Type 1 Diabetes Disease of the Mind

Dedication: People that struggle with Type 1 and mental health

My name is Christian Courtney and I want to share with you how Type 1 can be more than just a physical disease but a mental one.

I was diagnosed around age 13. One day during football practice I found myself unable to push myself and was unable to regain focus. The day when I got home I let my mother know how I felt and told her I felt weak I had difficulties with my balance and would use the bathroom every hour.

We decided to go to our local doctor about this issue. They found my blood sugar to be over 400. I was then transferred to a hospital where I was under supervision for a couple days getting tested.

I had no idea how much this would change my life when the doctors came back to me informing me of my disease. Me only being 13 I did not fully understand how this would impact my life. Moving forward I was put into training sessions with a dietitian teaching me how carbs would impact my life.

My parents were taught how to do injections for me before each meal. From here on anything I was eating I had to think about the consequences of my blood sugar. Every carb needed to be counted for insulin injection.

I found myself in disbelief that this disease was actually affecting me. Being age 13 my parents did most of everyday injections and carb counting. So it was easy for me to ignore this disease and lay all the worries on my parents.

This went on for a couple years until I turned age 16. I had to be more responsible for me and my disease so this was the turning point for me and learning how to control this on my own.

This is when I had to stop denying that this wasn’t real and face the severity of how this would affect me. Of course I told myself this but unfortunately I did not learn.

Being in highschool it was difficult to accept I was different from everyone else. I tried my best to hide this from everyone but everyone knew I needed to leave class early before lunch.

I never got made fun of for this disease but being the kid that was different made it difficult to make friends. I also had to switch schools several times so I had never had a close friend that most people had.

My only goal was to be normal, writing this now I wish I could go back and tell myself nobody can be defined as “normal”. Just like most kids in high school I was very self-conscious. I also went through severe acne leaving scars and holes across my forehead and throughout my whole back.

This made me extremely sheltered throughout highschool being that kid in the back of the room who doesn’t talk much.

Towards the end of high school I was able to make some friends which helped me become more open. I tried to join several different friend groups but I never felt myself fitting into anyone’s circle.

I learned from my father to never let my disease be an excuse to not achieve what I wanted. This stuck with me throughout my life. Never did I use Type 1 Diabetes as an excuse or the thing that would stop me from getting to where I want in life.

I now understand I took his advice in the wrong way. Going into college is where I hit my lowest point. I was always a bit overweight but this all changed going into college. I went from being 260lbs dropping to a low of 160lbs.

Being in college I was completely alone. I had no parents checking if I wasn’t taking my medication. I went weeks without checking my blood or taking medication.

Being the naive kid I was, I viewed my weight loss as a good thing. When I came home to visit I ignored family telling me I was too skinny. I lied to them about me taking my medication.

My freshman year of college was completely miserable for me. I skipped just enough classes to pass. I never wanted to leave my dorm room. I lost myself in video games everyday. Video games were the only escape I had and spent hours of everyday on my computer.

I knew what I was doing to myself not taking my medication but I did not care. There was one point when I went to take a shower I could not even recognize myself in the mirror anymore. All I could see was a skinny useless kid in the mirror. I no longer had much weight around my arms and all I could see was my rib cage.

I went home for summer break. I had supervision of my parents so I started taking my medication again still not as much as I should.

I found myself one day unable to get out of bed. I was throwing up anything I was drinking and I found myself unable to breathe normally. I had been sent to the hospital. I knew what was coming and the consequences of my actions. I was put into a state called Ketoacidosis or DKA. My blood was turning acidic. Every breath I thought could be my last unable to get any oxygen. My A1C was completely off the charts being around 13%.

I wish I could say this taught me a lesson. I still have not learned from my mistakes.

I started gaining control for a couple months but returning to college for my sophomore year things fell apart again. I spent my days back in my dorm still unable to find motivation. I did not care what my blood sugar was or if I went back into DKA.

I went further and further into denial about Type 1. I was eating more pointless junk food for no reason. I eat an entire bag of chips and candy without counting a single carb not taking a single drop of insulin. I eat hundreds of carbs everyday not caring where it would leave me.

Losing more weight until I reached a point where I could barely do a pushup. My arms and my biceps being complete bone.

At this point I wanted to turn my life around. Everyday was a battle in my head to do what I needed to put myself back to where I wanted. I started working out trying to get back some muscle and not look like someone who starves himself.

I tried everyday meditation which helped for a while but I never could find myself doing what was necessary to stick to a daily routine.

One night I went out to a buddy where we drank. Of course I was not counting carbs from my drinks and they kept adding up. The next morning I was completely dazed but I needed to head back to my dorm for class.

I had the worst thoughts in my head on the way back. Me being hungover and blood sugar through the roof I was not in a right state of mind. I was doing about 80mph on the highway running off a couple of hours of sleep. The thoughts had gotten to me, I asked myself what’s the point, why am I here. I closed my eyes and ran off the road doing 80mph.

I can only remember me closing my eyes. Once I regained consciousness I was completely wrapped in my car. Taking out trees and flipping several times the car was completely totaled. I fell back asleep. Not sure how long I was passed out until someone found me and called 911.

I walked out of that accident without a single scratch. Somehow I survived an 80mph crash off the highway and walked away without a single injury.

This crash was the best thing I could have asked for. I had gotten my answer in the most vivid and real way I could ask for. I knew from this point on I was here for a reason.

I began accounting for my actions. I moved to my own apartment outside my college. I was dedicated to a search for purpose and I would not give up until I found it.

Although I know I am here for a reason that doesn’t make everyday easy. There is always a constant fight within my head to do the best thing for me.

Going through covid gave me the ability to be in complete isolation. The only thing I faced was me and my thoughts. I began studying Stoicism and different meditation techniques.

This made life more comfortable for me. Understanding people have their own problems and they don’t care enough to judge you. Even if you do get judged for your situation you must understand that you can not control what other people think. What you can control is your own thoughts and actions. It is only you that can decide to be happy. There is no need to worry about things outside of your control as this will only create more problems for you. What you need to worry about are the things you can control. Only you can control when you wake up and decide to pursue your passions. The less time you spend thinking about others is the more time you can focus on yourself.

When it comes to pursuing passions you must take risks. The biggest mistake I’ve made is my inability to take risks. Being put into a situation where I could have lost my life a couple times my biggest regret was not living life to the fullest.

I began experimenting with different hobbies. I purchased a motorcycle, this was a great choice as this is where I feel the most free. I began learning how to play guitar. I spend time reading and studying into my future career. I’ve decided to take a turn around in my life and focusing on myself and my future instead of focusing my thoughts on being insecure of me and my disease.

Photo credit: Image courtesy of the storyteller.

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Christian Courtney