By: Meagan Esler
I was having my second low of the day at work recently when I got “the headache.” If you have type 1 diabetes you probably know the one. It doesn’t ever go away quickly and never without having to pop a couple pain relievers. I was popping more than a couple peppermint-flavored chocolates and glucose tabs and waiting for the low to go away before I could even reach for the Advil to help ease the pounding in my head.
My assistant at work paused for a moment and said she was sorry for the way I was feeling. I said, “Thanks, not your fault, I’m fine” and kind of shrugged it off as no big deal.
But as we talked about her family member with type 1, I realized I’m really not “fine.”
I was thankful she understood about my diabetes, and for her sympathy. We chatted a bit as I mentioned how often I’d been having lows. She told me that when she and her relative with type 1 were visiting the diabetes educator all those years ago, the educator warned them to be extra cautious about the lows, stressing how dangerous they were.
That made me remember reading something a while back about how one could likely live a long time with some slightly elevated blood glucose levels, but that just one really bad low could cause death. It’s a lot to swallow when you realize that the lows are happening so regularly.
They are sadly a normal part of life for me, and though I might get lucky and have a stretch where I don’t go low as frequently, they do seem to find me with a vengeance.
I tend to go low at work a lot. I have a huge stash of emergency supplies in my desk. An unwitting person who happened upon my desk drawer would probably think I needed a sugar addict intervention. My glucose tabs, sticks, gels, and various other candies, snacks, and bars are there to keep me conscious as I move furniture and do the other physical tasks that are a part of every work day for me. I have tried injecting less insulin and reducing my long-lasting injection to avoid so many lows, still, they seem to sneak up and somehow surprise me anyway.
After more than 18 years with diabetes, I realize I barely flinch at the lows anymore. That worries me. I treat them and move on like I should, but maybe I need to pay more attention to why they happen so often. Without panicking and totally overreacting, I need to remember that they are dangerous and are not okay.
I may have been very lucky that I’ve been able to remain conscious to treat my own lows with the exception of one occasion in my sleep, but that may not always be the case. That luck could easily run out at any time. Lows are scary and serious and they shouldn’t be such a big part of my life. I’m going to watch a bit more closely to try to catch them before they catch me.