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The Mortifying Way I Discovered My Autoimmune Disease

Three weeks before I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, I traveled to New York City to stay with a friend from college. Some common symptoms were creeping up on me in full force at this point. One day while we were in the city, my friend had a casting call for a play, so I decided to venture to a movie theater and have a relaxing day to myself. On the walk from her apartment in Washington Heights to a theater in Midtown, I guzzled two liters of water and was forced to stop frequently for bathroom breaks. I felt like I was walking hundreds of blocks. By the time I got to a subway I was utterly exhausted, but my determination to see a movie overpowered my desire to go back to the apartment to rest. When I finally found the theater, I was overwhelmed by crowds of people waiting to purchase tickets. I filed into the line, but as I was waiting I started to feel another intense urge to go to the bathroom. I squeezed my legs together, holding my breath and hoping that the line would move quickly. I stood up straight and my eyes watered. I couldn’t handle the pain any longer. I left my place in line in desperate search of a bathroom. I am used to movie theaters that are laid out on one floor with bathrooms in clear sight, marked by signs. This particular theater, though, had multiple levels. People purchased tickets on the first floor, and movies were shown on the various other levels. Not knowing this, I briskly walked and then practically jogged all along the perimeter of the crowded movie lobby. I could not find a bathroom anywhere. An employee informed me that the building didn’t have any restrooms on that first floor, and that I needed a ticket to enter the higher levels. I was desperate, feeling so hopeless, alone, and frantic. After completing my lap around the lobby, I started to feel something wet trailing down my leg. I looked down and realized that I was peeing in the middle of this lobby. I couldn’t stop myself. I had tried so hard to control my bladder, but I couldn’t. I couldn't do one thing about it. My eyes start to water with tears and I remember thinking, “I am a 23 year-old grown woman. How the heck can this be happening?! Why can’t I control my own body? Why is this happening?” Confused and crushed, I snuck to a corner of the lobby to pull myself together. I tied a sweatshirt around my waist and attempted to clean the mess up with my shoe. I got in line again, careful not to make eye contact with anyone. I finally got my ticket and headed upstairs. As soon as I got to the correct floor I rushed to the bathroom to assess the damage. I entered a stall, cried some more, cleaned up my legs, and stuffed tissue down my pants to help soak up the wetness. Feeling at my lowest low, I decided to try to cheer up by treating myself to a large popcorn, my favorite snack. I sunk into the chair, happy to disappear into the darkness, and chowed down on my delicious popcorn. I did go to the bathroom four more times throughout the two hour film, but at least I made it there those times. I would later learn that I experienced some of the major symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes that day: extreme thirst and frequent urination. At the time, I had no idea what was going on with my body. I was exhausted, extremely thirsty all the time, had constant dry mouth, and lost thirty pounds in a week and a half. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t suspect anything extreme. I wanted to share my story in the hopes of opening people’s eyes to common diabetes symptoms and to the disease in general. Here is a list of the common symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes onset, which I have adapted from JDRF:
  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Sugar in urine
  • Fruity, sweet, or wine-like odor on breath
  • Increased appetite
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Drowsiness, lethargy
  • Yeast infections
  • Heavy, labored breathing
  • Stupor, unconsciousness
Its remarkable to me now to think how far I’ve come from that day, a lost girl in a big city pouring over the GoogleMaps on my phone and wondering what the heck was happening to my body. I’ve since learned that even the smallest abnormalities can be our body telling us that something is wrong, and I urge everyone to pay attention to these warning signs-- you might just save your life! Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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