To be honest I’ve been ignoring the diabetes side of my blog, mainly because, well, it’s not very exciting. I’ve been in India for 6 weeks now; some of the best weeks of my life and, though I’ve been a little careless, I’ve not really let my diabetes in at all. Before I set off on my trip (the length of which is indefinite) my intention was to never let diabetes get me down. Now, I knew it’d be difficult because of the climate, the food, and the stresses of travelling (yes there are stresses, I’m not on a permanent holiday) but I was determined not to let any of it ruin what I was doing – though what I’m doing I actually don’t know; the term ‘winging it’ has been thrown around a lot…
Anyway, when I first arrived in Mumbai I was understandably a little nervous, maybe even a little stressed at entering India at one of its busiest and most chaotic cities at the start of my trip. Looking back, this was probably a baptism of fire to a certain extent as I had a very steep learning curve in Indian city living; the noise, the smells, the people, the food: it’s all very different from home. So, within a day or so of being there my blood sugars shot up, higher than they had been in months but, given that I left a country with a temperature of 7 degrees, and entered one with 32 degrees, I wasn’t too worried; I was warned by my diabetes care team that temperatures affect blood sugar levels severely and that it’s not out of the ordinary. This, combined with food that at first is very difficult to gauge, left me undeterred. However, this carried on for several days; the headaches, the sweating, the feeling of being weighed down; it was horrible. I didn’t tell anyone about this, I mean, who’d know what I was talking about? I just had to put up with it.
So, what to do? Try and correct every time it was high? Hell no, I wasn’t going to waste insulin on attempting to bring my sugar levels down as soon as I arrived here; my supplies were stretched enough and the chances are my levels would level out after a few days. In a way I was right, they did level out, but between 8-15 constantly with a few higher teens every now and again. This, for me, was devastating; In my 3 years as a diabetic my blood sugars have only gone above 13 maybe a dozen times and only in very acute circumstances, so this sudden jump in levels at a high consistency was a little unnerving. Well, after a week or so of this, and a few attempts at inducing a hypo just to bring my levels down (bad idea), I did what any responsible adult would do; I ignored the problem and hoped it’d go away…. I joke of course. No, what I did do is just stop worrying about it; I cut it off and stopped thinking about my levels and just got on with what I was doing. I remembered my intention before leaving the UK; not to let it get me down. I continued counting my carbs and injecting accordingly, even occasionally adding an extra unit or two if I was unsure. Did this work? Yes, and my levels have been fine ever since (well, apart from one night in Goa, but that’s another story).
I’m pretty sure that once you lose control, even if only briefly, you panic a little, worry a lot, and let things get to you; this, I think, is when you tail spin. The stress of being out of control makes gaining control again even more difficult, which then causes more stress, creating more problems etc.; it’s a vicious circle. This was a circle I was in for over a week but shutting it off in my head was the best thing for me to do, so rather than worrying about testing my levels, I just got on with it; I’ve never let diabetes worry me before, so why should I start now when I’m having the time of my life? Over the course of the next couple of weeks my blood sugars levelled out again, back to normal.
The root of my diabetic woes? Well, I can only say, as above, that it was the initial culture shock of India, or Mumbai to be more precise, that caused it. I don’t regret starting in Mumbai (I loved the city), nor do I regret (or feel guilty) about a week long lapse in management; sometimes you have to take the rough with the smooth…and I’d probably had it too smooth for too long.
So, out of my month and a half in India so far, only 2 weeks of them have been ‘interesting’ from a diabetes point of view. I’ve had my initial diabetes hiccup, and I’ve overcome it; so bring on the next one! None of us should let it get the better of us; there’s far more to life than worrying about a condition that can’t be prevented or cured (yet). It can’t stop us from doing anything, even if sometimes it feels that way; we’ve just got to carry on and do the best we can, no matter what we’re up to.