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Guest Post: Getting Back on Track.

Today's guest post is from talented photographer Amy Free, and she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes a year ago, at 27 years old.  She tells the story of the fog of falling out of control and the hard climb back.

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Amy Free and her husband
I hung up the phone and just wandered around our quiet empty house bawling my eyes out. Bristol, our great dane, followed me shamelessly as I ended up in a crumpled pile at the foot of our bed. The obvious concern in the nurse’s voice as she gave me my blood work results was enough to shame me. My blood sugar numbers along with my A1C were off the charts, and on top of that my cholesterol was also high enough to be of concern. I could not hide from reality any more. The numbers were there to prove me wrong.

About a year ago, at 27 years old, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. It was a jilting reality that I didn’t really fully understand, but it scared me enough to kick me into a reactive mode where all I wanted to do was fix it. My nature as a "people-pleaser" took over and I wanted to show everyone that I was smart and able enough to manage this strange new disease that had entered my life. So that is what I did... for the first few months. I successfully dropped my A1C from a hideously high 14, all the way down to below 7 within 3 months. I religiously monitored, charted, tested, gave myself shots, and dutifully counted carbs. But after a while all the shots and pricks and “managing” got to be quite bothersome. No one around me really seemed to understand what I was going through. Friends and family were supportive, but no one really seemed to fully comprehend this disease and the constant (and emotional) the management that I was all the sudden responsible for 24/7.

Once I realized that no one else really understood what was going on with my body, I decided to start ignoring it myself. I fell to the allure of eating whatever I wanted and still managing to lose weight (extreme weight loss was one of my symptoms before being diagnosed). I stopped checking my numbers and taking insulin as frequently, so when I did happen to check, my blood sugar was usually well over 300. It was not pretty. When people asked how my diabetes was doing, I just said... oh its fine. Most people didn’t even know what to ask to call my bluff. I somehow managed to get through my days in a haze of exhaustion by chugging water and Diet Dr. Pepper. Looking back it’s actually pretty amazing that I could put on such a good front (and that I never suffered from DKA), when in reality I was doing such serious damage to my body.

Thank goodness for that phone call from the nurse that snapped me back into reality. The reality that if I ever wanted to even try to start a family I needed to start making my body a safe place for a baby to exist and grow. I needed to start making my body healthy again for me, for my husband, and for all the people who love me. I needed to get back on track with my relationship with food and insulin, respectively.

That was almost 6 months ago now and I can safely say that I’m in the healthiest place - mentally and physically - in living life with Type 1 diabetes that I’ve been in quite some time. I have accepted that diabetes is a part of my day... all day, every day. It’s not something that I can just take a break from or ignore without serious long term consequences. Sure there are ups and downs, highs and lows along the way, but I’m learning accepting and learning from those things is a part of the healthy management process. The learning curve is a steep one, but I’m on the climb and I love to connect with others who are in their own various stages of the process.
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Amy Free is a lifestyle photographer who lives in NC – and whose heart lives wherever adventure can be found.  She makes a home with her husband, Ross and their lovable Great Dane, Bristol. She has been living with Type 1 diabetes since August 2008. You can visit her photography website at AmyFree.com.

Comments

So glad you are in this great place, Amy! Just checked out your website-wow, what a visual feast! The link is in my favourites already. :)

Interesting post, Amy. I have had diabetes for 30 years now and have often felt how you described in your "before" self-description - people close to me didn't even understand enough about my condition to ask anything beyond, "how's it going with the diabetes." I have often ignored it to within spitting distance of real trouble.

So - how did you get from "before" to where you are now???? I need some help in this area, mostly psychological, to put it bluntly. Any hints on what worked for you, or how someone like me could start seeking help?

Many thanks, and congrats on your turnaround!

K.

Great post Amy! It could have been written by me because I did the exact (almost literally) same things.

I'm glad you didn't go down that self-dsestructive path for years like I did. 7 years post diagnosis now, I have the best A1c I've ever had. And plan on KEEPING it that way!!! :)

Great article Amy! I love your photography pictures too. Great work.

Wonderful guest post Amy. I too often struggle with the mental and emotional sides of living with diabetes. It's no easy task, and a perfectionists worst nightmare. But there are many times when I can find a balance. Then I just try to hang on and stay there as long as it will last. :-)

Your photography is incredible, by the way!

Love the post!

For a type one who loves writing and photography.. this is my fave. I can't say enough about your great photos, Amy!

I just LOVE the pix in your blog! I, too, was in your shoes with my diabetes and it took a miscarriage to turn myself around. I stayed focused, for the most part, and now I have a happy, healthy 1 year old son who keeps me on my toes!! :) Take Care, Amy! ...and thank you for the guest post. We all need our 'six until me' fix!! (Hi Kerri... in case you're reading! I hope you're doing well, girl!)

wow, I could have written this one...

That's great to see you have got on-track. It's hard to do. Just remember that as long as you keep trying, it will get better and easier. After 22 years with diabetes, doing a blood test is second nature to me. I don't find it strange anymore, and I am thankful that diabetes lets me have more intensive medical care (overall) than my peers! With this many doctors looking at your results, more often, you have a better chance they will spot trouble sooner :)

Best wishes :)

Sounds like we all need down time from the rigorous, high intensity maintenance. I know I've had times when if I checked my blood sugars seven times a week, I was doing good. Thank goodness it doesn't last...

Having people who understand, even if they are only online, is a HUGE benefit. My family loves me, my husband cherishes me...and that forces me back on track. I think, how can I love me and love them if I let my numbers go? :)

Great post. You're in a great place right now... don't let the down times discourage you. They don't have to last. *hugs*

Wow Amy... I was diagnosed in October of 2008 at 27 years old, just like you! And I was/am hyper-vigilant (read: anal) about my self-care as well. Are you going to the Diabetes Sisters conference in Charlotte in May? I'm in Atlanta, but I'll be there. We should talk. :)

wow i could have written this too...i have done all the same stuff...got diagnosed at 18...that was 10 years ago...i finally stopped being in denial and decided to get my ass in gear...am now actually in medical school trying to do something positive with my diabetes...making lemonade from lemons...so keep it up....

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