The many benefits of pets.

Something I’ve been thinking a lot about this week, off the back of my mental health post. Pets can be a really great addition to someone who is suffering with both mental and physical illnesses.

We got our (not so) little puppy back in July. I really wanted one anyway, I was unemployed so had time to train him up, and to be honest, I was really lonely when Keith was out at work, especially with him staying away quite frequently. I’d been trying my luck for a while, and after a spate of break ins round our estate, I managed to convince him a guard dog would be a really good idea. Yano for safety and stuff.

We looked at rescuing one, as ideally that’s what we both would have liked to do, but with me wanting to try and train him as a possible diabetic alert dog, plus having the cats, we decided we’d be best getting a puppy. On the Thursday, we set a budget, had a look around and on Sunday (I’ve never been known for my patience) we broke our budget and did the 8 hour round trip to Essex to bring home our Golden Retriever, Max.

If you follow me on Twitter, or basically any social media, you’ll know I’m always posting photos of him. I adore him. He quickly became a brilliant guard dog, barking whenever anyone comes to the house, never being aggressive, but just alert. It put my mind at rest massively. Someone actually did try to get in to the house while Keith was away a couple of weeks ago, and I think Max scared them off, because for a 5 month old, 17 kilo puppy, he sounds a lot bigger!

Mentally, he’s helped a lot. I absolutely adore our two cats, and they can be really affectionate, but they’re very independent and not often very interested in sitting cuddled up on the couch. Max is the total opposite, if anything, he’s too clingy, but I can’t help but love it.

Now I’m not suggesting for a second that you should get a pet just to make you feel better or to cheer you up. Puppies especially, are really hard work and there were some days when I thought I’d cry because he was peeing all over the carpets and biting anything and everything. With some stern words and lots of training, he’s now (touch wood) really well behaved. He’s going to be such a big dog, it was vital we got him trained early. But he’s really helped me. Not just for the big furry cuddles whenever I need them. It gave me a reason to get up, a reason to get out the house. I could take him out to the park, get some fresh air, just have a bit of purpose and focus. You can’t sit on the couch in a ball if you’ve got a puppy that needs fussing or taking out.

When it comes to being a diabetic alert dog, he has not picked it up at all. We had a glorious couple of months where Diego (the black cat) would notice if I was having a hypo. He’d scratch at me and bite me until I realised what was up, even if I was asleep. I mean, there was also the time when he picked up the packet of glucose tablets I was using to treat my hypo and ran off with them in his mouth, so I guess it all balances out. He soon lost interest, but it was brilliant while it lasted.

At the end of the day, alerting me to blood sugar changes wasn’t a big issue for me, it just would have been a nice bonus. All 3 pets are so docile and loving, and that’s the main thing. They’ve all helped so much in their own ways, and they’ve brightened my life after the past year more than I could explain. If you’ve got the time and the money, not to mention the patience, it really might be something worth considering.

(Pictures of aforementioned pets below, Max at 9 weeks and Max at 5.5 months, Diego and Paco below on the couch.)

“Sorry, I’m low”

After how serious my last post was, I thought I’d go for a bit of a lighter topic today!

I’ve been really suffering all weekend with hypos (low blood sugar), and I’ve done a couple of stupid things, and it got me thinking about all the weird things I’ve said and done when I’ve been low.

Now I know low blood sugars aren’t really something to joke about, I’ve been on the end of some really bad ones, but you need to be able to see the humour sometimes! I’ve mentioned before, hypos cause me to shake, feel sick and I can become really confused and emotional.

As I said, I’ve suffered some bad hypos this weekend. Not entirely sure why, but I’ve adjusted my insulin and I’m not suffering as badly today, thankfully. I spent most of yesterday in bed, but managed to drag myself out to the shops about 4pm. I hadn’t hypoed for a couple of hours and finally felt a bit more human. I went into town, picked up a couple of little bits and headed back to the bus stop to go home. Well I was half way to the bus stop before I realised I was still pushing the trolley from the shop and I was attracting some weird looks. I stopped and realised I didn’t even remember getting to where I was. I then felt myself begin to shake and I suddenly felt so nauseous. Yep, I’d gone low. Ignoring the urge to abandon the trolley and walk off like nothing had happened, I turned round, took it back and rang my brother asking him to come meet me because I’d gone low again and needed a hand.

In the past, I’ve done some even weirder things. Or at least I’ve been told I have, I don’t always recall what I’ve said / done after a bad episode. A favourite of mine was from when I was about 13/14. My mum came in to check on me before she went to bed and I was asleep. She tried to wake me and ask if I was okay. I’m not entirely sure what got said, she must have asked me how old I was or something (when they suspect I’m low, they sometimes ask questions like this, you’re about to read why) and my genuine response was “I’m 21, I’m driving the night bus and I’m wearing a funny hat.” (Yeah, I think I’d watched Harry Potter before bed). She woke me enough to test my blood and sure enough it was low.

