The Diabetic Shambles Guide to Festivals

The author, early into a Glastonbury. Note upright position and intact clothing.

Festivals are an important part of most people’s summer. They’re opportunities to experience what it would be like if society collapsed and all that was left behind were a load of middle class white kids, warm cider and falafel vans. For most festival goers, it’s an opportunity to completely forget all responsibilities for a few days. For those of us with diabetes, we know we can’t completely let go. We have that pesky responsibility of keeping ourselves alive. But, this doesn’t mean it needs to be all carb counting and diet cokes. And it definitely doesn’t mean we need to (as one advice article I saw suggested) camp near the medical tent.

The Author, a few litres of shitmix into the day.
The Author, a few litres of shitmix into the day.

The Rules

  1. PRAGMATISM If you are gonna stay up all night, sleep in a tent in the heat, eat food from vans, dance and drink there is no way to stay in range all the time. The key is to know your limits. Over a four or five day period, you aren’t going to develop any life-limiting complications of your diabetes if you slacken off your control. The main thing is to avoid hypos and keep yourself out of DKA. Be ok with your control only being ‘good enough’ for the weekend. Run a little high. You’ll thank yourself in the long run.
  2. CHOOSE YOUR MIXERS CAREFULLY You don’t have to drink sensibly, but you do need to be sensible about what you drink. When I’ve gone, the drinks of choice are either the pouches out of the box of wine (mmm, delicious warm white wine), or bottles of what we’ve delightfully termed ‘shitmix’. Essentially a variety of spirits, plus mixer, in a two litre plastic bottle. The choice of mixer is everything here. Diet coke doesn’t mix that well with stuff, and non-D folk will moan, so give it a swerve. Coke Zero is better. Diet Lemonade is acceptable to almost everyone. If you do shots, you don’t even need to consider the carbs. Basically, you can get out of your box without throwing your sugars off all over the shop.
  3. WET WIPES This isn’t a diabetes specific tip, necessarily, but it’s probably best to make sure that you’re not directly inserting lancets, needles, cannulas, etc through mud/UV paint/sweat/booze/body fluids* (*delete as appropriate). My general impression is that cellulitis isn’t the greatest fun, and if you’re going to need a course of antibiotics following your festival trip, at least make it from something a bit more worthwhile.
  4. TELL YOUR MATES Basically, you need one or two people around you who will notice if you’re acting weird, so they can give you a prod and keep you on track. It doesn’t need to be more complex that this. In particular this doesn’t need to extend to my past experiences of a) having a bacon roll slapped out of my hand because there was ketchup on it, b) being called the man from the floor after I went a bit big a bit early or c) someone who will unpeg your tent and attempt to roll it over because they think you were cock-blocking them.
  5. THINK ABOUT YOUR FOOD CHOICES Festival food is a mixed bag. There’s a lot of very tempting carbs on offer. Have some. There’s nothing better than drunk chips. Or a hungover cheese toasty. But there’s also plenty of decent lower-carb options on offer, falafel, halloumi, jerk chicken. Basically, try to vary it up a bit. It’ll make rule 1 a bit easier. But whatever you choose, I’d probably give the sushi yurt a swerve.

None of this is difficult, none of it means you have to do anything particularly different to your mates. If you follow these simple rules, it’s easy to have a hedonistic weekend, where your shame, guilt and remorse levels are no different to every other broken human being trudging back towards civilisation. Drugs obviously make up a big part of the festival experience for many, and I’m not going to give the standard ‘don’t do it’ message, but equally, I can’t really give any advice as I’ve always found that booze is good enough to help me to make poor choices – I don’t need any more help. As ever, comments and thought @k_d85

One thought on “The Diabetic Shambles Guide to Festivals

  1. Camping near the medical tent!
    Get in the sea!

    Knowing where it is can help. As does knowing where the non medical welfare tent is.
    If it is wet and muddy these places can be a haven of dry and relatively clean in a sea of mud. Quite a nice space to just sit for a few minutes when you do remember to do things like bg measurements, injections and pump cannula changes.

    If it is hot and sunny be careful about going too large and getting so caned that when you’re lying in a hot tent trying to recover you dehydrate so much the hangover turns towards DKA.

    Those are my tips from my own festival going experiences. These lessons may have been learnt more than once and may yet be learnt again…


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