Transcript: Styling out coronavirus with diabetes and tie-dye

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This is a full transcript of Styling out coronavirus with diabetes and tie-dye as part of the Cabin Fever series. Presented by Emma Tracey and Simon Minty it was first broadcast on 8 April 2020.

[jingle: Ouch]

SIMON -Hello and welcome to the Cabin Fever podcast. Still in lockdown, and we're told we're approaching the eye of the storm. I hope you're all staying safe. My name is Simon Minty, I'm co-presenting this weekly Ouch special from my office area in London. And clunky credentials: I have a form of dwarfism and I use a mobility scooter.

EMMA -I'm Emma Tracey. I'm so excited to be presenting a Cabin Fever. I've been listening to them all and enjoying them so, so much. I'm presenting from my garage in Scotland. The kids are safely tucked inside the house, but who knows what will happen. Oh, and also I am a blind person; I cannot see.

SIMON -This week on Cabin Fever we thought we'd go far and wide, spread our wings, and we've got two of our favourite guests on board all the way from Northern Ireland, the Diabetic Duo.

BETH -Hello. I'm Beth and I'm currently recording this from my house in Northern Ireland.

ELLEN -And I'm Ellen, and I'm recording this from my daddy's office in my house in Northern Ireland that I've now taken over.

SIMON -If you've listened to Ouch before you will recognise both of them. Just for those who haven't remind us who are you and how you came to prominence?

BETH -We are two best friends and we both have type 1 diabetes, and we have created a positive outlook on this using the app called TikTok.

EMMA -What's TikTok?

ELLEN -TikTok is kind of a mixture of Instagram and Snapchat. It's really positive where people make funny short video clips, they're usually something between 15 to 30 seconds long.

EMMA -As I said I'm blind so I feel like I'm a good person for you to describe your videos to.

BETH -So, our videos are about a range of topics all regarding type 1 diabetes, how we inject, dealing with our hypos when your sugars go low, and just how we like to embrace it positively together, so going to nights out, going to the library, going to uni. So, we just cover a range of topics and we do this by using popular hashtags and trends and dances.

SIMON -And if I could add as old man on the show, Beth and Ellen are, like, super glamorous, Emma. They've got more spray tan, they just look fantastic and they're just so full of life.

EMMA -Are you still glamorous during lockdown? I'm not exactly caring of what I wear anyway and I don't do much makeup or hair, but this lockdown business has absolutely…I'm dire; I'm just taking whatever out of the wardrobe and chucking it on.

ELLEN -Well, I tried to do no fake tan and that lasted a total of one shower because I just felt disgusting with no fake tan on; I didn't feel like myself. So, I'm not wearing makeup and I'm not doing my hair. I've been wearing all my jogging bottoms and I've bought so much tie-dye loungewear for some reason. So, it's not as glam but it's getting there.

EMMA -Fantastic. Start that trend definitely.

SIMON -I haven't worn socks for two and a half weeks.

EMMA -There are two types of diabetes. I always get confused. I've been doing disability journalism for 15 years and I still say, I think you're type 1.

BETH -Yeah.

EMMA -So, what's the difference between the two in a nutshell?

ELLEN -I would say type 1 diabetes a lot of people get in their younger years of life. It comes from some sort of genetic breakdown. There's not a definite cause for type 1 diabetes; it's just really your pancreas doesn't produce insulin anymore and now you have to inject it into your body.

EMMA -And the other one?

ELLEN -Type 2 can come from a lot of lifestyle issues. You can get it if you're pregnant. A lot of elderly people can get it. But you can also get it if you're slightly overweight.

SIMON -We've got you back because in the UK a few weeks ago the government was saying there are people who could be higher risk to COVID-19, and sort of surprisingly to some diabetes is on that list. How do you feel about that? Are you doing anything differently?

BETH -It's more that if we do get it we're at a higher risk of being affected more severely, so the symptoms could be more severe. And this is because it can make your glucose levels uncontrollable, which is very damaging to our immune system and just everything else, our everyday controls of our illness.

