Superpowers and Kryptonite

I tend to not remember a ton from the time when I was diagnosed, but I clearly remember one conversation with a doctor that I had when I was 12 and probably type 1 diabetic for only a couple weeks.  I remember the doctor telling me that I would get to know my body so well, better than most people without diabetes, and know roughly my blood sugar just by the way I feel. It was such a foreign concept to me at the time. At that age, I wasn’t paying attention to my body for the most part, maybe the way it looked since I was at the beginning of puberty, but not how I was feeling. I was skeptical, but I found the concept intriguing. “It’s kind of like I have a superpower!” I thought. “I’ll be able to feel my blood sugar. You ordinary humans can’t do that!”

The doctor was absolutely right. As with many health conditions, you become hyper attuned and aware of changes within your body. Sure, I can feel a low blood sugar, but more specifically I can often feel the difference between a 90, 70, and a 50. Between 120 and 220 and even 320. I can feel the low coming sometimes even before it’s reflected in the number on my meter. With my CGM, these feelings are often confirmed by the device, but the discrepancies between how I feel and what the CGM says are often in agreement with how my body feels.

DC Comics, The Adventures of Superman

I’ve been without my CGM, Gigi, for close to a month now. It wasn’t a purposeful decision, but when my transmitter battery died, it’s been taking longer than expected to get a new one sent. So I’ve gone back to using my superpower more, for better or worse. But during these past few weeks, I’ve learned that my power is not perfect and indestructible. Rather, my superpower has a kryptonite. These dangerous forces weaken my power, they confuse me, and they ultimately make me unable to accurately predict what my blood sugars are. Perhaps T1Ds have different forms of kryptonite, different interfering forces, but below are the 5 that I have had to battle against:

1. Adrenaline. I remember before my big interviews or doing something crazy like going bungy jumping or even before a first date, constantly testing my blood sugar because the adrenaline rush that I felt mimicked the feelings of a low. I’m shaking, my heart is racing, am I excited or am I low?!

2. Anxiety. Similar to the rush of adrenaline, my feelings of anxiety often get mistaken for a low. Context is obviously important, but in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep and feel shaky and unsettled, there are times when it’s been nerves rather than a low.

3. Alcohol. I was warned about this one even years before I could legally drink. “Alcohol is dangerous,” my doctors would says, “You can’t always feel your lows when you drink.” While this hasn’t been too much of an issue for me, I do notice that I don’t feel my lows until they are much lower, so in the 50s as opposed to catching them in the 70s.

4. Other medications. I hate using my asthma inhaler even when I need it. After using it, I always get this shaky feeling and my heart races. But usually the desire to breathe normally wins out over potentially feeling low.

5. Nitrous oxide (laughing gas). When I got my wisdom teeth pulled out, my dentist turned on the gas and in less than a minute, I was telling him to turn it off. The feeling reminded me so much of being low that instead of the serene feeling that others get, it made me feel anxious, uneasy, and just uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, a few of my kryptonites are unavoidable and thus my superpowers are always in jeopardy. But part of being so vigilant and aware is also knowing when these weakening forces may be at work, and then taking extra precautions. This may mean more finger tests or checking my CGM more often. But in the end, I may not have the world to protect with my power, but I will do what it takes to protect the one life that is mine for the saving.


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