I’m a type one diabetic. So every single morning, (heck, every single day, multiple times a day) —I take something called insulin. Most people have the luxury of making it naturally. But not me.
I have to physically inject myself with it because the beta cells in my body stopped working with my pancreas to make it on its own.
It’s crazy because too much can kill me, just enough keeps me alive —but not enough, and I’m dead.
Not to be so blunt, but, it’s true.
What’s even crazier, is that somedays I can do the exact same thing I did the day before but my body won’t always react the same way. That’s what happened last night.
And let me tell you, I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted because yesterday my blood sugar dropped dangerously low. I went from 159 to 40. Do you know what that means? In case you don’t, I’m about to break it down. According to Healthline, a physical and mental health digital platform, every cell in your body needs energy to function. Our body’s main source of energy comes from a little something called glucose, a.k.a. sugar.
Blood sugar is essential for proper brain, heart, and digestive function. It also keeps your skin and vision healthy. When your blood sugar levels fall below the normal range, something called hypoglycemia happens. There are signs of low blood sugar (more on that below), but the only way to know for sure is by taking a blood glucose test. For me, I know that shit very well. Because my life revolves around daily affirmations and blood sugar checks. I was never good at math but now I have to be.
Because diabetes is a unique disease.
It’s fairly simple, yet, complex. And it’s 24.7. I’m clearly not a doctor. But, I have to make medical decisions, every minute of every day. Because when your blood sugar levels drop, it will cause a wide range of problems within your central nervous system. Early symptoms include weakness, lightheadedness, dizziness, and confusion. The list goes on. For me, I can’t focus. I’m shaky and it, quite literally, feels like I’m dying. In fact, if low blood sugar is left untreated, it can result in seizures, loss of consciousness, or death.
Consuming high-sugar foods (yes I can eat that) or drinks, such as orange juice, apple juice (my personal fave), or regular soda, can treat this condition. I’ve learned you want 15 grams of fast-acting carbs. I want something that will bring my levels up fast. Eating a bagel and cream cheese, for example, would eventually raise my sugar (in fact, it definitely will) but not at the speed I need it too. Because bready (is that a word? —it is now) type foods take a while for our bodies to process.
There’s this quote I recently heard…
“Sometimes you have low blood sugar. And you wake up in a panic because you’re dying. So you sit in the dark, drinking your juice box. And that’s OK. We all have weird little things we do in order to stay alive.” And let me tell you, last night, that shit couldn’t be more accurate. Because I started feeling weird. So I did what I always do when that happens… I checked my blood sugar. It wasn’t crazy low but I could tell it was headed there.
What low blood sugar feels like.
I almost always sense the signs of low blood sugar —before it becomes critical. Like I said, I’ll start shaking. I’m weak. Tired. Anxious. My cognitive capacity goes out the window. And then there’s this feeling —an urge, an almost primal instinct to eat. I’ll stand in the kitchen, (sometimes drenched in sweat) trembling. My entire body starts screaming, “FEED ME!!!” I mean, it makes sense. At this point, my brain isn’t getting enough glucose (sugar, energy) to function.
So the instincts take over in order for me to not, well, die. But this time, I was nauseous —almost to nauseous to eat or do anything at all. I just wanted to sleep. But nope. I had to do something. Anything. So I grab an apple juice from my drawer of go-to lows and chug. A friend of mine, who’s also a type one diabetic once said, “If we have to force-feed or drink ourselves back to life, we might as well enjoy it.” Apple juice was always a childhood favorite of mine. So that’s what I tend to go for when I’m going down.
Because sometimes my body is more sensitive to insulin than perhaps the day before.
Stress, what I ate, what I will eat, how much insulin I’ve taken and a bunch of other shit can affect that sensitivity. It’s always fucking changing. So I do what I can but it’s never the same. And that’s the hardest part of being a type one diabetic. It can be rather unpredictable. So I try my best to adapt and overcome. But I’m human and I have my moments of hopelessness and despair. What I didn’t mention earlier is the type of insulin I’m prescribed. I think it’s important to mention.
For me, I use a basal-bolus injection regimen —a little something you already know the basics about. Like I said earlier, it involves taking a number of injections throughout the day. It attempts to roughly emulate how a non-diabetic person’s body delivers insulin. It involves taking longer-acting insulin (basal) to keep blood glucose levels stable through long periods of time and separate injections of shorter-acting insulin (bolus) to prevent rises in blood glucose levels resulting from meals.
Anyway, after I chug some much-needed juice, I stumble upstairs.
I needed to lay down. I was hoping the AJ would do its thing. But just in case, I open the mini-fridge to the left of my bed and grab a few in case of an emergency —laying them on the nightstand next to me. Then, I crawl the fuck in bed. Before I get comfy, I thought it best to check my sugar again. So that’s exactly what I do. To my surprise, it was even lower than before. WTF. I had given myself my normal daily dose of the basal insulin and a normal as-needed bolus before I ate breakfast and lunch. I didn’t do anything different.
