The other night I had drinks with my friend and his girlfriend. She’s Scottish and has the laudable goal of wanting to help people in her disenfranchised community. One of her best friends is a diabetic in her twenties who doesn’t know what food looks like unless it comes out of a tin. She’s a single mum, and there’s no chance she’d find the time to go on the internet and educate herself on diabetes. Instead, she’ll struggle with roller coaster blood sugar and a high chance of diabetic complications. How do we help these people? It’s been nagging me ever since.
Diabetic appointments with consultants are scheduled every three months and last for fifteen minutes. With the best will in the world, your doctor has no chance of doing much more than acting as a prescription pad. Some people get referrals to nutritionists, but most of these will parrot the eat well plate which, while it might be great for your average Joe, is not helpful for a diabetic.
I remember the despair I first felt when diagnosed with diabetes. I tried so hard with carb counting, but I couldn’t stop the spikes after meals. I read about complications and how you should expect to lose a decade of your life. The anxiety that comes with spiking your blood sugar all the time is hard to understand for a non-diabetic. It’s like smoking forty cigarettes a day and constantly worrying about lung cancer but being unable to quit. You have to smoke those cigarettes. I think this is why so many diabetics drop the ball and let go of the diabetes. You go into denial.
I write a blog to spread information about how you can manage type 1 diabetes through a low carbohydrate diet. Every day I get about ten hits which means the world to me because I genuinely hope that my blog contributes to helping someone else. The problem is that there’s so much information out there, and a lot of it is plain wrong. I feel lucky that I stumbled on the typeonegrit community and Bernstein’s book when I was newly diagnosed. Otherwise, I might also have gone into denial to survive life with this disease. The worst thing about diabetes is that you never get a break. Diabetes does not go on holiday. It’s the first thing you think about when you wake up and the last thing on your mind before you drift off to sleep. You’re handcuffed to a blood sugar meter for the rest of your life.
I have the feeling that many diabetics feel depressed and misunderstood by their surroundings, which is sad. Because the disease is largely self-managed the only way to manage it better is through access to information. For now, that requires reading books and random posts on the internet, which leaves me stuck with my original question and the answer to it. I have no idea how to help people like my friend’s girlfriend’s friend. But I would love to.