SIMON -As you just said your body tries to fight illness by releasing this stored glucose or sugar into your bloodstream to give you energy. But your body can't produce insulin to cope with this so your blood sugars rise. Your body's working overtime basically?

BETH -Yeah.

EMMA -We've had some trouble getting different foods for my kids who have allergies. I was just chatting to the presenters of 1800 Seconds on Autism, which is one of the other podcasts we make, and one of them has been eating the same lunch for years and can't get that lunch at the moment. Can you tell me a bit about how closely you must monitor your diet and how difficult or easy that is to do at the moment?

ELLEN -My mum's a nurse, she's actually an ICU nurse, so she's on the frontline at the minute.


ELLEN -But she has always said that a diabetic's diet is just your average healthy person's diet, it's everything in moderation. So, I can eat what the rest of my family is eating, I just have to count every carb in the meal and use my ratio to work out how much insulin I need to inject for that meal. So, because members of my family are able to do the grocery shopping for me it's made it a lot easier.

EMMA -And you said your mum's an ICU nurse; does that mean that you have to stay separate from her?

ELLEN -We're not staying separate in different rooms; we're just not being as close as we normally would. I'm not lying at the side of her on the sofa watching movies anymore. But she is very good with her hygiene. When she comes home from work she instantly washes her clothes and gets into the shower, and she has us all watching our hands every ten minutes, so thankfully I haven't been too separated from her.

EMMA -There's a meme going round at the moment about people going to their fridge and opening the fridge and it saying, "What do want this time?!" as in can't stay away from the fridge. And I am actually starving all the time at the moment, whether that's from anxiety, whether that's from close proximity to food all the time. Have you had any trouble counting the carbs?

SIMON -I had the same question, Emma, because I know some people during this time they've been really good and they're getting really fit. And there are others in north London in a flat who are tending to eat a bit more of the bad stuff because you get a bit bored or you want a treat or something. That's sort of self-discipline, how are you girls getting on with that?

BETH -You know what, I think this has actually made me healthier than I was before. Because I'm stuck at home, and we live in such a nice wee town where the countryside is just five minutes away and there are little lanes you can work through and fields you can run through, I've actually had the time to go and walk with my family, to do workout videos on YouTube and really make that healthy routine. So, I've had a lot of practice carb counting as well. So, if anything my timing target, my blood sugar ratings have been better than they were before.

ELLEN -I found it a wee bit harder. I've been good in the sense of thankfully we've got a treadmill in my garage so I've been doing my runs on it, but my body really found the change from being so active - because Beth and I live in Belfast at uni together, we were running to the bus, we were running to uni, we were on nights out, we're going shopping which is like a workout for us - so coming back home I found I instantly had a big spike in my sugar levels. They were so high. I think it was because I was eating the same as I usually ate and getting the same amount of insulin as normal, but because I wasn't doing as much exercise I wasn't getting enough insulin. So, then whenever I increased it my sugars then went extremely low. But thankfully now that I've been in here about three weeks, I've been in the house, I've got into a new routine when I know when I should be eating, I know when I should be exercising, and they are starting to get back into target now, which is really good.

I always find my emotions have such an impact, especially stress, on your sugars. Like exam times my sugars are really high; whereas if I'm upset my sugars can go really low. So, I would definitely say it was a whole mixture of a change in routine, a change in emotions, it just took it all out of my per sugar levels. But now that I'm getting a new routine it's getting better.

SIMON -I'm impressed. Both of you are marketing students, that's your day stuff, but your profile was rising on and off social media. Has the lockdown put that on a go-slow?

BETH -Well, we have been actually working with a few brands because they are struggling as well. And we've been writing blog posts, making TikToks, just in a different way. It is a lot harder and we're not as busy, but we are still trying to get as much content out there as we can.

EMMA -And what kinds of videos are you making now? We've been hearing that you've been doing some online stuff with young people as well?

