar levels. We not only have to deal with being sick, but we also have to learn how to keep our blood sugars in check while trying not to throw up. The first time I was sick I was also paranoid because even though I wasn't eating much my blood sugars kept spiking. I couldn't figure it out and was so upset. Thankfully, my numbers never went high enough to cause anything serious and I had the smarts to call my doctor to learn what I needed to do. My doctor and I programmed a basal pattern in my pump for sick days to help me manage those blood sugar-raising hormones. Now, all I have to worry about on a sick day is staying hydrated and resting, which is much less stressful.
It's amazing to me that I've survived nine-plus years of meal measuring, insulin injections, high blood sugars, low blood sugars, doctors appointments, insurance mishaps, two emergency room visits, insulin pumps, continuous glucose monitors, traveling with my supplies, people who think they know everything about diabetes, and more. Feeling overwhelmed yet? Because, I hate to break it to you, but this is what living with diabetes looks like and feels like, especially in the beginning. Which is why we have to choose to move forward and accept it.
And that's exactly what I chose to do. I have mostly lived as normal of a life with diabetes as I did before I was diagnosed. In the beginning, I was so concerned with what my life would look like. I wondered what my limits were. Looking at the big picture nearly 10 years down the road, I've come to realize that it hasn't hindered me or changed my lifestyle. If anything diabetes helped me to have patience, listen to my body, and to pay attention to what's going on around me.
The thing that took the longest, and is honestly not always accurate, was learning what my body is telling me. I will never forget the feeling of my first low: I had no energy, was very shaky, and anxious. I remember checking my numbers and seeing 40mg/dL flashing on the screen. I freaked out and started eating a bowl of cereal, slowly the shaking and anxiety faded away and my energy started to come back. Now, the instant my heart begins to race or I can't concentrate I know I need to check for a low. If my skin, lips, or cuticles dry out I immediately know I need to get some insulin in my system. Again, this all took time learn. One of my "diabuddies" mentioned that when they had a really high number in the middle of the night they usually woke up from a horrific nightmare. I thought he had to be making that up, but he challenged me to check my blood sugars the next time I woke up from a particularly troubling dream and you know what? He was right.
Diabetes takes time -- which is hard and frustrating, but you can't expect to be perfect overnight. There is a lot of trial and error involved because to my knowledge no two diabetics are alike. We all share similarities, but for the most part are wired very differently so it's almost impossible for our doctors to fix everything right away. To this day my doctors and I are working with my basal rates to get those as close to perfection as we can.
And now knowing and understanding that diabetes is so complex on so many levels, I have an appreciation for the trials because at least you win some of those and that's something positive to be exciting about. So, please don't be discourage if you struggle in the beginning or are going through a burnout phase because there has to be at least one thing you're doing to manage your diabetes well. Try to focus on that one win, and remember that tomorrow is a new day with another chance to do better.
Thanks for sharing, Daley! Can't wait to read more of your battery-fun stories on your blog, especially as we head into your big D-anniversary towards the end of the year!