Googling guide dogs in your lunch hour: Jenny Marr on the constant anxiety of living with Diabetes

You think you know someone and have some understanding of what they are dealing with.

And then they write something that makes you realise that you have no idea.

Jenny Marr is one of the most wisest, most competent people I know. She’s a great leader and team builder and one day she’s going to represent the Borders in Parliament. She has the sort of drive that reminds me of our very best campaigners.

I always knew Jen has Type 1 Diabetes and I will never forget the early morning phone call during the 2017 election when I learned she was in hospital because of it. Thankfully, she was home in a couple of days and all was well, but it did bring home how the line between good health and crisis was more finely balanced than I’d appreciated.

The theme of this year’s Diabetes Awareness Week is “seeing Diabetes differently.” Jenny has written a piece for the Scottish Lib Dems website which, as she puts it, aims to help  us “see Diabetes in its entirety.”

If you read nothing else today, read and understand this. 

As she says, there’s a lot more to living with the condition than not being able to binge-eat chocolate:

We’re more at risk than others of losing our sight. Translation: if you get something in your eye, you wonder if it’s the beginning of the end. On bad days you’re googling guide dogs on your lunch break.

Wake up with pins and needles. Translation: have I got it so wrong, my circulation is starting to fail? Could I get around in wheelchair? You assess all your usual haunts and whether you could continue as normal.

I’m in a meeting and I’m tired. Translation: is my blood sugar too low? I’m too anxious to leave, too anxious to check my blood in front of people. Do I just eat something and risk making the wrong decision? There is only anxiety.

On the worst of days I have sat at my desk gripped by fear and unable to work because I think I’ve taken too much insulin.

Paralysed for hours, the only work completed is the Oscar nominated performance of “normal girl in office” I have to play so everyone thinks I’m fine.

And then there’s the constant working out that balance between food and activity and the effect it might have. Imagine the mental energy that takes up:

And then there’s all the things I say no to.

To nights out – in case I have to face a restaurant whose menu makes me anxious or I forget how much insulin I’ve taken.

To holidays – will I have a hypo on the plane? Will I be too far from help? To this day I still don’t like staying on any floor other than the ground. If I collapse, who’ll be able to see me? How will my friends and family cope?

To delivering extra leaflets – I have found myself with shaking hands unable to open the car door to start a delivery run because I simply could not face putting myself in danger.Because that’s how it feels.

Having diabetes comes with a great big helping of risk assessment – because that is what everything becomes. And then a decision has to be made as to whether I have the mental strength to complete it. For a couple of years, the answer was nearly always no.

So what would help? What would make the biggest difference?

And goodness me how continuous blood glucose monitoring is changing lives. A patch on your arm and your smart phone is all you need to check your blood sugar levels. No more finger pricking or being forced into making it a show.

From empathy, to mental health support for the constant anxiety to technology, there is something we can all do to help the roughly 350,000 people in the UK with Type 1 Diabetes.

Diabetes doesn’t have to stop us doing anything. I’ve traveled across the world. Played hockey, climbed mountains, made speeches to packed rooms.

We can even become Prime Minister.

People with diabetes can do anything they want. But we have to give people ALL the tools they need – and deserve.

And sometimes, we need to start with “Are you ok?”. Rather than “Does it hurt?”.

 

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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2 Comments

  • David Warren 16th Jun '19 - 2:36pm

    Great article Caron.

    I have known a few people who have both types of Diabetes and learnt from them how it affects their lives.

    It is a really serious health condition and we need to really increase awareness.

  • Diabetes is finally being recognised as a global epidemic, with the potential to cause a worldwide healthcare crisis and overwhelm the NHS. According to estimates by the International Diabetes Federation, this figure is set to increase to 552 million by the year 2030.

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