Entering the dazzling world of television does not do a lot for your skin. The hours are long, and tiring, you rub your face a lot most days, in despair at the latest piece of technology to fail you, or the next imminent deadline to loom, or the next email to tell you your story’s collapsed. I don’t suppose this is that different from a lot of jobs, but let all this swallow you up, even for a second, and there’s a good 20 people literally stood outside the door waiting to take your chair, and your shifts. I hate being freelance. Every day you’re trying to be 10 things to 10 people; impressive to the bosses, available to those that book you, fun to the people sat next to you, interesting to those who’ve been polite enough to ask you to join them at lunch.
But it’s a must do at the moment, given my recent descent down the country to the capital, where I’m a big fat nobody scrabbling around to be the best researcher since, well, ever. But I’m here, and I’m doing it, and I’ve got (some) shifts, and I’m pretty proud. And I’m going to keep doing it because I’ve worked bloody hard for it, and also because, despite the above, I bloody love it. And as long as I keep loving it, it’s worth it. And maybe, just maybe, after 10,320 shifts that little glimmer of hope I’ve been clinging onto might come good, and offer me the holy grail of television jobs: a staff contract. Failing that, a promotion. Or a gig presenting a documentary. Sigh. (Woe is bloody me! Jesus Jen!)
So add diabetes to this mix and you could say that things have been interesting for the past month. I’ve told a couple of people I now work with about this glorious condition I’ve been blessed with, mostly on the account of me whipping out the insulin and stabbing myself with a needle in front of them. It generally begs a few questions. But otherwise I’m just quietly getting on with it, as we Type 1s just have to do. I’ve found it puts your control to the test, which isn’t a bad thing by any means, because telling someone you don’t know that you’re “low” invites a few quizzical stares as they shuffle backwards away from the emotionally unstable new girl. But plan as we may, and test as we might, some situations inevitably lend themselves to better control than others. My newly acquired experiences something we like to call The 24 Hour Shift, plus diabetes, somewhat unsurprisingly don’t make for the perfect pairing.
Yep, that’s what it’s called. The 24 Hour Shift. I’d like to put it out there straightaway that it’s a lot less horrific then it sounds. The particular programme I’m working at at the moment goes to air at 6.30am in the morning, and so naturally it’s going to lend itself to working uber early. And for every 24 Hour Shift you work, you get the following day off. So before there’s an outcry from the dozens of human rights lawyers that I know are avid fans of this blog (HA), it’s honestly ok. See aforementioned gushfest about my chosen career path. I’m fine, we’re all fine.
SO, the day before your show goes to air (TX day, if you will fact fans), you work 10-10.30ish (programme progress dependent). Then you get a grand total of about 4 hours off and you’re back in at 3. I know, that’s not 24 hours Jen, that’s 20 hours you part-timer. But by the time you leave work and get to your napping destination of choice it’s generally about 11. Then your brain DOES NOT switch off because it’s buzzing with script changes, prop lists and general “ohmygodimgoingtoscrewupandmycareerwillbeover” kinda pressure. (I don’t know if that last one’s just me). So by this point it’s about midnight before your exhausted body takes over your brain and you drift off into that horrible disturbed sleep you always have when you know you have to get up early, like on the first day of school, or before a job interview. The fear of missing a 2.30am alarm is a treat for the mind I tells ya.
Then you stumble back into the office bleary eyed after a grand total of an hour’s decent shut eye and BOOM, it’s Game Face time. There’s a show to be made. Call sheets to be printed, car bookings to check, guests to greet, script changes to put through, budgets to be cleared, waivers to be signed, GO GO FUCKING GO, this is no time to be tired. Or hypo, for that matter.
And generally, I’m not tired during this madness. Adrenalin and sheer unrelenting terror gets me through. It’s afterwards that it washes over you like a monster tidal wave, for example last week when I fell asleep on the train home and by some sheer jolt of fate I woke up as the train hit Basingstoke platform. That was a sight for my fellow travellers. I shot up out of my seat, THEN tried to work out where on earth in the country I was, then had to go back to my seat because I’d forgotten my second bag, then had to leg it for the door while trying to snap my contact lens back into its rightful position and wipe the dribble from the side of my mouth. No, I don’t know why I’m single either.
So as far as the diabetes goes, this is all fine. I’m checking my sugars, I’m eating when I need to, having been uncharacteristically organised and packed enough low carb “treats” (I use the term loosely. No amount of almonds can morph itself into a Twirl) to feed the entire crew. I have a slight issue with ignoring the breakfast cart that comes wheeling in at around 5am but hey, who ever turns down free food?! Less than one free meal a week and I’m disappointed in myself.
Let’s freeze-frame on the sticky-eyed, unwashed hair dribbly vision I just described falling off Platform 3. There, that’s it. That exact moment is when my diabetes-based good behaviour goes out of the window, off the platform and into the sunset (Well, not quite sunset. It’s still only around 11am at this point). Because despite the previous 24 hours of great diabetes efforts in the face of a Krypton Factor scale of obstacles, from that beautifully painted point onwards, generally for the whole of the rest of the day, I feel the need to eat for two. I just can’t get enough. Double breakfasts, a large snack that could pass as a brunch, some sort of massive lunch and a cooked dinner. I go to carb town too, because it’s just soooo yummy when you’re knackered. It ain’t good when the dreaded HbA1c is just weeks away, and my poor body has to cope with getting on for double the amount of insulin units than on any other normal given day. Hot toast, I’m there. Sandwiches, sure. Chocolatey goods, I’m all yours. In moderation, you understand, but when you’ve been eating as few carbs as possible for the past mo nth or so it’s a lot for the blood to absorb. I can almost hear it screaming as it goes into shock mode: “Not the sugarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!! Make it stoppppp!!!”
So maybe The 24 Hour Shift isn’t that good for me. But I feel that running around like a TV bitch for the 24 hours (no, wait, 20 hours) previous goes a minute way to justifying my post TX blowout. It’s like having a bath after a long run. Not that I have ever experienced a long run. But y’know what I’m trying to get at here. And if nothing else, it revolts me into good behaviour for the remaining six days of the week, because actually I do care about my poor little blood cells, and my sorry little kidneys. Because as much as having diabetes is the one contract I wouldn’t mind getting out of, unfortunately it appears I’ve signed up for life. Terms and Conditions non-negotiable.