Memory Monday: My Lowest Low Blood Sugar

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much my diabetes thoughts, feelings, and experiences have unfolded over the years. Today, I remember…

…the lowest low blood sugar that I ever experienced. So low, in fact, that I never actually found out how low it reached. Scary stuff.

lost in stockholm

Admittedly, my memory’s a little fuzzy when it comes to recollecting what exactly happened, but here’s what I remember: It was my sophomore or junior year of high school. I woke up in the morning and checked my blood sugar – or so I thought. In reality, I think I imagined checking my blood sugar, or perhaps I went through the motions of doing it without actually getting a reading.

Regardless, I made my way down the stairs and into the kitchen, where I encountered my mother. I told her that I wanted “special cake”.

I remember her looking at me with worried eyes and asking me what I was saying. All I can recall is that I asked for special cake two or three more times before getting totally frustrated with her. How could she not understand my request for Special K cereal?

That’s right, in my stupor, I thought I was saying that I wanted Special K cereal for breakfast. But I didn’t realize that my low blood sugar was causing me to slur so badly that my words weren’t coming out clearly.

I vaguely remember my mom’s panicked reaction as she figured out that I must be experiencing a low. I think she asked me what my blood sugar was, and when I couldn’t tell her because I didn’t remember, she knew it was time to force some orange juice down my throat. I was conscious for that, but it’s like it was erased from my memory – I have no recollection of drinking the juice or what the moments after that were like.

I wound up going to school late that morning, only to have to go home less than halfway through the day. My low “hangover” was so bad that I felt nauseous in my classes and couldn’t concentrate on the lessons.

Obviously, I fully recovered from the incident. Even though my memory is shoddy at best when it comes to remembering the whole experience, the mere fragments that I can recall are enough to make me scared to ever go through something like that again. It’s a reminder that diabetes can be terrifying, but living with it is a reality that I have no choice but to accept – fears and all.

Diabetes and Honesty: Don’t be Afraid to Speak Up

It’s said that ignorance is bliss…but as I recently (re)learned, ignorance can cause fear and misunderstanding in times that it’s better to be honest.

The lesson was hammered into my brain after fibbing to my significant other about my blood sugar a couple of weeks ago. It was a Saturday night, we had spent the day moseying around the city, and we were looking forward to a chill evening doing a whole lot of nothing. We decided to get into a collaborative card game while we watched the Red Sox play against kick the Astros’ butts.

As we set up the game, I knew my blood sugar was high. But I ignored it, figuring that my insulin would kick in soon and bring my levels back down to normal. I should’ve known that it wouldn’t be so simple (is ANYTHING ever simple when it comes to diabetes?) because after an hour and a half, no progress was made on the BG front and my mood was worsening as a result of it. My partner, ever-attentive, asked me more than once why I seemed so cross. He even directly asked if it was related to my blood sugar, and I…didn’t exactly tell the truth.

diabetes honesty

Okay, I lied! But it was only because I didn’t want him to worry. I was already worried enough for the two of us. And I thought I was doing the right thing here. I really, truly thought my blood sugar would come down in no time at all, and I hate, hate, HATE using anything related to my diabetes as an excuse for my behavior…so rather than admit what I was going through, I brushed it off, which only exacerbated everything. Not my proudest moment.

As the night went on, we got deeper into the game and my blood sugar climbed higher. I was beyond agitated at this point, and my heart certainly wasn’t into the game. Besides neglecting to open up about my blood sugar problems, I’m also ashamed of my lack of interest in the card game. In hindsight, the healthy thing to do in this situation would’ve been to have faith in my treatment decisions and try to enjoy myself in the meantime. But I was too caught up in the negative mindset that the high blood sugar put me into, and unfortunately, it marred an otherwise perfectly nice night.

The next day, when my blood sugar situation was back to normal, I came clean to my boyfriend. I think he was a bit irked with me for hiding the truth from him, but I also think that he understood a little more after I explained why.

In this case, diabetes won…at least it did in that brief moment in time. Between ruining my mood and causing a mild rift between me and a loved one, I felt pretty damn defeated by it. In the long run, though, I think this experience will be more of a boon than a bane, because it reinforced the notion of honesty being the best policy – even when it comes to diabetes.

 

An Incident I Won’t Forget

Low blood sugars are funny. Not ha-ha funny, but peculiar in how they affect me physically and mentally.

A few weeks ago, I had an experience with a particularly scary low. It frightened me so much that I’m only just getting around to writing about it now, because I needed some time to gather my thoughts on what happened.

I’ll set the scene: I was home alone. I had eaten a carb-heavy dinner and decided to do a 30-minute, high-intensity workout. This was definitely far from my best idea ever, because due to the high-carb intake, I had a lot of insulin on board. That, coupled with the exercise, meant that my blood sugar was bound to crash soon after completing the workout.

And it sure did.

