Diabetes in Glasgow

*Glaswegian accent – ‘I was watching this thing own the TV the other night: it says that the quickest wiy to give you sugar if you fall into a coma is to pour a can o Coke up your arsehole! I canny wait till the day that you collapse in front of me,’ – a Cheshire cat’s grin beaming on Marc’s face.

‘Fuck off! You’re not getting anywhere near me, you’ll get so excited you’ll forget to open the can.’ – Me

‘Definitely. He probably ate all the sugar. They didn’t even have any sugar in their entire house. Not even sugar in a bowl for tea. Some idiot offered me a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 thinking it was orange juice. I had to go the petrol station by myself at two in the morning for Pot Noodles and Coke.’

You don’t have to be alone in the pub, that’s the simple law of man. Escape from any social vacuum, into a world of arts, music and alcohol; more friendships that would last forever? Who cares, I’ve got enough money left over for either a veggie burger with fries or another two pints of Guinness; they both contain to my estimation roughly the same amount of sugar. Being served at the bar, I enquire, ‘Is there any chance I can keep my insulin bottle in one of your fridges? It’s completely sealed and it’s getting too warm to use in my pocket.’ ‘Diabeeedic my ass,’ overly pronounces the Canadian Barman in reply; fuck you then, pronounces the look on my face. ‘Fuck’s that all about?’ says the face of his colleague, her demeanor in my favor. Think I’ll go for the Guinness this time, ‘A pint of Guinness please, and have you got any matches?’ as she picks them up from beside the till, right in front of me.

I’ll skip to chasing the dragon with freshly squeezed orange; each gulp intensifying that instant hit of refresh all good diabetics live by on a vocational calling, deep to the last sip where I know my sugar will now be high; empty glass so cold against my cheek, my jaw and ridge of my neck, clunk of ice always watering it down all too fast.

Back home, two thirty in the a.m. having safely returned an old woman to her stations of the cross, I piggyback onto a neighbor’s Wi-Fi, then sit down to watch some porn. A MILF enters a college dorm wearing only her apron to cover a massive inflated boob job, and carrying a prop wooden spoon, “Hi – giggle, I’ve come over to bake you boys some cookies.” Cut to next scene, she has baked said cookies and is straddling the kitchen island; removing her apron to reveal enormous tits over a tray of freshly baked choc chip. Hold on, those don’t look warm. Surely the best bit about home baked cookies is when they are piping hot. In fact there are no flour marks or crumbs anywhere to be seen. Those cookies are clearly out of a jar. Wish she would move those fat collagen lips and cellulite hips out of the way. I want to take a closer look at those cookies.

Excerpts from ‘Persona non grata with diabetes’ by Paul Cathcart

Diabetes, freaking out

Hypo and my eyes go all fuzzy like a broken TV set. Salt levels changing, causing brief spells of confusion; I get up and start changing the track on the CD player and mumble on about it sounding like something else instead of eating the Dextrose tablets in my hand. Bed sheets always drenched in sweat during the night; I awake freezing cold, my sleepwear on the floor. Death warmed up and my GP’s solution is to prescribe anti-depressants? Which, I reject. Sitting in on client meetings, completely useless I’m sure they will agree; trying to keep myself from falling asleep, can’t be very flattering for anyone in the room; their own fault for being cheap-ass and not supplying coffee.

‘If I wanted to become a murderer, I’d become a Diabetes Nurse. In fact they should change their uniform to a black cloak with a fucking scythe.’

‘YOU’RE GOING TO KILL ME.’ ‘Paul, Paul, look at me. No, listen, listen to me. It’s me, breathe,’ kneeling beside me, holding gentle eye contact, stroking my hand, trying desperately to calm. ‘I’m too scared even to think.’ Forcing me to test my sugar takes more than some convincing, “28.0” ‘SHIT.’ The place is spinning. Part of my brain knows high sugar and alcohol is responsible. ‘Just leave me alone. Just leave me alone, I want to go home.

When my sugar is high, I get this feeling; I am waiting for something bad to happen. When it stays high I have nightmares about being bitten by dogs and people coming into my house. The worst is when I awaken and the fear stays with me; mix this with strong coffee and it’s a recipe for panic attacks and wanting to curl up on the sofa to hide from the world. The only way to remedy this; eat properly, drink lots of water to flush out the simply imperfect blood sugar and watching a good comedy often helps.

