I’ve been living with type 2 diabetes for nearly a decade. Over the years, I’ve tried a variety of different methods to help manage the condition. I’m currently managing diabetes with an oral medication, healthy diet, and regular exercise, but I’ve also managed diabetes successfully without medication.
Around the time I was diagnosed, my blood sugar reached 593. I was in the hospital for six days. Insulin got me back down to a normal range and kept me stable for many months after. When I was pregnant, insulin allowed me to maintain optimal levels so I could keep myself and my child healthy. When I moved abroad for a year, insulin helped make the transition to a new environment go smoothly.
Last summer, I traveled to six different countries within two months. I started retaking insulin to make it easier for me to acclimate to each place I visited.
Here are four of my personal tips if you’re starting insulin treatment for type 2 diabetes.
Don’t feel guilty
Despite how insulin can help people with type 2 diabetes enjoy a better quality of life, there’s still a stigma surrounding it. In my experience, many people see taking insulin as a sign of failure.
Eight years ago, insulin is what saved my life. Since then, it’s been able to help keep my blood sugar stable — even when I was pregnant with my daughter. If you’re taking insulin, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure. You need to put your health first. Having type 2 diabetes is not your fault.
When you start taking insulin, there’s a lot to figure out. In the beginning, I was afraid of giving myself injections because I thought I’d administer the wrong dosage. I was also too embarrassed to do the injections in front of other people.
The first time I gave myself an insulin injection it took more than five minutes, and I needed nearly half a box of tissues for all my tears. Luckily, the nurse supervising me let me cry on her shoulder. She told me things would get more comfortable, and she was right.
With time, you’ll start to feel more confident about administering your medication. It won’t take as long to find the injection sites, and you’ll become more knowledgeable about the dosages. And, keeping a healthy diet will start to come more naturally and will feel less like work.
Know your options
I prefer insulin pens to vials. In my experience, the needles are smaller in pens than vials and it is more convenient to carry when I am out of the house. The clicks of pens are also quieter than the sound of some inhalable insulin devices. Of course, you might feel differently after trying your options. This is why it’s important to test them all out and figure out what’s most comfortable for you.
There are also various types of insulin to consider. You should familiarize yourself with long-acting, short-acting, and combination insulins. If you’ve only been told about one kind of insulin, ask your healthcare provider to go over all of your options with you and explain the rationale for the use of this type of insulin.
Have a remedy for hypoglycemia
Every night, I make sure to keep a small cup of juice or glucose tablets on my nightstand in case I experience low blood sugar in the middle of the night.
Once I got hypoglycemia while in the middle of a traffic jam. Since then I’ve always stored glucose tablets in the glovebox compartment of my car.
I also have some candy or juice with me wherever I go. For instance, I keep peppermint candies in my purse. I have Jolly Ranchers in my briefcase. And I make sure there are at least two juice boxes in my gym bag whenever I work out.
Last summer, I got hypoglycemia while I was on an airplane. Now I always make sure to bring something sugary to eat or drink when I’m traveling.
You might also want to consider getting a glucagon kit, which is used to treat hypoglycemia.
I hope these tips will help make starting insulin treatment a lot easier for you. Remember, everyone is different and it may take some trial and error. Once you get into the swing of things, you’ll find your confidence and be able to manage your condition without as much worry.
Phyllisa Deroze is a global patient advocate for type 2 diabetes and a Fulbright Alumna professor of English Literature. In 2011, she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes after being misdiagnosed twice and passing out in her bath tub from hyperglycemia. Phyllisa began blogging at DiagnosedNotDefeated.com shortly after as a way to inform friends and family what happened to her. While searching various sources for diabetes information, she noticed a lack of cultural competence and a year later she founded BlackDiabeticInfo.com to help fill the gaps. Phyllisa strives to end the stigma around type 2 diabetes and inspire others to live their lives, “Diagnosed NOT defeated.” You can follow her on Instagram (@blackdiabeticinfo) and Twitter (@not_defeated).