Seeing a Positive Impact After Starting Insulin
The use of insulin to manage type 2 diabetes has been stigmatized. While other medication options exist and diet and exercise are essential to keeping your glucose levels within range, insulin is a great tool to use if you’re having trouble reaching your goals. Kelly Casperson has been living with type 2 diabetes since 2020 and previously had gestational diabetes in 2014. Kelly shares her experiences below with starting insulin in the summer of 2022 after she was having issues with her fasting blood glucose and how it improved her life.
For more information on how insulin is used to treat type 2 diabetes, click here.
BT2: Thank you for sharing your story with us, Kelly. Can you tell us about your diagnosis story and history with insulin?
I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the summer of 2020. Prior to that, I actually had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant in 2014, and used insulin at that time. So although this insulin journey is new to me, I did use it for a very short time when I was pregnant back in 2014.
What was your experience with insulin like when you were pregnant, and how is it different now?
When I was pregnant, things moved really quickly. I was caring for another living being, it wasn’t about me at that time, and it didn’t cause as much of a mental struggle as it did this time around. I was only on insulin for a couple of weeks before I was induced and had my baby girl. So I didn’t have a ton of experience with it.
But this time around, I had started several oral medications and some didn’t work. I was really good at keeping my blood sugars or my blood sugars were really manageable during the day. I think that was something that made me feel powerful. I felt like I was doing this great job, but then at nighttime, I wasn’t. I could just see on my glucose meter that overnight, my blood sugars would just stay high and sometimes go high and then stay high until I woke up. So my fasting blood sugar levels just weren’t coming down. It wasn’t until this summer, in June 2022, that I had a few weeks where even though I was on oral medication, my blood sugar just stayed really high. They weren’t coming down. I was getting physically sick to my stomach.
I was nauseous all day. I remember I called my doctor on a Friday and I had told her what my numbers had been and she put me on insulin that night. She didn’t want me to go the weekend without it. But, that Friday night was a struggle.
Was it a long-acting insulin or rapid-acting insulin?
Yes, it is a long-acting insulin that I take at night.
What were those first few days on insulin like for you?
I remember being so scared. I was sitting with my daughter, who is now eight, and kind of tried to explain to her why I was scared and what was happening. I just remember sitting and just crying for a little while. I felt like this whole sense of just overwhelm and this sense of why is this happening to me right now. Why all of a sudden do I have to do this? It was a struggle.
I remember just sitting there with the pen and not pushing the button for probably a good minute. I just sat there wondering is this going to hurt? What’s going to happen? I was just super overwhelmed. But I knew, after doing research and hearing from my doctor, I just had this hope that it was going to make me feel better. I had been so sick for those few weeks that I just felt if this is going to do it, I have to. I had to get over myself and this fear I had and just do it. And I did and it wasn’t as scary as I thought. It only took a second.
Did you receive a lot of education around long-acting insulin and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and all that great stuff when you started taking it?
That first week, not really. But then I did go in afterward to the diabetes educator at my clinic and she helped explain a little bit more and gave me a lot more information, which made me feel just even better about the decision and what it was going to do for me.
What were your initial thoughts about just insulin in general in Type 2 diabetes management? How did those viewpoints change over time, if they changed?
I think there’s this stigma around this idea that if you need insulin, you failed. You did something wrong, that it was your fault, that you needed this extra thing to make you feel better. To be honest, I didn’t really think about a lot of people with Type 2 who were using insulin. I think a lot of my experiences growing up were folks with Type 1 using insulin. So I don’t have a lot of experience with Type 2 and insulin. To be honest, I thought if I were to need it, I thought it would be way longer. Not two years in and not when I’m 37. I thought I would have all of this time before I might need to add this to my regimen. But I will say that I’m so happy that I did, and my views have totally changed around that fear and that stigma and just how much better I feel after starting it six months ago.
What are some changes you noticed after you started taking insulin?
I saw an immediate improvement. I think even that first weekend that I went on it, my fasting glucose levels were almost down to where I wanted them to be, which hadn’t been the case throughout my whole diagnosis. I’ve never had blood sugar that was down at that ideal level when I woke up in the morning. So immediately, I knew that it was making a difference. Within a few weeks or probably within that first week, a lot of my nausea had gone away. I was just feeling better. I think the biggest change for me was in my energy levels. For the last two years, I felt like I didn’t have a lot of energy and I can definitely see a difference in just my energy levels and my just kind of ability to deal with the day.
I feel more balanced throughout the day. I don’t feel this intense need to control my food as much. I’ve struggled with that my whole life, even before my diagnosis and that was probably taking a toll on my mental health as well. But now, being able to use insulin and seeing that I can eat some of those things that I felt like I shouldn’t before, I have more variety in my diet. It feels so much different to wake up in the morning and just feel good and ready to start the day.
What would you say to someone who may be afraid to start insulin?
I understand the fears that people have – I had a lot of them myself. But after being in this spot for the last six months, and seeing what a difference it made in my life, I would just tell people to trust the process. Trust what your body is telling you. If your body’s not responding to the changes you’re making in your diet or your physical movement or with the oral medications you’re taking, it’s okay that your body may need something else. Insulin is a natural hormone. Our body already produces it. There’s no shame in needing insulin and having our body need a little bit extra. To me, it has been 100% worth it.
Editor’s note: Educational content related to insulin is made possible with support from Lilly Diabetes, an active partner of Beyond Type 2 at the time of publication. Editorial control rests solely on Beyond Type 2.