A letter to my 16-year-old self

I don’t care what anyone says, being a Type 1 Diabetic is HARD. Hard mentally, hard physically and hard emotionally. I’ll admit, my control now is pretty good for a 27-year-old, as I suppose I am now an adult and have matured (I think?!) over 10-15 years. But back in my teenage years, I was far from a well-controlled Diabetic…. My blood glucose control was awful, as I basically did not give a s**t, which is quite common as a sassy teen!

But why did I not care, even though I KNEW what could happen to me with long term high blood glucose readings? It is hard to say really, other than the long-term complications aren’t always instant, whilst the satisfying taste of Fanta fruit twist is, along with the annoyance and pain of injecting. Let’s be honest, as teenagers, we always opt for the easy way out of everything, and for me it was easier not to carb count, easier not to check my BG levels, easier to inject in the exact same place over and over again (stomach!), easier not to say NO to sugary foods and drinks, and also easier to just ‘forget’ that I was living with a chronic condition.

Unfortunately for me, a diagnosis of retinopathy and maculopathy (the cause of blindness in those living with Diabetes) at the age of 18 was what made me change my ways….a so called ‘Shock tactic’, which unfortunately will now always be with me. My Endo even said to me how complications may still also be inevitable as apparently our bodies have a memory (don’t quote me on that, as this may be a load of rubbish, I need to read more into this), therefore I am hoping the strain I put on my body back when I was younger doesn’t bite me in the a**!

So…. I wanted to write this blog with a letter/message to my younger self - the young, ruthless and care free16 year old Diabetic that I was, as I now wish that I did things a little differently with all I know now (and with what I am now unfortunately faced with). If I could go back in time, I would say:

“Dear 16-year-old Vanessa,

It is your 27-year-old self here, and 11 years on, yes you are still Diabetic. However, looking back, you had such poor control over your Diabetes and I am here to give you a bit of advice based on what I have experienced 11 years on. You will soon come to learn a lot about yourself, your Diabetes and many other health related topics. Not to mention you will soon be faced with quite a few diabetic related complications. So, here’s my advice to you to try and stop that in its tracks, so here it goes:

  1. For god sake just CHECK YOUR BLOOD SUGAR – Stop thinking that it is just a chore and a nuisance. It takes 30 seconds to complete and even if high, at least this will prompt you to bring it back down. Guessing and ‘going with the flow’ as a Diabetic is not as easy as you think. Stop putting it on the back burner and just DO IT! Plus, there will be CGMs soon so it isn’t all bad.
  2. Your friends aren’t going to care that you opt for diet coke. Stop drinking ‘what your friends drink’ because you worry about what they think. In a nutshell THEY DON’T CARE and what’s more important is you avoiding DKA…. TRUST ME! You will soon experience this and this is the reason why! 
  3. > Go to your appointments. Yes, I know your doctor and nurse are annoying at times, questioning why your BG levels have been so high and putting their opinion on things even though they have NO idea what it is like to live with Diabetes. BUT….the advice they give you is important to build your knowledge of your condition (to an extent ….. you will end up doing a lot of your own learning to be honest). Even though you don’t like going……still go, plus you get your free Diabetes equipment 
  4. NETWORK! You don’t know anybody with Diabetes and this is why you are so in denial. I know there isn’t social media other than Bebo at the moment (trust me this will EXPLODE in 5 years’ time), so just talk to the other Diabetics in your school, share experiences and just TALK to them. This will make such a huge difference on your motivation, control and understanding! 
  5. OWN IT! Don’t be ashamed of your Diabetes, because it is going to make turn you into an organised, motivated, health obsessed adult, which isn’t a bad thing! Don’t be embarrassed to inject in public, don’t be embarrassed to eat in class, and DON’T BE EMBARRASED TO TELL PEOPLE. Soon you won’t be able to shut up about it. 
  6. Think twice before thinking “Fuck it”….. trust me it really isn’t worth it. Even though the complications of bad control are not instant, they are right behind you and the more you take control now, the less likely they are to come. Don’t let the shock tactic be the reason to change your ways. 
  7. CHANGE YOUR NEEDLES – You don’t know this yet but using the same needle for a week isn’t only hurting, but also reduces the flow of insulin you are injecting……
  8. Be grateful for the NHS – You currently don’t have a clue about the NHS, but I am telling you now, you will learn to appreciate what they do for T1 Diabetics…..as some people have to self-fund insulin and Diabetes resources, and in some cases can’t afford it….so count yourself lucky and think twice before downing that Sunny D. 
  10. Appreciate what your mum and dad have done for you and your Diabetes growing up…..Finding controlling it hard now? Imagine all the worry, thinking, planning and adapting your mum and dad has to do when you were growing up? Without them, you wouldn’t be here today, so learn to appreciate what they have done for you. 
  12. YES…. It is not the insulin that will make you put on fat, it is the calories consumed that will cause this, which you will need to inject for……so stop giving yourself less insulin! 
  13. That appendix pain you are getting ------ Get it seen too because it is about to burst!!!

Anyways, you’re doing ok at 27, but making these changes is going to have a profound positive effect on your physical and mental health. 

Yours sincerely, 

Your 27-year-old self x 

There’s no smoke without fire – Diabetes burnout
The Daily Thoughts of a Diabetic

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