Living in denial of the detrimental effects of our condition; over and over pushing near escape to the backs of our minds through want of being normal. To some extent we are all guilty, but in truth, only with a rightful understanding can we accept a just responsibility. – Please don’t just have some more insulin.

Then again, this is coming from a guy who sat at the window in Starbucks and watched a teenage boy drink carton after carton of cranberry juice; obviously trying to quench an undiagnosed thirst, and moments away from collapsing on his way home. You know how in a film when you see a horse fall, and you know it’s a stunt horse and you know it’s going to be fine, but it still makes you feel sad? It was a lot like that; I really should have stood up and done something to help.

It’s not about guilt, but there has got to be a point when saying, ‘It’s not my fault,’ is not enough.

We are a sensitive market, being devoured by vultures, a commodity more lucrative than the illegal drugs trade of heroin or cocaine. A resource being mined for all our worth, and we’re worthless when we get well. Eventually, as proven through tobacco and alcohol, trust will crumble as the number of diabetics’ increases to critical mass and tax gains from sales of what got us there over cheap-solutions no longer top the cost to society in terms of health care and lost man-hours. The question is whether a taxation and condemnation of harmful foods will follow or precede the diabetic having to pay the unrealistic cost of medical expense.

For us diabetes amplifies everything; if you feel just-not-right then broken blood sugar will make it wrong, as alcohol does an alcoholic; every bone of contention, every pulse of ill will, slight upset or lull, every wave of exhaustion and misunderstanding all amplified. Deformation of sadness, doubt, and dependency; symptoms lost in a bigger world, it leaves us wilting. We push on.

‘You know all about diabetes from that chart? Do you know what it’s like to have your fiancée bring your sugar and test sticks into the bathroom when you’re caught having a hypo during a poo? Trust me, you don’t know a thing about diabetes and I’m going to make you listen to every word I have to say.’

Excerpts from ‘Persona non grata with diabetes’ by Paul Cathcart


Diabetes mood-swings, anxiety, stress and depression

All I can remember in sum total are weeks and months if not years of duress. I can’t remember being well unless I think way back, way way back. And the thing is; no one at this hospital has really told me what my real symptoms were. I know they point out my dry mouth, point to deep cramps in varying places and weight loss; they are all very forthright concerning me peeing a lot of golden urine, which by all instruction should be clear in a good diabetic (yawn). But they haven’t discussed with me my late development; never question my lack of focus or poor behaviour, to them I am just ill. There is no due diligence on concentration waning or on any level the cloud that swallowed me both visually and emotionally through the time leading to diagnosis.

Retrospective prognosis to prolonged bouts of colds and flu put down all too simply and too exacting to my pancreas having bouts of stops and starts before eventually switching off for good. Semi functionality causing my immune system to become unstable: vulnerable to attack. Although this I look back on following seventeen years non-characteristic change as being the most inadequate proposal in their pronouncement.

Even if I didn’t care that they came nowhere near to explaining why; it kills me inside living with today’s knowledge that if they had put me on the sustenance I live on now, back when under their care, they could have caught me in the honeymoon period and made near escape dependency on insulin injections.

Hypotheticals aside, I was a statistic, a, ‘Nobody knows why. It’s genetic. Every diabetic is different: like fingerprints,’ and in the same breath, ‘Here, have the same medication as everyone else.’ How to explain to a boy that this was only the beginning, that what I was feeling was only a glimpse of how this condition could ruin me in the future. Nothing personal, no real interest, all experience capped off at the basics, no one under any obligation to look further.  My life had been written off entirely as, ‘Reasonably bright, absenteeism, poor grades, and best to let him go – Jesus imposter,’ leaving me to fall between the cracks. It’s terrifying the stuff they left out.

Coy shrug of the medical shoulders, and not making eye contact on that one; how to tell a child he is absolutely going to die fifteen years earlier than his friends, getting harder now I have pressed on it. Should she be telling me this, without my mum here? I’m thinking to myself. A nervous child already half way to developing a twitch and coming to the end of a serious trauma, this will either be coped with and adjusted to or I was going to scream for weeks. But I could see the purpose of fact-of-the-matter; I have to be able to deal with this.

In the surgery, and he still has the cauliflower ear he always had when I was a child; in and out of here every two weeks with a sore belly, a flu that wouldn’t shift or a cold sore. Sometimes it would fade, returning in part to a normal ear, but mostly he had been smacked hard playing rugby and he wasn’t going to allow that to bother him. He probably remembers me staring at it, while telling my mum it was just another tummy bug going around. Reminding me that peculiar under the weather feeling of childhood is exactly how I feel now with high sugar.

