Kaja was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes after her first term at uni. It was a huge shock but the uni, her new friends, her mum and brother supported her. Kaja thinks people don't know enough about or talk about the mental side of diabetes, and wants that to change.
Living with Type 1 diabetes
"Health practitioners don't tend to ask you about your mental health. They ask you about your physical health – your blood sugars, HbA1c etc. They never ask 'how are you dealing with it, is there anything we can do to support you'."
Kaja's journey with diabetes
- Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes after her first term at university
- Moved to self-catering halls to better manage carb counting
- Would like to see more mental health support for people with diabetes
Coping with being diagnosed
I went from a carefree fresher to being sat down in a hospital and told I had Type 1 diabetes which was a condition I knew barely anything about. I’d been losing weight, which I put down to not eating properly, and feeling unwell, which I put down to freshers’ flu. I didn’t have an explanation for my extreme thirst or needing the toilet all the time.
A diabetes diagnosis isn't the sort of thing you expect to happen in your first term of uni. It was a big shock to my new friends as well, although they were glad that I finally knew why I'd been feeling unwell.
It was the first time I’d been really independent from my parents and I felt very alone. It was a huge shock to my family too. My mum immediately started researching the condition and my brother helped me stay positive and wasn't afraid to ask questions.
The first few months after diagnosis were definitely the hardest. I spent my Christmas holidays revising for my January exams, which was stressful enough without having to also learn about diabetes. You can read more of my story about coping with diabetes at uni.
Emotions and mental health
Being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at university was definitely a daunting and upsetting experience, but over time I've learnt not to let it get me down.
"But people still don't know much about the emotional side of diabetes, that's it's not just a physical condition."
Something that people don't realise, people who don't have diabetes is that the mental side is jsut as there and present as the physical side so obviously you've got to deal with insulin injections and carb counting and blood sugar. But a whole massive aspect of it that normally, a lot of the time people talk don't talk about, is mental health.
It's always there, no matter what you're doing, 24/7. Whatever you're doing, whether you're at university of at home, or in the park, or on a night out - it's always there. You've always go to think about it and that's one of the toughest parts.
"I think I could deal with the injections and blood tests but the worst part if just feeling overwhelmed and feeling like you're constantly alone."
I think I just would've liked to know that it's not the end of the world, because it definitely felt like it was. Because I felt so sick and so ill all the time, and then I get this diagnosis and they say 'you have to do this for the rest of your life' and I thought 'oh god my life if over'.
I think in terms of GPs and health practitioners in general, there is a lot more that could be done. Because they don't tend to ask you about your mental health, they ask you about your physical health - 'how has your blood sugar been?' Checking your HbA1c levels, etc. But they never ask you how you're dealing with it, or is there anything they can do to support you in terms of your mental health?
Support from Diabetes UK
Going on the Diabetes UK website and reading other people's stories, other people my age, people who have been diagnosed at uni too as students, or people who've been diagnosed as a child and they live with it for so much longer than I have - it all really helped.
It definitely helped me realise that I wasn't the only one going through it. As much as it can feel like that sometimes. There are people all around the world who have to deal with it.