Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What Low Blood Sugar Feels Like For Me

The current view of my dining room table, with just some of my diabetes supplies.

It's 11:25 pm, and I've been asleep for about an hour. Then suddenly, I'm not. Here's the thought process for how my mind works when I wake up, experiencing low blood sugar due to diabetes.

I'm hot...Oh my it's so hot in here...It's dark...Must be nighttime...How late?...Have to get out of these blankets...My heart is racing, I can hear it in my ears...What time is it?...Why am I so hot?...The air conditioner is on...I can hear it...That means it's summer...If the air conditioning is on, I shouldn't be hot...I only have this thin blanket here...I'm hot, but now I'm shivering...I can't see the clock, I need my glasses...Oh, it's 11:25 pm?...I shouldn't be feeling like this now...I must be low.
That process, from waking up until I realize I need to check my blood sugar, takes a couple of minutes because my brain really isn't getting enough sugar to help me think clearly. And though I've been a diabetic for more than a decade, and these nights don't happen all that often, it's still scary as hell every time it does.

Part of what makes it so scary each time is how random it is. When this happened again on Sunday night, I was annoyed because I'd taken the kids for ice cream that afternoon, and so why in the world would I be having low blood sugar that night? If I'd gone to the gym too (I almost always get low after working out), then maybe I'd have anticipated it. But not that night. Not only an hour after I'd finally fallen asleep, feeling Sunday night blahs and not wanting the weekend to be over.

Then I need to treat the low. Sometimes, if I'm still groggy and haven't turned on the lights, I'll convince myself to eat some of the glucose tabs I keep on my nightstand. They taste like chalk and I try to make sure I rinse my mouth really well after eating them, because I'm terrified they'll give me cavities (yay, a staying alive solution that just causes another problem!), but getting up to brush my teeth would definitely ruin my chances of falling back to sleep. Most of the time, I go downstairs and get something to eat, usually a bowl of cereal. The hard thing is to not eat too much, despite how awful the low feels. I've learned not to eat until the low is completely gone, because then my blood sugar will be too high the next day. The trick is to eat just enough, and ride out it out until I feel normal again. And then, somehow, find a way to fall back to sleep.

In case you haven't gotten the point by now, the entire experience is pretty awful. The scariest part about it is that I could potentially get so low some night, that I don't wake up at all.

I wrote back in May that I was planning to get back to using a continuous glucose monitor soon, and due to insurance issues, I haven't been able to get it started yet. I have to send back most of those supplies you see on my dining room table above. That's only part of the picture--it doesn't include an entire shelf of insulin in my refrigerator, and boxes and boxes of needles, lancets and test strips too. Diabetes takes up both real estate in my brain, and in my refrigerator, closet, dressers.

Most of the time, I try not to think about it too much. I take my meds and test, and see my endocrinologist every few months. I'm lucky that despite having to live with this chronic disease, I can manage it in ways that aren't overly challenging. But nighttime low blood sugar? That I'd be happy to do without.


  1. This sounds scary, Cheryl! I am so happy you are ok....

  2. Oh my, that is frightening, glad you are ok! Push those insurance people you don't need this they need to approve ASAP! easier said than done I know but OMG!

  3. I'm so sorry, Cheryl. I had no idea. That must be so scary. I hope you can work it out with your insurance and get that monitor!