I have got no idea what I’m doing in life at the moment, and for me, for once, that is a good place to be. I’ll have some more insulin now, to sober up.

Fear of flying? More scared I have to go through customs with my syringes; twenty pounds for a bloody Doctors letter stating I have diabetes, to allow me onto the flight in the first place. What a rip off. Being too nervous to present it at Customs and having to ask my Tutor, Bobby Digital to take me over for support.

Relentless, Christmas drinking season on the horizon, and it’s all becoming a repetitive haze; Brunswick Cellars, 13th Note Club, late night Chinese restaurant on payday, eight of us waking up scattered over my bedroom floor twice a week. A few of us plan for a New Year celebration together, but to be honest, I think we can no longer stand the sight of each other. I throw in the towel; I have a flu that’s not flu. It’s a winter diabetic hangover like no other, that started out in autumn and it’s time for my barely standing ass to leave the party. Clearly I am the one who has let friends down.

Assumption by a member of staff behind the prescription counter at Boots on Oxford St, London that I was a drug addict; given the corresponding treatment because I tried to purchase syringes over the counter. He walks back a few steps, opens a random drawer, pretends to look inside and says, ‘We don’t have any in stock.’ ‘I am diabetic; I have somehow managed to leave my screw top needles behind at home and have insulin vials in my bag. I need to take my insulin now, I’m getting ill; look, you can even check my blood sugar.’ ‘We won’t sell insulin syringes; you will need a prescription from your Doctor.’ ‘That’s completely hopeless.’ My reaction based on if I were a drug addict, then he just sent me away to spread HIV. I kicked up shit. They got on their knees and I doubt that clown still has a job.

It has come to pass; hacket women and alcohol; I blow chainsmoke through chill air from a cold room, trying not to care. A bottle of Baileys in case of hypos; I have become a bastard, I am sorrow and I am so fucking alone. Listening on repeat to the songs that make up excuses for how I feel. Thinking on the women who cannot remember me.

Excerpts from ‘Persona non grata with diabetes’ by Paul Cathcart


Diabetes is costing the economy of the United Kingdom £1m per hour


Diabetic: ‘Sorry, my blood sugar is 19.0 (US & EU 343) I must go home. I can’t think, I feel sick, I’m unable to digest, I feel faint, I’m trembling, sweating though my shirt, breath smells sweet, must have forgotten to take my night time insulin. I must go home and have my insulin before I fall over into a hyper-coma.’

Boss: “So bloody inconvenient.” – Inner voice. Shrug of the shoulders, ‘So, what does that mean? Are you saying you have to go home again – now?  You don’t have it with you?‘

Diabetic: ‘Well yeah, I’m really unwell.’

Boss: ‘You can’t have someone drop it off for you?’

Diabetic: ‘I need to lie down.’

Boss: ‘It’s not ideal you know. We have other key team members off sick at the moment.’

Diabetic: “Yeah with hangovers.” – Inner voice.  ‘I’m sorry there is nothing I can do. I need to head home and have my night time insulin and rest till it takes effect.’

Boss: “Yeah, like that’s my problem.” – Inner voice. ‘It isn’t the best time you know? We have tight deadlines to meet and you were off already with the diabetes. Can’t you have some Coca-Cola? I have some birthday cake on my desk with a hundred candles on it; wait and have a bit of that instead?’

Diabetic, ‘I was at the Diabetic Clinic the last time I was off. Listen, my eyes are going blurry and I have to go urgently.’

Boss: ‘Fair enough; it’s very inconsiderate but if you really have to… Oh, but can you finish up first and send updates to everyone on exactly what they will have to do to cover for you at such short notice. And haven’t you got meetings scheduled this afternoon? You don’t want to miss them and we’re all going to sing Happy Birthday to Cheryl on Reception… And we have that Marketing presentation.’

Diabetic: ‘I need to go now.’

Boss: ‘Well when will you be back?’

Diabetic: ‘Tomorrow morning.’

Boss: ‘So why were you off for so long last time, wasn’t that the diabetes?’

Diabetic: ‘No. I was on holiday.’

Boss: ‘You were on the phone and sending emails all the time.’

Diabetic: ‘You had me working from home to meet deadlines.’

