Normally, I don’t bother trying to describe a low blood sugar. They happen so often and I just try to catch them as soon as possible, get some quick sugar and move on. I know I have more than I should and as a result my body is somewhat non-reactive at 60 or even 50 a lot of the time.
But, now and then, I get hit with one that is different. One that has the kind of impact that I can’t just move on from in the time it takes to drink a juice box. Yesterday morning was one of those times. I still have no idea where it came from or why. I have plenty of factors to blame it on, but no way to definitively assign blame in order to avoid the same thing happening another day.
It was after an amazing breakfast of eggs benedict that the BHE cooked up — he makes the best hollandaise sauce, really, I have never had better. I know I’m hazy on the details – at least the “real” details; I can’t remember if I went low right after eating or if it was a little bit later. I don’t really remember what I did to try to bring the number up — probably some glucose tablets, juice, maybe some extra croissant? At some point I was satisfied that I had brought it up enough and went to lay down on the couch and at some point I fell asleep.
The details I do remember are all the ones that (I’m pretty sure) were only happening inside me. I felt like I had walked into that field of poppies that Dorothy & the gang stumble into on their way to the Emerald City. Or more as if the field of poppies was made of concrete and had fallen on me. I was cell-tired and felt crushed by the world in general. While I was sleeping, I felt like I was awake but couldn’t open my eyes. I “knew” I was on a couch, but it was in a different part of the room and facing a different direction. At one point I did open my eyes (no idea if I really did or not) and was looking at a little clear plastic thing on the ceiling, trying to figure out what it was. Suddenly it started moving very quickly, just like an awful beetle but so fast across the ceiling and clearly heading for the wall that the couch was next to. I tried to yell for the BHE but I couldn’t. (just for the reality record, there is no plastic thing on our ceiling) At some point after that I was outside in the snow. Wherever we were, it was like a desert but with snow instead of sand. I knew that the Bear was walking up ahead of me, towards a truck sort of thing – maybe an ice cream truck? And the BHE was somewhere near us. I was so exhausted and heavy, I couldn’t walk anymore so I laid down in the snow, kind of created a hollow and laid down with my face right in the snow. It was cold but felt good – soft instead of freezing and prickly. Eventually the BHE came along and was trying to wake me up and get me up out of the snow, and I was aware of that, but just wanted to stay as I was.
After a couple of hours, the BHE did wake me up. He had checked my CGM and I was rising/high. I was very disoriented, couldn’t figure out what the deal with the couch was (in a different place! facing a different direction!). When I tried to talk, I felt like the words were getting tangled up before they could get out of my mouth. I felt like I couldn’t remember how to speak clearly. To myself I sounded slow and as if my voice was going through a modulator of some kind. I think the BHE & the Bear could understand me though, so maybe I sounded completely normal.
I stayed up, had lunch, and went out to do errands with the Bear. I felt guilty that I had slept all morning while the BHE cleaned up the whole kitchen, worked on the snowy/icy driveway, moved laundry through, and entertained the bear. A few hours out doing things seemed like it would give him a break and also probably help to clear the cobwebs in my head. Instead, I spent the whole afternoon feeling like part of me was in a parallel universe that was about 45 seconds behind this one — or maybe the real one was 45 seconds behind. I kept having the sensation that I couldn’t understand what I was seeing, or hearing and then like a bad sci-fi movie, my brain would slide into place (like with a special effect of colored lights simulating movement through a wormhole or something) and everything would become clearer and unified. The last errand we did was our weekly grocery shopping since we expected there to be enough snow by the next morning that we wouldn’t want to go then. I’ve never felt so challenged by food shopping. I actually started to feel a bit motion sick by the end after my brain sloshing into place over and over again. I have no idea how long we were in the store, probably just a normal amount given that it was busier than when we usually go, but it felt like it took about 4 hours.
My blood sugars weren’t unusually high or low for the rest of the day (at least I don’t think they were…). I had my CGM and tried to pay attention. I did have another low at one of the stores, but it was more straightforward — CGM showed it, had some glucose tablets, end of story. Around 10 p.m. I started to feel like my brain was staying in one place.
I can only remember one other time I felt like I wasn’t in control of my body/mind — I was away at a conference and dropped very low very fast in a session. One part of me knew I was in trouble but the rest of me just couldn’t seem to do anything about it. I was sitting next to a colleague/friend and just kind of followed her out of the room when the session was over. I sat down in the lobby of the hotel/conference center and likely would have sat there until I passed out but she realized that something was wrong, got me to the hotel’s restaurant and got the waitress to bring me a big glass of juice. I remember the waitress talking to me after we sat down, and I remember holding a menu, but I couldn’t read any of the words on the menu and I couldn’t understand the waitress or answer her. It took a while, but when the juice finally did its job, I was drenched in sweat, shaking, had blurry vision, and was completely ashamed. The rest of that day I had a terrible headache and that hungover feeling that sometimes comes after lows — no energy, all-over body aches, etc. But, the inability to take action really only lasted during the low.
I think that some of these experiences contribute to the feeling of being alone that so many PWDs have surrounding their diabetes. How could anyone understand how a low blood sugar can feel if they haven’t experienced it? And, maybe even worse, how can anyone understand that I could be at the very same number tomorrow but be functioning fine, have some juice, and be over it in 20 minutes? Recently, I read a great blog post (
which of course I can’t find right now in order to give credit… If you know it, please put the link in the comments!!) that I think I was pointed to from Twitter in which the writer (Jen Grieves) said, “That’s the thing with diabetes – it’s fine until it’s not fine.” When I’m low, I’m fine, unless I’m not. And it isn’t necessarily predictable when I won’t be fine. The T3s in our lives are awesome at supporting us and helping us get through the lows (especially by getting us some sugar!), but sometimes you need to know that someone else “gets” it. Thank goodness for the DOC & things like Facebook groups and the #dsma chats on Twitter. I hate to think about the Bear experiencing these low side effects, but I know she will. Will it help her feel any less alone to know that I know what it can feel like?
Of course, it’s hard on our T3s too. I am scheduled to go to a conference in March and it is the first far away, overnight one I have attended since that last experience. None of that had even crossed my mind when the BHE & I were talking about it and he said how anxious he feels about it. Of course he does. I may feel helpless sometimes because of my diabetes, but I have much more control over it than he does.
I’m feeling much better today physically, but burdened mentally. And, on top of all the other things, I’m still a little worried about that plastic beetle.