In this episode I talk to Nick Otto AKA Insulin Junkie. Nick is a YouTuber living in Florida and he has Type 1 Diabetes. 

Nick shares his story about his journey with Diabetes, how it has changed his life and what advice he would give to anyone who is newly diagnosed or struggling with the condition.

Check out just some of the things we discuss in todays podcast episode:

  • Nick’s diagnosis
  • Changes Nick made to his lifestyle after his diagnosis
  • How exercise has a positive effect on both his diabetes and his mental health
  • His biggest challenge with the condition
  • The idea behind his YouTube channel
  • Advice he would give to anyone who is newly diagnosed

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Check out Nick’s YouTube Channel

Missed anything in todays diabetic and healthy podcast? View the podcast transcript below to get the full show notes.

Life with diabetes has some highs and lows, but just like in a normal life, you can make choices which help to make your life easier, improve your health and wellbeing. In the diabetic and healthy podcast, we show you how to do just that. We're here to help you put your diabetes worries behind so that you can start enjoying life with a sky high smile on your face. Let's meet our host for today's show, here's Charlotte.

Charlotte: Hi, and welcome back to another episode of the Diabetic and Healthy podcast. As always, I really hope everyone's doing well. On today's show, I'm talking to Nick Otto, AKA Insulin Junkie. Nick is a Type 1 diabetic who lives in Florida and a successful YouTuber. And he has very kindly agreed to tell us a bit more about his diabetes story, how the condition has changed his life. And after living with it for several years now, what advice he would give to anyone who's even newly diagnosed or maybe struggling with a condition. Nick also tells us about why he started his YouTube channel and how he wants to use his own personal life experiences to reach out to others. Before we get started, I do just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has been in touch with me following my request on social media.

Charlotte: If you haven't seen it, I did put a little request out on social media for anyone else, with diabetes, who would like to share their story and be featured on a future episode of the podcast. I've had a really fantastic response, way more than unexpected. Thank you so much. I really genuinely appreciate it. I believe I have now at least acknowledged everyone's emails and messages. But feel free to give me a little nudge, if you have sent me a message and you've not had any response, I have genuinely missed it. I have not ignored anybody. And for those of you that have already heard from me, I will be in touch via email over the next few days with some more information for you. Okay. This is me talking to Nick about his life with diabetes. Hey Nick. How are you?

Nick Otto: I'm good. How about yourself?

Charlotte: I'm very good. Thank you. Thank you so much for agreeing to come on today and share your story with us.

Nick Otto: Of course.

Charlotte: You are Type 1 diabetic?

Nick Otto: I am.

Charlotte: How long ago were you diagnosed?

Nick Otto: I found out seven years ago, on my birthday. Happy birthday-

Charlotte: Really? Wow.

Nick Otto: Yeah. January 3rd, I found out. I'm going on eight years now. January 3rd next year will be eight years and it's changed my life. That's for sure.

Charlotte: I'm guessing you spent your birthday in hospital?

Nick Otto: I spend most of the day, they wanted to keep me longer, but I was like, "No, I just want to go get some food." That's all I had in mind. My roommate took me. I went in my blood sugar was over 800 and they thought I was Type 2 at first. And they put me on Metformin and stuff. And then they sent me on my way and I just went and got some food and my roommate paid for dinner and treated me and it was cool. But definitely changed my life after that. That was the last time I had a cake for a while.

Charlotte: How did you end up in hospital? You took yourself out because you felt unwell or what was happening?

Nick Otto: Yeah, I woke up that morning and I took a protein shake and my hands were just trembling and I started stuttering and I couldn't see the clock on the wall, it was blurry. And I called my mom and she was like, "You need to go to the hospital." I went, my roommate took me. And they're checking my sugar and it didn't read on the thing. Their meter stop at 800. And my blood sugar was over 800 then and-

Charlotte: Had you been feeling ill for a while or did you just wake up that day and?

