Whilst reading the post below, please do so knowing that I write of my own experiences which will most likely be very different to those of others. In no way, can my experiences be considered as advice or tips. If you suspect that you have been misdiagnosed or are still feeling unwell following a diagnosis; there are many resources for seeking help (I have included links to appropriate organisations in the body of my posts). Your first port of call MUST be a Doctor. You have the right to ask to see a different Dr, and indeed ask to be referred to your local hospital’s Diabetes and Endocrine Department, to ensure you get the best care.
Following the “touch of Diabetes” Diagnosis, instead of getting better my health continued to deteriorate. I was prescribed metformin and the only checks carried out at check ups were urine dip tests. It wasn’t long before I disengaged with the medical team at the small village surgery, who had showed such insensitivity in the way they gave me this life changing news, because I wasn’t feeling any better even though I now knew what was wrong. I felt let down, angry with a “why me” mentality and an all-consuming distrust began to grow.
Over the next 4 months, I lost weight rapidly, which everyone kept saying must be because I’d been given a diagnosis and was eating well, (I didn’t and don’t eat badly, I barely eat at all infact), how wrong every single one of those people were, and it actually contributed to me not getting the help I needed. You see, I’ve been made to feel insecure and conscious about my weight since a young age, wrongly so, and by saying the above to me it played into my desire to be thin. I remember one person even saying to me, and this is almost verbatim; “I do feel everything happens for a reason, and I think you were given Diabetes to help you finally lose weight”! despite niggling feelings that what I was experiencing was wrong, the discombobulated side of me was enjoying the compliments and the rapidly reducing reflection in the mirror. What those people couldn’t see was the discomfort I was experiencing alongside getting thinner, the constant thirst, the tiredness, the thrush, the constant need to pee. All the while still taking the medication that had been prescribed to treat my Diabetes and supposedly make me feel better.
As my waistline decreased, my desperation increased! There was one occasion where I was so thirsty and so bored of water that I drank an entire bottle of vodka and it had no effect on me whatsoever! I didn’t even mix it with anything, had I of known I had a free pass maybe I would’ve made some cocktails. On top of the issues directly associated with the Diabetes, I felt my entire world was crumbling around me; I’d not been at work for some time, which knowing what I do now wasn’t unreasonable, although at the time I felt so guilty that I was off sick and even though I was doing everything I was told in order to get better, it wasn’t working; I felt like a failure! I’d never considered asking to see another Dr, on the one occasion I had gone back to the surgery to question my diagnosis I was told; “It can take up to 6 months for the condition to settle and for us to get the level of metformin correct” they were the medical professionals, the ones with the training, so I trusted their words. To help you understand why I just didn’t look it up online like we seem to do with everything now, 15 years ago the internet wasn’t as readily accessible as it is now; I don’t even think anyone had heard of broadband, let alone WiFi. Personal relationships were failing as a result of my ill-health too, I’d not only disengaged with medical professionals, but neighbours, colleagues, friends and family too. My emotions were all over the place and I had no filter, no way of controlling my reactions and I was possibly the most unreasonable person you could come up against, there was no logic to my thought processes and no consideration of how my behaviour would make others feel; traits which aren’t me at all. This of course was because I was so incredibly tired both physically and mentally, yet I could sleep all day and all night if I didn’t need to wee all the time!
During this time my friend W was my hero! He was there for me unconditionally and whilst I don’t recall being snappy or unreasonable towards him, I’m certain I was – and he never let me push him away. W became such an integral part of me feeling microscopically better at times, that when he went off to the other side of the world that feeling of being adrift, of being lost and hopeless as well as completely powerless to change things returned. I felt so utterly alone, as if I was bobbing up and down on a rubber dinghy with no paddles or hope of being found after drifting out to sea, everything around me appeared calm, but inside I was tormented. I want to be clear at this point, none of what followed was W’s fault, had he of not been there over the last few months my intention of what happened next would most likely have been very different!