ELLEN -Yeah, so we have been making TikToks, we made one the other day about how even though the Diabetic Duo are separated our sugars are still in synch with each other. So, that's the sort of funny relatable content that a lot of type 1s out there feel. But we have been doing these Zoom calls with local type 1s in the area, young girls between the ages of like eight to 14, we start off doing something like a hair tutorial or makeup tutorial with the girls. But that gives them the space and the platform to ask us questions or ask each other questions, and just get a nice conversation going to know that we're all in it together.

EMMA -That's so lovely, isn't it?

SIMON -It is.

EMMA -When I was younger a blind peer support chat, especially at a time like this, would have been amazing actually. Really cool. Can I just ask about insulin? Have you got any worries about not getting to clinic, having enough insulin to inject, about getting your kit, all that kind of stuff?

BETH -No, our pharmacy has been really good. And obviously there's a new process where you go to get your stuff from the chemist, there's like a station where you have to line up and always be a couple of metres apart from people. But our parents will go and get it for us because obviously we're higher risk. And at the start of the lockdown we just made sure we were stocked up on all our equipment.

SIMON -Your videos who does the editing, and how come you've got Mozart slipping in there?

BETH -We both come up with the ideas. We will communicate a lot with each other and think, right how do we want to film this, what angles will we use, whose going to film them for us. And then I will probably edit them because I did media at school, so I just really love doing it.

ELLEN -Beth's brilliant at editing. I don't know how she does half the things, because filming them is hard enough for me, especially because when we're together we can set up our own angles and Beth and I know our favourite sides and what lighting we like. Whereas I've been asking my older sister to film and she always has like a pained expression when she's doing it; she just doesn't enjoy it as much as we do.

EMMA -I think you might have got Simon into TikTok, girls, which is amazing.

SIMON -Yeah, thanks a lot.

EMMA -Beth and Ellen thank you so much. Thanks for joining us.

BETH -Thank you.

ELLEN -Thank you.

SIMON -Thank you for keeping me down with the kids a little bit.

ELLEN -Thanks Simon.

BETH -It was lovely to talk to you again, Simon. Bye.

SIMON -Bye. I think we followed your script, which is always impressive with Emma. How are you doing, Emma?

EMMA -Well, I have my recorder up to my ear. I have an earphone in my other ear, with Zoom on it on my laptop.

SIMON -Jesus.

EMMA -And I'm using one hand to up and down arrow through my script, and listening to that while I'm listening to Zoom in the same ear.

SIMON -Bloody hell. You are inspirational, Emma.

EMMA -Oh thank you Simon. So, Simon [singing] I think we're alone now. How has lockdown been for you?

SIMON -Mixed. I work from home anyway most of the time, but my diary of the work when I go out completely empty. And I thought oh my goodness, this is scary. And I earn my money when I'm out in front of people, so that was horrible. Three pieces of work have started to creep back in a little bit, like videoconferencing and training, and I'm happy that they're coming back. The socialising I would go out three to four times a week to have dinner or theatre or something because live in London; that's gone and I miss people. But I am speaking to more people than ever. These video calls, people who are overseas I've not spoken to in five years, and suddenly we're having regular calls. It's just a bit strange. It's a real mixed bag.

But you said something recently, Emma, that many might find strange, that lockdown for you was helping you feel less disabled. What did that mean?

EMMA -I've got two really small children, one's two and one's nearly five. I feel under quite a lot of pressure to take them out and about quite a lot, and to do that we have a car but we need someone to drive us. And even with myself and my husband and the two kids, I need to be guided if it's somewhere unfamiliar, but the two kids also need monitoring if one of them is out of the buggy or whatever and the other one's running about. So, it's actually, on reflection, actually massively stressful. And I know that's a little bit controversial and I'm sure there will be other blind parents who don't agree with me. But I am really, really, really enjoying my garden and my house; they're my castle and I know every inch of those. And playing with the kids there, making up games, it's been an absolute joy in one sense because I feel like I'm on a par with everybody else. Whereas every time we go to soft play or out to lunch or to someone else's house it's so hard. And also you feel a bit of judgement, I'm sure people aren't judging, but I feel like I'm being judged for not being able to keep tabs on them. And I have to keep asking someone all the time where they are, and I feel bad that they're not getting the best experience because I maybe keep them on a slightly tighter leash, or if they fall over and hurt themselves it takes a while for me to get to them, and I don't have any of that at the moment.

