Kaelan Patten’s mind used to wander. He’d wake up in the middle of the night and think to himself. He’d ask questions he didn’t know the answers to.

“Why did I get this?”

“Why was I affected by this and not someone else?”

“How am I going to deal with this?”

When he was diagnosed with Type I diabetes in seventh grade, Patten was scared. He was uncertain what it meant for his future. He didn’t know how it would affect him. He struggled accepting his new reality.

Patten’s mother, Glenna, reassured him. She told him he became diabetic because he could handle it. Both of his older sisters dealt with similar health concerns. As long as Patten took the necessary precautions, his life wouldn’t be hindered. But that required diligence and elevated attention toward his nutrition.

Initially, Patten didn’t oblige. He wasn’t organized in tracking his blood sugar or taking insulin when needed. His father, Sean, explained he needed to keep up with his health better. Doctors urged him to create habits so they would become second nature and prevent future issues.

Those conversations alarmed Patten. When he reached high school, he recognized the need to take better care of himself.

“After that, I stopped saying it was a problem with me,” Patten said, “and started saying this is who I am.”

Now a senior, Patten has shifted his perspective. The Bozeman linebacker embraces the disease. He views it as something that’s part of him, the same way he views his football career.

Patten leads the Hawks with 71 tackles this season. He’s the emotional leader of Bozeman (5-1), which hosts Belgrade at 7 p.m. Friday at Van Winkle Stadium. He makes sure to properly manage his blood sugar so his energy doesn’t dip on the field. That’s not a problem, though, because he’s often the Hawks’ most energetic player and he’s in command of his diabetes.

“I’m kicking it in the ass,” Patten said. “It’s not going to affect who I am, how I live. I’m going to take charge, and I’m still going to do whatever I want to do and not let it overrule me.”

Patten took charge two weeks ago against Great Falls when the Bison took over on the Hawks’ 19-yard line. He told his teammates the situation was a test. If Bozeman was as good as its players hope to be, the defense would need to make the crucial third-quarter stop to preserve the shutout.

After a tackle on fourth down, Patten waved to fans to increase their volume. He hugged teammates. The Hawks passed.

On the field or off it, Patten is used to tests. From when he was 5 until he was diagnosed, he traveled to a research institute in Seattle every six months for doctors to evaluate his blood. Since he had a family history of diabetes and specific blood cells, Patten was at risk.

Four days before Christmas in 2014, Patten went for his usual appointment. After he had already left Seattle, his family received a call back because his blood sugar was abnormally high. Doctors wanted him to return to Seattle.

Patten was then diagnosed with Type I diabetes on Christmas Eve. The next day, he began taking insulin and monitoring his blood.

Patten was upset and nervous. He didn’t know how to handle his new responsibilities.

“It’s just so much more thinking and keeping myself healthy and growing up,” Patten said. “So much maturity in such a little time period.”

Despite resistance at first, Patten had no choice but to come to grips with his situation. His diabetes wasn’t going anywhere. So he adjusted his attitude and his routine.

Still, though, he didn’t talk much about it at school. If he needed to take an insulin shot, he hid from teammates and did it in private. Hunter Chandler, Patten’s freshman football head coach, wasn’t aware that fall.

But then in the winter, Chandler coached Patten in wrestling and noticed something was off. Patten would start matches with energy and tire out significantly after the first period. The coach, now Bozeman’s defensive coordinator, asked Patten what was going on.

Patten opened up and explained the situation.

“He trusted me enough to tell me that,” Chandler said. “That obviously means something to me.”

Together, they figured out how to avoid those drastic dropoffs. They’d often occur because Patten would use all his energy and his blood sugar would decrease too much. Handling that fluctuation is among his top priorities in everyday life, and he had to figure out how to translate that care to the mat.

They devised a strategy to use injury timeouts whenever needed, and Patten would refuel with swigs of Gatorade or juice to replace sugar. Patten honed in on what blood sugar level was required for optimal performance and made sure to prepare accordingly before matches.

The plan worked, and Patten began competing better for all six minutes.

After practices, games or matches, Chandler asks, “How’s your blood feeling? You doing alright?” If Patten’s blood sugar level is too high, his legs hurt and his head heats up. When it’s too low, he struggles thinking and his legs shake. Chandler can tell when Patten’s not right just by observing him.

“He knows just about as much about the disease as I do,” Patten said. “... He kind of helps me out almost like another doctor, but a coach. It’s pretty cool.”

In order to master his nutrition, Patten checks his blood four or five times a day to make sure it’s at the appropriate level. Every time he eats carbohydrates or sugar, he takes insulin. His sisters gave him logs to track what he intakes. He knows the ratio of how many units of insulin are needed depending on how many carbs he has.

If his blood sugar is too high, he also takes insulin. If it’s too low, he drinks Gatorade to raise it back up. Before games, he checks his blood two or three times. He’ll make sure he has something to drink on the sideline in case he needs it. Before practices, Patten eats peanut butter and honey sandwiches, takes his insulin and is usually good to go.

Then he takes the field, where he’s happiest, usually lets out a scream and excites his teammates.

“Kaelan brings a lot to our defense and our whole team, especially in practice,” senior left tackle Thomas Walkup said. “He brings the energy up, especially at the beginning of practice. If the energy is low, he’s bringing it up for us.”

Over time, Patten has grown more comfortable with being diabetic. He’s cool discussing it with teammates. Everyone on the team now knows what he’s dealing with.

By focusing on nutrition, Patten maximized his offseason. After starting last year as a junior, he grew bigger, stronger and faster. Playing sports helps his overall health, and his improved nutrition has helped him feel more focused in school and have more energy throughout each day.

“I didn’t want it to control my life. I wanted to control it,” Patten said. “Honestly now, I feel good about it. It’s a part of me. I’m embracing it.”

Taking care of what’s controllable and ignoring outside factors is discussed often in both Bozeman’s football and wrestling programs, Chandler said. Aside from school, football and his health are the two things Patten focuses most on. And in both areas, he’s exhibited the skill to affect change in the areas he can.

Whenever Patten steps on the field, his emotions boost his teammates.

“Our team’s energy kind of follows whatever Kaelan’s at,” Hawks head coach Levi Wesche said. “He does a great job setting the tone for us every day in practice and at game time. He’s a spark plug for us. He brings that every single day.”

Patten no longer views diabetes as a setback. He no longer wonders how he’ll stay healthy.

Instead, he’s at ease with who he is.

“He’s dealt with it really well now,” Chandler said. “He’s just a good role model I think for anyone in a similar situation.”

Paul Schwedelson can be reached at pschwedelson@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @pschweds.