Nick Otto: No, I was feeling ill for, I want to say close to a month. I was constantly urinating and I was super thirsty. I couldn't get hydrated. I took a trip to Ohio with my uncle and he's a Type 2 diabetic and he was like, "You need to go get checked." He noticed some of the signs, because I was filling up Gatorade bottles. I would just down them, water, Gatorade. And he was like, "I'm tired of pulling over," he was like, "You're going to have to pee in those bottles. We're not stopping because [crosstalk 00:04:56], wait till Ohio. My sugars were through the roof. And now I know when my sugars are high, if I'm constantly urinating, then that's a sign.

Charlotte: Yeah. I remember that feeling and people don't get it, do they? If you say like, "Oh, I was so thirsty." They just think, that's not that bad. That is unreal, isn't it?

Nick Otto: Yeah. I know. Mm-hmm (affirmative). Super dry. It's not fun.

Charlotte: I can remember lining up pints and pints and pints of juice and water and stuff at night, on the bedside table. But it would all be gone by the time I went to sleep, I just couldn't stop drinking.

Nick Otto: I'm notorious for water bottles. I'll just have a bunch on my windows, or by my bed and drink them and then just water bottles all around my room. People don't get it.

Charlotte: Do you want to tell us a little bit about your life before your diagnosis?

Nick Otto: Yeah. What do you want to know?

Charlotte: What was your lifestyle like? Were you leading quiet a healthy lifestyle? Where you...

Nick Otto: I've always tried to live a decent lifestyle, but the way I grew up was tough. I didn't have a stable family. I just found out who my dad was last year. My mother has always been a drug addict, so she hasn't really been there. Growing up was tough. And then when I hit 19, I joined the military. Did that for a few years and then I got out. I was lost in life, but I drank a lot and diabetes hit. And then it was game-changer. You can't do this, you can't live like this anymore, you got to change your life or else you're going to die.

Nick Otto: And I value my life, I really do. I try to take care of myself. I completely quit drinking, when I found out I had diabetes. I quit smoking. And it's a full time job. I just try to take care of my health now. But I'm still the same. I've always loved being outdoors and fishing and motorcycles and stuff like that. But now I have more time to focus on my health, that comes first. Because if I don't focus on my health then, what better am I to anybody else. I don't have a working pancreas, but I'm doing all right.

Charlotte: When you got your diagnosis, did you know anything about diabetes? When they said diabetes, did you have any preconceived ideas about what that meant or?

Nick Otto: I had no clue at all. No clue whatsoever. They thought I was Type 2 at first and I had no clue because nobody in my family really had any clue about diabetes other than my uncle. And it was a game changer, that's for sure, it was tough, but.

Charlotte: They thought you were Type 2 then obviously the medication didn't work and your blood sugars were still high.

Nick Otto: Yeah. They put me on Metformin for awhile and maybe I was in that honeymoon phase. Maybe it worked for a little bit, but you could tell that it wasn't doing what it was supposed to. And I lost a lot of weight. I've always been pretty skinny guy. I weigh 163 now, but I've always weighed 145 when I found out or 150.

Charlotte: You're talking in pounds, yeah?

Nick Otto: Yeah, in pounds. I definitely lost a lot of weight and my sugars were through the roof, I was just peeing everything out and just dropping in weight. They put me on, I'm sorry.

Charlotte: No, go on.

Nick Otto: They put me on a pump a year afterwards. I was doing shots for a while because after they took me off the Metformin because that just wasn't working.

Charlotte: How did you get on with doing injections? Did that bother you?

Nick Otto: Not really. I have a lot of tattoos, so needles weren't too big of a thing for me. And you got to do it, if you want to live. It didn't bug me too much.

Charlotte: But was it your choice to go onto a pump or did they suggest that might work better for you?

