It is safe to say that for me personally, coping with low blood sugars is the most challenging element about being a diabetic. It’s a subtle but constant worry of, “but what if…” and when it actually does happen, it’s an immediate and urgent reaction of, “oh shit, I’m gonna die.”
The concept that something so invisible can be so powerful even though it’s just a lack of glucose in my blood stream is terrifying. I’ve experienced lows at every hour of the day, in situations I’m to embarrassed to share in detail, and more frequently than I’d care to admit. Think: Bad hangovers, international airports, in the sack, at mile 6 of a half marathon, on the T alone at night, you name it. For the first few years of being a diabetic, I could have written a text book about these bad larrys I got them so often. Ironically, lows are not the most dangerous side effect of diabetes – mostly because they’re often temporary and fixable. But there is so much more to a low than shaky knees and delusional babbling. The thing about lows that really gets my panties in a wad is that they are not purely physical…the mind games that tag along with them are brutal.
There are a few reasons why lows happen. Depending on what your flavor or insulin treatment is, you may experience them once a day, month, year, or never. Before I went on the pump, I would get one at least once a day. This was bad, and it was also entirely my fault. What was also entirely my fault was the way I handled these lows and the repercussions I had to deal with based on my choices.
I’m an athlete. Always have been, always will be. I’m also not thin. Never have been, never will be. I like my hooch, I skip breakfast sometimes, I go out late then eat pizza, I sleep in on weekends, travel to other countries, and go hours without carrying anything on me besides a pair of sunglasses. Unfortunately for me, none of these things play nice with Type 1 diabetes if I’m not careful. And, for upwards of 5 years, “careful” was not a prominent word in my vocabulary. My life was a hilariously sad romantic comedy consisting of, “Oh, look at her, she’s so cool and inspirational for doing a half marathon with diabetes…” then the next scene would be, “Wow, she gained like, 15 pounds in two months and is crying a lot… did she get dumped? Is she okay?” And nope, at the time I probably wasn’t okay.
This was my cycle:
- Go for 6 mile run after work.
- Get low before dinner because I worked out too hard and was an insulin stacking sociopath.
- Eat dinner and not cover it.
- Be 300 before bed. Correct.
- Wake up at 4am soaking wet, shaking, and hungry enough to eat everything off the menu at Carmine’s simultaneously.
- Binge eat 487 pretzels dunked in frosting until I was nauseous.
- Wake up the next morning. 250, fuck. Correct again.
- Sit around feeling like garbage all day knowing what I had done in the middle of the night.
- Gain 10 pounds.
- Slowly become afraid of everything.
- Lose 10 pounds.
- Stop working out.
- Hate myself.
This lifestyle was, to say the least, exhausting. And clearly, super not depressing and terrible at all! I fell into a trap, and lost complete control of my ability to manage my lows in any sort of self-respecting, dignified way like…oh, I donno, eating 4 simple glucose tabs and going back to sleep like a normal human. Mowing down 1,000 extra calories in 5 minutes was easier, and way better for my mental health…obviously. There were honestly times when I so ashamed and frustrated with how I was handling this whole “low point” business that I felt like I was hiding an eating disorder that had nothing to do with eating. My fear of going low started to dictate how I was living my life and when I realized this, I was so disappointed in myself. I was doing my body zero favors. And, even though I may have appeared to be doing impressive things on the outside, I wasn’t exactly impressed by what I was doing to my insides. After running a half marathon in 2011 and realizing that I was a gigantic mess, I gave up.
This is when I decided to go on the pump. Yes, I traded a pen of lantus, a pen of novolog, and alleged “freedom” for a Derek. And as counterintuitive as it may seem, attaching this little box of joy to me has been the most liberating step I have taken for myself with regards to diabetes. I am no longer afraid.
Derek has completely saved me. For 6 years I scoffed at the concept of plugging myself into a little doo dad that, in theory, would keep me alive. “No. It’s ugly.” But wanna know what else is ugly? Miserable, anxiety-ridden, overweight girls with no self-confidence because they let something that should have no power over their lives dictate their every move. Sounds harsh, but that’s where I was heading, and fast…I needed to give up on the vanity piece. The pump is not stuck to my face (aka “The Moneymaker”), he’s tucked away happily in my bra, and does not need to be noticed or acknowledged by anyone but me.
The way that a pump administers insulin compared to a long/short acting insulin duo provides me with the only thing that truly saves people with anxiety: peace. of. mind. I know at all times exactly how much insulin is in my blood stream and I can make more educated guesses as to where my drops are going to be and when. I can now be careful without having to make major sacrifices.
Trust me, things with Derek are far from perfect. I doooo have to sleep with this thing. And he’s not exactly the best snuggler I’ve ever shared a bed with. I do have to play soccer with the understanding that my infusion set isssss stuck on my skin. Derek requires an extreme amount of responsibility, and he’s about as unsexy as things get. But, in the long run taking back control of my mental health was the only thing that was going to resurrect my ability to make my physical health a priority.
So, in conclusion here guys, life is really fucking short. I realize this more and more every single day. Take care of yourself. Respect yourself. Understand that if you screw up your body this go around, that’s it, no more chances. Do the best with what you have because you are enough as you are and your life is meant to be experienced in the richest way you can make happen.