It’s truly amazing what our bodies can get used to. And for once, I’m not talking about diabetes…well not yet at least.
I buried my head in my pillow, the soft fabric muffling my frustrated screams. I hate it. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.
I was low. AGAIN. It seems to be the trend lately. My efforts to keep my blood sugars from spiking has resulted in more lows. Lows that seem unexpected because I really thought everything I was doing seemed right. Lows that have been incredibly disruptive, making me stop whatever activity I’m doing. Stubborn lows, that a couple glucose tablets don’t seem to solve. Lows that wake me up at night, lows that won’t go away, lows that leave me feeling awful. And upset. And frustrated.
I don’t want to treat the low. I’m tired of stuffing my face with sugar, not because I want it, but because I need it. I’m tired of working so hard in my workouts, only to have to later eat everything I burned off or sit out because I can’t continue with a low. I’m especially tired of eating when I’m not hungry and feeling awful while I wait for my blood sugar to stabilize.
I can see the extra weight creeping on, and I hate it. I hate that I don’t have a choice when I’m low. I hate that those forced extra 80 calories of my fruit snacks add up. I hate that insulin makes it harder to lose weight. I hate that these lows are often then leading to later highs, sending me on a blood sugar roller coaster. I hate not feeling my best.
I’ll talk to my doctor, I’ll make adjustments. We’ll work to get rid of these lows. But for now I just want to scream into my pillow and wish for the day when all of this will disappear. When sugar will just be sugar and not a substance that often feels like its controlling my life.
Some days, weeks, months are better than others. I’ll make it through this rut, I know I will, but today, right now, I really hate my diabetes.
When I was first diagnosed, I carried a little book around with me to look up the carbohydrates of everything I ate. Since I didn’t always have access to the packaging of the food, I would look up every food and add up all the carbs in my meal. Now, that same information is available right on your smartphone. However, after adding up the carbs for thousands of meals over the years, I’ve memorized the majority of the foods I eat and have gotten pretty good at estimating.Yes, there are times when I over or underestimate, but I generally feel pretty confident in my abilities.
In fact, one could say that I’ve gotten a little too confident and maybe even lazy when it comes to carb counting these days. And this attitude is dangerous. Because when I am significantly wrong in my counts, the results can be pretty catastrophic. The continued importance of being accurate in my carb counting was made abundantly clear to me last week over a meal of crepes.
I was excited to try a new crepe restaurant for dinner with a coworker. Although I knew what a crepe is, I greatly over estimated the number of carbs for the thin pancake like wrap. While a typical crepe is about 10 carbs, I had figured it was at least double, thinking of it as more of a tortilla.
Everything was fine for awhile and I figured that I had successfully calculated the meal. I drove home and decided that I was going to go for a run, never mind that I was still really full from dinner. After my second mile, I started to feel off. I figured it was just from running on such a full stomach. I headed home and showered. It wasn’t until after I finished my shower that I realized that the weird feeling was feeling more like a low blood sugar. I checked my blood sugar. 34!! Ohhh crepe!
I treated the low and eventually felt better, but the experience was definitely a reminder that even after all these years, it’s still important to look up foods that I’m not as familiar with. It’s easy to fall into old habits of guessing and being a little lazy, but I realize it’s definitely worth the extra time to look something up in the beginning than to deal with a low blood sugar later. Next crepe, I’ll be ready.
The sun burned brightly in the sky as sweat dripped down my face, falling on the concrete below. My legs burned as I jumped from one side of the block to the other.
But the instructor looked at me and said something that made me confident that she understood.
I have this ritual. Almost every time that I go for a long grocery shopping trip, I treat myself to a cold bottle of diet A&W root beer on my way out. I don’t drink a ton of pop and root beer has always been one of my favorites. Having performed this ritual enough times, I’ve come to recognize the diet bottle just from the color of it. I was finishing up a particularly epic grocery shopping trip and grabbed the A&W from the cooler as I got in line to pay, confident that it was the right one.
Parched from my long shopping excursion, I got into my car and immediately cracked open the pop and starting chugging, relishing the cool and refreshing taste. With half the bottle gone, I glanced down at the bottle. Something was off. I didn’t see the “Diet” sign anywhere! Shit.
Two thoughts immediately crossed my mind. Well technically first I silently cursed myself. But then my first thought was “What a waste of calories!!” followed by, “Holy crap that’s a lot of sugar!” A bottle of regular A&W root beer is a whopping 80 carbs! And here I had just drank close to half.
I took out my insulin pump and immediately started figuring out how much insulin to give. It looked like I drank half, but the top half of the bottle is skinnier than the bottom half, so maybe its not actually 40 carbs. I decided to subtract some to account for bottle shape and gave myself some insulin.