Nick Otto: They put me on depends and the shots for the first year. And then to get the insulin pump, I had to make sure my numbers were good and on top of it for a while. I had to send them logs and everything because they're not just going to give you an insulin pump over here. They got to make sure you're going to take care of yourself first before they'll give you the insulin pump. And I got on a Medtronic's Rebel, was my first pump. And then I went to the Medtronic 630 and then now I just got the TanDEM-X or the t:slim X2? Yes.

Charlotte: Okay.

Nick Otto: Yep.

Charlotte: And you've always had to CGM with that?

Nick Otto: I have the G6 now, but I had the Medtronic's Guardian, but it never worked for me. It just was never accurate. I just never even bothered with it. And it sucks having to wear two things on your body and being a skinny guy, to me it's hard to find spots to put stuff, but the G6 is really accurate. I don't mind wearing, it's God sent.

Charlotte: Yeah. I know the CGMs are really hard to get hold of in the UK. You can fund them yourself, but to get them funded is quite amazing.

Nick Otto: And they're not cheap.

Charlotte: Not.

Nick Otto: Not cheap at all. I feel bad every time I waste one. I just put one on two days ago. I put one on the arm for the first time and I went to the gym and I walked by a weight and it ripped right off. I'm going to call a Dexcom, see if I can get that replaced.

Charlotte: Yeah. They quite good over there replacing them?

Nick Otto: Yeah. Most of the time, I've only had to call them once. Most of my medicine comes from the VA because I'm a veteran. They usually handle it. But if it's in a time period where I can't re-up for prescription and I do mess one up, I'll call Dexcom and they've replaced it last time. And from what I hear, stories, they usually try to replace it. They're usually pretty good.

Charlotte: You said it was a game changer for you, when you were diagnosed.

Nick Otto: Yeah.

Charlotte: What lifestyle changes did you make or did you have to make?

Nick Otto: I was drinking a lot at the time I found out, that had to go. I'm glad I quit. I'm 33 years and I found out in my mid twenties that I was a diabetic and I feel like a lot of people drink. Most of my friends still drink and it's hard to quit drinking and changing that lifestyle because you lose a lot of friends, I did. I lost a lot of friends just because they wanted to continue to drink and I didn't. And I quit drinking, smoking. I've always worked out, but I try to work out a lot harder now, but diabetes weighs on your body, it weighs on your mind. Especially if you let it run crazy, it's going to tear your body apart. High blood sugars will kill you over time and low blood sugars can kill you instantly. Like I said, game changer, definitely is.

Charlotte: Yeah. It's really good that you obviously took it so seriously. I think some people, it takes a lot longer. There're lot of diabetes denial, people going to burn out and it takes some people months or years to really get to grips with that and say, "This is serious, I've got to look after myself." It's lucky that you took it all on board and sorted things out.

Nick Otto: I had a friend growing up, she was diabetic and I want to say maybe my teenage years, I found out she was diabetic. And she continued to drink, just continued to party. And then I found out I was diabetic and seeing what it did to her body. I don't want that to do it to mine. I really changed my lifestyle.

Charlotte: Yeah. Alcohol and diabetes don't tend to get on.

Nick Otto: No, not at all. You get so drunk and you black out and your sugars get high and you don't remember to take insulin when you're drinking. It just doesn't mix for me.

Charlotte: What has been, would you say, your biggest challenge with diabetes? What's been the most challenging part.

Nick Otto: Sleep. Sleep is the worst. I'm high-strung. I have ADHD, that's why you see me over here, rocking in this chair. I can never sit still. But the sleep is the hard part. If your sugars aren't right, it's going to mess up your sleep. I toss and turn. And diabetes will make your body hurt sometimes. It's just like try to lay there and you're in pain sometimes, but sleep is the hardest part for sure. What's the hardest part for you? Don't say sleep [crosstalk 00:00:14:31].

Charlotte: It's not sleep. Hardest part for me, I think mine was more of a mental struggle. I think I hit a point where it was a case of, you suddenly realize this is it forever. You go along with it and I'm doing my injections and I'm watching what I eat and you're doing all your calculations every day, aren't you?

Nick Otto: Yeah.

