Time for a change – by Helen May

On January 20th 2012, D-Day came and went without being marked for the first time in eight years. Perhaps it was because diabetes is so much part of my life now that it no longer seemed necessary to notice the day I was diagnosed. Or perhaps it was because, with my new job, I didn’t have time to think about it.

Yes, I have a new job and it’s very, very busy. Not only do I find I have to learn new things, I also have far more to do. And these new tasks are higher profile and bigger impact if I get them wrong: in the past, if a customer presentation didn’t go well, the customer wouldn’t be as happy as they could be; now, if a customer presentation doesn’t go well, they won’t be a customer.

I’m not one to shy away from something new or a bit of stress. In hindsight, I usually realise I enjoy it. But in the run up to a big presentation last week, I found myself going over the material at night rather than sleeping and checking the clock every 30 minutes to ensure I wouldn’t miss my alarm at 5 o’clock (2 hours earlier than usual).

I guess this is normal behaviour for most people regardless of whether they have diabetes or not. But with diabetes, I have more to think about: if my BG is too high the night before, it will stop me sleeping for the 30 minutes between clock checks or, worse, I’ll have a hypo and spend the next day with the headache from hell and in no fit state to present anything apart from a very white face.

Another thing that keeps me awake is what would happen if diabetes gets in the way of my presentation? I day dream about noticing a member of the audience looking a little shaky and, as a diabetes-aware superhero, I dive into my bag and calmly offer “some dextrose, sir?” This results in an incredibly happy customer.

Unfortunately, I think the opposite is more likely: I’ll be the shaky one with the stress of the meeting messing with my BG. My BG never seems to behave the same way from one stressful situation to the next: sometimes, my readings are high and I need more insulin; sometimes they are low and I’m glad my superhero alter-ego is having a rest because I need all the dextrose I can get; and sometimes, my BG is a perfect 5.0. As I never know, I just have to make sure I have a good supply of dextrose, insulin and test strips.

I had a good idea what this job entailed when I applied: I knew there would be more stress than I am used to and I knew this would affect my diabetes control. I consider this to be my problem and not my employer’s: they just need to know I can deal with the stress no matter how it occurs whether it is sweaty palms, a nervous tic or unpredictable BG. Even so, should I tell my new manager I have diabetes? After some thought, I decided to tell them in a positive way so thank you to Diabetes UK for allowing me to write on my CV “I enjoy travel and trying out new activities such as climbing and sailing. I write about this and more as an active contributor to the Diabetes UK blogs.”

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