The following is an excerpt from Laura Kronen’s book on living with diabetes, Too Sweet: The Not-So-Serious Side to Diabetes:
What goes up, must come down. The only thing I hope for when my blood sugar is high is for it to decline, pronto!
Our pancreases are broken. Because of this, we have blood sugars that are less than perfect. Many times our readings are much too high. The technical name for this is hyperglycemia. Sometimes the amount of glucose in your blood can even skyrocket to dangerous levels. The sad fact is that every person with diabetes has experienced highs more times than he or she would probably care to admit. Highs are frustrating and time consuming—they slow you down, depress you, and can make you feel defeated. Plus they are dangerous and can do all sorts of torturous things to your body.
When you first realize you have high blood sugar, you know that it’s not going to be an easy fix. Highs can take hours to come down. If you eat or drink anything it will just drag out the process longer. This is one of the most frustrating things about being a diabetic. I like an instant solution, and that’s why lows are so much more appealing to me. I’ll take a 58 over a 258 any day of the week. Highs result in psychotic repeated glucose testing to see if the numbers are starting a downward trend. It is impossible to put your high sugar level out of your mind; it’s a recurring thought that will not take a back seat to any other thought in your head.
Everything slows down when you get a high. Reflexes are sluggish, your mind is drowsy, and you feel that overall you are in a sugar-induced fog. Many times all you want to do is nap, but you can’t. Unfortunately, life does not come to a halt just because your blood sugar is high.
I have a love/hate relationship with my glucose meter. On particularly bad days it’s a judge of my self-worth. I feel like a terrible person when the results are high. I almost can hear my meter preaching, “Another high blood sugar? What did you eat this time?” and “What do you expect when you eat a cupcake, girlfriend?” Not only that, but every time I have a bad number, I am reminded that yes, I have diabetes. I am more than a number though. It is not a measure of my self-worth or my overall management. It’s just a blip on the radar. The truth is that all of those pesky high blood sugar numbers are just little pieces of a big puzzle. They are just numbers. As long as you get them down quickly, you are doing all you can to stay as healthy as you can. Check your blood frequently and address issues as they arise. We all have so many numbers that are normal too, so don’t get discouraged when you have a bad day or week.
In the same vein, when I have a particularly unusual day brimming with all perfect numbers, I think I am cured. I envision myself being the first person in the world who has been miraculously cured of diabetes without an islet cell transplant. As farfetched as it sounds, I still have just a wee bit of faith that my fairy tale might come true. That’s right. Some women dream of knights galloping in on white horses to whisk them away to become a princess. I dream of life without diabetes. Seems fair.
Up, Up, and Away
There are endless breeds of high blood sugars. So many external factors can adversely affect your efforts to control your blood sugar levels including stress, hormonal changes, periods of growth, physical activity, medications, illness, and fatigue. It’s truly amazing when you get a normal reading! See how many of these highs you have experienced:
The Didn’t Shoot Up Enough High: This one is completely your fault. You ate too much and didn’t take the right amount of medicine to cover it. It often happens when you dine out at a restaurant or go to a party. You never know what ingredients have been used and how much of them were in what you ate. This is also fondly known as The Crap Shoot High.
The Ate Too Many Carbs High: This is kind of your fault again. You overindulged—ate too much pasta, too much bread, or too many sweets. It happens to the best of us! Don’t beat yourself up.
The Too Much Adrenaline High: The adrenaline hormone is great in the sense that it helps to increase courage and overcome fears, but it also raises blood sugar in the blink of an eye. If you have ever played a physically competitive sport, had a huge presentation at work, ridden a really scary roller coaster, or gotten into a car accident, then you know all about the Too Much Adrenaline High. Any activity that produces excitement, fear or danger can escalate your blood sugar, and quickly!
The Stress-Induced High: If you have ever been super angry, the kind of angry that is accompanied by steam coming out of your ears, or if you have just had one of those days in which everything is driving you nuts (who hasn’t?), then you have experienced the Stress- Induced High. In comparison with the other highs, this one is the most exasperating, because your high resulted from being pissed off, not from eating something decadent. When my blood sugar is low, my children want to know if they should get me angry so it goes back up again. It’s a valid thought, but I have yet to allow them that indulgence.
The Sick as a Dog with the Flu High: You can’t eat, you are throwing up, and you are practically begging someone to put you out of your misery. The cherry on top is that your blood glucose is out of control. You might even have ketones in your pee, in which case call your doctor immediately. The only thing that could possibly make it worse is all of those bolus corrections you are taking end up resulting in a low, and you now have to eat something to bring it back up. Then you throw up again, and the cycle continues. I shudder just thinking about it.
The No Good Reason High: No explanation. No excuse. No motive. No logic behind it. It just makes no sense whatsoever. This is also known as the Twilight Zone High (cue the theme song).
The Premenstrual High: Think of it as diabetic PMS. You still get bloated, acne, fatigue, food cravings, mood swings, and irritability, but that’s not all! You are also the recipient of sky- high blood sugar readings as well. It never fails; three days before you start your period your numbers start creeping up. Catapulting to the three- or four-hundred range is not unheard of and makes you even crankier. It’s best to avoid loved ones for seventy-two hours.
The Good Morning High: You wake up to check your blood at 4 AM and score a sublime 105, only to get out of bed at 7 AM with a 245. That’s called the dawn phenomenon. It sounds poetic, but it’s just completely frustrating.
The Dry Eye High: Your blood sugar is high and you know it, because as you blink, your lids feel like they have sugary sandpaper on the inside. You feel as though you need some eye drops, but when you use them they don’t really help. This feeling goes away immediately upon your sugar returning to normal.
The I Just Want to Take a Nap High: You are soooooo sleepy. You have no energy, and all you want to do is lie on the couch or crawl into bed and snooze off the high.
The Stripper High: Clothing is peeled off as your sugar climbs higher. How did it get so damn hot in here?
The Shot in the Dark High: You woke in middle of the night to check your blood, found it to be high, and groggily corrected for it in the darkness of the room. Only problem is, after the shot, you cannot say for sure if you took the cap off of your needle or not. You wake up two hours later with an even higher number.
We have all experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. To really appreciate those normal readings, you have to have been at both ends of the spectrum. Consider your outrageous highs and senseless lows as recurring rites of passage. After all, if you didn’t have them, you wouldn’t be diabetic! Just eat healthy, exercise, test frequently, keep your numbers in check and take control of your diabetes. Don’t let it control you.