Charlotte: And I think the hardest bit for me was that day I woke up and thought, "I'm not doing this until I get better, this is life now."

Nick Otto: Yeah. This is not going to stop.

Charlotte: Yeah. I think that was probably the biggest.

Nick Otto: It definitely weighs on your mental state, that's for sure. I have PTSD and major depression prior to diabetes from childhood and in the military. And then stacking diabetes on top of that, just makes it 10 times worse.

Charlotte: Yeah.

Nick Otto: But God doesn't give you anything you can't handle, we got this.

Charlotte: Got it for a reason.

Nick Otto: Yeah. We got this. It makes us tough.

Charlotte: Yeah. No, it definitely does. Character building apparently.

Nick Otto: It's humbled me. It definitely humbled me.

Charlotte: You definitely appreciate things.

Nick Otto: Yeah. You do.

Charlotte: Little things that you wouldn't necessarily, if your health was spot on.

Nick Otto: Yeah. Let me ask you a question, how were you with needles and stuff before you found out you're diabetic?

Charlotte: Luckily they didn't. They never bothered me, luckily.

Nick Otto: I see that you've got tattoos too.

Charlotte: I've got tattoos. I know it's different, but I can remember being in hospital when I was in there a week. And they were like, until you're doing all your all injections yourself, you can't go home and I literally just picked it up and did it, because I was like-

Nick Otto: I'm getting out of here.

Charlotte: I just want to go home.

Nick Otto: Exactly.

Charlotte: Yes. I think people who aren't diabetic see the injections as a big issue or the pump as a big issue. And that's probably the easy part, I think. It's all the calculations and like you said, the mental side of it.

Nick Otto: Yeah. Some people just don't get it. I wish you could, without giving somebody diabetes, you just give it to them for a day or something. You take it for a day and you see what I got to deal with everyday.

Charlotte: Yeah. And this sounds really mean, but they'd have to have a hypo in that day as well.

Nick Otto: Yeah. Give them some [crosstalk 00:17:01], shake it up for them a little bit because it's a tough disease, it really is. It really weighs on your mental conscious, just everything. It just hits so many different targets. Oops I'm sorry [inaudible 00:17:17].

Charlotte: Did you hit a button?

Nick Otto: It was my alarm.

Charlotte: What do you know now that you wish maybe you'd known in your first year of living with diabetes?

Nick Otto: When I first found out I had diabetes, I tried, I definitely changed my world. But I wish I would have dedicated more to it then when I first found out, than I am now, because it only gets worse. Not to say it's going to get worse for everybody, but it's not going to get better. It's not going to go back, unless you have Type 2 and you really take care of yourself, but Type 1, our pancreases are shut. I wish I would have educated myself a little bit more. Great and I think I've done pretty well. When I first found out my A1C was 13 and now it's 7.7, but I know some people have it six, five. They're out there killing themselves.

Charlotte: But 7.7 is not bad.

Nick Otto: Yeah. It's not terrible, but I like carbs. It's so good. I wish I would've just known a little bit more, but I don't know.

Charlotte: I think it comes with time. I think when you're first diagnosed, there's so much information. It's impossible to take all of that on board initially anyway, and then you're getting over the shock of even finding out you've got it. I think that's one of those things that just comes with time. You're learning every day with diabetes, aren't you? I think.

Nick Otto: Yes. There's something different.

Charlotte: Obviously I've got the podcast, I've got the website, I've got my social media groups and people are like, "Oh, you've sussed it, your diabetes is perfect." I'm like, "No, that's impossible."

Nick Otto: No. It's cool to have all those platforms because there's many people and many diabetics out there in the world and that's something I didn't know. I didn't know how many people had Type 1. And I tell you what people with Type 1 diabetes, they are always willing to help another diabetic or somebody else, educate them, anything. You need supplies, you need this, it's a big family. It's a big community. I get it.

Charlotte: Yeah. You can scroll through social media and learn something new every day. Just a little tip someone puts off or something that personally works for them and they share that. Social media has its problems, but there's a lot of perks too.