16E24606-06FB-447B-90B5-BEF2FA19E4CA
Falling rapidly.

I had just stepped out of the shower and wrapped myself in a towel when I began to feel it. That sudden wave of weakness, shakiness, and dizziness. I walked to my bedroom, grabbed all of my diabetes supplies and my cell phone from my purse, and sank down to the floor with everything in front of me. I knew it would be wise to just sit there for as long as I needed, because I was afraid to go down the stairs (and possibly fall down/hurt myself in the process) in that state.

I checked my CGM, which confirmed that I was dropping quickly. I stared at the screen, panic flooding throughout my body. It occurred to me that I should probably do a finger stick check to make sure I was really that low, so I did, and saw that I was 60 mg/dL.

 

4219504D-CA13-4224-B5BA-9C90BB58F79D
The scene of the incident.

Now, I’ve absolutely been lower than 60 before. It’s never a pleasant experience. But rather than using that as a comforting thought, I couldn’t help but dwell on how terrible I felt and how frightened I was to be home alone with at least four more units of insulin still working in my system.

All I could do was chew four glucose tablets, suspend my insulin delivery, and wait.

In that period of time, I was totally immobilized.

I’ll never forget how alone I felt, how out of control I felt.

I felt powerless against my diabetes. My own body.

I’ll never forget the fear that consumed me, that nearly prevented me from helping myself in this situation.

I’ll never forget texting my mother and my boyfriend, telling them what was happening, and expressing how scared I felt.

I’ll never forget bursting into tears when they didn’t reply quickly enough.

I’ll never forget turning to my T1D Twitter buddies for help by sending a tweet about what was happening, or how swiftly and comfortingly they responded to me.

And I’ll never forget how I let my mind drift as I wondered whether I’d be okay.

It sounds totally dramatic, especially for a low that, in the grand scheme of things, could’ve been much worse. I can admit that.

But I can also admit that this is one of the few times in my life that I felt truly terrified of my diabetes, and swept up in the fact that things can change so quickly with this condition that it can quite literally knock you off your feet.

Obviously, I recovered just fine that night. The glucose tablets did their trick and my low symptoms subsided. It took longer for me to calm myself down, to breathe normally, non-panicky breaths. At least my puppy was around to soothe me.

I was fine, I will be fine. But I won’t forget this incident, ever.

My Blood Sugar is None of Your Business

This post originally appeared on my blog at ASweetLife.org on December 6, 2013. Even though that was nearly five years ago, my feelings on this haven’t changed – I strongly prefer to keep my blood sugars to myself.

Sometimes, I find myself getting angry and annoyed when others look at my blood sugar.

“256? Is that good or bad?”

“Oh man, you’re 61? You need to take some insulin right now!”

By making these seemingly innocent comments, people manage to simultaneously violate my privacy as well as sound ignorant.

I don’t have these feelings because I am ashamed of my diabetes. I don’t know what life is like without it, so I’ve had many years to come to terms with the impact it has on me on a daily basis.

1B5917BC-BCF2-4DF0-A8A0-E8A0DDC42086
The text in this post may be a few years old, but I felt that I ought to update it with a recent boomerang of how I feel when people try to look at my bg.

Rather, I think it’s more of a defense mechanism. When I see my friends or family craning their necks to look at the number on my meter, I tend to prevent them from seeing by cradling my hands around the meter or lifting it up so I am the only one who can read it. That way, I can react to my blood sugar on my own terms without having to worry about how someone else feels about it. I appreciate that I’m surrounded by people who genuinely care about my health, but just because my loved ones are aware of my diabetes doesn’t make them experts. In some instances, my friends have been so concerned about a slightly hypoglycemic blood sugar that they kept a closer monitor on my sugars than I did for the next couple hours. I hope I don’t sound ungrateful for their support, but my goodness, it’s tiring to have to deal with multiple reactions to my own blood sugars. I’m the one who has to deal with them, and that’s enough for me to handle at any given time.

On that note, I think that my defensive nature applies to myself, not just others. I am protective of myself because I like to test my blood sugar and analyze my feelings and what actions I should take once I know the number. When I can focus on this on my own, I have a greater understanding of how my body reacts in certain situations and what kinds of preventive or corrective measures I need to take in the future.

I guess what I’m wondering here is whether or not any other people with diabetes also feel this compulsion to keep their numbers private. Am I being too sensitive? Is it natural for me to want to tell others that my blood sugars are none of their business?

What’s Worse than High or Low Blood Sugar?

High blood sugar and low blood sugar are both incredibly draining. One turns me into a grump who can’t drink enough water and the other turns me into a shaky, sweaty, slurring hot mess who can’t string a simple sentence together. Needless to say, neither situation is fun.

But there’s one even worse than that: the roller coaster situation. It’s best illustrated using a CGM graph like this:

7594B528-CBC7-43AD-8A55-CF1600A950D6
I added the little graphic of psychedelic teddy bears riding a roller coaster – it seemed to illustrate my point well. 