I ate enough to cover the bolus —so why wasn’t I coming up? Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t get answers —just more questions. But I didn’t have time to investigate. Instead, I open another juice box and chug some more. TBH, It hurt going down. It felt like I was about to throw up any second. I’m sweating and nearly fall to the floor. At this point, I grab a nearby trashcan and dry heave over it but nothing would come out. I’m still shaky and even more nauseous. I wanted it to stop. But it wouldn’t go away.
I drank over 30 grams of fast-acting carbs. So I set an alarm for 15 minutes.
I do this when I’m low. I do this so I can wait for it to come up. Because if I fall asleep critically low, I fear I won’t ever wake up. Because there were two occasions where that nearly happened. I fainted, passed out and had a freaking seizer. I remember the first time. I was making breakfast like any normal day. I recall opening the fridge at home to get some blueberries. The next thing I know, I’m on the floor, covered in smushed fruit with the worst fucking headache.
I had no idea what had just happened. I think I ran upstairs half-asleep yelling for my boyfriend to wake up. “Babe my head hurts,” I let out —as I basically fall to the floor. He catches me, calls out of work for me and I spend the rest of the day in bed. The next time, he and I were in a hotel room. I was making coffee by the bathroom when all of a sudden, I’m awakened by a bunch of EMTs on a freaking stretcher. My boyfriend said I fell to ground mid coffee stir. I started seizing and he called 911. Orange juice to the rescue.
Damn. So yeah, I set that fucking alarm.
I set it because I want to be self-sufficient. I don’t want to be a burden. But sometimes I need help. And you know what? I’m finally realizing that’s OK. A few minutes go by and I hear my cell phone ding. I was still weak and queasy AF. In fact, I felt even worse than before. I had no energy. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t chug. I couldn’t lift a finger. Hell, I couldn’t do anything. So I text my amazing boyfriend, 911 popsicle. And he knew exactly what I meant. That’s one of the reasons why I love him so much. I can resite half-cocked-sentences and he knows exactly what I’m trying to say.
This time, he was downstairs making dinner and like the incredible guy he is, he runs upstairs a few moments later with an icy lollipop in hand. “I know strawberry is your favorite,” he says —adding, “I don’t feel quite right leaving you here like this.” I suppose he could see the agony written on my face. So he grabs the meter I had lying in bed next to me. He puts a test stripe inside, grabs a finger and pricks. He was checking my sugar. He was doing the same check I do every few hours of every single day.
He grew up with a diabetic father and some type one cousins, so this wasn’t his first rodeo. He knew this shit better than I did. So as I transitioned from non-diabetic to T1D, he helped me. He still does. Because he knows when I’m like this exactly what to do. It doesn’t’ happen often anymore —so when it does, he knows I’m not faking. He knows when I ask for help, it’s because I need it. “133,” he remarks. Halle-freaking-lujah. I did it. We did it. I could go the fuck to sleep. “Thank you, baby,” I whisper.
I take a few more licks of the popsicle and close my heavy eyes.
I was so tired I basically throw the half-eaten lollypop on my bedside table —not caring when or how it melted. No more than 15 minutes later, I’m awoken with this mouth-watering sensation. And not a good one. You know… It’s that thing that happens right before you’re about to throw up. When your mouth fills with salvia. When you get that awfully weird feeling that something is about to happen? Well, for me, it was. TBH, I was relieved. I was relieved because I know whenever you do throw up, you always feel better.
It’s just, that feeling it gives you on its way out is so fucking disgusting. Not to be TMI —but you know it hurts. It hurts so bad. No time to think, though. So I sprint downstairs to the back bathroom, swing the toilet seat up and projectile vomit. Woah. That was a close one. I think it went up my nose, but —damn, did I feel better. I brush my teeth (heck yes), wash my face (you already know), and walk back upstairs. I felt like a new woman. Still exhausted, I get back in bed.
As soon as my head hits the pillow, I fall the fuck asleep.
What an effing night.
All in a day’s work for a type one diabetic. Because that’s just how it goes. Because there is no fucking cure. In fact, experts don’t even know the root cause of type one diabetes. Scientists attribute it to gene mutations or some sort of internal bodily virus that somehow triggers the disease. All they do know is that it’s auto-immune and it’s not preventable. But it is manageable and there is hope. There are currently a bunch of clinical trials that may hold promise for people like me.
This alternative isn’t on the market yet —as it’s not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But it’s pretty cool to think about. I also heard of this oral medicine called Sotagliflozin (yeah, I can’t pronounce it either), which is awaiting FDA approval as well. If (or when), it gets the green light, this drug will be the first oral medication designed —to be used alongside insulin for people with type one diabetes.
Similar medicines already exist for people with type two, but none are approved for people with type one. In the meantime, I do my best to eat regular meals and snack throughout the day in order to keep my blood sugar stable. I exercise. I ask for help when I need it. And I check my levels multiple times a day. It’s annoying, but like that quote I told you earlier says, “We all have weird little things we do in order to stay alive.”