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Rick: I’m a prick when I am low

 Tony the Tiger

I have been many things, husband, father, coworker and patient.  I am also a person with type 1 diabetes.  I have lived with type 1 for 42 years and I have to admit I am at least one more thing.   I can be a prick when I am low.  It’s true.  I acknowledge it.   Of course I often prick my finger to test my blood sugar, but I am also a prick.

Low Blood Sugar?

Having a low blood sugar is like being in an automated car wash without a car.  Having a low blood sugar feels like all the stimuli are coming at one thousand miles per hour and yet all you can think about is food.  It causes those around us to suffer sometimes.  I have many low blood sugar stories, some funny, some sad, and a few dangerous.  It is the accumulation of stories that show up after 42 years of taking an artificial hormone that allows me to live.

Low blood sugar is caused by not adequately matching food, exercise, and insulin. An insulin user can go low if they eat too few carbohydrates, exercise more than estimated, their body is assaulted by emotional stress (good or bad experiences), too much insulin is delivered, or a thousand other inputs that get out of balance.  No matter the cause; the result can be extreme sweating (I hate that one), rapid convulsive movement in hands or legs, unconsciousness, blurry vision, confusion, hunger, crying (I hate that one as well) or in some cases no discernible symptoms at all.  My most typical symptom is anger.  I tend to get defensive when I have a low blood sugar and I can turn into a raging lunatic.

But A Prick?

I can turn into a raging maniac based on the stimuli around me.  I have been known to throw things, yell, take off my clothes, laugh wildly, hit, and disobey those trying to help me.  I once opened and ate a box of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes in the store.  When the manager asked why I was doing that I said the most important thing I could think of.  Because they’re GREAT!!!!!!

However, when I get upset is when someone remarks about my care while I am low.  These phrases always start with same words,   If you, you need, you should, if only followed by some prescription for what I did wrong or could do better to manage diabetes.  It angers me to hear these things, as if I wanted this outcome, or the speaker could do better.

Inputs and Outputs

Taking insulin is not strictly an input/output arrangement. The human body is much more complicated than the sum of its inputs.  I know this because sometimes I eat the same food, do the same exercise and take the same insulin and I get widely varying results.  It seems unfair that if I am sitting at home I can go low because my body metabolized its inputs differently.  Sometimes stuff happens.

Yes, we can control some parts of the equation.  I can put in less insulin, I can eat more or less carbohydrates and I can stay home while the family goes on a walk or swim, but that is like sitting on a four legged stool with two legs cut off. Most of the time I get it right.  I can usually keep the stool balanced but often, I make a mistake and my blood sugar goes too high or low.

What I have learned after 42 years of managing diabetes 24/7/365 is that no one can do it perfectly.  We miss and sometimes those misses are big. When that happens, I may need some help.  And if I ask for that help, know I do not mean to be a prick, but if I am also know my apology is sincere. After all I hate pricks those on my finger or the one that comes out when I am low.

8 thoughts on “Rick: I’m a prick when I am low

  1. Thank you for this piece! I have Type 2D and take a pill. My son noticed when I went low I got, as he says, grumpy. I mentioned this to my doctor and she told me it was a common reaction. My husband, the “expert” denies that this is possible and my blood sugar has to be high. Even if I test when I start feeling that way and show him my meter, he says the meter is wrong. Maybe if I show him others can react the same way he will let up on me. Thanks!

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    • Kristen, when my husband or mum asks if I’m low, I say an emphatic no, then sneak off and do a blood test. Lo and behold! I’m low. I then eat my jelly babies in secret…

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  2. Even as a reactive hypo-prone Type 2 – or by current standards nondiabetic – I used to suffer anything between frustration and sheer rage from time to time, in retrospect a few hours after eating too many carbs.

    I knew a couple of hypo-prone Type 1s – one even on a pump – who were mostly well controlled but (I assume) whose glucagon response failed dismally on occasion – who became quite combative. One punched out ambulance staff who were trying to get him on a glucose drip more than once, and the other would fight his boyfriend who was trying to get him to drink glucose water or administer a glucagon shot.

    Neither actually had much recall of what they were doing at the time.

    There have been deaths in Police custody when such people were assumed to be drunk and left to “sleep it off”. I’ve even heard of medical staff administering insulin.

    Let’s be careful out there.

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  3. My favorite low story happened a few years back when I went low in the middle of the night and I woke up on the floor naked, with my wife and 5 firemen standing around. I asked, did I miss the part or was I the party? It got a good laugh.

    No there is nothing funny about low blood sugars, but we all know we try hard to keep it in check. Sometimes it gets out of check and then thing sort of happen. Mostly it is ok. Sometimes not.

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    • Fortunately nothing that scary happened to me mainly because I had “fair warning” that I was going down: back when I was a trucker sometimes I would have to pull off the road and get my head down for ten minutes until the worst had passed, then eat some chocolate and drink some sugary coffee out of my flask before carrying on.

      I knew someone who made the best bacon sandwiches in the area from a roadside van who was nearly killed when a runaway truck took out his van. Almost certainly a hypo. Driver asleep at the wheel.

      Then there were those times an aunt would try very hard to persuade me to eat some of her delicious cake. Half an hour later “Why has he fallen asleep?”

      In later life when I drove an office, well I don’t think I ever snored in a meeting but I came close. Likewise back in school I would sometimes nod out during afternoon classes.

      Now I am running principally on fats/ketones such events are in the past. I’ve read some research suggesting that ketogenic diets may also improve hypo-prone Type 1s

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