I use to have one of those sofa beds, with a little ladder leading up to the bed and I remember once being low, trying to get out of bed and attempting to climb down the wrong side. It didn’t go well, how I didn’t break something I have no idea.

However a firm favourite of my mum’s, and a story that still gets brought up every now and again, was the time my brother went upstairs to tell her “Hollie’s finally lost it”. She came downstairs to find me in the kitchen with tea all over the counter, and me stood there, seemingly completely fine, trying to make a cup of tea in a bowl. She asked me what I was doing and I informed her I was making a cup of tea in the microwave. Naturally, she asked why I was trying to use the microwave and I turned to her in disbelief and told her “because that’s how you make it!!” She still to this day laughs at how determined and confident I seemed in that I was right and she was wrong, to a point where she even questioned herself for a minute. Obviously she realised I was low and sat me down while she brought me something to eat.

Other times, I’ve been out shopping and gone low. I start snarling at everyone, glaring and muttering under my breath. (more than usual). Once I just sat down in the middle of an aisle and started crying. It can come on so quickly, sometimes I’m not even sure myself what’s wrong. I’m lucky that family and friends normally spot the difference in pretty fast and are pretty understanding. I’ve lost count of amount of times I’ve come round from a hypo and had to go and apologise to people for the way I spoke to them, but normally they’ll laugh it off.

That’s what’s so important with this disease. Having people to laugh with and be supportive. I know I don’t need to be embarrassed or worried about anything I might say or do when I’m not quite myself. It’s like that Snickers advert, “You’re not you when you’re hungry”. I feel like it should be my little motto or slogan or something, “You’re not you when you’re bloods are high / low!”.

Highs, lows and being diagnosed.

Diabetes revolves around blood glucose levels. (Also called blood sugars/bloods/sugars/levels).

A non diabetics blood sugar would be between 5mmol and 7mmol. I know this is measured differently in different countries, but I’ve only ever used mmol. I have had lows of 1.2mmol and highs where my meter has lost the ability to read exactly how high my blood is, I just knew it was above 30mmol. I’ve mentioned before, anything can impact my bloods and I have to monitor them constantly.

When I was 9, I became ill. If I didn’t eat enough, I developed a headache, I felt sick, and I went white as a sheet. I also lost a lot of weight, although this wasn’t noticed by anyone at first as I lost it so gradually. So my mum took me to the doctors as she thought I was suffering from hypoglycemic episodes, which is basically low blood sugar. I was referred for some blood tests, and it was a case of wait and see. About a week later, my family and I were shopping at a big outlet type shopping centre. It was one of those days where you were treated to a McDonalds and some sweets in return for behaving as you were dragged around a bunch of shops you didn’t care about.

When we got home, there was a note through the door from the doctors. They had been trying to get hold of us all week, and after a few failed attempts, they had turned up at the house. The note said that my blood test results indicated I was diabetic and I needed to get to A&E. We rushed up there where I underwent some more blood tests. After the day I’d had, with the food I’d eaten, you’d expect high blood sugars. Nope, all fine, all normal and I was sent on my way after a pretty scary few hours.

We thought that would be the end of it, but my GP requested a repeat of the original fasting test, as my results were borderline and he wanted to see if it really was a one-off. To cut a long story short, the results came back the same and I was referred to Alder Hey Childrens Hospital for further testing. Now the first consultant I saw, told me not to worry, as I was “definitely not diabetic” … Imagine telling that to a scared 9 year old. I thought I was off the hook, I thought that was it, the tests would be fine and I could go back to normal.

Nope. I went back again a week or so later for a glucose tolerance test. It basically meant me sitting in a hospital bed all day, playing games and drinking a big bottle of Lucozade so they could do my blood sugar again and compare it to my blood sugar before I had drunk the Lucozade. A few hours pass and I’m called in. My blood sugar was 24. It was the most crushing, heartbreaking feeling. My first thought was honestly “Does this mean I’m going to die? Why isn’t my body working?” It sounds silly, after all, this was 12 years ago, but trust me, you don’t forget a moment like that.

The months that followed were a complete re-adjustment of my life. Learning which emotions did what to my bloods, what foods I could eat and what foods to avoid. (This was before the 4 injections a day begin. At the beginning it was just 2). My entire world was turned upside down and it was never going to go back to how it was before. Growing up is bad enough, growing up with this hanging over everything you do, is even worse.

Nowadays, this is just my life. It’s the norm and I get by most days just fine. There are still days when I drop too low and some days when I go to high, it’s all trial and error, hoping you judge things correctly and hoping that if you do get it wrong, you realise quickly enough to fix it before it gets too serious

Diabetes is like walking a tight rope, but as time goes on, I’d like to think I’ve gotten pretty good at balancing.