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11 Things Not To Say To Someone With Type 1 Diabetes

There is no "mild form" of diabetes.

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1. There is no "mild form" of diabetes.

Diabetes UK

Type 1 diabetes is when the body doesn't produce any insulin, while type 2 diabetes is when the body doesn't make enough insulin or the insulin it does make doesn't work properly. There's a myth that type 2 is the milder form – but it's false.

"It is a commonly held belief that type 2 is the mild form and less serious than type 1 diabetes. This is in fact not true, as both type 1 and 2 diabetes can lead to serious health problems such as blindness, amputation, kidney disease, heart disease, and stroke, if not managed well.

"Type 1 diabetes can be sudden onset, where a person may become quite unwell very quickly, whereas type 2 diabetes can go undetected for a number of years. Both types of diabetes need to be treated as soon as possible to avoid diabetes-related complications." – Deepa Khatri, clinical adviser, Diabetes UK

2. You don't get it from "eating too much sugar".

Connor McHarg

"I didn't get it from eating too much sugar. There's nothing I can't eat or drink. And type 1 and type 2 are two completely different conditions. There's two types, I'm talking about type 1, the autoimmune condition. There's nothing I did to get it, there's nothing I could have done to prevent it, and it's not contagious.

"No, it's not because I ate too much sugar as a kid, and yes, I can still eat that bit of cake. I can eat anything I want, and I can do pretty much what I want when I want to do it – my T1 doesn't hold me back in any way. It's a lot more than just taking a couple of insulin injections though – there's a lot more to it." – Connor McHarg

3. And it's a serious illness.

Amy Black

"One of my major frustrations is that people tend not to view diabetes as a 'serious' illness and will go as far to say that it's self-inflicted due to certain lifestyle choices. Take me for example, though: I was a perfectly healthy and active 11-year-old child when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, with no family history of the condition, so when I see images of sweets and fast food aligned with stories about diabetes in the media, it really bothers me.

"People really need to be educated more on the facts surrounding diabetes to realise the seriousness of it and wake up to the fact that people die from the illness, including the young and physically active." – Amy Black

4. You have to become an organised person, quickly.

Amy Black

"As I live on my own, I have to wear a panic alarm at night in case I ever suffer severe night-time hypoglycaemia (which is rare). This means if I ever wake up convulsing due to extremely low blood sugars, I can be rest assured that an ambulance is on its way with the press of a button around my neck.

"I also keep a lot of glucose gels on me wherever I go in case I ever experience a hypo [hypoglycaemic attack] when I'm out and about, the symptoms of which are confusion, shakiness, hot flushes, numbness, and headaches.

"For the last year I have been using an insulin pump to medicate myself, which has offered more freedom and flexibility in terms of what I can eat and when. Prior to that I was giving myself insulin injections, which averaged about four injections a day. Although people often used to stare when I injected myself, it never really bothered me – you just get used to it and stop noticing after a while." – Amy Black

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5. If you get an insulin pump, your outfits might change.

Mel Stephenson

"Type 1 even influences the way that I dress, because my outfits either need to have pockets to hold my insulin pump. Or they need to have a strong waistband to attach/ hold my pump, so slinky dresses can often be out of the question.

"When the insulin pump is on view, diabetes can effect social situations, with curious people asking questions such as, 'Why have you got an mp3 player attached to your hip?' Which can make you feel self-conscious and acts as a reminder that you have a chronic condition.

"I like to wear fashionable clothes, but I always need to have somewhere to put my pump. So jeggings have become a bit of a staple for me, because they are fitted enough to hold it, but they're not so tight as to push into the needle that I constantly wear into my stomach or the top of my hip. I love wearing colour or stripes on top because they take the attention away from my pump." – Mel Stephenson

6. Calculations factor into every day.

Wendy Stafford

"I have previously had three hypoglycaemic attacks resulting in myself collapsing, having a seizure, and needing an ambulance. But if I had to talk about a 'typical day', I would say it starts with myself getting up and out of bed and making myself some breakfast (usually cereal or jam on toast). I then count my carbs for my meal and inject the correct amount of insulin, along with checking my blood sugars.

"I repeat this process for all other meals and snacks throughout the day. My diabetes affects me most if I'm doing something like travelling or going to a concert or I'm unwell. That's when my bloods usually go up and down, which makes me feel nauseous and generally unwell. Stress also affects my diabetes greatly. During my examination periods at the end of high school and college I became unwell due to my lowered immune system and my condition.

"If leaving the house I always have to carry a large bag with my two insulin pens, needles, my blood monitor, testing strips, lancets, two bottles of Lucozade, and some kind of carbohydrate such as a packed of crisps or a sandwich to have in case my blood sugars go to low. I also always wear my identification necklace stating my name, that I'm a type 1 diabetic, and two emergency phone numbers for if I collapse." – Wendy Stafford

7. Having an invisible illness is tough.

Mel Stephenson

"Diabetes is painful, despite being a condition people can't 'see'. Diabetes is both physically and psychologically challenging because to manage it, you have to stick to a strict regimen of injections and blood glucose testing, carbohydrate counting, and food weighing.

