I was contacted by the author of a book called Persona Non Grata with Diabetes and asked if I would like to interview him. I found this to be a great opportunity to find out what living with Type 1 Diabetes was like, through the eyes of a Type 1 Diabetic himself.
As the author, Paul Cathcart put in the forward within his book, “I have written ‘Persona non grata with diabetes,’ a lowbrow walk through of real life with diabetes, hoping that from within these shared pages we are able to draw parallels and exchange in lifetime experience, exemplified throughout in life defining moments. None of which stray to far, if at all, from a life with diabetes but all of which touch on this condition in one way or another; offering comfort in the knowledge that what we are going through both physically and emotionally is shared by us all.”
That last sentence spoke to me, as this is the reason why I wrote this blog. I remember when my son was diagnosed and I looked online for support, I remember the relief I felt when I found mothers who were experiencing the same feelings I was, those who wrote about the devastation and frustration they go through daily. Though it didn’t change my life, or my day, it helped me realize I wasn’t alone. To feel as though what you experience is shared by other people, allows you to feel accepted, even if the acceptance is into a rough world where others would rather avoid.
My interview with Paul is below, and his book can be found on Amazon, and be purchased on your Kindle. Thank you again Paul for being so candid and allowing others into the struggles you have faced, in an effort to close the gap on feeling alone while managing this disease.
Question and Answer with Paul Cathcart, author of Persona Non Grata with Diabetes:
Diabetic Journal: When were you diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes?
Paul Cathcart: I was diagnosed at the tender age of 16. I say tender because the years leading to diagnosis, when my pancreas was blinking like a traffic light, were some of the most difficult.
I know its standard understanding, that before we become type 1, that our body may take a while to finally succumb, but no one really thinks about the social surrounding.
I was in a class full of kids, back when they used to give us cartons of milk at lunch time, and at the point where they stopped was the some point when I was having my first dizzy spells and my mouth was attached to the tap.
But on a social / educational level that was lost, I was invisible because I was at least well fed, and the other kids were often collapsing with hunger or bringing knifes into school.
Searing cramps were indistinguishable at home from teenage growing pains and locking myself in the bathroom every twenty minutes, at the age of 16, well you can guess what my family thought I was doing in there.
DJ: Can you remember a time when you didn’t have Type 1 Diabetes?
PC: Yeah, I remember boundless energy and I got that feeling back when I sorted my diet out (went low carb).
DJ: How do you think diabetes affects your life, both good and bad?
PC: I have been through some harsh times with my diabetes; uncontrolled blood sugar has no doubt impacted on my emotional range and personality on every level of family life, personal and social.
But on the up side, diabetes has maybe saved my life. I’m a Glasgow boy at the end of the day. My father was an alcoholic, my grandfather, my lowing step-grandfather; the all drank themselves to death.
I grew up on a housing estate and by my late teenage years, I could see the kids I refused to try drugs with beg for change in town with heroin pot marks on their faces.
And even if I did have the brain to avoid that without the prevention of type 1 diabetes, I’d probably still be stupid enough to be killing myself with cigarettes and junk food.
So yeah, I play to my strengths and diabetes forces me to eat well and live well.
DJ: Think back to the worst low or high you experience. What did you do to correct it?
PC: The highs were persistent in my youth. I’d forget to take my insulin with me on nights out and vomit my way home, unable to digest the following day.
I drank a bottle of Jack Daniels diluted with Pepsi Max once (see, thinking ahead) and I had my stomach pumped, with a Doctor screaming at me because rightly so, that amount of alcohol could have killed anyone, especially a diabetic.
But really, I could have killed myself more with the missed injection I didn’t totally understand the impact of, as the vomiting turned out to be ketoacidosis and I was pretty close to collapsing and freezing to death on the road.
The worst low never actually happened till between Christmas and New Year last year – clever me, on a clean diet with loads of working out inflating my metabolism through the roof, gave in and had a Chinese takeaway.
The problem was, to deal with this treat I had a bunch of insulin and I’d forgotten about the bunch I’d had earlier in the evening when enjoying a day off health. Terror, Ambulance called, couldn’t keep my sugar above 1.4, vomiting everything up for 40 minutes, pure fear till the ambulance arrived.
So to correct that, I shall try not to be an idiot again – but I am only human.
DJ: Being an adult, does diabetes affect your life in the workplace?
PC: How about screaming an expletive in an auditorium when my blood sugar was through the roof. My dad was also diagnosed with cancer the same week and my head was in a mess.
Other than that, going to the bathroom every two minutes made me feel silly. And yeah, later jobs in life, not being able to complete the three-month probatio