Hypo and Tongue-Tied: My Woes at Work

“Okay,” I thought to myself as I sat down for my 90 minute meeting, “My blood sugar’s sitting pretty around 100 or so. I should be able to make it the whole meeting without experiencing a drop, since the last time I gave myself insulin was about three hours ago…”

The fact that I had the audacity to think that my body/blood sugar wouldn’t play any tricks on me is laughable.

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This was my recent struggle at work. Usually, diabetes doesn’t interfere with my work whatsoever. I’m sitting, somewhat stationary, at a desk for eight hours every Monday through Friday. There was an adjustment period to the sedentary life when I first started working at my job, but it’s been more than four years now, so my body and my blood sugars are used to it. Plus, throughout the workday, I go out of my way to fit in extra steps, whether it’s using a restroom on a different floor or parking my car far away from my building’s entrance. Combined with my higher activity levels before/after work and regular workweek eating habits, I’d say that I’ve struck a balance in terms of physicality and diet that makes for an optimal environment for my diabetes to function normally/predictably.

So when I DO experience a high or low when I’m at work, it throws me off…but only for a relatively short amount of time. I’m talking like 15 minutes or so here. That’s right about the amount of time I need to come up from a low. If it’s a high blood sugar, I need even less time to rebound. I simply bolus, drink plenty of water, and move on to my next task. (Only in cases of 300+ blood sugars do I get really nervous – it’s only happened a couple of times, but I’ve had to leave work when that happens either due to feeling sick or needing to go home to deal with it.)

But things were different the other day when I was in the middle of a meeting with a colleague and I could feel the slow and steady drop of my blood sugar. Despite having monitored it closely prior to the start of the meeting, it started to coast down. Here’s the real kicker, though – I’m pretty in-tune with my body and could feel that this was not an urgent low. I figured my blood sugar was somewhere between 65 and 75. I didn’t have my CGM or meter to confirm, and I felt like I could keep the meeting going…so I didn’t do anything about it.

And in hindsight – even if it is 20/20 – I wish I had done something.

Why? Mainly because I felt that I was virtually useless in my meeting. As I reviewed each page of the 80+ slide PowerPoint, I could feel my thinking start to deteriorate. Words were tumbling out too quickly and nonsensically. I wasn’t sure if I was making a whole lot of sense to my colleague. And that’s a feeling that I can’t stand. I don’t like thinking that I may have wasted her time due to my determination to “power through” a low. It’s a perfect example of low blood sugar causing a symptom other than shakiness, sweating, or sluggishness: In this case, it also caused stubbornness.

When I finally made it back to my cubicle, I slumped down into my chair and grabbed a juice box from my low supply stash while my CGM buzzed over and over, letting me know that I was indeed low. Within approximately 8 seconds, the juice box was crushed, and I couldn’t help but think how next time I had a meeting, I’d bring one with me…just in case.

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T1D and the Workplace: Feeling Envious of Coworkers with Professional Pancreases

I’m envious of people with functioning pancreases.

It goes without saying, but they don’t have to worry about all the things that PWD have to worry about. They can live life with a little more spontaneity. They don’t have to do as much math. They don’t have to lug around test kits and glucose tablets and strips and needles and whatnot at all times. They don’t have to hide their emergency snack stashes from their coworkers – well, okay, maybe they do, depending on some office environments.

They don’t have to worry about minute things, like “is my pod going to start beeping” or “is my blood sugar going to go low or high” during a very important meeting with a very very high-up executive.

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Conference room or anxiety-inducing room?

I’m envious of my coworkers, who were able to just sit there and listen to the executive speak when he made a special visit to the office last week. I was as attentive as I could be throughout the nearly 90-minute meeting, but I was definitely a bit anxious in there without any of my devices. I’d left them all at my desk to avoid awkward questions from the executive. I’m sure he wouldn’t have minded their presence, had he known they were medical devices, but still…I just didn’t want to deal with it.

