Slim pickings: A better life or better disease

I watched the MTV True Life episode. Within the diabetes community, everyone was talking about it. There were a lot of mixed reviews, too. Some said they used scare tactics. Others claimed that diabetes was shown as being so depressing and not at all like the reality. Me? Well, I have a lot of thoughts about this episode.

True Life - Full Episode

For one, I can almost relate to all three story lines in this episode. First off, I can definitely say that I know how the 19 year old college kid feels. His name is Matt and he drinks too much. Way too much. He's been admitted to the hospital, he says, twice for seizing because of drinking too much. Well, I can tell you for a fact that it never got that bad. Drinking, like the doctor says later in the episode, is not something that diabetics can't do, but have to be very aware of, like everything else that you do. You have to be aware and conscience of everything you put in your mouth including alcohol.

I was never that bad. I never had a seizure; I was never woken up by paramedics, but controlling diabetes becomes so much harder when there is something else, like alcohol, in the way. And this is why: Your liver creates glucose. Your pancreas makes insulin. So when your body's blood sugar level starts to drop, your liver kicks in and releases the glucose that it has stored up. It's the checks and balances of blood sugar. Now, since alcohol is filtered through your liver, as soon as the sweet liquor touches your lips, your liver become fully preoccupied with it. As my diabetic educator put it, your liver hates liquor and its number one priority is getting it out of your system, and therefore halting its duties as "glucose creator."

So now you have this situation going on: The insulin injection (via syringe or pump) is working like it should, but since you're drinking and not eating, there is no glucose for the insulin to work on, causing a drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia). This is what leads to seizures and big complications. You pass out and quite possibly might never wake up again. I've said it before and I'll say it again: It's easier to die from low blood sugars than high ones.

I've sadly had a friend who was like this. Didn't eat while he was drinking and would pass out. Not good at all. To make sure that everything is OK, one should check their blood sugar frequently while consuming alcohol and eat light snacks to make sure that there are enough simple sugars for the insulin being taken.

Kristyn, a 25 year old Type 1 diabetic as well, had to move back in with her parents because she racked up $12,000 in debt. She says in the episode that this is due to paying out of pocket for diabetes supplies. I don't recall where she lived, but she must have been putting every single little last thing on her cards and not paying for them when she had the money. I know how expensive it can get; I've lived without health insurance and I've had to pay out of pocket for everything from testing strips to insulin, but I've also been lucky enough to know clinics where they helped out with those who were uninsured.

Insurance is a scary thing and while this girl was not only in debt, she wasn't taking care of herself and her mother didn't seem to be too understanding about it all, treating her literally like a child once she moved back into the house. Why doesn't her mom understand a little bit more since she raised her daughter? That's my question. My mom was on top of my disease like white on rice. She knew the ins and outs of it all. Now, since I take care of myself she doesn't keep up with it like she once did, but I can tell you right now, she wouldn't be treating me like that if I had to move home.

Finally, the last girl, Jen, was 19 and pregnant. She had gestational, then Type 2 and at the end she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. So, we can only assume she was misdiagnosed. This girl had no nutritional insight at all and instead of someone talking to her and explaining to her what was considered healthy and unhealthy, it seemed like she was left to think about it herself. She didn't know. "I hope ketchup counts as a tomato," she said at one point. And my favorite: "I've been eating healthier when I go to Taco Bell. I get the chicken instead of the beef." My heart went out to her. I wanted to teach her and show her that no, no, no, you shouldn't be going to Taco Bell at all.

But sadly, what these kids were going through (and I have every right to call them kids) was what a lot of Latinos go through every day. The fact that Latinos won't put the beer down, don't have insurance and don't understand healthy and nutritional eating shows the pivotal points as to why many are not successful in living with this epidemic. Mind you, they may have Type 2 but at this point, I feel like diabetes is all one and the same. If you have it, you have it.

Matt's tagline throughout the show was "Do I want my life to be better or do I want my disease to be better." I thought about this, hence the title of the blog. What people need to realize is that your disease is your life. You have to make time for this illness because it wraps itself around everything you do. From staying up late and not sleeping to eating that one damn cookie you've been craving all day, you have to respect the fact that there are things you can and cannot do, as Matt's doctor put it. You have to learn to live with the disease and not just cast it aside like an old pair of sneakers.

These stories are the reasons why I want to educate people. Those who write and have blogs or vlogs can say whatever they want: that these three stories are not the truth, that we're all not like that. This is true and that's why we're blogging because we're supposed to know a little more. We're the ones who get it and want to share our knowledge with the world. So instead, I'm embracing these stories and showing the improvements that need to be made. I've gone through some of their experiences and I've seen replicas of  their stories up close and personal. Now the question is, what are we going to do about it?





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