During college I was 350 pounds, drinking over a gallon of water a day, and getting up every twenty minutes during the night to urinate. There was no question that I had diabetes, but does a 350-pound, twenty-one-year-old have type 1 or type 2? It was decided by my doctors that at my weight I had eaten myself into type 2 diabetes. I did some research about type 2 diabetes and I believed them. I wish I could tell you it was a wake-up call that changed my life. It wasn’t. It was just one more unpleasant thing I didn’t want to deal with. So I did nothing about it for a while.
I spent years being told that I gave myself diabetes, that if I just lost weight it would pretty much go away. I was on half a dozen type 2 pills. My A1c was 14 and complications were starting to present. Again, I was chastised for my non-compliance and was told I didn’t even really need insulin, so I stopped giving myself insulin. I started to lose weight, most likely because I was in a constant state of ketoacidosis. I knew that I might die if I didn’t start taking insulin again, so I begrudgingly went back to it. I got so fat that I gave myself diabetes. I was so unhealthy in my twenties that I couldn’t even get off insulin. That moment felt like the biggest failure of my life. Ironically, it was my turning point. I had hit bottom. I needed to get healthier. I needed to get rid of diabetes. I needed to lose the weight. I lost 190 pounds (I’d go into more detail about the weight loss, but that’s another story—a really long story). I was eating healthier. I was working out. I wasn’t obese anymore, but my insulin requirements didn’t drop at all.
I had started seeing a new endo who had a simple explanation for this: “Your C-peptide is undetectable; you’re always going to need insulin. You know you have type 1 diabetes, right?” No, I didn’t know that. I didn’t know that because five endos over the course of almost seven years kept telling me that if I put down the cupcakes and lost some more weight, my type 2 diabetes would go away. I didn’t know that because nobody talks about a total lack of C-peptide when you are researching type 2 diabetes. I didn’t know that there was a test to determine if I made any insulin. I could eat a perfect diet and exercise four hours a day and my diabetes would not go away. I did, and always will, need the insulin. I spent years being so beat down because I failed to do something about my “preventable” diabetes that having “the bad kind” of diabetes was actually a relief. For the first time in my life, diabetes wasn’t my fault. For the second time that I was diagnosed with diabetes.
The funny thing about it is that I am so grateful for that journey. I spent years thinking that I could cure my diabetes by living a healthier lifestyle. The proper diagnosis took that away a decade ago, but I would never have been as healthy or as active as I became if I didn’t think it was my cure. Those seven years spent thinking that I was type 2 gave me a very unique perspective on being a better type 1. We may not have the cure today, but there is plenty that we can do about being healthier today.
I’ve learned that no one “eats themselves into diabetes.” Unhealthy and obese type 2 diabetics may have helped the process along, but the genetic predisposition still has to be there. There is no magic number of cupcakes to cause diabetes. I also learned that while type 1 diabetics may not have “caused their diabetes,” being unhealthy or obese worsens diabetes and increases the chances and severity of complications. Everyone with diabetes benefits from eating healthier and exercising. Really. Everyone. I consider myself to be a healthy and successful diabetic. I try to remain a healthy and successful diabetic by making health a priority in my life. I try to control my diabetes (and not anyone else’s). I eat well. I work out. I set health-oriented goals and I put a lot of effort into achieving them. Lastly, I realize that my reality is never going to meet my ideal so I forgive myself for mistakes and try to learn from them. Therefore, I may not have them with every meal, but I most certainly have not given up cupcakes.
—by Danielle Panetta–Danigirl