Life

Anne Hailes: Suicide signs, Theresa May's diabetes, sleep and don't fret about forgetting

Theresa May takes nuts into the Commons Chamber – to combat her type 1 diabetes. Picture by Mary Altaffer/AP

NO MATTER what has happened, is happening or will happen, as I write this I admire Theresa May for her doggedness, how she handles her critics, let alone backstabbers, but most of all how she manages her hectic schedule with her type 1 diabetes, a serious condition which she keeps under control by injecting insulin into her system via her tummy five times a day.

I have one friend who carries digestive biscuits everywhere in case he needs to keep up his blood sugar levels and another who whispered to me as we sat in a theatre enjoying the play: "If I say Coke don't ask questions just rush and get me a bottle of Coca Cola."

It's staggering to hear from Diabetes UK that someone is diagnosed with the more common Type Two diabetes every two minutes.

Mrs May admits she takes nuts (the food type) into the Commons Chamber with her and surreptitiously slips them into her mouth when necessary.

“I get one of my colleagues to lean forward every now and again so I can eat some nuts without being seen by the speaker!”

She agrees with Sir Steve Redgrave who said that diabetes had to learn to live with him rather than him living with diabetes.

I wonder when she sleeps. The last days have been critical, jetting backwards and forwards to Brussels, in and out of the Commons. Is she ever home to get to bed for a few hours? Sleep is vital to all of us and insomnia is a curse often brought on by worrying about insomnia and the fear of not getting to sleep.

There's lots of advice: relaxing with a hot chocolate before going to bed (that often means breaking your sleep to go to the loo), turning off your televisions and iPads an hour before going to bed (that means you miss out on programmes you want to see) and above all turning off any electronic device in your bedroom – clocks, smartphones, tablets, as apparently these interfere with your brainwaves.

Sometimes it requires medication but it's vitally important not to self-medicate so see a doctor and follow instructions.

It's a complex subject, akin to a computer going into sleep mode; it doesn't work on the surface but internally the cogs are still turning.

I have my own way of getting over. I pick a letter from the alphabet and then compose a sentence with every word beginning with that letter – for example: Pale pathetic Pat patted proud parent Paul patiently, probably practical Peter preferred plump preening Pamela. And so on. You must remember the whole sentence and my theory is the brain gets fed up, gives in and clocks out.

Then there are dreams to cope with, so often colourful and happy, other times sad and fearful. There are books on the meaning of dreams stating the obvious, teeth falling out relates to doubts about your appearance, being chased by someone indicates your tendency to run from a situation, not getting to the toilet means you're struggling to express your needs and being unprepared for an exam is just being unprepared for something in your daily life.

I prefer to think unpleasant dreams are based on your own distress about something relevant to you. So often if you think back these reflect something that has happened that week, most likely a problem or fear weighing heavily on your mind or simply a programme you've seen on television. It's interesting to work it out.

One fear these days is loss of memory and even losing your specs can trigger worry but a new book by Scandinavian neuropsychologist Ylva Østby and her sister Hilde says that forgetfulness is essential for a healthy brain.

They maintain that forgetting is embarrassing and frustrating but they say these lapses are completely acceptable, often a sign that our brain is in perfect working order. Forgetting in this normal way is a protection again overload. I hope they are right.

However, just like signs of diabetes or difficulty in sleeping, if you are concerned about your ability to remember it's important to see a doctor and get advice and help.

:: Adventures in Memory, The Science And Secrets Of Remembering And Forgetting by Hilde Østby and Ylva Østby is available on Amazon. Information on diabetes is available at diabetes.org.uk

Cave Hill initiative a good sign

I'M DELIGHTED to hear that Signs of Hope will be erected on Cave Hill, hopefully to catch the eye of anyone who is feeling suicidal. It's a dreadful thing to be in such despair or distress that you feel your only option is to end it all and perhaps these signs will cause a moment of hesitation and register a link to support.

The family of Michael Cullen, whose body was found at Cave Hill following a three-week search in January, have been campaigning for positive mental health signage to be erected in a bid to prevent more deaths. Others have also supported this move and now this plan has been confirmed.

Nichola Mallon SDLP and Councillor Paul McCusker have issued notification that although these signs won't change the world, if they make just one person stop and realise they are not alone and that help is readily and sympathetically available, they will have been more than worth it.

A couple of years ago I watched a young man fall from McArt's Fort and, believe me, the image has lived with me since. The torment someone must go through to take such drastic action and maybe to know people think highly enough about your life that they have put up notices offering help could make all the difference. Let's pray so.

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