Type One Diabetes: The Invisible Illness

January 21, 2019

I can still remember the day…not like it was yesterday, but as if it was a faint memory of what I wished was a borrowed past.  A little over two years ago, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that unexpectedly changed my life. Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults, better known as Diabetes Type 1.5 in my case. After ignoring several symptoms and battling within myself to figure out what was going on with me, I finally decided to seek help and began to learn how to navigate my new life with a chronic illness.

Erin with arms over her head exposing her insulin pump on her stomach

Type 1 Diabetes is typically found in adolescents.  The cause is currently unknown and unfortunately, so is the cure.  In most people with type 1 diabetes, the body’s own immune system, which normally fights harmful bacteria and viruses, mistakenly destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. 

The symptoms of Type One

In 2016, I went from weighing 200 pounds to drastically dropping down to 130 pounds in less than 6 months.   I seemed to have lost weight without even trying.    I found it kind of odd at first because by that time I slacked up on working out, but I just attributed it to my continuous healthy eating habits.  later on, I started to notice significant hair loss.  There was literally hair everywhere no matter how gentle I was with it.  I remember the sight of large globs of my strands on the shower floor and clumps intertwined in my fingers as I finger detangled for the last time before I chopped it all off.  I figured that maybe I was losing hairdo to a lack of protein, so I supplemented thinking it would fix the problem…but it didn’t.

Glass jar with ice water on wood floor

I started to notice an increase in my thirst almost overnight.  I was always thirsty and my tongue felt like a desert storm.  I found myself standing in front of the fridge in the middle of the night drinking anything that was ice cold straight from the jug.  I remember going through a gallon of Tampico in less than a day after I drank all of the water in the house.   I would drive to the nearest gas station every day at lunch and after work for a large cup of ice and a large slush to relieve my extreme thirst and even that wasn’t enough. 

Among all of these things, I was extremely tired, fatigued, and exhausted, which is why I began to slack up on my workouts.  I was literally falling asleep at work in mid-sentence with customers on the phone.  I set a timer just to take naps during my lunch break and once I got home from work. I was still losing weight and beginning to look sickly. My clothes began falling off of me and my collar bone and ribs became visible.  Things were getting bad and I was completely confused as to why all of this was happening to me.

Seeking help

I finally ended up seeing my doctor, who later did more research and blood work to find out that I was actually a Type 1 diabetic.  She explained to me that I have a rare case of adult-onset type one diabetes.  I also learned that I didn’t end up here because of my weight or how many sweets I ate.  

Once I found this out, I was pretty scared at that point.  Like most, I was pretty ignorant of what diabetes was and how dangerous it can be if not cared for properly. I wanted answers.  I researched day and night.  I bought books on amazon, read articles, and joined Facebook groups and Instagram pages just for adults with type one diabetes in order to somehow find comfort. I couldn’t handle the news.  I couldn’t find the strength to get out of bed, let alone leave the house.  I felt sorry for myself.  I cried so many tears and tried so hard to understand why something like this would happen to someone like me.

The following week at my next appointment, I was placed on insulin that I had to inject once before bed to help regulate my glucose levels, which is called basal insulin.  My blood sugar levels were in the high 400’s and 500’s.  Days later, I was to the point of injecting insulin 4 times a day just to keep my sugar levels regulated. I learned that every time I ate no matter what I ate, my levels would rise. I carried needles and syringes with me everywhere I went and had to inject prior to each meal.  It was painful and embarrassing. I lost my sight shortly after diagnosis and had to wear glasses.  Now my sight is back as I have my blood sugar levels under control.  ,

Over these last few years, I’ve gained healthy weight back.  I have been through several ups and downs since diagnosis and have been to several appointments.  I am now using an insulin pump which looks like a small cell phone and holds enough insulin that my body needs for 3 days.  I am attached to my pump 24/7 and change out the tubing every 3 days.

Blood glucose meter for diabetes

I have to calculate my carb intake to regulate the correct amount of insulin I need for each meal.  I prick my fingers around 10 times a day if not more.  There are many instances when I have extremely low blood sugar levels and that’s when things can get scary.  I start to get cold sweats, shake uncontrollably, and I can feel nauseous.  It’s almost as if I lose all control of my body.  Because of this, I keep snacks, juice boxes, glucose tablets, and candy on my person at all times to keep myself level.   I also keep an emergency glucagon kit with me at all times in case I can’t raise my blood sugar up on my own. 

It was upsetting to know that I would never be able to eat whatever I want, whenever I wanted without having to calculate a few math problems first.  I have to plan each meal accordingly by counting carbs and taking the right amount of insulin at the right time.  Sometimes I splurge with my food and make sure my math skills are up to par when adjusting my insulin.

Choosing life

During this transition of learning to navigate my life with type one diabetes, I battled with depression on and off.  Some days were harder than others, but I managed to push through and I am thankful that I am alive.  When I was first diagnosed, I couldn’t handle the news.  I couldn’t find the strength to get out of bed, let alone leave the house.  I felt sorry for myself.  I cried so many tears and tried so hard to understand why something like this would happen to me. There were times when I didn’t want to go to my appointments or check my blood sugar because it became tiresome.

I’m going, to be honest, and say that for a moment, I thought I lost my faith in God as my healer.  I had to reevaluate the situation and realize that I am a King’s kid.  This is not the end.  It’s only the beginning.   After some time, I got back on my feet and decided to choose life in my situation.  I put a smile on each day and pray for my healing.  I try my best to make light of my situation by encouraging others.  The God I serve is a healer and I claim total and complete victory over my life in Jesus’ name.  I know this happened for a reason and my trial is a testament.  I choose not to allow the devil to take my joy.  Chronic illness or not, I am living on purpose.

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