Low Blood Sugar

I asked friends and strangers alike to finish a statement for me, and I’d like your thoughts in the comments, too. (It will help me with a personal DeTickles project.)

Finish the sentence: “Low blood sugar means…”

When I asked on Facebook and Twitter I got an interesting mix of responses though granted from a very limited selection of people. Answers ranged from, “Huh, guess I should eat something,” to “I’m about to need to go to the hospital so I don’t die.”

This leads me to think that context is key and there could probably be better awareness raised for people with hypoglycemia (fancy technical word for low blood sugar in general and for frequent low blood sugar, also called lows) and for people with diabetes (who are more susceptible to low blood sugar, especially those who take insulin as a medicine).

When I think about low blood sugar, I try not to freak out, but the reality is, I have to take immediate, measured action to make sure it doesn’t stay low and doesn’t drop lower.

For a lot of people, and for me when I was going through growth spurts, low blood sugar meant I was hangry, weak, and couldn’t do anything else until I got some food.

Meat was usually the food of choice, maybe a sandwich, so there was bread (carbs) involved too, but I find it fascinating that some protein was enough then but today, with DeTickles, I have to have carbs and a specific kind of carbs at that: fast-acting carbs. Candy; regular soda; a baked goodie should work; every Type 1 Diabadass’ favorite, the glucose tablet (chalky, flavored, special sugar, if you will); juice (oh yes please); or something along those lines. A lot of things we may normally veer away from become essential life savers. (The candy does live up to it’s name!) And I have to measure how much of what kind of carb I’m eating and time it, waiting while I feel shaky and sick and try to be aware of every little symptom and change so I can prevent my body from shutting down. For me personally it usually takes a half hour before I’m okay again and can get back to my normal living.

So if the majority population thinks “low blood sugar” means a minor inconvenience that can be handled with a little snack, pretty much whatever it is, the phrase doesn’t hold much weight, especially for daily living when you need to get help from somebody.

Which is one reason why I like to try using “my blood is too thin.” It sounds less catchy maybe, but iuueghh, it gives an immediate, visceral impression of a definite problem, right? (I’ll talk more on this phrase in a future post.)

But while we wait for that phrase to catch on, try to think of low blood sugar as your body’s cells starving. If the cells starve, so do you. So yes, please eat something that will feed those cells.

And keep in mind, it might just mean an ER visit for someone you know.

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I remember Mama

The last year and a half have been a non-stop whirling of good and hard and painful things.

In 2016 I adopted the Old Man, was diagnosed with DeTickles, and became engaged to my best friend. This past spring we had our wedding, and this summer I experienced something harder than my diagnosis day.

A month ago my mother slipped away from this world quietly and when loved ones were near but not paying close attention. It’s just like her to be happy to leave us to it when the room is filled with laughter and reminiscing.

I was holding her hand.

I miss her greatly.

What else can be said? It’s a loss I can’t fully explain or understand, though I will speak in favor of counseling. It helps.

I spoke at her service. I knew I would always regret it if I didn’t stand up to say something about who my Mama is, how she treated everyone, and how she raised me and my brothers. She loved well and fiercely.

I loved cuddle time sitting in her lap for long stretches. I loved the conversations we had about serious things and silly things. I loved sitting next to her on the couch as we colored together during one of my last visits.

I loved seeing her bright and joyful at my wedding.

At her service I took the podium to honor my mommy. Here is what I said:

My name is Dorathea Chaplin; I am Mary Lou’s daughter, and growing up, most of you probably knew me better as Dotty.

The essence of my mama is complicated and beautiful, and therefore hard to capture, but as I was thinking over her life and who she is a few things stood out to me.

First and most, my mama is the most caring person. She wanted to make everyone she met feel like the most special person in the room, and she was good at it. All my life I watched her do that with cashiers, bank tellers, strangers anywhere around town, on trips, meeting my mother-in-law, and really anywhere and everywhere she was.

Mama made sure everyone had what they needed, and especially if it was food…
Which was always delicious…

She was gentle but she was also fierce, and that never contradicted her loving heart. She had a protective sense and counseled many people, including myself, and she would do anything to give those who needed it a safe space to take rest in.

And my mama was one of the smartest people I knew. She was inventive, creative, educated, and an absolute wiz at logic puzzles which she loved spending time on.

She had the fortitude to homeschool her not-always-willing children while taking care of her parents. And with determination and strength I could never comprehend she would drive me to my classes when I needed rides even while in the process of undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I remember she said she loved that little extra time she and I had to spend together… and I did too.

She was proud of what she had done and had every right to be, but also never cared to take center stage. Her biggest delight was in seeing others taken care of and surrounding her with their happiness.

I’ll never be able to say enough, and she probably wouldn’t want all the fuss. But I will say I am so happy she’s paving the way home for us. I bet when the time comes she’ll be part of the feast preparations when we all join her. And in the meantime…

…Mama,

I saw you smile.
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When Every Conversation Turns to Diabetes

For me and I suspect for many others with DeTickles, there is no switch to turn off thinking about the disease. It’s like background software in the mind, always running and taking up some memory or necessary pathways for other functions and thought processes. My mind is already non-stop whether I want it to be or not, and the constant awareness and management needed for DeTickles just added to that busyness and chaos of thought.

