Friday, March 1, 2013


Yesterday, as I was rushing from work to appointment (one hour on transit) to rehearsal (another 30-45 minutes), I felt that old, familiar, sinking feeling. Low blood sugar. Insufficient blood glucose. A hypoglycaemic incident. Whatever asinine thing the media decides to describe it as, such as "a diabetic attack" or some such vague garbage.  When Diabetics Attack is the name of my proposed reality show. I'm sure it will be very popular.

When my BG goes low, sometimes I feel like I'm about ready to attack. I don't think things through as well, or consider complexities and implications. I get angry and irritable and greedy. It's suddenly all about me and there's no charitable thought towards others, as long as I've "got mine." I feel like I'm dying out and I'm scared. It's what I imagine being a member of the Tea Party to be like.

Low blood glucose is a little like being drunk, in the worst possible way, with added hands shaking, cold sweat, and the feeling that your life force is draining out of the soles of your feet. Your head rushes. The glucoaster roars downward. Your pulse pounds. Tunnel vision becomes inevitable. Standing becomes an unimaginable feat. Powering yourself up a flight of stairs? There are 100-pound weights around your ankles. When someone who has never experienced real hypoglycaemia describes the experience of not eating for a while and feeling hungry, irritable and a bit shaky and week, I can only smile, both because I'm happy they've never had to experience the real danger, and because it's a polite but very muted understanding of the event. When I'm really low, there is a danger signal in my brain that says "No really you are going to pass out and die this time for sure." But there's another part of my brain that says "don't be late you have to get where you're going what's wrong with you are you going to let this stop you you weakling." (When I'm really low, my brain does not use punctuation; there's no time.)

I made my way through the molasses that was the air, past the people collecting for Second Harvest (in my tunnel vision, I couldn't stop to take out money; with my lizard brain it seemed too painful to listen to them talk about people who needed food). It was rush hour, but I managed to slump my way into a middle seat on the subway. I was so thankful there were no elderly people or pregnant women or obviously-disabled people around; nothing makes me feel guiltier on the subway (besides rushing by a talented busker, charity collection, or person down on his/her luck) than not wanting to relinquish my seat to someone "needier" when I look so hale and healthy, but my invisible disability is killing me at the moment. I hope everyone sees my shaking hands and the colour drained from my face, which is already very pale, and doesn't judge.

My trusty grape Dex. (source:
Luckily, I had provisions with me. I ate two granola bars in quick succession, and popped open my glucose tabs, eating about five. I forced myself to stop after that, though at that point everything in the train car still looked edible. It's like that Troy McClure "educational" film about the meat industry on The Simpsons: "Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If that cow had the chance he'd eat you and everyone you care about." I don't know if it was just my own low-induced paranoia, or reality, but suddenly I felt judgmental eyes on me, the girl who had just wolfed down two granola bars and what likely looked like a tube of candy. I turned the tube outward so anyone who was looking good see that it had a medical tagline printed on it.

I could stand to lose a few pounds, but I'm an average size. Taller than the average woman, big-boned, a decent weight for all of these factors. It's actually a major thing for me to say this, because I'm actually the first person to call myself fat. If I can tear myself away from self-judgment for a minute, though, I can say that I'm certainly not "officially" fat or obese. I have always been self-conscious about my weight and the size of my frame, however, and I was wearing a fairly puffy coat, it being the last gasp of February.  At the moment where I started panicking over the perceived judgment of my fellow subway patrons (remember that blog that mocked people eating in the New York subway?) I came to a bizarre realization: I am more self-conscious about treating a low in public than I EVER was about taking a shot in public, or testing my blood in public.

Has that happened to anyone else? Is that strange?

Treating a low in public is different from performing a medical operation. For all intents and purposes, to others, it just looks like you're stuffing your face and, if you're on the subway, that you can't wait the 15-30 minutes to get where you're going. I couldn't. To give you some idea, after over-treating with the two sweet granola bars and 5 glucose tabs (probably 80g of carbohydrate), going to rehearsal, not taking any correction bolus at all, and coming home, I tested, thinking I was probably at least 10 if not 15 (instead of being somewhere between 4-8). I was instead barely up into the normal range, at 4.2. This was actually worrisome; just how low had I been? It's hard to test on the subway, especially when squished into a middle seat, so I hadn't, as there was no way that could have been anything but a low.

Eating isn't causing my diabetes, I wanted to say loudly. It's saving me from it. I'm so used to people judging people with diabetes over food that I feel ashamed to "overeat" in a public space, even if it's necessary, even if my diabetes isn't the "weight" kind.

And that, I have to say, makes me feel pretty low.


1 comment:

  1. "everything on the train looks edible" - Oh man, I've totally been there.

    I've felt very self-conscious when having to treat lows at the YMCA. There I am, working to exercise away the pounds, then just moments later I'm eating skittles like there's no tomorrow.

    Glad you made it through Ok.