Monday, May 15, 2017

Diabetes and the Unexpected: Ground Rules

This is the first post starting off Diabetes Blog Week.  Check out a bunch of fabulous posts on this topic here!  

The prompt says it best: “Diabetes can sometimes seem to play by a rulebook that makes no sense, tossing out unexpected challenges at random.”

There is no comprehensive playbook.  It’s like every other job: a lot of it you learn on the fly, and it’s not all covered in the manual.

Like an employee manual though there are a few guidelines to not forget.  This year, having reached a decade birthday and my 17th year with diabetes, I’m learning the hard way that it’s good to not forget about the basics.  Ie check your blood sugar before dosing insulin.  Take exercise into account. Don't let yesterday's frustrations about high blood sugar affect the way you carb count today. Make sure your car has at least a quarter tank of gas during a bitterly cold winter.

That last lesson was painful.  I was reminded in January that I had become too comfortable with my routine and too slack with the rules, and a long walk in the freezing cold with much cursing ensued.  I made the same error in judgment months later, this time relating to diabetes.

A few weeks ago I had to wait up with a low for the first time in my life.  It certainly wasn’t the first time I’d experienced a low at night, and while they are rare, I usually just wake up and find my way to the candy dish.  On this night I had accidentally overshot my insulin by ten units, and it was the first time I had to stay awake hours to make sure everything leveled out, coincidentally on a night when I just wanted to go to bed early. 

It wasn’t because my glucose monitor malfunctioned (that I know of, at least), that my medication went berserk, or that the moon did its thing where it plays with blood sugar.  The insulin worked as it was supposed to—the problem was just with the person using it.

I didn’t test my blood sugar before I gave myself those ten units while out with friends for a beer and a slice.  I assumed my blood sugar would still be riding high from the watery spaghetti they served at a charity supper earlier.  I didn’t take into account that the insulin I took for that was still running in the background, and I had run a 10k that morning so my body could still be in workout mode. 

Stupid mistakes, I know.  When you’re constantly adapting to moving parts, knowing 1+1 doesn’t always equal 2, and having lived with a condition like this for so long you start to believe you’re pretty practiced at steering this ship in wild waters.  So you go loosey-goosey with the basic rules like a grammar student who, having learned the ins and outs of punctuation, assumes he’s an expert then throws caution to the wind and starts chucking commas all over the place for artistic effect.

I got home after the pizza soiree and immediately checked my BS.  It was 110.  Crap.  That meant a bunch of insulin was coming on board to do its job and there was no job to do.

It was my fault, but I was frustrated.  I was tired of the unpredictability, of the highs and lows, of doing simple math that commonly seemed to come up with the wrong answer.  So I bathed in self-pity and the next day decided to make peace with it.  There were things I could change about my perception of diabetes and thus my experience, starting with respect for the basics, and most importantly taking a lighter mental approach and learning to roll with the punches that were most certainly going to keep coming my way. 

You can’t be Type A about it.  I mean maybe you can, maybe that works swimmingly for some people, but I’ve found it’s easier to get by when you expect the unexpected and let it go.  There are two rules of diabetes: respect the ground rules, and know there are no real rules. There you have it: an old cliché, paraphrasing from Fight Club, and a Frozen reference in the same paragraph.

Another nerd note to round this all out—when I looked up “unexpected” in an online thesaurus it listed “wonderful” and “amazing” as synonyms.  Other words related to "unexpected" also denoted more positivity than unpleasantness, which I was surprised by.

But I shouldn’t be.  Nothing should surprise me anymore. J


  1. Sigh, there are no rules--so true! I love that you looked the word interesting that it's mainly positives associated with unexpected!

    1. Right, who saw that coming?! Usually the unexpected seems boring but that makes me consider it in a new light :)

  2. It wasn't your fault at all. Diabetes just seems to do what it wants. On another night the pizza might have pushed you up higher and you would've needed to correct a high instead of treat a low. Stupid unexpected diabetes!!

    1. Thank you Karen! :) I know, usually pizza is the absolute worst!!