Sweet dreams and the bad diabetic- a blog

Sweet dreams?

Does this ever happen to you?  Sleeping peacefully – in your dream you are lying on a sun drenched beach and the only decision you have to make is what cocktail to drink next, then all of a sudden I am standing barefoot in the middle of a pub where plates of food are passing by and I am screaming “What time do you serve food until?” But no one responds and the plates of food keep passing by and it is as if I don’t exist, so I walk home in the snow, still barefoot. On waking slightly groggy with a blood sugar of 3.6

In another dream I am being driven to a conference by Princess Anne’s Chauffeur (yes I know I am of that generation). All is well I am going through my speech notes and the sun is shining. Then I experience an abrupt change of mood crying to go home with rising panic. Princess Anne appears with a box of chocolates which of course I refuse. Blooding sugar on waking – 2.8.

Apart from the fact that I am getting the dose wrong – I am really interested in the connection between the subconscious and  how it is affected by physical change. Of further interest to me is that I behave in the dreams just as I do when I experience a hypo when awake; I feel panic and anxiety, I have this real homing instinct and I will often refuse food if I am outside the home. It is as though I don’t what to be seen eating in public in a vulnerable state.

 I wonder also if the dream changes in advance of blood sugar falling or at the point where it would be  defined as a hypo? Is it a warning or another symptom? I fear a long afternoon in from of Google and perhaps a research proposal to Diabetes UK – what do you think?

The ‘Bad’Diabetic

It is easy for me to remember my ‘Diabetic’ birthday – New Year’s Eve 1985. It was time of Mixtard, Urine sticks and phials and syringes. The concept of patient centred care wasn’t wide spread – you focused on your blood sugar levels, were probably too scared to ask questions and never countered the wisdom of your consultant.

It was before DAFNE (Dosage adjustment for normal eating) or Food Freedom was introduced, so there were ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods for your diabetes. Even today when I am told I can eat a wider variety of foods, I find it difficult to eat puddings or biscuits unless I am experiencing low blood sugar.

The discourse we have with healthcare professionals at the point of diagnosis has a profound and long lasting effect, .  Recently, at a Bristol group meeting members were discussing the feelings of guilt associated with having diabetes. This is commonplace – have you brought it on yourself? Why is it so difficult to cut out all the nice foods? Am I a burden to my family?

Although things have vastly improved today – negotiated care plans, physiological help and in general consultants are much more willing to have a conversation on how diabetes affects you personally, there is still some way to go on removing the Bad Diabetic label.

I only just realised that GP’s can refer patients with Type 2 diabetes to a recognised weight loss programme such as Weight Watchers or Slimming World. A laudable initiative in theory. Such programmes still work around the concept of good or bad food. One gives you a point allowance that you cannot go over and another actually refers to certain foods as ‘sins’. If you are coming to terms with a permanent life-style change and feeling guilty already is dealing with food choice in this way really useful?

I am positive I am not the person with Type 1 who their GP or consultant has described as ‘not engaged’. A bit of a kick in the teeth when you are struggling and really trying to get your levels within range. It is also unlikely you will feel motivated to have an open conversation with that person again. It can become a viscous circle – you are struggling – you are defined as not engaged – your motivation worsens- you struggle even more.

It has sometimes felt like I have asked for help to improve control and been told when you get better control that is something we can look at. I do see it from both perspectives and I appreciate it must be frustrating for doctors when someone appears not to be interested. Nevertheless we need to remove the negative labels. People with diabetes aren’t bad or not engaged, we are human beings with a lifelong condition and sometimes we just struggle!

Jane is Chair of the Bristol East Diabetes support group. She lives in Bristol and works as a freelance fundraiser.