By Meagan Esler
I worked in the shop I manage the other day when I overheard someone say “blood sugar.” When I hear that term, my ears perk up like my Pomeranians hearing a car door slam. After twenty-plus years with Type 1 diabetes, I’m pretty sure I could listen to a diabetes phrase across a crowded football stadium. A volunteer was talking about her blood sugar to another volunteer. She mentioned the fact that she hadn’t eaten lunch that day. I quickly walked to the register, where I told her that I also have diabetes. I said I’d overheard her talking about blood sugar and that she was welcome to have one of the containers of soup that I keep in our kitchen. She said, “No, I can’t eat. My blood sugar was horrible this morning; you’d be mad at me if I told you the number”. She lowered her eyes and said, “It was bad. It was over 400”.
And there it is. It’s an unfair shame that follows us throughout the daily ups and downs of life with diabetes. Our life is measured by these numbers, which sometimes can beat us down. It’s as though we feel it is a considerable flaw in us that warrants judgment by others. I explained gently that I would never pass judgment or be mad at her because of blood sugar. I told her that if anyone understood how hard it could be to manage blood sugars, it’s someone who also lives with diabetes. We chatted about how difficult it can be to manage an illness where you can do the same things on a different day and receive very different outcomes.
I found out that she has Type 2 diabetes and takes insulin in the morning each day, a set amount, but that is it. I asked if she had a sliding scale from her doctor to help her if she needed to get particularly rough blood sugar down. She said she didn’t, that she’d been on insulin for a couple of years, but that her doctor hadn’t given her one. I urged her to talk to her doctor about getting some guidance on correcting an undesirable blood sugar safely. A 400 blood sugar doesn’t feel good at all. It can be downright painful! People shouldn’t be kept in the dark on properly reining their blood sugars when they go awry.
I hope people know it’s not all their fault. Diabetes is hard. It is like rocket science. It is incredibly complicated, but we have the power to make things better and less uncomfortable simply by fixing things when they go wrong. Sure, there will be some “bad” blood sugars throughout life with diabetes, but we can fix them! We need the tools from our health care team to help ourselves.
The volunteer and I felt comfort in talking about diabetes together. We even continued the chat in the backroom of the shop. She acknowledged that she needed to speak to her doctor and test more frequently to feel better. I hope she does. None of us deserve to live so uncomfortably and with feeling such shame. If you don’t know what to do to help regulate your blood sugars, please don’t feel bad about yourself. Just talk to your doctor and tell them you need some help. There are excellent doctors out there that can get you on the path to feeling better.