Within 5 minutes Gigi (my CGM) was already buzzing, displaying the two upward arrows showing that my blood sugar was rising quickly. I cursed again. Maybe I should give a little more insulin. I could just picture my blood sugar rocketing to the 300’s. I was pissed. What a stupid, careless mistake. Really I was thinking that if I was going to have that many calories and sugar, I would have preferred ice cream or at least a root beer float!
I went about my afternoon and tried to put the incident behind me. That is until about an hour and a half later.
Something wasn’t right. Gigi was being quiet, but all of the sudden I did not feel well. I got out my glucose meter and tested my finger. 37. Ummm what?! The low caught me off guard, as I was sure that I had given the appropriate amount of insulin according to the label. I needed sugar, and fast.
The bottle that only an hour earlier I was cursing, was now my salvation.
Ohhh the irony.
“Back for another year, let’s show everyone what life with diabetes looks like! With a nod to the Diabetes 365 project, let’s grab our cameras again and share some more d-related pictures. Post as many or as few as you’d like. Feel free to blog your thoughts on or explanations of your pictures, or leave out the written words and let the pictures speak for themselves.”
“This year, Diabetes Blog Week and TuDiabetes are teaming up to bring out the poet in you! Write a poem, rhyme, ballad, haiku, or any other form of poetry about diabetes.”
CGM, Go To Bed
An ode to my continuous glucose monitor
I put you on my nightstand, I lay you down to rest,
In case I don’t feel well, my blood sugar you will test.
That ice cream after dinner, I hope you will not show.
An undisturbed night of sleep is what I really need,
A steady line on your graph in the morning, I truly hope to read.
I beg you CGM, a quiet night without a peep.
1 am: Buzz buzz buzz
Double arrows pointing up I awaken with a start to find,
Of all the arrows, up and down, you’re my least favorite kind.
Groggily back to sleep I go, and hoping this time to stay.
2 am: Buzz buzz buzz
My eyes spring open, you caught me quite off guard,
My bg’s now over 180, you just had to make this hard.
My number is too high now, but I’m hoping not for long,
It may start to drop too fast, but hopefully I’m wrong.
4:30 am: Beeeeeep Beeeeep Beeeeeep
From my nightstand I hear your sound, which can only mean one thing,
“You’ve dropped below 55, wake up, wake up!” your beeps eagerly sing.
I take my fruit snacks and into my mouth I dump them all,
For the last time tonight, please back to sleep I hope I fall.
4:45 am: Buzz buzz buzz
Now you say I’m under 80, well at least I’m on the rise,
Maybe giving insulin for that high wasn’t all too wise.
Please CGM, let this be all, I’m really very sleepy,
If you wake me up one more time I may get a little weepy!
7:30 Ringgg Ringgg Ringgg
You’ve got to be kidding me, what is it now? You haven’t had enough?
With all the ups and downs this night, my sleep has been quite rough.
It’s my alarm! Time to get up; to work I must get ready and go.
Oh what’s that on the graph? A perfect number NOW you decide to show!
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.
I held in my hand a ticking time bomb.
I was falling, crashing. I stumbled out of my room, downstairs and grabbed a small gatorade and another couple packs of fruit snacks. At this point the low had hit me full force, I couldn’t think straight, walk straight, or make much sense of anything around me. I’m moving out of my parents house in a week, but today I was glad that my dad was just a few doors down. I knew that I was in danger of passing out and just wanted someone to make sure I was okay. I knocked on the door. “My blood sugar is 28” I slurred, falling into bed. After confirming that I had already treated the low, my dad continued to ask me questions, making sure that I stayed conscious. The words felt heavy in my mouth, my sentences barely reflecting the thoughts in my head. I could hear myself slurring my speech. Eventually my sentences and speech became more coherent as I became more aware of my surroundings. I tested my blood sugar again, 67.
My insulin pump is my lifeline, but that night it truly felt like a ticking time bomb.
I’m so pleased to be participating in the 5th Annual Diabetes Art Day! This is my second year participating. Art has always been valuable to me in my life as a form of expression, and I love creating art with a purpose. It’s a way to express thoughts or feelings that can sometimes be hard to articulate when it comes to my diabetes, and Diabetes Art Day is a great opportunity to share those feelings through a unique medium.
This year my piece is called “The Low Journey”. It’s an abstract interpretation of what low blood sugar feels like for me using sharpie and water colors. It begins in the first picture with the realization that you are going low, that dark, confusing feeling of being disoriented and out of sorts. The feeling is confirmed with a finger poke and reading on the meter. In the next picture, the treatment of the low is depicted. I use fruit snacks to treat my lows. Then comes the agonizing 15 minutes of waiting to feel better, but feeling helpless in the mean time. Finally, the last picture shows how the dark clouds hanging over you eventually begin to lift as your blood sugar returns to normal and the sun finds its way through the dark clouds.
|The Low Journey|