Having recently being diagnosed as a Type 2 diabetic, it was with great interest that I read your introductory article on Diabetes Mellitus.
I have a family history of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, have lived with gestational diabetes (GD) and possessing a few genetic markers has put me in the pre-diabetes category for the past few years. So although not a surprise to be diagnoses with T2, I still found myself initially responding with similar feelings to those you have listed in your article.
During my first pregnancy, I remember being in complete shock upon receiving my GD diagnosis. My biggest response was that of fear. I was scared! I was scared for my baby, I was scared of the unknown and I was scared of needles. I remember feeling quite overwhelmed, upset, possessing a strong sense of self blame and feeling like a failure.
I remember crying with Ann Morris as she kindly and ever so patiently taught me how to self-administer the medication, that day is still clearly etched in my mind. I remember leaving her office feeling a different person to the one who entered, knowing that I could and would do anything to keep my baby and myself safe during the pregnancy. I also felt more in control and not so overwhelmed (thankyou Ann).
Back then I found out that from the list of 10 factors that can raise the risk of women developing gestational diabetes, I had six of them. Six! I was never not going to develop GD. So whilst I still felt a small sense of failure, I think I gave myself somewhat of a break and realised that genetics had a big part to do with what was going on with my body at the time.
Post pregnancies and like many mothers with small children I put them first and my health took a back seat. It was during these years I put on a lot of weight (emphasis on a lot) and although I was equipped with the nutritional knowledge and lifestyle advice I had gained by accessing wonderful support services during my earlier diagnosis (Dietician and Diabetes Educator) if I was being honest with myself, I wasn’t doing the best I could living as a now pre-diabetic person. Our family doctor also retired during this time, so I wasn’t “checking in” and taking care of myself medically at all which is a big no-no with anyone who has a history of diabetes.
Fast forward to approximately June this year, I have lost approximately 20kgs, (but still have a bit more to go). I am active and exercise regularly. I have been eating a low GI diet 85% of the time, and still managed to develop T2. Because I had suffered a few hypos when gestational, I believed that I knew what I was looking for if I had diabetes, well my knowledge was out of date and I was wrong! I have now learnt that I was diabetic , I had high sugar levels and was not displaying symptoms. Looking back now if I was displaying symptoms, I was uneducated and most likely put my “tiredness” (which was the only one I could think of) down to that of a being busy working mother.
Over the past month I have once again accessed the support services of a Dietician and a Diabetes Educator and through their advice have “tweaked” what I was doing and brought my knowledge back up to date. I have learnt the irony in that although I have done well in losing weight and eating a relatively low GI diet, a few of my choices have not been quite correct. Up until a month ago, I used to eat 3-4 pieces of fruit a day, I would eat a healthy morning tea and afternoon tea (this is what I had to do when living with GD) and I would always eat low GI starches such as sweet potato, rye bread and being of Asian heritage a lot of Basmati Rice. So whilst this style of eating generally works well for most diabetics (except the high fruit intake) unfortunately this combined with my genetic markers and had the opposite effect on me. My blood sugar levels were always high and very rarely dropping to the required low and safe levels they needed to be. I am happy to say that one month in and my body is responding well to the changes I have adopted and the medication I am taking. I have a positive outlook and am hoping to reduce my level of medication intake as I progress. My diabetes won’t go away, I cannot turn a blind eye to it, but I can be positive and take a proactive approach to it and my health. Diabetes can be managed, it’s not always going to be easy, but I can do it.
The message I would like to put across to the general public is that of awareness and education. There is a stigma associated with that of Type 2 diabetes, “only unhealthy people get it, you must have got it because you eat so poorly, you eat too much junk food, you don’t look after yourself, you’re fat, you don’t exercise” are just some of the thoughts in people’s heads. I believe that through this stigma many sufferers don’t tell people they have T2 as they don’t want to be judged or the one time that they give in and eat a piece of chocolate, they don’t want to hear “you’re diabetic, you shouldn’t be eating that”.
Not all who live with T2 are doing so because of poor choices. I believe all who live with diabetes regardless of whether it’s Type 1, Type 2 or gestational need your support and understanding.