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#RealT1DLyfe Chris’s Story: Type 1 Diabetes and Suicide

As anyone with Type 1 diabetes knows, life can be an absolute roller coaster. I would like to take you on a personal journey of mine going into the darkest of hours, but coming out in the brightest of days. Back in June of 1988, my diagnosis marked not the first or second, but fifth Type 1 diabetes diagnosis for my family. Already having lost an uncle to Type 1 in the same year, my diagnosis likely hit my family harder than I will ever know. However, growing up having two family members who passed from T1D complications weighed heavy on my mind. It didn’t help that at a young age, I heard a doctor tell my mother, “if he sees 30, feel lucky.” Growing up, T1D never completely stopped me from doing things, but often had a way of interfering. Going to play soccer as a kid, I had a coach say I couldn’t play because he didn’t want a kid dying on his field. Name calling, being told I wasn’t good enough, and the like made me angry in the moment, but ultimately sat deeper within my subconscious for twenty years into adulthood, slowly taking its toll.

Getting out on my own is where my life took a darker turn. Around 2011, I fell into a deep depression and I almost didn’t make my way out. My blood sugars were rarely where I needed them to be. It was also a constant roller coaster at work. Eat then work, forget to bolus, go high, then crash, and repeat. Although I was consistently out of range, my reasonable a1c kept my doctor at bay, all while hiding the fact I was miserable mentally. Relationships were impossible to maintain with my depression and blood sugars as they were and I began to isolate myself alone with my thoughts. The thoughts escalated from “your diabetes has destroyed your life” to “your life isn’t worth living with diabetes.” Mind you, at this point in time I already had one beautiful son. I pushed the thoughts back as much as I could for his sake. However, in doing so it enabled my thoughts to escalate even further. I was telling myself that my son would be better off without a father. I started looking up those who completed suicide and how they did it. However, even with everything I was feeling, I couldn’t leave my family with the thought that I would do so on purpose. After having crashed my blood sugars numerous times over the years to counteract extreme highs, I decided insulin was my best option.

On a Saturday morning, I woke up in tears and decided that was the day. I got up and took a fatal dose of short acting and went about my morning routine with the idea that at some point, I would have an insulin reaction and go unresponsive. For whatever reason, by an act of God, the insulin took hours to work. Later that day, when I was on line to have lunch, the last thing I remember was reaching for a plate. I woke up surrounded by EMTs in my manager’s office. Lucky for me, the guys I worked with knew me and my diabetes very well. Upon coming to, one of the EMTs said it was the first time he had a patient so low it wouldn’t read on his meter. We still don’t know how low I truly was when they got there. I finally got to the point I could stand on my own and was feeling okay physically. However, my mental state was still in shambles. Per policy at my work, I had to be sent home. I begged with my manager to let me stay. I said “I’ll just sit in the back, no one will know I‘m there.” I couldn’t go home in the state of mind I was in. But none the less, I was on my way home. The short 5 minute drive was nerve racking, tears falling, thinking “should I try again” and “I can’t be alone” and “I don’t want to live.” My best friend was sitting on the couch as I walked into my apartment and he immediately looked up at me, knowing something wasn’t right. He put his arms around me, like any brother should, and gave me a much-needed embrace–the kind of hug that lets you know someone loves you. We ended up going for a long walk where I explained what I did. He was the only one who knew what I did for years. During our walk he said, “I know the greatness you have ahead of you, you just have to be here to find it.” His words have sat with me for years.

With my two children and the Betes Bros, I have a family that pushes me to succeed. Brothers who reach out for my support as well as check on me. The men and women who have come into my life have filled my cup and continue to make life even better. If you are struggling, that is okay. As someone who almost experienced an end to my life, if I had the support then that I do now, I probably wouldn’t have gone that far. If you’re ever in a place like that in your life, talk to someone. Seeking a professional counselor doesn’t make you weak, it actually makes you stronger. Reach out to a friend who may be struggling that you haven’t talked to in a while, let them know you’re there. A simple text, note, message saying, “I’m here if you need me” can literally save a life.

#RealT1DLyfe Chris Pickering Family

Get real with T1D! #RealLyfe

For additional resources on Depression and Diabetes, check out this article from our friends at Diabetes Daily!

Instagram Has Been A Lifesaver Since My T1D Diagnosis

I was 28 when I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Like most people, I grew up not really understanding the difference. I thought there was one you got as a child, and one you got as an adult. There is no history of diabetes or autoimmune disease in my family, so honestly, I never really gave either much thought.

Then, I happened to have my yearly physical. Since everything else looked good, and I was always healthy, I lagged on getting my blood work completed. A couple of weeks later I got a really, really heavy period (sorry fellas) and went to urgent care. Long story short, they found multiple fibroid tumors (the largest was the size of a bocce ball) and told me to get that blood work taken care of right away. I got it done that day, which was when the rest of the whirlwind started.

Still thinking I was healthy with nothing to worry about, my husband and I left on a week long climbing/kayaking trip. A few days into the trip, I received a call that my fasting glucose was 300. They assured me it was probably a fluke but said that I needed to come in and have my a1c tested when I got home. During our trip I started to notice some other things- that my close had been fitting looser, and I was drinking a lot of water. We are really active so I thought maybe I just needed to adjust my calorie intake, and it was 4th of July weekend in Arizona so the water intake didn’t seem too odd. I should also mention that for probably 90% of this trip we were without cell coverage- something that still gives me the chills to look back on.

When I got home I had my a1c tested. By this point I had lost 25 pounds. Diabetes was still not even on my radar, in fact my team scheduled CT scans to get a closer look at the fibroids- suspecting cancer. Then my a1c came back at 12.3. I was misdiagnosed as Type 2 for about 6 hours (thankfully not by my doctor). My doctor knows how healthy and active I am, and she ordered a rush test for the antibodies that Friday afternoon. She told if my sugars didn’t go down I needed to go to the ER. That night I tested at 634 and to the ER we went.

I was in DKA, and dangerously close to a diabetic coma. I was immediately given insulin, and Monday was setup with my endocrinologist. A few days later the test confirmed Type 1.

The scariest part for me was how little the medical world seemed to understand about my condition.

When I was diagnosed I immediately researched the difference, and realized a lot of the information I was given in the ER only applied to type 2.

I was thankful that my general doctor knew as much as she did, but fast discovered that was not the norm. This diagnosis is scary enough, but it is worse to feel like you are not always in capable hands. As a newbie, I decided pretty much right away that I needed support of other people who actually knew what they were doing. Instagram and the community I have met through there have been such a life saver for me. I am thankful to have such a great endocrinologist, but there are some things you don’t understand unless you live with it everyday.

I owe so much to this community.

From the helpful tips to the endless support and words of encouragement, this community helps make this doable. It seems so much less daunting when you such an awesome support network. This July will be my first Diaversary, and I am so glad I decided to join this 24 hour support group we call Instagram. 🙂

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