Nick Otto: Yeah. I agree. Because thinking about it, back in the day, they didn't have any of this technology. You didn't have cell phones, before computers and everything. It was pretty much a death sentence back then, but if you wanted to go to talk to somebody else and communicate with them you had to go to their house, you had to go in person and now it's all at your fingertips. I'm all for science because we wouldn't have these insulin pumps that we have today, we thought of it. The size of insulin pumps used to be like a backpack.

Charlotte: Yeah.

Nick Otto: I couldn't imagine that I would not be the cool kid in school, if I had to wear an insulin, like backpack. That's not going to work.

Charlotte: You say you work out quite a lot?

Nick Otto: Yeah. I try to.

Charlotte: Do you find that helps with your blood sugar control?

Nick Otto: Yeah. It definitely does. Working out, taking care of your body, eating right, taking vitamins, all that stuff matters because being a diabetic, you don't get the nutrients like you're supposed to. And diabetes definitely causes a lot of other issues like stomach issues, GI issues. I have a lot of GI issues because of it. And changing the way you eat is definitely going to make your body healthier in the long run. And I know I'm not getting nothing but older, I'm trying to live a long time. I try to take care of myself. The gyms have been closed for a while with this COVID thing going on, but our gym and our clubhouse just opened up. I've been there every day for the last two weeks, just grinding two hours a day.

Charlotte: You know you're meant to take a rest though, right?

Nick Otto: Yeah. I try to I'm so high-strung, that's the thing. And with diabetes and me having ADHD, it's like my whole life, I've always been high-strung. I'm always on my go. I can't sit still. Working out definitely helps wind me down some. Definitely helps.

Charlotte: How did you cope when the gyms were closed over there? Did you struggle?

Nick Otto: I was losing my mind because it's hard for me to work out at home. It's hard for me to have the motivation to workout at home, but I'm always doing something, hiking with my dog, we always go somewhere. I'm always active. But I'm lucky in a sense that I have good muscle memory. I wouldn't say good genes because I have diabetes. But I'm always pretty slender. I've never been overweight. I've never had to worry about losing weight, thank God. That's a blessing. I've always been pretty skinny.

Charlotte: Looking at your Insulin Junkie hoodie and I know you've got an awesome YouTube channel, do you want to tell us a bit about that?

Nick Otto: Sure. I started my YouTube channel called Insulin Junkie about a little over a year ago. And I wanted to reach out to other diabetics and tell my life story. And I got a motorcycle because I love to ride. It's my passion. I love riding. And it's a little easier talking to people, this is my first podcast, you're lucky [inaudible 00:23:25] okay. Most people don't see this, they see me with a helmet on because it's a little easier to talk about things, especially what's going on in my life behind a helmet. It's like having some glasses on, when my roommates in here streaming, he has glasses on because people don't look at his eyes. It gives you a little bit more confidence, but I'd love to ride.

Nick Otto: And I moved to Florida a year ago from Maryland. And my YouTube channel, I have 6,000 subscribers now within the last year. I'm doing okay, but I'm going to jump into it a little more with diabetes. I think this helps give me a little bit more confidence. And I don't have a motorcycle at the moment. It blew up. The motor blew then I sold it. I'm saving for another one at the moment. But I love making videos. I love editing. I love creating. I love writing. I love talking to people. I'm a people person. I can go anywhere and talk to anybody. It's hard doing this. Here in the UK, it's a little different.

Charlotte: [inaudible 00:24:32]

Nick Otto: If I'd seen you in public, I would have no problem talking to you and that's just me. I like to reach out to people. And I think my life story, what I've been through, foster care, group homes, just all the struggle, mental, physical, sexual abuse. I've been through all that. I've tried to reach out to other people because I know they've been through this similar situations and I feel like it helps them.

Charlotte: Definitely.