I’m envious that a meeting is just a meeting to some people, but for a person with diabetes like me, it can trigger fear and concern and a gamut of other emotions regarding blood sugar/diabetes issues in the workplace alone – forget other social situations.

It goes to show that diabetes is never far from my mind, even in situations when I really want or need it to be. I wish my diabetes knew how to act more professionally.

But I guess from practically the beginning, my diabetes – or shall I say, my pancreas – was unprofessional. After all, my pancreas quit on me only four years into the job.

What a lazy jerk.

 

Favorite Things Friday: My Secret Snack Stash at Work

One Friday per month, I’ll write about my favorite things that make life with diabetes a little easier for me.

So, I’m going to cross my fingers and hope that none of my coworkers read my blog…because then my secret snack stash at work will become not-so-secret, and that could mean trouble for me when dealing with future low blood sugars. That being said, if you’re reading this and you work with me…stay away from the stash!!!

As I was saying…

I love having a snack stash stored away in one of the drawers at my cubicle. I like to stock it with snacks that have varying carbohydrate counts: more carbs for lower lows, and fewer carbs for the not-urgent lows. The items may vary from time to time, but usually, I keep the drawer filled with the following snacks:

  • Mini Lara bars (10 carbs)
  • Mini boxes of raisins (11 carbs)
  • Fruit snacks (all kinds, ranging from 10 carbs to 21 carbs)
  • Peanut butter crackers (15 carbs)

Sometimes, I’ll even add a jar of glucose tablets (which contains 50-60 tabs) to the lot. Glucose tablets are far less tempting to munch on then, say, a cracker pack, so when I’m dealing with a raging-hunger kind of low, it helps to have the tabs within reach because they prevent me from over-treating.

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In order to throw off coworkers (who are most definitely, probably not reading this post), I’ll share an image of my old snack CORNER. I’ve upgraded to a drawer now.

And when all else fails and my snack stash is depleted, at least I’ve got access to a fully-stocked Coca-Cola machine in my office suite, as well as a vending machine filled with all sorts of confections in the building’s basement.

But let’s be real here…who can possibly exercise enough self-control to stop eating a package of Skittles when low blood sugar comes ’round?

CDN Creates New Guide for Young Adults Entering the Workforce

In 2014, I learned that I was eligible to graduate college one semester earlier than expected. The prospect should have excited me, but it made me more anxious than anything else. I couldn’t help but dwell on the fact that I’d be starting my career sooner than I planned. The thought terrified me. Questions coursed through my mind: How would I adjust to an entirely new daily routine? Would my employer be okay with my diabetes? How should I handle it when it inevitably comes up with my new colleagues? Was I really and truly ready for this?

I can’t emphasize enough how valuable the latest resource from the College Diabetes Network (CDN), the Off to Work Guide, would have been as I made this scary transition.

This new addition to CDN’s Guides is chock full of information for young professionals. In tandem with current CDN students, CDN alumni, and professional resources, CDN has crafted a guide that contains both advice and facts intended to help readers worry less, learn how to be prepared for the workplace, and make a healthy and successful transition into adult life. It covers everything from writing a resume to navigating health insurance options with an employer, and it even features general financial planning advice that could benefit more seasoned professional individuals.

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As I read through the Guide for the first time, I found myself appreciating the sections that talked about workplace rights and networking. There are many legal rights that people with diabetes have as it pertains to the workforce, but I wasn’t familiar with most of them. The Guide presents this information in a way that’s easy to read and less intimidating. And it helped me be more comfortable with the word “disability” and what it means in a professional environment.

The networking section was also a great addition to the Guide. It covered both networking with others in the diabetes community as well as networking at professional events. I learned about several different ways I can keep up with my T1D peers now that I’m a CDN alum. From online groups to in-person meetups, there’s a bunch of options available to young professionals like me who value staying in contact with the diabetes community. Plus, there were some useful tips on how to handle social events when networking in a professional setting (and you’re not around other T1Ds). Check out this section and you’ll see quotes from yours truly on how to find a balance between networking on both a diabetes and non-diabetes level!

