Until 2017, I had never lived alone, and this was because of type 1 diabetes. I was diagnosed when I was eight years old, almost 30 years ago. From then on, I have memories throughout my childhood of waking up with my mom pouring orange juice down my throat or trying to get me to eat some sort of fast-acting sugar product. These memories are terrifying because I was not able to wake up and take care of my low blood sugar on my own. This continued in college, but at least when I went off to school, I was armed with an insulin pump and some very kind roommates. They would check on me regularly after a night of drinking to make sure I was still alive and didn’t need help waking up due to low glucose levels. Unfortunately, I did need help a few times. I graduated college resolute in my thinking that I would never live alone and I just accepted that as fact. I moved to Washington D.C. with a friend from college, and we lived together until I met my future ex-husband.
My ex and I were together for 14 years, and I regularly thought about how thankful I was to have someone, so I didn’t have to even consider the possibility of living alone. Then my worst fears became a reality—not only was I suddenly single with my life turned upside down, but I was living alone. Interestingly enough, I wasn’t scared of not being in a relationship. I was deathly afraid of living alone and not being able to wake up if my blood glucose got too low in my sleep. I lived hundreds of miles from my closest family members and didn’t have any roommates. The thought of living on my own was paralyzing.
and strategies I could use.”
However, living alone was my new reality and dwelling on that fact was useless, so I came up with a plan. With diabetes, management is very tricky, so I brainstormed and figured out some tools and strategies I could use to manage what I could. Fortunately, I had been using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) for a year prior and was able to use the information to anticipate issues. I became religious about checking my blood every night before bed to ensure my CGM would provide accurate information. I made sure the sound was turned up on my phone, so I could hear the CGM alarm if my blood sugar was low. I set phone alarms to wake up at various times to check my CGM and make sure I was in range. I filled my nightstand with juice boxes and other fast-acting sugar sources. I ate snacks before I went to sleep. I lowered my basal rates on my insulin pump for nights after a lot of exercise or a glass of wine, and I connected my mom and sister to the Dexcom Share phone app so they would get alarms if my blood sugar got dangerously low. Even though they live in other states, they have the phone numbers of my friends in town and can also call 9-1-1 in an emergency. It was rough at first, but slowly I was able to figure things out and feel more comfortable about being on my own.
It’s been two years, and things are actually working pretty well. It hasn’t been without any scary moments-and it has been a ton of work-but I am feeling confident that I can do this. I can live independently, take care of myself with the right tools and help from loved ones, and work to manage the few factors I do have within my control.
Erika A has lived with type 1 diabetes since 1989. She has been a part of the DiabetesSisters family since 2013, serving as a PODS Leader first in Washington, DC and now in Denver, CO. She has also contributed to DiabetesSisters as website administrator and as the first PODS Leader Representative from 2015 - 2018, acting as a liaison between the Board of Directors and PODS Leaders. She currently resides in Denver, CO with her rescue dog Romeo, a corgi/husky/shepherd mix.