And actually as it happens the children are loving life. They love having a much simpler way of being. They are really enjoying just getting up, having their breakfast, watching a bit of telly, doing a bit or learning type stuff, even though they're little we kind of just do some games and stuff like that. They miss people, and actually my almost five year old had a Facetime call with one of his pals for almost an hour yesterday and it was the cutest thing ever, and they were just showing each other toys, and it was very, very funny. But that aspect of it has been great.

And then a lot of people enjoy farmers markets and going to the deli and stuff like that, and it's really hard to get someone to read everything on the list and to tell you absolutely everything that's in a shop or on a stall or whatever. And actually going online and picking out the stuff and getting it delivered, there are lots of things that aren't as good, but actually there's a little bit more control there.

SIMON -Yeah, I sort of hear you completely. The bit I can really hear and totally understand is because you're now self-reliant it's a bit easier because you know what you're doing and you've got all control back, or if you haven't that's okay because you can muddle it through. You are sort of independent in this sphere. I have some empathy with that. My house is set up exactly how I want it so it all works for me. I had a worry though: I was down to the last light bulb in my hallway, two others had gone, and if the third one went that's it, it will be dark, so I'm a bit stuffed. And I'm thinking okay, there are still some things in my house I cannot do without someone coming in. is there stuff like that in yours?

EMMA -First of all, would it be very unsafe for you to go up quite a high ladder then to do the light bulb?

SIMON -Even with my ladder I wouldn't be high enough.

EMMA -Right okay. Oh there are loads of things. Keeping the house clean is difficult. Looking after children, even in your own house, when you're used to having childcare three days a week is really tough, and also when your husband is working a full-time job too. But I do recognise how lucky I am. And he is visually impaired but he's not blind, so I don't feel like I want to go out and about by myself because it's very, very hard to do social distancing. So, he does the shop and then also he walks me and the kids every now and again as well. So, I have that help which is great. And I really miss people and I can't wait to do stuff again. But there is just that wee bit of it that is easier and very fulfilling.

SIMON -I read in the paper today that it's likely that they're going to extend it. And I have to say a bit of me was quite pleased.

EMMA -[Laughs]

SIMON -I've been busy. I do want a bit of relaxing. Am I being bad now?

EMMA -No, not at all. I was speaking to a blind professional person, one of these people with a job where they do lots of travel for meetings and stuff like that, and she was saying taking all the travel out of the mix and doing everything on Zoom, where video isn't encouraged because it takes up too much bandwidth, she just said it's massively reduced her anxiety. Because travelling when you're disabled, as we've talked about so many times, is really hard, it has its ups and downs. And then if you can't see finding the room in the building where you need to go, finding the people you need to meet, it's hard work. And when you just dial into a Zoom meeting it's massively easier. And she was practically zen.

Have you been out?

SIMON -I've been out twice. About ten days ago, it was a Friday, and it was the first I'd felt blue, about a week after lockdown. So, I thought I'm going to go and get some shopping and I'll take the long way home, and I was on my mobility scooter, and it lifted me up. There's no two ways about it I felt happy. I could have some daylight, I was going down all the streets, and I suddenly went slowly and I was finding little alleyways or things in people's gardens or things that I'd never even noticed before. However this weekend it was beautiful weather and I thought right, do a little bit of shopping and do the long way home, and I got really sad. Even just saying it I can feel, every now and again I kind of well up a bit and I get a slightly overwhelmed sadness. And it came on and I'm trying to work out why. And I think it's partly because if I'm out and about I get attention and I smile at people or I interact with people, and I live on my own, and in my high street there are six people I'd always bump into, and we're all ignoring each other. We're all standing away from each other. I was going past a shop and there was the queue outside, and the person in the queue realised we couldn't be far apart, so what he did he turned away from me and he put his face as close as he could to the shop window. Now, six weeks ago if someone did that I would have been mortified; it was deliberately blanking me. But because of what's going on I wanted to almost thank him. It's just weird what are social niceties have completely changed.

