The T1D Loner


There’s nothing wrong with being a social butterfly—in fact, it’s usually a positive thing to be surrounded by people when you have type 1 diabetes. But let’s face it, some of us need our space, and that’s okay too!

I would fall into the second category. I have never wanted a roommate. My only roommates have been my parents until I moved out. There are only a handful of people that I am entirely comfortable with, and my type 1 diabetes (T1D) routine is something very personal to me. I suppose you could call me a “T1D Loner.” That’s not to say that I am self-conscious about it. I’m not. I will whip out my Novolog pen or blood sugar meter anywhere, any time. But I have always needed a sanctuary of sorts—a place to escape and to recharge my batteries. People have all kinds of different energies because everyone is unique. So it is important to take time for yourself.

If you are going to be living alone like me, or find yourself in circumstances where you are by yourself for long periods of time, it is good to take precautions. You can never be too careful or too prepared when you’re dealing with a medical issue 24/7. Here are some things that I find helpful when taking on the world on my own as a T1D!

Keep that CGM handy

Continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) can be a literal lifesaver when you are by yourself. It is easy to forget to check your blood glucose (BG) when you’re studying for school or working from home. Be sure to keep your CGM nearby so that you can be alerted immediately if your blood glucose levels go out of range. It is especially useful when you are sleeping!

Dexcom Follow

If you use the Dexcom, always designate at least one or two family members or close friends that will be alerted if you fall too low or high. This is helpful even if you don’t live alone, but it makes me feel much better going to sleep at night knowing that my mom, even though she’s on the other side of the country, will always know where my numbers are.

Read more about Dexcom SHARE.

Have a furry friend

No, I am not insinuating that you have a friend who has an abundant amount of hair. Or, maybe you do. No judgment here. But if you are in a position to have a dog, a cat, a rabbit, guinea pig, hamster, bird, reptile—or any critter of your choice—they can be an enormous comfort. Animals tend to provide an unconditional love that you just can’t find as easily in humans. And honestly, how great is a good puppy snuggle right after a scary low blood sugar?

Dogs and cats in particular are inherently sensitive to behaviors and smells. There have been many instances before I had my CGM where my dog would jump on me in the middle of the night—I’d check my BG, and sure enough, I was low.

If you’d like to take the dog concept one step further, consider getting your own Diabetic Alert Dog (DAD). It can be quite a long process, so be prepared —but for many people with T1D, it is more than worth the wait.

Won’t you be my neighbor?

Living in Manhattan, (and in many other big cities, I’m sure!) it is pretty common to actively avoid getting to know your neighbors. However, it is a good idea to befriend at least one of your neighbors so that you have someone just down the hall, or down the street, that knows your situation, numbers to call, and what to do in case of emergency, depending on how much you choose to share with them.

I have lived in apartment buildings both with and without doormen. In the case of a doorman building, I have always alerted them to my type 1. In buildings without doormen, I told my superintendent or building management.

Cell Phone Favorites / Speed Dial

Have a “favorites” list on your cell or have your loved ones (and your doctors) programmed into your speed dial so that in case of emergency you can contact them quickly.

Be a part of a community

Since you’ll be spending a lot of time by yourself at home, try exploring some activities that you haven’t tried before. Join a gym, take a dance or painting class, or maybe just find a certain park that you enjoy taking a daily stroll through. In my experience, it never hurts to put yourself out there and make new connections.

Try joining the Beyond Type 1 app to connect with others near you with T1D! Swap stories, read accounts of T1D struggles and triumphs and find some much needed support when you are feeling low.

Give someone a key

Make sure that someone that you trust who lives nearby has a copy of your house or apartment key.

Find a local doctor

If you’re away at school or on a temporary work assignment while your endocrinologist is back at “home”—search for a local general practitioner or internist that you can visit in the interim in case any issues arise while you’re in your new location. If you attend a university, explore the school’s medical services, as they typically provide doctors and nurses on site.

Most importantly … trust yourself!

Remember … you’ve got this. It’s wonderful to have a support system during difficult times on this T1D rollercoaster, but the one person that is always in control of your type 1 is you. Trust that you can handle anything that is thrown at you, one step at a time, and being independent can only empower you, not weaken you. You’ve … got … this.

Read about how this woman is one Dexcom Share for two T1Ds in The Tired T1D Parent—A Unique Perspective by Michelle Page-Alswager.

WRITTEN BY Alexi Melvin, POSTED 10/26/16, UPDATED 10/03/22

Alexi Melvin is a freelance journalist, fiction writer and screenwriter based in both NYC and the Bay Area. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2003, and has been passionate about raising awareness ever since. Her other passions include film, literature, animals and spiritual healing. Instagram: @alexi_rm