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Steve's story: stepping to show commitment to my family and my mental health

Steve smiling in his One Million Steps T-shirt

Steve Hodgson

Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2016

For me, diagnosis was actually the start of a journey that made me a better man.

Steve explains how reaching out for support helped him come to terms with his type 2 diabetes diagnosis, and how the One Million Step Challenge empowered him to change his life. 

Diagnosis

My family connection to diabetes

I had a close connection to diabetes growing up, as my dad has type 2 and my grandparents did too. They all worked hard, drank a bit, smoked and ate a fair amount of unhealthy food. I always had a poor diet as a child, and when I was recovering from an illness I was forced to eat vegetables. This led to me developing a phobia of new foods, and I stuck to a very narrow diet that wasn’t very nutritious. I ate too many takeaways and things like that.

Getting diagnosed with type 2 

Then about four years ago, I had been feeling unwell, but in such a gradual way that I’d not paid attention. It wasn’t until I was actually quite poorly that I made it to the doctor. I was given a blood test and told that my blood glucose (sugar) level was very high. After another blood test, they diagnosed me with type 2 diabetes. It hit me like a brick wall. 

I was playing out the worst-case-scenarios in my head, and feeling very down about it all. I know that you’re more likely to get type 2 if your parent has the condition too, but it made me wonder if things would be different if I had made different choices about looking after my health… it just made me feel very guilty about the effect my diabetes had on my wife and children.

Life with diabetes

Struggling to make changes

At first, everything seemed daunting. I knew that I’d need to reduce the amount of stress that was in my life, get more sleep and sort my eating out. But changing the habits of a lifetime doesn’t come easily. 

My wife was keen to support me, but I wasn’t ready to deal with it. I was still very much in denial. We improved the way we would eat as a family, but then I’d pick up McDonalds or eat a packet of biscuits on the way to work. It’s hard to explain, but it was a very low-point for me and I don’t think I was very self-aware because I had not come to terms with my condition.

Emotions

Coming to terms with my feelings

It wasn’t until I had a medical review at work that something shifted. I came clean about how difficult I was finding it to look after my health, and how I felt that until I got my head in the right place, my habits were never going to change. Work were great and I got referred to a counsellor.

That was a huge step for me, I remember sitting in my car, willing myself to make an appointment. The whole thing was way outside my comfort zone. But it was one of the best things I ever did.

In 6 sessions I learnt to get over the denial and really tackle the whole thing. I realised the importance of mental health in sorting out your physical health. And I also saw that I was being too hard on myself. I was aiming to be ‘perfect’ when really, I just needed my choices to be ‘better’.

Activity

Taking on One Million Steps

It was around that time that I came across the One Million Step Challenge. I knew that I could walk 10,000 steps in a day, but I liked the idea of being part of something that would keep me on track. I thought that if I put it out there, on social media, then I’ll have to stick to it.

Mostly I just increased how often and how much I walked my dog. Occasionally, because of my shift patterns, I would know that a particular day would be tricky, but then I would just bank extra steps beforehand so my overall total didn’t drop. Through the increased walking and better eating, I’ve lost about a stone, and I feel so much better in myself. 

Joining the community

To start off, I was a bit unsure of putting what I was doing on Facebook, but over time I got more confident, and I got into the fundraising. It’s a lovely community - full of amazing people.

I noticed that people respond better to photos, so I shared what I was up to. Pictures of my dog were particularly popular. I posted a bit on the Yammer groups at work too, which had a good response. 

Completing the challenge

Seeing people pledge their support is an amazing feeling, it feels like they can see what you’re doing and they understand the value of it.

When I hit the one million steps, it felt great. My wife and kids saw what I had achieved - it shows them that I am committed to living a long and healthy life and that I’m here to show-up for them.

Journey with diabetes

Changing my life

I shared what I was doing with my employers and they made me the Lead for Health and Wellbeing at my work place. I'm an active member of the regional team, writing about my experiences for our newsletters and raising awareness about diabetes.

Being offered that role at work felt like a real acknowledgement of how far things had shifted. And because I’ve faced up to where I am and how I want to live, my mental health is a lot stronger too. For me, diagnosis was actually the start of a journey that made me a better man. 

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