V Festival. It happened. With diabetes. Four girls, three days, two tents, oh-so-many beer,s lots of mud, and memories of a lifetime. My sides ACHE from laughing. I would go so far as to claim festival-going holds medicinal properties. I’m absolutely high on life from the filthy dirty experience, and I’ll be damned if my type 1 existence thinks it’s going to prevent me from the euphoria I experienced in the middle of a field that’s extremely nondescript for the remaining 362 days of the year.
The main thing I’ve learnt since I started documenting my type 1 life is that diabetes needs a lot more planning than I ever gave it credit for. This doesn’t sit well with someone who lives their life on a very last minute basis. I like the unknown, I like doing spontaneous things and I like just going with the flow. This does not perfect diabetes control make, but it’s also why living like a tramp at a festival for a weekend was something I was very very up for.
So we set off on Friday morning packed to the rafters with standard compulsory festival loot; namely the hat to cover greasy mop, wellys (I wrote that as wellies and it just autocorrected to willies, FYI), rain mac, sleeping bag, tent (mostly necessary to prevent death) and so on… for three days of getting back to basics and out with the elements. Although it wasn’t quite back to basics. Thankfully, advances in medicine mean that insulin is pretty portable. Handy that, once again mostly for death prevention.
I packed very lightly. One backpack for clothes, toiletries and diabetes-related goods. There was another backpack entirely filled with alcohol but that’s another matter. I packed both my Novorapid and Lantus, a spare Novorapid cartridge and a couple of spare needles due to the fact that I like to either bend them or lose the cap that keeps them sterile. Neither are advisable, folks. I also packed my glucose meter, with all the best intentions but also fully resigned to the fact that I wouldn’t be testing four times a day like the good diabetic I should be. Add to the mix my ever-present trusty supply of cereal bars and some antibacterial gel, and I was on my way.
The thing I was most concerned about, aside from keeping the needles clean enough to jab into my body, was whether I would need eons of insulin to cope with the inevitable carbs I would have to eat, made worse by the large amounts of alcohol I would inevitably drink (I’d love to say I was going to be good and take it easy…but a festival’s a festival). I don’t like how I feel when I have to take high doses, hence the whole dabbling in restricted carb. I also know that ultimately I’m an absolute carb glutton. If I could eat bread, pizza and mashed potato forevermore without those really unsavoury stodge-slumps as a consequence (not to mention the excessive weight gain), I’d be there at the front of the chippie queue. Alas, these things are sent to try us, and of late (ie. Over the past couple of years) I’ve actually exercised some self-control, once again namely out of fear of early death…
So I knew the carbs were a-coming after a while of favouring the egg and avocado based lifestyle. Neither are high on the festival-friendly list. I also knew there would be a hellova lot going on at any given time, and most importantly I knew that hygiene was not going to be up there, given the whole sleeping in a field malarkey. Kinda tricky with medicines and the like. But there was only one way to find out how this would go…
And so the carbs came. They were consumed. But they didn’t massively conquer, and I bloody enjoyed them. Not that it was high to start with, but food slipped way down the list of priorities over the weekend, below even seeing Peter Andre (who doesn’t love a sing along to Mysterious Girl?). Pete fan club aside, food didn’t register because I had better things to spend my hard-earned on, but also because there was so many people to see. Bands, singers, friends, randoms – all occupied your whirlwind of a day to the extent that before you knew it the last band had played their last song on the last day and it was time to go back to the tent, high on life, high on music, slightly (or very) intoxicated and having not eaten for roughly 12 hours. But this was all okay. It meant that when I did eat, I ate a small snack type meal and just had a few units to deal with it. One sandwich on waking, one on the walk back to the tent. Jobs a gooden. I had maybe two extra doses of 4 units during the day to sort out the carbs in the ridiculous number of beers I was drinking, and off I danced to the next band. Happy as a pig in shit. Probably quite literally at many points over the weekend. I would love to remain optimistic on that front but my burning nostrils told me otherwise. When in Rome…
I tested every morning and every night, and I honestly couldn’t believe how very normal the results were, given the complete and utter upset to my daily routine. I think I had an 8.1, 4.5, 5.9 and 10.1. Can’t remember the rest, apols.
So how can this be? I was eating carbs, drinking (some) sugar and generally leading a very un-diabetes friendly lifestyle. One factor me thinks is that I must have walked about 8000 miles over the course of the weekend. It was about half a mile between the tent and the arena, plus the walking from the stage to the bar to another stage to the stalls to your mates’ tent to the toilet… you get the idea. My wellys (not willies) did some serious work. And due to the rather poor prevention of smuggling alcohol into the arena (soz, officer), we successfully weasled in an array of Jen-friendly beverages before I was forced to resort to the more limited choice at the arena bars. After the vodka sugar-free Red Bull had all gone, off I trotted to the bar and the choice went like this: Bacardi Breezer: (I’m sorry is it 1999?) NO on the basis that it’s pretty much pure sugar, Wine: NO on the basis that I generally don’t last an hour, let alone a day on the stuff, Cider: NO as I recently discovered it’s really quite sugary. So there was only one option left on the very limited and extremely over-priced menu, and actually we had a great little time over the weekend, me and those big dirty pints of Carling. A new but rather successful venture. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. It didn’t do a great deal for my ladylike image but I think I lost that one when I signed up for not showering for three days.
For those of you that haven’t been to a festival before, it’s completely and utterly the filthiest experience you could possibly encounter.
Mostly down to thousands of drunk people sharing mobile toilet facilities. Wowsers. Although I thought I was in for a much worse time with them, they still were one of the more (well, the only) horrific elements of the weekend. But, I’d like to put it out there that camping at a festival is a very character-building experience. Some love it, some loathe it. I had the time of my life. I laughed hard with my amazing friends, saw some amazing bands who played some amazing music; the kind that’s all-consuming; that takes you to that fabulous and life-defining place where you’re completely lost in the lyrics and nothing else in the world matters (did I mention my unadulterated love of music?) I even interviewed a celeb or two. And didn’t have to give a monkeys about the impression I was making on anyone, because there is always someone behaving worse than you. Inhibitions, dignity, the lot… gone. For some. Ahem.
I really thought diabetes and festivals would be a recipe for disaster. It’s what I was expecting, and it certainly could have been exactly that. I think why it worked was because even though I wasn’t making the best choices for my body 100 per cent of the time, I was reasonable with it. A bit of give and take, which I think my innards really appreciated. I could have drunk nothing but Bacardi Breezers (but really, why would you?), had no injections and done no blood tests. But I reckon the inevitable result there would be me passed out by a fence getting peed on by a beered up bloke (or girl… no really), and not being with it enough to even remember that Kings of Leon were a band and not random royalty. I didn’t go to V not to remember any of it, and I certainly didn’t go to get hospitalised. I think being aware of the situation I had put myself in got me through the weekend without a severe hypo that made me pass out, or a severe hyper that meant I couldn’t even drag myself out of the tent. But that’s certainly not a favourable option when you’re sharing it with two other ladies who have also adopted the baby wipe school of cleanliness.
I’m really sorry if this wasn’t what you were after, but there just wasn’t really a problem. The main problem now is giving up the carbs after starting eating them again. I think my body’s having a delayed reaction to not really eating for three days straight, as I seem to have made up for that fact in the 24 hours since getting home. But hey, at least I’ve had a shower.