Boss: ‘Well if you really have to go, I suppose… but didn’t I see you smoking?’

Diabetic: ‘Twelve years ago.’

Boss: ‘That’s what gave you the diabetes then; self-inflicted?’

Diabetic: ‘No.’

Boss: ‘And what about James in Marketing, his grandmother has the diabetes, what did he say?’

Diabetic: ‘To have some cake.’

Boss: ‘I told you I’ve got cake in my office. And Cheryl on Reception, whose birthday you’re going to miss, she has the asthma, what does she say about all this?’

Diabetic: ‘That I should get a new diet-book.’

Boss: ‘Great idea! And what about Brian in Human Resources, what does he think?’

Diabetic: ‘That he fancies Cheryl.’

Boss: ‘And Harold in Accounts?’

Diabetic: ‘He fancies Cheryl as well.’

Boss: ‘Harold had the flu last week and he is back at his desk. What does he make of your diabetes?’

Diabetic: ‘He thinks it’s probably caused by work related stress because you keep taking on three-month projects and telling the clients we can deliver in three weeks.’

Boss: ‘What about your Doctor say; he must be sick of looking at you.’

Diabetic: ‘He says have more insulin and get myself a better diet-cook-book.’

Boss: ‘And the Specialists? You had a day off to see them before; did they not fix the diabetes?’

Diabetic: ‘They just said to eat what I like and have more insulin and buy their latest diet-cookery-books.’

Boss: ‘What about that thing on the news where they cured that dog. Can they not do that to you?’

Diabetic: ‘I don’t think it works like that.’

Boss: ‘Well, I see what you’re saying but I don’t feel you are doing yourself any favours and no-one here is going to give you a cuddle. Hadn’t you better snap out of it?’

Diabetic: ‘???’

Boss: ‘So all that and you’re really not willing to have some cake?’ hand on the shoulder, ‘Are you not just being a little bit difficult? I never planned for you to be off ill all of the time. Can you not just do me a personal favour and get better?’

Diabetic: ‘You don’t understand. I’m not being deliberately difficult. I need to go home now. I’m really ill!’

*The current cost to the economy of direct patient care, which includes treatment, intervention and complications, for those living with diabetes is estimated at £9.8 billion.

The current indirect costs associated with diabetes, such as those related to increased death and illness, work loss and the need for informal care, are estimated at £13.9 billion

It’ll be alright if we can just be unwell on very specific days, such as on holidays, Bank Holidays, Christmas Holidays and the Queen’s Birthday, but not working holidays.

If you can’t manage that then just be ill at everyone else’s convenience, and know well in advance when you expect to be ill; for exactly how long; have an ailment considered acceptable (falling into criteria of your Boss’s, colleagues and Doctor’s satisfaction); be willing to work from home unpaid whilst absent; never present the same ailment more than once in a single year (so uncouth); get on your knees and beg forgiveness – but don’t drool (too untidy) and promise (cross my heart and hope to die) never-ever to be ill again.

Clearly as a country we are calculating profit and loss in a game of chickens before they hatch; discrediting real world factors (our health – we are all made up of protein and bacteria after all) and promoting them as excuses for poor economic stability. Last year we entered into a double-dip recession riding on the back of a Royal Wedding and some snow. Running out of excuses fast, they pick on us.

Guilt in favour of understanding; welcome to the Health Class System.

*Deaths from diabetes in 2010/11 resulted in over 325,000 lost working years.


Written by Paul Cathcart, Author of ‘Persona non grata with diabetes.



//* Official statistics quoted from Diabetes UK. http://www.diabetes.org.uk/About_us/News_Landing_Page/NHS-spending-on-diabetes-to-reach-169-billion-by-2035/

What is diabetic emotion?

While I respect the wish-list deliverable of a ‘diabetes cure‘ and observe growing concerns over a global diabetes time bomb, I can’t help but feel the actual reality of diabetic understanding (not diabetes) continues to evade us.

“For us diabetes amplifies everything; if you feel just-not-right then broken blood sugar will make it wrong, as alcohol does an alcoholic; every bone of contention, every pulse of ill will, slight upset or lull, every wave of exhaustion and misunderstanding all amplified. Deformation of sadness, doubt, and dependency; symptoms lost in a bigger world, it leaves us wilting. We push on.”

Hello World!

I want to get better.


Paul Cathcart, Author of ‘Persona non grata with diabetes.’