Suddenly my playlist, my music I was listening to, every song was very sad and poignant. It just sort of doubled it up. And I got home and I felt worse than I had. It's confusing. I can't work out: one minute I'm happy and one minute I'm quite sad.

EMMA -It's so strange, isn't it? I've just thought of another quick story about a friend of mine who can't see, and he was out doing the weekly shop. This was the beginning of the panic buying so a couple of weeks ago. And he managed to get someone to help him around the shop by them walking backwards holding the other end of the trolley so there's a decent amount of space between the two of them and they weren't facing each other very much. And then when he got his stuff people tried to steal his shopping in the queue.

SIMON -Stop it!

EMMA -Yeah, seriously. People were standing in the queue trying to steal his shopping. He noticed and he took a bit of a different route and starting moving more quickly. But can you believe that?

SIMON -They say it can bring out the best and can bring out the worst. I broke the rules the other day, I was in the supermarket, the milk was too high for me to reach, and this is where you do rely on the kindness of strangers. In the olden days they would just pass it to me, it's not an issue, but this time I kind of had to wait and speak to someone and we tried to stand far apart. But ultimately he's touching it, he's passing it to me, and I don't know what else I can do; I have to do that. I think that's maybe why I felt so sad: it was just this remoteness even though I was out.

EMMA -Oh Simon.

SIMON -Let's finish on a high, Emma. [Laughs]

EMMA -Let me think, high, um…

SIMON -Jogging pants for three weeks, love it.

EMMA -Oh, I know what we'll finish on.

SIMON -Go on.

EMMA -We got an email from a lady called Kim who started listening to our podcasts from the very beginning a year and a half ago and she's just finished them. And she's said she's really enjoyed them, she's got a lot from them. And she was taking about people's back stories and how we've changed over time as we've been on the podcast and the different life stuff that's happened to us. But she said thank you and that she's really enjoyed them.

SIMON -Well done, Kim. That's pretty dedicated, isn't it?

EMMA -Yeah.

SIMON -Blimey.

EMMA -Kim, if you could come back to us and tell us which podcasts we should shout out to on the next Cabin Fever we'd love that. I obviously want to shout out about the Ouch talk show we did about sex with bad hips because A, I love talking about disability and sex, and B, I was presenting and that was really exciting.

SIMON -The bit that I will say is I love having you as my co-host, but my usual co-host, Kate, is in isolation doing the 12 weeks, and they're doing the isolation diary. But you can hear their sort of trials and the highs and lows, the isolation diary that comes out each week.

EMMA -And if you're still looking for something to listen to pop on over to 1800 Seconds on Autism because we've got a new episode every week for the next few weeks, and also some specials, some coronavirus specials as well with two autistic presenters and lots of really great guests as well.

SIMON -That's it for episode 4 of Cabin Fever.

EMMA -Thank you so much to the Diabetic Duo, to Ellen and Beth for returning to the Ouch podcast. How much fun are they? And it's great to hear about how their isolation is going.

You can get in touch with us in all the usual ways: @bbcouch on Twitter, BBCOuch on Facebook, and you can email us And it was so lovely to hang out with you, Simon, today.

SIMON -It's a pleasure. That's it. Thanks Emma, thanks everyone, stay safe.

EMMA -Bye. [Music] Shall we go on with our next bit of script now? Okay. So, Simon, now that it's just you and me, how are you really finding lockdown?

PRODUCER -Emma, do you want to say it like a normal person? [Laughter]

JINGLE - BBC Sounds: music, radio, podcasts.