When it comes to being dependent on insulin, people always think the biggest problem is needles, but that is just not true. It is easy enough to get used to the pricks, pokes and jabs – although yes, of course it hurts, to those who always ask that question. But really, it’s the least of our problems. There are many other things that not only annoy the heck out of us, but also scare us and cause considerable stress. So, we have compiled a list of ten other reasons why needing to take insulin via injection or pump is not fun.
1. Too much can kill us
When taking insulin, it is crucial to get the dosage right, not only to stay healthy, but also because too much insulin can kill us. The hormone that people with perfectly functioning pancreases produce is a life-saver, but when you have to inject it yourself and guesstimate how much of it you need at any given time, it’s got the potential to be deadly, too. We have to put this stuff into our bodies every day, on our own, without medical support or advice, and we do a pretty darn good job of it. But, boy, is it stressful!
2. Too little can kill us
I repeat, we must get the dosage right. The unrelenting pressure to constantly ensure you do not have too much, but just enough, insulin in your body sometimes feels like walking a tightrope. Without enough insulin in the body, a person with diabetes may go into diabetic ketoacidosis which can lead to painful complications, coma, and even death.
3. We always smell like Band-aids
Insulin smells weird. Those of us who manually put it into our bodies every day know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s that smell that reminds you of Band-aids, a hospital, or a Sharpie marker, and it kind of follows you everywhere. After 25 years living with type 1 diabetes I’ve mostly gotten used to the smell, but I’m always self-conscious that others can smell it.
4. A refrigerator is essential
Insulin needs to be kept at a stable temperature or else it can spoil or become less effective. It’s recommended to store insulin between 36-46 degrees Fahrenheit or 2-8 degrees Celcius. This can make travel a nightmare if you’re struggling to find a way to keep your insulin cool. Imagine the stress of having your life depend on something that spoils, and always having to keep it safe.
5. We never get a break
Acting as a 24 hour, seven days a week pancreas is both physically and emotionally exhausting. When dealing with insulin, you can’t just think about how much you need each day, but you also have to think about physical activity, food, and all the other factors that impact blood sugar levels. If we stop thinking about these things for any extended period of time, we put ourselves in danger.
6. It’s exhausting
If your blood sugar is too high or too low, it makes you tired. No matter how hard we try to get our insulin doses right, it’s impossible to always have perfect blood sugar levels. This means we are regularly exhausted by the physical impacts of having even slightly too much or too little insulin on board.
7. Disasters are extra dangerous
Many people with diabetes need insulin every single day, multiple times a day, to survive. So if a disaster strikes, or there’s an emergency situation with limited access to diabetes supplies, people who are insulin dependent are some of the most vulnerable. I often think about what would happen if I found myself in a disaster, like Hurricane Harvey, and it is incredibly frightening.
8. It costs too much
Needing a medicine in order to survive means having to pay for it, however much it costs. Even if the cost of insulin depletes our bank accounts and stresses us out beyond belief, we have to find a way to pay it. If that doesn’t make you hate using insulin, I don’t know what will.
9. We are often offered unsolicited advice
In best-case scenarios, someone’s ignorance shines through when they tell us that we should just “eat less sugar” so we won’t have to inject insulin. In worst- case scenarios, someone accuses us of “shooting up drugs” when they see a needle. Having to stay calm while someone tries to “educate” us about insulin and diabetes can feel like torture.
10. It’s unpredictable
Remember when I said we have to manage our insulin and food intake 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? No matter how hard we try to get it right, sometimes insulin affects our body in ways we don’t expect. We have no choice but to keep trying, day in and day out, even though we know sometimes insulin will do whatever the heck it wants inside our bodies.