Ups and Downs of Living With Diabetes

Ups and Downs of Living With Diabetes

Ups and Downs of Living With Diabetes

Lee esto en EspañolAs someone who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes nearly three decades ago, Kimberly H. offers a perspective that is colored by the ups and downs of an autoimmune disease she must confront each day.

“Life is not easy,” she asserts. “Anyone who says otherwise is not telling the truth. A healthy life, though, is worth it. I cannot stop trying to live a healthy life.”

For those diagnosed with diabetes, the disease becomes a lifestyle out of necessity. A person cannot walk away from it.

“I wake up every day with the intent to learn and manage my diabetes,” Kimberly explains. “In the early days following my diagnosis, I thought I would have to stick my finger and take a shot. But there is so much more to this disease.”

Kimberly soon found herself in countless conversations with doctors, pharmacists and endocrinologists (doctors who specialize in diabetes).  She also began researching her condition.

“I learned blood sugar fluctuates,” she says. “A person living with diabetes takes insulin to help manage their blood sugar level. If your blood sugar drops, you eat to correct it. Yet, eating can make your blood sugar rise to an unhealthy level and when it does, you have to take insulin to correct it. This up and down is a big part of managing diabetes, and there are days it can be difficult.”

Kimberly admits there are times she has considered food to be an enemy. “And I love food!” she says.

So, how does anyone with diabetes make it work? Kimberly has developed a three-prong approach: balance, education and practice.

“As a person living with diabetes, I have learned to recognize the symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar),” she adds. “Symptoms may include shaking, sweating, blurred vision, an unclear mind and pale skin. Every person may experience a different combination of symptoms. Most important, a few seconds can make a world of difference in recognizing and correcting symptoms – and maybe even surviving.”

Self-knowledge is the first step to controlling your diabetes.

Monitoring and checking your blood sugar regularly is a good way to be proactive about managing symptoms.

“Keeping a journal of blood sugar levels and how your body feels when you blood sugar is high or low can help,” Kimberly suggests. “For example, I have felt out of sorts. I have felt lost. I may feel as if I stood up too fast. For those around me who witness one of my hypoglycemic or hyperglycemic episodes, it’s not easy.

“If you have seen a person experience an episode, you might feel a sense of panic or worry. Please, don’t walk away. A person experiencing hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia should not be left alone. Sometimes, a juice box or crackers can help. Sometimes, water and conversation may be best. If you know how, you can check their sugar. If you don’t, call 9-1-1 for help.”

How can you help someone living with diabetes?

Be a support system for them,” Kimberly encourages. “You can be there for them.

It can begin with a conversation. You can ask what they need to feel better? You can ask how they feel when their blood sugar is too high or too low. You can listen.

“I’ve seen my blood sugar move faster than Superman. I have seen it rise like a balloon reaching the clouds and fall like a book off a shelf. When my blood sugar drops, I may feel confused. When my blood sugar rises, I may feel tired. Talking with others helps.”

Over one million Americans have Type 1 diabetes. leaving site icon While the number may sound small, it’s important to remember you’re not alone if you’ve been diagnosed with the disease. Kimberly recommends connecting with others both online and in person. The American Diabetes Association leaving site icon is a good place to start.

“I will continue my lifestyle as a person living with a disease. I will keep learning about the effects of blood sugar on the body, and I will not stop caring,” she says. “This is the one life I have, and I will do my best to make it a great one.”

Sources: Type 1 Diabetes, leaving site icon American Diabetes Association, 2022; Diabetes Overview, leaving site icon American Diabetes Association, 2022.

Originally published 10/23/2017; Revised 2022