“I’m a type one diabetic who’s about to pass out so I’m going to eat this fucking fruit.”
I still can’t believe I said that to the female Marriot Conference Liason in Del Ray Beach, Florida. I was visiting my family when I woke up late and didn’t have time to eat breakfast. My mom and sister were patiently waiting outside the hotel. I was rushing so I didn’t have time to check my sugar, which was a big mistake.
I started to lose focus.
I was shaking. No. I was trembling. My sugar must have been around 39. I say that because, about 15 minutes later, when I was able to check it, the number read 45. I had just eaten some mother fucking fruit so it had to have been lower when that originally went down.
For someone without diabetes, a fasting blood sugar upon awakening is usually under 100 mg/dl (give or take), 70–99 mg/dl before a meal, and less than 140 two hours after. Anyway, back then, I couldn’t even think. I had to make it to their car outside but I couldn’t even do that. All I saw was an entire room filled with catered breakfast and a sign that read:
For conference attendees only.
Clearly, I pretended it wasn’t there. I literally could have passed out any second. And so, I grab a plate and whatever food was in front of me and freaking eat. I couldn’t think of anything else but getting this food down. As the hotel employee comes toward me, I know what she’s about to say. That’s when I utter how I’m about to pass out so please leave me alone, lady. And she did.
Meanwhile, my current boyfriend was a few feet behind me, but he didn’t miss a word of what just went down. I walk to him as he busts out laughing. Oh man. We decided I’d never leave the house or run errands without checking my blood sugar first.
So, as a result of my lesson learned, I figured other diabetics may be fighting to carry on with their day-to-day world while managing this life-changing illness. So, if you’re wondering how to run errands or basically do anything outside of the house, I’m here to give you five suggestions.
Because you’re more of a boss than you give yourself credit for.
1. Check Your Sugar First
Having diabetes means learning how to count carbohydrates and how the foods you eat affect your blood sugar, which then impacts how you feel and maybe how you behave. A healthy meal plan includes complex carbohydrates, protein, fiber (beans, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables), lots of green, leafy vegetables, and limited amounts of heart-healthy fats.
At the same time, before you eat and even after, you must know what your sugar levels are. Checking your blood sugar levels regularly gives you information about your diabetes management. Monitoring helps you know when your blood sugar levels are within your target range and can help you to make choices about what you should do next if they aren’t.
Let me preface with this though. Don’t forget to enjoy yourself. Yes, we diabetics need to watch what we eat in order to prevent spikes in our blood sugar, but there’s something called insulin. So we really can eat just like everybody else. And having type one diabetes doesn’t mean we have to avoid having fun either —even while running errands.
The key, here, is to be smart about it. After enjoying small indulgences, I know I’ll need to inject insulin, so I do (this is called bolusing). And then I go about my day. But I’m no good to anyone or my to-do list if I don’t think about what I want to do first. Yes, planning can be annoying and a little time-consuming, but it makes everything else a little bit easier.
2. Wake Up Early
The early bird does, in fact, get the worm. But before I get into that, another important tip I can offer for people living with diabetes —whether it’s the first thing in the morning or right before bed: always stay calm.
Don’t let it overwhelm you. Listen to what your doctor has to say, realize the changes you’ll have to make in your life. Then, continue on. Like anything, managing life as a type one means I need to plan. Luckily for me, I love lists. Besides being a diabetic, I’m also a type A, OCD-er who writes lists in her sleep.
I know some may not be as enthused as myself but it’s one of those necessary evils (like car insurance). It’s not a hindrance —just a slight slowdown. So, I’ll sit in front of my computer with a cup of coffee and plan my day accordingly.
This is usually the time, I take about 15 minutes and meditate.
I’m a “get it all done now” person so this really helps me slow down.
After my list is done, I start thinking about what I’ll need for the upcoming day. When I know I’ll be out of the house for a while, I make sure to stock up on my diabetic equipment. So don’t forget yours.
3. Always Bring Your Supplies
Do I have my insulin and insulin needles? Do I have my blood sugar meter, test strips and lancet device (the finger pricker)? Do I have a candy bar, juice, or at least some type glucose in case I go low?
Depending on your itinerary, it’s best to overpack. I suggest bringing or purchasing an oversized bag. I did and it’s helped me fit everything —without overstuffing because I have a habit of breaking purses this way (like a lot).
Except, even if you plan properly, things happen. That’s life. We can’t always predict how our bodies will handle insulin that day. Some occasions, I need a lot to come down from a high while other days, I’m more sensitive to it. It all depends. And honestly, there’s no scientific reason for any of this —at least, they don’t know why yet.
I remember this one time though, a low came on rather quickly. I was getting gas in between errands when I felt like I was going to pass out.
Like I said, it happens. If this befalls onto you, sit down wherever you are and correct. My go-to is either orange juice, Capri Sun, a candy bar or these glucose liquid shots.
You want about 15 grams of fast-acting carbs. Foods such as bread and things like that digest differently (a lot slower). So when you’re extremely low, you need something that will increase your sugar fast.
Hence why I never leave the house without some type of glucose. I mean sometimes it’s literally a packet of sugar. Because in those moments, you need to use whatever resources you have to solve the obstacle at hand.
4. Be a Problem Solver
Everyone encounters problems with their diabetes control. Even people without it do. If/when you have a problem, you need to know how to troubleshoot your self-care.
My sister says: no one is going to fight for you but you —and it’s so true.
Be your own advocate in these and all situations by analyzing and evaluating your current circumstances as well as thinking about what was different from the usual that could have affected your blood sugar differently. It also means coming up with solutions to try, along with looking at what works and what doesn’t. Don’t get bitter, get better.
Another time, I was at Target alone. My sugar dropped to 47, which is low AF. So I found a seat at the Starbucks inside, chugged a glucose shot, and ordered a hot chocolate.
It’s that simple (not easy, but simple). Plus, you can take steps now to lower your risks of developing health problems in the future. Recommendations to reduce those risks include: not smoking (I quit about three years ago and I solely vape now #vapelife lol), seeing your doctor regularly (to check your A1C), visiting an eye specialist at least once a year, brushing and flossing daily, seeing your dentist, taking care of your feet, as well as listening to your body and exercising daily.
But like I said in the beginning, don’t forget to have some fun.
5. Reward Yourself
Living with diabetes and its daily demands for self-care can be stressful and may negatively impact your self-management. Not only can stress increase your blood sugar levels, but it can contribute to you making poor choices. The good news is there are many healthy ways to cope with stress.
One of those ways is rewarding yourself after a long day. The best part is, we have insulin for a reason. So don’t forget to splurge every now and again.
If you had a bad day, have a cookie or in my case, eat an entire whole-wheat margarita flatbread pizza —just make sure to bolus first. It helps make eating healthy the rest of the time worth it. I mean, everyone has a cheat day, right? It’s the same thing.
Simply do the best and forget the rest. It’s important to feel good about your successes. Give yourself credit when you are successful but don’t be overly critical if you fall short of a goal.
Choose to have a positive attitude, and cultivate it every day, but also accept when you feel down. To have occasional negative thoughts is normal. Research has actually shown that acknowledging those thoughts may help you keep your blood sugar levels stable.
Acknowledge, but don’t dwell. Once you work diabetes management into your routine, there’s no excuse for not doing everything else you want to do. Enjoy your life. No one is going to do that for you but you. Here’s to finding your new normal.