On 4th September 2001, I reached a breaking point fuelled by a desperation to feel better, a breaking point that I don’t want anyone else to get even remotely close to. I spent some time thinking about what I could do. I had no money, no food in the house at this point and despite not having much of a relationship at that time with my parents, that’s where I decided I was going. Beforehand though, I took an overdose. I want to be very clear; I did not do this because I wanted to die, I wanted help, more than anything I’d wanted in my life leading upto that point, help was what I desired above everything and looking back now, there is a better way of asking for that help!
On the way to the shops, we came to a familiar set of traffic lights. These lights give you a choice of 3 directions to head in and my addled brain could not remember which one led where. I recall feeling my entire body fill with anxiety, I suddenly felt an unease with what I’d done and instead of waiting to pass out and have my mum raise an alarm, I took ownership of my actions and told her myself. This was a fairly monumental thing to do considering where my mind and body was at this time, I realise that now and I’m proud of myself for making the right choice in that moment, at those crossroads. My recollection of my mum’s reaction is hazy, I suspect I was beginning to experience the effects of what I’d done at this point but she drove me to the hospital where, in the car park I vomited quite violently in a corner of the car park. What came up tasted acidic almost, it felt as though every part of my body that was working to expel the illness was disintegrating at the passing of a natural chemical, albeit a toxic one that my body had been making for some time as we were about to learn.
Once we got into A&E, I went through triage and tested and seen by doctors. These were a group of people I was reluctant to trust given that their “Learned Colleagues” had played a starring role in the position I was in now. The fact that they took blood and urine and tested my blood glucose levels went some way to helping that reluctance dissipate. I think my BG at that point was so high it didn’t even give a numerical reading on the blood glucose monitor. This was all a pretty new experience to me, I actually felt quite happy to be poked and prodded with needles and cannulas and fingerpick tests, and hooked up to pieces of equipment. Eventually the decision was made that I needed to stay in hospital to get this under control, I had Diabetic Ketoacidosis. One of the effects of this is malnutrition because virtually nothing you eat or drink gets absorbed the way it should, to quote one of the nurses “everything has basically just been going straight through you for the last 4 months”, if I’d not been a bigger lass, I would have been dead – we call it padding for a reason it seems!! The discombobulated part of me, in that moment agreed with the rest of me, as lovely as it was to have lost weight it wasn’t worth feeling as I had, and I was so grateful for my curves. I was transferred by ambulance to another site where a bed had been found, I was hooked up to a sliding scale to get my blood glucose levels under control and more importantly, get me feeling better. Of course I was anxious to be in hospital, particularly on my own on a ward full of ladies much older than me; I almost felt like I would’ve been best placed on a children’s ward because I felt such a vulnerability that I certainly didn’t feel like a 20-year-old! It was here, at a hospital that is now houses and a supermarket, that a nurse provided me with the comfort that I needed, and had probably been needing since 7th May. She sat with me and explained that I would probably need to treat my diabetes with insulin injections, but that I would find I had much more freedom and would probably feel more like a 20 year old girl should. She disclosed that she also had Diabetes and the most valuable advice that she was given was that “her diabetes lives with her, she doesn’t live with it”. As the week I spent in that hospital went on, I came to understand what she meant by that.
Eventually I was able to go to sleep, it was a peaceful sleep interrupted only by people periodically pricking my finger to check the progress of my BG improvement. I recall as I drifted off, I felt found, I felt empowered…I was feeling hope again!
Brief Update: Over the last 15 years, I have become a leading expert in my own Diabetes. I could not have done that without the support of the medical teams I saw once I was moved onto Insulin Injections. There have been different NHS medical teams involved along the way, and through engaging with each member of those teams; over time I have built healthy, mutually respecting, knowledge sharing relationships with the people who’re working with me to manage my Diabetes. I will write in more detail about this in future posts, but realising the responsibility of sharing my experiences, I wanted to include that through seeking help and advice the correct way, it is possible to have the experience of Diagnosis that we would all hope for in that situation. Mine is a cautionary tale in the hope that it will not be anyone else’s.
Diabetes UK is a useful resource for information about all types of Diabetes.
If you are struggling with any form of depression, or have been affected by reading my post, Samaritans are a wonderful support, which can also be done via email. Your GP should also be able to provide support and counselling where asked for.