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Living with diabetes

26 year old Londoner, Matt Tull, explains what it is like to be diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and reflects on how his day-to-day life has changed since diagnosis.

I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes 13 years ago in my first week of secondary school. As well as having to deal with an oversized & lucid purple blazer, I was also taken to hospital and told I would now have to inject insulin every day. A double whammy.

At the time this news affected my family more than me, as I didn’t know much, if anything, about diabetes. I’ve grown up with the condition and have since left school and college, travelled the world, graduated from university, undertaken a postgraduate course and I am now 25 – living and working full time in London.

I’m hoping my experiences and insights that I am sharing will show that if you manage and engage with the condition, it doesn’t have to stop you from doing what you want to do.

Yes – that sounds very cringe worthy, because it is, but one of the aims of me putting my rambling thoughts into a blog is to quell any fears that just because your pancreas has decided to pack it in that you shouldn’t follow suit and do the same.

I can tell you about a number of highs and lows (pun intended) of being a diabetic – from festival frolicking and queue jumping at the tuck shop to gallivanting across the globe and day-to-day London life.

Everyone has their own relationship with the condition and no two diabetics are the same (more to be said on this later), so this by no means is intended to be the gospel on diabetes management. But my hope is that by sharing some of my experiences it will help others to engage with their condition.

Diabetes has many risks to your health. The real danger comes from not tuning into them on a daily basis. It is all too easy to go through the motions of taking care of yourself. You do your jabs when you’ve eaten, your blood tests most of the time and go to appointments and checkups when you get a letter through the post.

Time flies by. Before you know it you’ve had diabetes for over 10 years and you’re still not fully engaging with the condition.

Apathy can lead to issues in the not so distant future.

Everyday life has a habit of filling up any time we consider our own and all too often diabetes slips down the list of priorities – sometimes slipping off it completely.

Late last year I had a cycling accident and the subsequent injuries pushed diabetes almost completely off my agenda. I was so focused on my shoulder rehabilitation that my excuse for a pancreas was shunted out of everyday consciousness.

This flippancy is compounded because as a young person growing up with the condition you don’t feel the immediate difference if you give yourself four or six units of insulin, or have the occasional Kit-Kat after dinner. The problem is that these day-to-day miniscule differences can accumulate to be the margins between a healthy life in 30 years or retinopathy.

If you need a wheelchair the impact on your daily life is clear to yourself and also those around you. Every time I contemplate whining about my pancreas packing up, I think of those much less fortunate than myself and my complaints quickly evaporate.

It’s a blessing and a curse that diabetes has no effect on your physical appearance. People don’t treat you any differently and you can sail through life without raising any eyebrows. However, this, and no immediate tangible impacts of poor control, also contributes to a level of apathy that can amass to complications later on in life.

Now this all sounds very dreary, and that’s most likely because it is. Such is a chronic condition. However my hope is that for myself by writing this, and for those of you by reading this (hi Mum), we will start to turn our focus from the hustle and bustle of everyday life towards diabetes and the condition that warrants our full attention.

Matt Tull

Matt Tull is a 26 year old with Type 1 diabetes, who was diagnosed just after his twelfth birthday. He works for a social enterprise in Hackney and lives in Brixton in South London.

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5 comments

  1. Annette says:

    Hi, my daughter has just been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes within the last week – she is 22 – graduated from University this year and has started a job in the NHS 6 weeks ago. It’s a massive shock for her (and me) and we are trying to get through it, albeit an hour at a time at the moment because she feels so poorly. The support from her diabetes nurses and dietician has been fantastic. It is reassuring to see from Matt’s story that it is possible to lead a very full life. There is light at the end of the tunnel 🙂

  2. Barry U says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, we all should focus on health and well being more often, after all in it underpins all we do now and restricts or expands our future opportunities.

  3. Chris Q says:

    Hi Matt – thank you for your Blog. My hubby was originally diagnosed with Type 2 at 50 but eventually re-diagnosed as Late Onset Type 1 at 53. He lives, works and (at times)plays hard and has to manage the ups and downs that his lifestyle creates but you are so right – you ignore it at your peril. You just have to live with it and give it the attention it requires for a healthy fulfilling life.

  4. Lydia Maureen Bancroft says:

    It is so lovely Matthew seeing you all grown up and sensible. I remember the boy who was diagnosed. You never complained,carried on with being a normal adolescent . I enjoyed interacting with you when you attended clinic. Well done in all your acheivements and I hope you have many more.
    Maureen Bancroft.

  5. Jeni Clark says:

    Well written good on you for taking the time to do it xxx