Nick Otto: People have said on my YouTube, they reach out and they comment some stuff and it makes me feel good. It makes me feel good that somebody else is brave enough to come out and talk about what they've been through because I did. It makes me feel good.

Charlotte: Yeah, absolutely. And I've seen social media, isn't always a good thing and there can be a lot of negativity, but I was just saying to someone the other day how, I've flipped online some days and there's just so much negative and there's days you think, "Oh, why do I bother? Why do I bother trying to put up this positive stuff?" But then one message from someone saying, "Oh, what you put up today really helped me," or "I can really relate to what you're saying." It just cheers you on, doesn't it? And you just want to do more.

Nick Otto: Yeah, I agree.

Charlotte: Yeah, definitely in your situation, it's awful, that you've had such a tough time, but did you-

Nick Otto: Don't judge me these things only have a three grams of carbs.

Charlotte: Okay. We'll let you off. Having been through everything you've been through, I think it's amazing that you're willing to share that with other people and it would definitely be a big help to them.

Nick Otto: Thank you. Appreciate that.

Charlotte: Yeah, obviously we want all the listeners to go and subscribe to Insulin Junkie on YouTube.

Nick Otto: Yes. Thank you.

Charlotte: Is there any advice that you would give somebody with diabetes who's maybe newly diagnosed and feeling a bit lost and not sure what to do?

Nick Otto: I would tell them it's not the end of the world and that they were given this disease because they're tough and God doesn't give you anything you can't handle. Everybody's life is important to their own self, but everybody is going through something. Everybody, whether it's diabetes, cancer, we all get older. I didn't find out I was diabetic until I was 26. I was walking through life like it was okay. And then it hit me like a brick wall. And it was a game changer.

Charlotte: Like a reminder that we're not indestructible.

Nick Otto: Yeah. But it wakes you up to something. And it's tough at times, but it's nothing you can't handle. You just got to involve yourself with the diabetic community and other people, because if you try to isolate yourself and try to fight it on your own, not to say it's going to win, but it's going to be harder. I just want to say, just, to stay involved with everybody, you can always reach out to me. Any diabetic or any person is not coming to me and say, "Hey, what can I do to make your diabetes better?" Or "What can you tell me about diabetes," or "Can i help you?" Or "I want to learn." I'm not going to steer them away. And I don't think any person with diabetes would. I think we educate each other and we help each other and we grow and might lose a little sleep over it, but [crosstalk 00:00:28:14].

Charlotte: Literally in your case.

Nick Otto: Yeah.

Charlotte: Okay. That's awesome advice, thank you for that. And thank you so much again for coming on and giving us a little insight into your life and your life with diabetes.

Nick Otto: Yeah. Thanks. I appreciate it.

Charlotte: No worries.

Nick Otto: Thanks for having me.

Charlotte: No, you're very welcome. And hopefully I'll catch up with you again soon.

Nick Otto: Yeah. All right. Cool. Thanks. Take care.

Charlotte: Thanks Nick.

Nick Otto: See you.

Charlotte: I always love speaking to people about their own experiences. And I really enjoyed speaking to Nick about his life and his experiences with diabetes. I really hope for everyone enjoyed listening to our tip. Nick gave some really great advice there and made such a good point about engaging with others online. In groups and in forums, as we really can learn so much from each other. If you're interested in diabetes, which I'm guessing you are, if you're listening to us now, or if you love bikes, then please go check out Nick's YouTube channel, search Insulin Junkie and hit subscribe. As always thank you so much for listening. I've had some awesome feedback on the podcast recently, and I genuinely love getting your emails and your messages. Thank you so much. If you have enjoyed this episode, please do hit subscribe and leave a review. And until next time, stay safe.

Speaker 1: This episode has ended, but your journey towards a healthy and happy life continues. Head on over to diabeticandhealthy.com and join the conversation with other diabetics and their families. All the information in this episode is not designed to replace the advice from the health professional team looking after you and your diabetes. Before making any significant lifestyle changes, do consult them with your doctor.

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