Jodie Akrill, Principal Consultant in ERM’s UK Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) Team, has lived with Type 1 Diabetes, an autoimmune disorder, for the past 25 years. Here she discusses her experiences living and working with Type 1 Diabetes, her advice for others living with autoimmune disorders, and why it’s important for all of us to offer a helping hand.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes 25 years ago at just 6 years old. I had been unwell for a couple of years before then and had gone through a range of testing for a whole host of illnesses, including cancer – Diabetes was less well known back then, which shows how far we have progressed in the past couple of decades alone! So, when I heard that the theme ERM had chosen to explore for this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities was ‘not every disability is visible’, this really resonated with me.
Type 1 Diabetes is an inability to produce the hormone insulin that regulates levels of glucose in the blood. Significant imbalances in the blood glucose system can cause short and long-term side effects, including heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, amputations and sight loss, and can be fatal if left untreated.
Diabetes is one of the most time-consuming illnesses out there. Everything you could possibly dream of, from food intake and hydration levels to stress, illness and exercise affects blood glucose management within the body, so stabilizing blood glucose levels to prevent unwanted complications requires many tablets and up to six injections a day. That’s approximately 57,450 injections I’ve taken during my lifetime so far. I am fortunate enough to have access to a continuous glucose monitor, which is secured onto my arm and provides 24/7 monitoring and recording of glucose readings in the body. This greatly improves my oversight and control and is a testament to the advancements in technology related to Diabetes care.
Throughout my life, diabetes has never stopped me from doing anything, it has simply made me into the forward-thinking person I am today - someone who must carefully consider how “normal” activities might need some extra planning or adaptation. With regards to work, the important challenge that I try to overcome on a daily basis is “routine”. The more thought out and consistent my routine, the easier my Diabetes is to control, but this can be difficult working in M&A, which is known for being a demanding environment. I frequently find myself in situations where I know should stop and focus on myself, but things always crop up as “urgent”. Even with control in my grasp, there are days where my condition is impossible to handle. After a series of unfortunate health incidents, I requested flexible working from ERM so that I only work a 9-day fortnight. This gives me one Friday every two weeks to stabilize and organize myself, which has certainly helped in establishing and maintaining a routine.
There is no denying that Diabetes is an unfortunate and relentless autoimmune disorder to have, but while I could have had an “easier” life, it’s also provided me with experiences and developed attributes that I may have overlooked. Because of my Diabetes and related conditions, I have tried and tested my resilience, and I believe I hold a good level of empathy, understanding and can relate to those in situations that are seen to deviate from “the normal”. Now, I am on a mission to help and support as many people as I can, and this has opened up a network where I’ve been able to speak to some amazing people over the years and hear some fantastic stories, as well as share my own.
It's an unrealistic expectation for each of us to know everything about what someone is going through, or what struggles they may be having in relation to a disability, or on a culture, race, gender or religious front, on a daily basis, but I do believe we can be receptive to signs given by those around us. Showing the critical traits of observation and active listening, offering a helping hand or someone to speak to can go a long way in recognizing that those with ‘hidden disabilities’ have a lot on their plate.
To my fellow Diabetics and anyone living with hidden disabilities, I would say that there will be tough days that only you will understand, but please remember to surround yourself with the right people and the days will feel easier. It’s okay to feel frustrated and alone, these moments will come and go – the resilience you show every day is testament to your strength and determination to keep going – remember to look how far you’ve come already.
Jodie Akrill is a Principal Consultant within ERM’s UK M&A Team, with a background in Chemical Engineering. She works in London within a newly developing service line for technical due diligence (engineering) within the energy infrastructure space.