"But just because diabetes does not always have external symptoms doesn't mean it is not a serious condition. I often try to explain to people that diabetes is a kitten when you look after it, but a lion when something goes wrong.

"The psychological aspects of diabetes are very difficult to explain to people, again because they can't see any physical symptoms so therefore there can't be anything 'wrong'. But imagine being a 'normal' child with a healthy future ahead of you and, for an unknown reason, your body decides to start attacking its own pancreas, leaving you to face a lifetime of injections. It can make you feel cheated and frustrated for the life you might have had. However, I can't imagine life without diabetes now; it's part of me, but it's certainly not the whole picture." – Mel Stephenson

8. Diagnosis isn't always straightforward.

Adam Gorrill

"I was drinking, on average, 15 pints of water each day for a week or so and I couldn't put my finger on why. It was my girlfriend at the time that had noticed I'd lost a lot of weight in not much time, two stone to be exact, and I simply didn't notice, which was quite surprising given I didn't really have that weight to lose. My girlfriend's dog had recently been diagnosed with diabetes, and after talking to her mum about it realised I had all the same symptoms – after a quick look on the NHS website, I easily ticked all of the boxes for diabetes.

"I promptly made an appointment with the doctors, and then after a series of blood tests I was referred to the diabetic clinic at the hospital for it to be certified and for me to start use of synthetic insulin immediately. I became a type 1 diabetic at the age of 24 as a healthy and well-maintained individual. My glucose levels were off the chart at +35.00mmol (normal is between +4 and +6), and because I wasn't producing any insulin at all, my body had transitioned to 'eating' (burning the body fat) itself for energy rather than being able to break down the carbohydrate-induced sugar. I was shown how to inject and with what type of insulin (I have two) and when." – Adam Gorrill

"I was diagnosed in March 2007 aged 8. It was one of the most traumatic, frightening things that had happened to me and I honestly thought that I was going to die. And I know that sounds overdramatic! However, it all happened so fast – I was rushed straight to the hospital, where injections and cannulas were administered into me left, right, and centre. As I was diagnosed on a Friday, all of the diabetic team were leaving work for the weekend, leaving me in limbo, not knowing how unwell I was. For someone so young, it was a horrible experience." – Wendy Stafford

"It was 22 February 2012, so I would have been 12. The process was kind of strung out for a long time – my mum noticed something had changed just after Christmas. I went to the doctor and got sent away with antibiotics, it wasn't until I was getting pretty ill that I went back and got a diagnosis of type 1. It was pretty scary not knowing what was happening to me, why I was always thirsty, and why I was so much thinner." – Connor McHarg

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9. There's a push and pull with your body every day.

Lauren Proctor

"I need to consider the carb content of whatever I am about to eat or drink and take the correct insulin dose with an insulin injection. Many external factors such as stress, illness, exercise, and weather (!) can affect my blood glucose levels, so I test my blood glucose beforehand and throughout the day.

"If my sugars are too low, I take a sweet drink or snacks to bring them up again. If they're too high, I have to treat that too. It's a bit like walking a tightrope, given that a vital organ that helps your body function has inexplicably given up." – Lauren Proctor

10. Exercise is important.

Adam Gorrill

"Another area that is often misunderstood is the idea of exercise and prolonged physical activity – this is because under stress and exertion the body burns sugar at a rate that is very different for each individual. I am a recreational triathlete and regularly do prolonged stints of exercise, and although it takes a little bit of careful planning and forethought, I am just as capable at exercise and body-stressing behaviours as someone without type 1 diabetes.

"I hear a lot that exercise is a no-go area for a lot of diabetics due to the fact that your body requires the glucose for energy and therefore can burn through it; however, like with any other athlete, you just have to be aware of what your body burns and when to replenish the sugars in your system.

"It frustrates me knowing that a lot of people suffering from diabetes don't do exercise due to this misconception, because it is in fact one of the main things you can introduce into your life that can improve not only your health and wellbeing, but also the efficiency of how your body burns through and handles glucose in the body." – Adam Gorrill

11. And the support of friends and family is vital.

Chloe Tucker

"My family were incredibly supportive when I got diagnosed. It was a huge thing being diagnosed with this lifelong illness and I also had a massive fear of needles, so it was really nice having this support network around me to help through it.

"Everyone also got, like, bags of jelly babies in their house for me, just in case I went low. My friends have been really great at being there, not only when I want to have a joke about it and poke fun, but also when it gets really overwhelming. They're always there to listen to me rant about whatever it is that's stressing me out about it." – Chloe Tucker