This is what diabetes really looks like

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This is what diabetes really looks like

It’s not morbid obesity and it’s not jokes about cakes or eating too much McDonald’s

In July, Madeline Milzark, a type one diabetic of nearly ten years, collapsed after her blood sugar level dropped while she was home alone, inspiring her to write a post on #whatdiabetesreallylookslike. In her post, Millie says: “It’s a disease that isn’t picky when it chooses who to attack, it doesn’t care if you’re two months old or if you’re 73. It doesn’t care if you eat Big Macs and McChickens every day of your life or if you’re a strict vegan who goes to the gym daily. Diabetes is me.

“Diabetes is a whole ton of people who fight for their life every single day and go to bed not sure if they’re going to wake up the next morning. So before you tag your huge dessert #Diabetes, think about what #Diabetes really looks like”.

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Millie’s post was shared over 11,000 times, and now thousands of people have gotten behind the hashtag to support type one diabetics and share their stories on social media to raise awareness.

For me, a diabetic of just over ten years, it’s a 10 year-old girl who had a hypo while running the relay race on sports day, so she couldn’t help it when she ran the wrong way around the track because the low blood sugar levels made her brain not work properly. They sent signals that got confused, meaning the yellow house came last in the race and she got blamed for losing it.

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It’s a 17 year-old girl who is so used to symptoms of a hypo by now, but still gets in the shower to wash her hair, all ready to be dyed, only for the heat to affect her blood sugar levels causing a hypo. Then finally managing to stagger out of the shower naked but for a towel loosely hung round, dripping from head to toe in sweat despite just being clean from a shower, then collapsing into the arms of her mum and the hairdresser who have to force sugary food and Lucozade down her throat before it gets to the point where she can’t physically digest anything.

It’s a 19 year-old girl waking up covered in sweat to a hypo at 3.40am, panicky, stressed and crying a little, trying to get her brain to work out what to do, and then not having much strength to call and wake her family up to get help, never mind make it down the stairs to get treatment.

It’s the jokes we feel we have to laugh at

It’s diabetics seeing the word tagged under a picture of a chocolate cake. Or laughing along with everyone if you’re in a group and someone says “I’m so full after that cheesecake, diabetes stay away” and staying silent. Or constantly having people ask why you drink diet drinks all the time when they’re really bad for you. But it’s more than just the jokes.

It’s everything having to be planned

You have to stop hanging out with and having fun with your friends because you haven’t got your insulin. It means you’re never really allowed to be spontaneous because you might not have enough of a dose with you, or you might not even have your insulin with you, or you might have had a hypo and are still in recovery, or you’re out of blood testing strips or needles. It’s feeling guilty for needing help with treating a hypo when you don’t have the strength to help yourself.

It’s lots of calculating

It causes lots of worry about food and how to count it. What if you miscount the carbohydrates and have a hyperglycaemia, or what if you overdose and have a hypoglycaemic do? If you miscalculate it could be the difference between being okay or falling unconscious and waking up in hospital.

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It’s thinking you’re a ‘bad diabetic’ because you get so many highs

Even if you count your carbs, and inject the correct dose, hormones can interfere and send your bloods sky high. Or you go to bed with a ‘normal’ blood glucose range between four and seven, and you wake up and it’s at 20.

It’s being ashamed

You get your insulin pen out ready to inject and then someone you’re with squeals and makes a big fuss about how they’re afraid of needles, sometimes for attention, when they could just subtly look away rather than make you feel bad about doing the thing that keeps you alive. Not to mention the fact that you used to be scared of needles yourself but didn’t have a choice over not injecting, it’s not something we do because we enjoy it. Knowing your future children could be affected is a real kick in the teeth too.

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Diabetes is more than just a viral Facebook post, a hashtag, or a joke. It’s life or death.

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