“To be told I have diabetes was a real shock as I was always that person who thought ‘it’ll never happen to me’” says Craig Middleton, Framework Manager at Selwood.
In September 2022 Craig was diagnosed with Latent Autoimmune Diabetes (LADA) a form of Type 1 diabetes – one of 4.3million with the condition in the UK.
As Craig led a healthy lifestyle, his diagnosis came as a real shock. Despite noticing changes to both his physical and mental state, for a long time Craig chose to ignore his symptoms.
“I had totally buried my head in the sand. I should have spoken about my symptoms sooner and gone to a doctor, but I didn’t. I left it far too long before getting checked and it wasn’t until my body collapsed that I ended up hospitalised because of it. Ultimately, I put myself in a really dangerous situation.
“This is why creating an environment where people feel like they can go to their family, employer and colleagues is so important. If there is any doubt, I’d tell anyone to go to their GP and get checked.”
Craig hopes to raise awareness of the telltale signs of diabetes and says the “four T’s” are a direct reflection for what he noticed in himself. Toilet, Thirst, Tiredness and Thin – this could be losing weight or not being able to gain weight. According to Diabetes UK, around 850,000 people could be living with diabetes who are yet to be diagnosed.
Physical symptoms aside, the most noticeable change was to Craig’s state of mind.
“I was so irritable, and honestly, I was truly horrible to be around. Not only did this affect me personally, but also had a direct impact on my relationships with the people closest to me, friends, family and colleagues included. I could feel myself getting such intense frustration all of the time – there was clearly something wrong, but I kept ignoring it.
“One of the guys in our office is a Selwood mental health first aider and I was really able to open up to him. Just knowing I had that support there helped a lot - I was in a constant battle with my mental health.
The turning point for Craig came when he collapsed and was rushed to critical care with a blood sugar level of 30 – the ideal level is six to eight.
“It was a reality check (to be diagnosed) but almost a relief that I finally knew what the problem was.”
Craig has had to adapt his work routine and home life to suit his needs. Checking and managing his blood sugar levels is the new normal and vital to reduce his risk of serious short or long-term health problems.
He injects himself with insulin every morning and evening, before meals and snacks, to ensure his sugar levels don’t climb too high or vice versa.
As an avid marathon runner, he has found it mentally challenging not being able to tackle such long distances. Craig talks about previously taking holidays for granted, as he now can’t travel without a medical bag containing testing kits and extra insulin. Being insulin dependent, he also has to reapply for his driving licence every three years.
“It's a massive change. The effect of diabetes on your entire body is huge. You need the right sugar levels to look after your eyes, look after your feet, look after your skin, look after everything else. If your sugar levels increase too much, you’re at serious risk of developing diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) which is a medical emergency and can be seriously life threatening.”
It’s been a difficult transition and Craig thanks his colleagues at Selwood for being so supportive.
“They couldn’t be kinder and more considerate about making sure I take breaks, have regular mealtimes, and check that I inject if someone brings in donuts! My colleagues even put a sign on the wall to remind everyone about being kind to diabetics.
“I can’t thank everyone enough for the support they gave me in those first few weeks and still do. One of my colleagues whose daughter is diabetic gave me lots of tips about what I should be doing including how best to put insulin in, tracking carbs and what I should carry with me. It’s that sort of shared knowledge that made a genuine difference for me, so I just hope that I can do the same by sharing my story.
“I definitely don’t feel like I’m on my own and I want others to feel the same.”
Craig says there needs to be more understanding and awareness about the effects of diabetes on someone’s physical and mental health. And as someone who struggled to come to terms with his diagnosis, Craig hopes his story can help educate others going through the same battle.