How this Dalby dad overcame his diabetes diagnosis
AT JUST 11-years-old, Micheal Farley told a friend, “if I ever get type one diabetes, I’ll kill myself.”
Not long after, he was given the diagnosis that would change his life forever.
Type one diabetes is an auto-immune disease that occurs when the pancreas doesn’t produce insulin and is managed with several insulin injections.
It is characterised by exorbitant thirst and urination, sudden weight loss, and extreme fatigue.
For 22 years, Mr Farley, 33, has battled with type one diabetes, a journey that has taken him to devastating lows, resorting to self harm, and extreme highs, like completing 50km runs and bonding with a community of other diabetics.
Prior to his own diagnosis Mr Farley had experience with diabetes, after watching someone close to him be challenged by the disease.
“I kind of knew about it all because of watching my best friend’s mum go into seizures,” he said.
“They had to call ambulances multiple times because she was unresponsive.
“It’s quite scary – just a life of that.
“She would be cleaning and she’d have a severe low in front of us and that scared me a lot.”
When he was in Year 6, after noticing he was going to the bathroom more than usual, he was taken to a doctor and subject to a series of tests.
He said he knew he was in trouble from the start.
“They thought I had a urine infection but then they brought out a BGL (Blood Glucose Level) machine … I knew exactly what it was,” he said.
“I saw on the machine that it registered HI and I practically knew that was not good.”
Three days later and Mr Farley was sent home with a BGL machine, insulin injections, and a life-changing diagnosis.
The Mental Toll
A day in the life of Mr Farley is one that looks a little different to other fathers his age.
From waking up at 4.30am for his first BGL tests, his daily activities are interrupted frequently by BGL tests, insulin injections and plenty of food.
To this day, his diabetes presents many challenges, and he admits he still doesn’t quiet know how to manage it.
In the past few years, he has also been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, peripheral neuropathy, a type of a nerve damage, heart disease and has battled severe depression since his childhood.
His dream of joining the army was cut short as a result of his diabetes, and attempts at self-harm as a child only exacerbated the impacts of the disease.
For a long time Mr Farley said he struggled to see how his life could ever return to normal.
Mr Farley described the feeling of diabetes and its mental toll as like it was constantly “raining”.
“It takes up a lot of your time and a lot of your energy,” he said.
“Even before I started getting complications, it was just a groundhog day of BGLs, needles, injection sites overused so you have to use different parts of your body.
“Mentally it just breaks you down bit by bit and for me I didn’t have an outlet or any support.
“Doctors are pretty quick to write a script or send me somewhere, but I had no one to help on that mental side.”
What Saved Him
Two things have changed the way Mr Farley views his diagnosis and its impact on his life: long distance running, and his four-year-old daughter, Amity.
Mr Farley has discovered a passion for running since his diagnosis and since November has completed two “unsanctioned” 50km ultra runs.
Mr Farley said he took up running when his medication for diabetes and his other diagnoses wasn’t cutting it.
“Something about running long distance seems to agree with my diabetes,” he said.
“I don’t have as much trouble as other type ones do.
“I don’t know why in terms of the biomechanic factors.
“For some reason I don’t need much insulin or any type of food or anything.”
Having a daughter opened his eyes to his diagnosis, and the way he was living his life.
The thought of not being there to see Amity grow up was unbearable, so when things get hard his daughter is always at the front of his mind.
“For the last four years since my daughter was born I have been struggling with it because of the complications I have,” he said.
“I used to think to myself ‘why me?’
“It took me a long time to deal with it.
“I had a lot of demons in there.
“Sometimes I’d be all right but then I’d get pulled back down to realisation.
“It has taken me quite a long time to deal with it and to look at it now as an advantage instead of a disadvantage.
“I know how precious life can be.
“My daughter changed that whole aspect of my life mentally and physically.”
With support from his daughter and his father, Mr Farley has been able to change his mindset regarding his diagnosis.
Mr Farley is also an active member of the group Run Walk Talk.
Founded by Sean Swan, the group focuses on helping men break down barriers and talk about their demons, while sharing a passion for running and fitness.
Mr Farley said this group has become an important part of his recovery and acceptance of his diseases, and an outlet for when things are looking bleak.
“Recently with the whole running community, they’ve all been very supportive and I’ve also found other type one diabetics,” he said.
“I never had that for 22 years. I was dealing with it on my own.”
For Other Diabetics
To young people dealing with a diagnosis, or people trying to fight off the demons that become an inherent part of a diagnosis of diabetes, Mr Farley’s advice is to keep looking forward, and look for rays of light through an otherwise dark time.
“Nothing is impossible when you do have type one diabetes,” he said.
“I used to think it was a big disadvantage … My mentality now is no matter what I never give up. NO matter if I’m in pain I will continue that run.
“We’re not limited at all.”
At 33, Mr Farley has come a
long way from the 11-year-old who knew he was “in big trouble” when he was first diagnosed.
“I remember telling my friend that if I ever got that I’d kill myself, as silly as that sounds,” he said.
“I ended up getting it and it was a huge battle.”
But Mr Farley said he has no regrets about his diagnosis, and knows he wouldn’t be where he is today without the challenges he faced.
Need to talk to someone? Don’t go it alone. Please reach out for help. Lifeline: 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au | Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 or beyondblue.org.au