For Katy, having Type 1 diabetes can sometimes feel like having to take an annoying child everywhere she goes – including on a night out.
Katy on growing up with Type 1 diabetes
I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was three years old. As a child, managing Type 1 diabetes wasn’t actually too much of a problem. It almost felt like it wasn’t my thing – it was for my parents to look after and do the worrying.
When I was 15 years old I moved to an adult diabetes clinic, and it all changed. I tried to cling on to my paediatric team for as long as I could. I had grown up with the same team looking after me and my appointments felt familiar.
It was a shock leaving them and moving into adult care as a rebellious teen. I felt like I was on my own and just wanted to ignore my diabetes.
It was difficult for my parents as well. They would ask me about my blood sugar levels and it would set me off arguing with them. I was trying to work my way through being more independent with my diabetes. But looking back, I could be quite horrible to them. I can see now how difficult it must have been for them too.
Talking about alcohol
My diabetes team did talk to me about ‘growing up’ issues like alcohol, sex and contraception. But I didn’t feel comfortable talking about it back then. I’d just take the leaflets they offered me!
Before university, I would go out drinking with my friends once every few weeks. But it was at university that I started drinking more, and often.
It was the standard uni lifestyle really, but I definitely did ignore my diabetes. I would wake up with the worse hangovers and feel awful all day, with rollercoaster blood sugar levels. It was in my second year that I started taking better care of myself.
I was at my diabetes eye appointment and they found a bleed at the back of my eye. It was such a shock and a real wake up call for me.
I knew I had to look after my diabetes to make sure I could stay in control. I’ve not had any problems with my diabetes since.
The friends I met at university and my close friends from home have been really supportive of my diabetes. One has a younger brother with Type 1 diabetes, so knows a lot about it already.
They’re all pretty good at spotting when my diabetes is getting in the way of a night out. When I’m low, I can get very moody. Little things will start making me irritable. And if I’m drunk, I won’t always notice. Sometimes I’ll be on a night out and will decide to go home because I’m feeling rubbish. They all understand that it’s a thing I need to do sometimes.
Other times I’ll be having a great night, sat in a toilet cubicle with a friend testing my blood sugar to make sure I’m in range. They may not know exactly what it means, but they’ll share my celebration when I’m on a night out and my blood sugar is 6.4.
They really have seen it all and know what I’ve been through and how difficult it can be at times.
There are still times when Type 1 diabetes does ruin my night. If I’m low on a night out I’ll treat it and get on with having a good time once my levels are back up. But if I’m having repeated hypos it can feel like I’m sat in the corner treating my hypo all night. It can leave me feeling really emotional.
It’s important to recognise that having to look after your diabetes every single day can be exhausting and can leave you feeling depressed (more on diabetes burnout). When that happens, sometimes I’ll take time out on my own to look after myself, or I’ll talk about it with friends. And I find going to the gym really helps, physically and mentally.
I wanted to show that Type 1 diabetes doesn’t have to hold you back
But I also wanted to show that it doesn’t have to hold you back. I’ve been to uni, competed in horse riding competitions, been to festivals and am planning to volunteer in Sri Lanka next year. You can still do great things with your life.
I decided to share my story in the video because I wanted to make people more aware of Type 1 diabetes and the impact it can have. Sometimes it really can feel like an annoying little gremlin child I have to take out and constantly monitor.
The main thing to remember is that the more you look after yourself and your diabetes, the less it will control you or hold you back.