So, it isn’t surprising to me that, especially in the first year of diagnosis when I was on the fastest learning curve and one-way lifestyle change I’ve ever experienced, every conversation made me think of something DeTickles related.

A friend could say, “I am so hungry!” and I will immediately think, Food, yeah that’s a good thing, important. You should eat. If I were to eat a snack like yours, I’d have to count up those chips, check my blood sugar, make sure chips is an okay choice for me right now, then get my insulin, and then I have to make sure I eat all of the food even if I decide I don’t want it.

Or I might hear how cool a concert was and think about if I had gone or if I wanted to go to a different concert how often I would have to check my CGM to make sure my blood sugar was stable because I wouldn’t likely be able to hear any warning alerts.

Or if I were invited to go to the beach later in the week, I’d be thinking about where I want to wear my insulin pump and CGM and which swim suit to wear–do I feel like hiding the pump and monitor and feeling more “normal” or proudly wearing them visibly and being an advocate–and also prepare for questions. I’d think about carrying emergency carbs with me, preventing dehydration (which sends blood sugar numbers up) and sunburn (which can also weaken the body and send sugars up), and trying not to feel like an idiot when I carry a huge, awkward tote of everything I could possibly need (or skipping some of it and taking a risk).

For me, everything comes back to DeTickles management; DeTickles affects everything.

Eventually I noticed how often the word “diabetes” came out of my mouth. I didn’t count, but I was beginning to annoy myself, so I figured maybe it was getting old for others, too. Now, I have a lot of amazing friends who engage and ask honest questions and want to learn about it. That’s great! But for my own sake as well as maybe theirs, I didn’t want absolutely everything I ever talked about to be diabetes this diabetes that, diabetes up the wall and in the bathroom and at the vet’s and on vacation.

There is still a very real element where I do need to talk about it, and often if I have an alarm sound or feel off or whatever, DeTickles will and has to enter the conversation. But I get to choose the other times how much I want it to take over and be the only thing I talk about.

Nah, man. I’m far too interested in a bajillion other things to want that.

Making this blog was in part so I could have a place to regularly pipe up about it without noisly taking it to every restaurant or hangout with friends or shopping trip. And I’m still learning, but I have been a little more proactive in not chiming in with DeTickles fact #1203 or DeTickles complaint #1701, and I’m not sure if anyone else has noticed, but I’m happier for not letting it consume every single time I talk to a friend or family member or share something on social media.

Sometimes I really do even forget I have it. And that’s pretty nice actually.

Yes, I can eat that. Maybe. 

A common joke I’ve heard and even been the butt of once, and one that honestly probably should stop, is “This food is so sweet it’ll give you diabetes.”

Well, I’ve already got that, so bring it over here.

So last week I shared about food, making spinach-apple turkey burgers (do reccommend), and that hey I can still eat potatoes.

Food…is something I greatly enjoy, and very easily hate. It gets so complicated so immediately, it doesn’t really even matter what it is. Sugar free jello cup or a pizza buffet and everything inbetween.

I’ll give you the simplest version of the Type 1 rule of thumb for eating:
I can eat anything you can. I just have to make sure I adjust my insulin accordingly.

That’s is. That’s what many T1Ds fight for the general population who don’t (and we hope won’t have to) deal with constant blood glucose monitoring to understand.
But. Just as everyone should listen to their body and do as best as they can for their individual needs, each person with diabetes (PWD, there’s an acronym some prefer) has to learn what their body does normally and decide how they want to handle their needs. And then there’s also always the chance that how the body responds every single time to x thing won’t be anywhere close to how it responds to exactly the same x thing in all the exact same variarables this time. (Such as my dose for the exact same breakfast the other day: normally barely keeps my numbers from jumping too high but on this day sent me dropping into dangerous territory.) (And it should be noted that some have a harder time with that than other. DeTickles is freakin’ complicated.)

Aaaaand there’s also the whole, Actually sugar can save my life, so hand me that candy and soda right now please thank you.

So, while I will hold fast to the claim that I can still eat anything, there are plenty of times when I have to consider if I should have that slice of cake or half a baked potato or twelve chips instead or five or even if an apple is a good addition to my lunch at the moment…or will eating something extra cause me problems later? I will admit a lot of times I choose to eat the thing I want now anyway, but also a lot of times I refrain, trying to keep longer term health and well-being in mind as more important than happy taste buds or even being a little less full now but not starving so I’m actually okay.

Eating with DeTickles is like walking along a tightrope and sometimes you have that extra balance stick, and sometimes you don’t. My food choice right now is affected by my current blood sugar number, what I’ve already eaten and how long ago, what I plan to do in the next few hours, how I know the food typically affects my body, if it tastes good and is satisfying, if the taste is worth the chance of high blood sugar later and will I be able to counter that, if I have done or plan to do any exercise, if I’m recovering from low blood sugar, and like, just a whole lot of things. Being sick. Or injured. Or stressed. Or calm. Everything, absolutely everything can affect blood sugar, so it’s a lot to keep in mind.

So when someone offers me food, and I really really want it, but my numbers have been over 200 for several hours, and it’s maybe not mealtime, I might have to pass. But that doesn’t mean I wont accept another offer sometime when I’m cruising around 100 and pretty sure I can handle a little treat.

And I will definitely still eat pie.