The Guide also features several other sections, including one about mental health, one with on the job tips, and one that details the steps to take after getting employment. Beyond that, the Guide covers so much more.

If you’ll be graduating college soon and you’re nervous about joining the professional world, don’t worry. You’re not alone in how you feel. CDN’s Guide contains all the information, advice, and materials you’ll want to know as begin this next chapter in life. And take it from me, someone who’s been through it already: This transition should excite you more than anything else. Don’t let your fears get in the way as you embark on your career path, and don’t let your diabetes deter you from pursuing your professional and personal goals. You can do this!

Request your free copy of the Guide now! https://www.tfaforms.com/4676766

Disclosing Diabetes in the Workplace

Almost two years ago, my friends from the College Diabetes Network asked me to discuss diabetes in the workplace at their annual student retreat. The prospect of bringing diabetes into a new career and encountering new sets of challenges can seem daunting, so I was happy to talk about my positive experiences thus far as a young adult who has already made the transition from college to “the real world”.

Diabetes in the workplace – how do I navigate it? Here’s a little snippet in which I explain how I’ve decided to disclose my diabetes with my coworkers:

Planning for Office Potlucks with T1D

Today is my office’s 10th annual holiday potluck! I’m looking forward to sampling a wide variety of dishes prepared by my coworkers. I know that it’ll be a carb heavy feast, though, so I’m going to have to do a little planning in order to prevent my blood sugar from spiraling out of control.

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I feel like I consume the amount of carbs that this gingerbread house contains on office potluck days (okay sort of exaggerating but that’s how it FEELS).

Honestly, my strategy for office potlucks is a little similar to what I do on other food-centric holidays: test often, extend boluses as needed, consume everything in moderation, and so forth. But there’s a few additional things I like to take into account when it comes to potlucks:

  1. Request labels for the food. I want to know precisely what’s in front of me. No, I don’t expect or want someone to write down every single ingredient they used to prepare a dish, but I do think it’s not too much to ask for the name of the dish. Labels are everything!
  2. Ask the cook if more explanation is needed. Case in point: At our last potluck, I tried noodle kugel without knowing what was in it. I mean, it’s obvious that NOODLES are a main ingredient, but pasta aside, I had no clue that sugar, cinnamon, and raisins were also used to make it. Needless to say, my blood sugar was sky high after sampling this (delicious) carb bomb, and I think I could’ve mitigated the situation if I’d only spoken up.
  3. Find someone to share the sweet stuff with (or save it for later). Chances are, I can find a coworker who’d gladly split a cookie with me so we save ourselves from the calories and carbs in a whole one. But if I truly can’t resist having a big piece of cake to myself, then there’s no problem in saving it for later – I never know when my next low blood sugar will strike!
  4. Load up on low carb options. Typically, I take as much as I want of the veggies, salads, cheeses, and meats that people contribute to the potluck spread. I know that if I fill up on lower carb items first, then I won’t overdo it as much on the heavier pastas, breads, and cakes.
  5. Be upfront with coworkers. My colleagues are very understanding when it comes to my diabetes, which is awesome in certain situations – like a potluck! But every now and then, I encounter someone who just doesn’t get my diabetes (even if I’ve tried to explain it to them). They’ll insist upon me eating whatever they’re offering to me, and take it personally if I turn them down. So I’ve decided that the best way to cope with this is to be totally honest with my coworkers and tell them why I can’t or don’t want to have what they are offering. So if Edgar* is begging me to try a slice of the chocolate torte he slaved over, I’ll straight-up tell him my reasons for skipping it (whether it’s due to high BG or simply being too full!). There’s a reason it’s said that honesty is the best policy, and this certainly applies in an office setting.

Either way, I look forward to this potluck every year and I won’t let my diabetes prevent me from enjoying it. Here’s to an afternoon filled with food and festivities!

*Edgar isn’t a real coworker. I just made him up for the purpose of this post. But I bet his hypothetical chocolate torte is amazing.