It’s what I use to describe blood sugar that won’t level out to my target range. It just goes up, up, up, and falls dramatically – just like an actual roller coaster – once the high is corrected. And boy, does that drop down take my breath away.

But then wait, there’s more! After the crash and the inevitable need for lots of sugar (and fast) is satisfied, the blood sugar soars back up again, leaving me frustrated as I take another bolus to fix it…

…only for it to happen again. And again.

Get me off this ride!

When I’m stuck on these blood sugar roller coasters, it’s mentally and physically exhausting. I question my every action over and over again as I try to do the “right thing” and make my numbers level out, only to end up berating myself for getting into this situation in the first place.

I’ve never been a fan of roller coasters in real life – they make me a combination of anxious and nauseous that I’ve dubbed “nauxious” – but I’d rather ride one that goes upside down than experience the T1D roller coaster situation again any time soon.

The Sounds of a Blood Sugar Check

What does a blood sugar check sound like, exactly? And why would I want to capture those sounds in words?

I was thinking about it the other day – the precise ritual that is a blood sugar check. It involves very distinct sounds from start to finish.

The ziiiiiiiiiip of opening up the meter case. The soft pop from flipping the cap off a vial of test strips. The pulling back of the lancing device to get it ready – click – and choosing a finger to draw blood from before pressing the button to prick it, a sound that’s a bit like a pow that ends in a dull thud.

301B8560-5345-4434-97C7-F0E99374A78B
These three things make very distinct sounds.

I’ve been in rooms filled with other T1Ds checking blood sugars all at the same time. It’s a chorus of the aforementioned sounds that are so recognizable to anyone with diabetes that they can’t be mistaken.

Sounds that punctuate our lives multiple times each day.

Sounds that help us make so many decisions – from mealtime boluses to deciding whether to have a snack before a workout or not.

Sounds that are a constant reminder of diabetes and its perpetual presence.

Sounds that will be there, always…until there’s a cure.

T1D and Cosmetics: My Thoughts on Jeffree Star’s “Blood Sugar” Palette

One of my many interests is makeup: shopping for it, applying it, experimenting with it. I love that it helps enhance certain features of my face, and nothing makes me happy quite like a glittery eye shadow palette or a fresh tube of bright lipstick.

A dear friend of mine shares this slight obsession with all things related to cosmetics/skincare/beauty products. Often, she’ll text me when she scores a good deal on a high-end product, and I’ll message her with details on my new favorite facial mask, and we’ll bask in our delight together.

So I wasn’t too surprised when I got a text from her a few weeks back that showed a picture of a new eye shadow palette she discovered online. She captioned the photo: “If this palette isn’t on your radar it needs to be. Just for the title.”

Here’s the palette she was talking about:

61f2a931-4142-4b80-950d-b7fd79d0f75b.pngdef9fa2c-a465-4bb3-b66d-f04c9f03071d.png

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nope, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you: This palette is called “blood sugar”. My first reaction was OMG I NEED TO BUY IT. I was curious to see if it was created with T1D in mind, so I did a little more research on it.

Jeffree Star, a well-known makeup maven and cosmetic creator, is behind this particular palette. According to a video posted on his YouTube channel, and in Star’s own words, the palette got its shape and its name because:

I was very inspired by like doctor medical boxes. I’m very into the medical field in general. I love reading books and watching documentaries on Netflix. I am just very into that whole thing…”

So right away, I understood that this palette was NOT created with diabetes in mind. But I wonder whether it would’ve behooved Star to have done a little more research before naming some of the shadows in the palette…

I don’t take issue with “glucose”, “blood sugar”, “prick”, or “ouch” being the names of a few of the shades; however, I don’t think it was particularly wise to use “coma” as a shadow name. Yes, coma! In this context, it could be misconstrued, for sure.

As I watched his palette reveal video, I kept waiting for Star to offer up some sort of legitimate medical knowledge that might explain his reasoning for naming the colors comprising the kit. But no such luck. I couldn’t help but scoff by the time he reached the color he dubbed “coma” – he talked about how he wanted the stamp in the eye shadow pan to be the “medical symbol” (which is more formally known as the caduceus). The fact that he so easily (and seemingly carelessly) glamorized a coma AND the symbol that graces most medical IDs by naming a rich maroon-hued eye shadow after both…is something that just leaves me scratching my head.

Now I’m not someone who is necessarily “politically correct” at all times, and I don’t think I’m being oversensitive by having a negative reaction to this beauty product. Needless to say, I didn’t end up purchasing the palette, because I don’t want to support something that I find somewhat insulting and ignorant.

Jeffree Star is obviously extraordinarily talented and makes beautiful cosmetics, but I think he should consider a different approach the next time he gleans inspiration from something (such as the medical field) that he isn’t well-versed in.