Low Blood Sugar Craziness graphic
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I can’t believe you said that, and then did that. You’re CRAZY!!!

First, I’m not a medical expert. I only provide the experience I have being a 30+ year Type I(insulin dependent) diabetic. Never take my posts as medical bibles full of truth. Always consult a professional before ever treating or altering management of diabetes or any other medical condition.

LBS, or “Low Blood Sugar”, clinically referred to as hypoglycemia, and if you want to be retro, “insulin shock”. Potential causes: I either didn’t eat enough carbs to offset the insulin I gave myself, I forgot to eat anything (duh!), I went all nutso and accidentally gave myself two shots (forgetting! I already gave one), or something else in my body blew-up!

As I’ve aged, I am able to deal more sanely with LBS; I get a little confused, feel depressed, and then, well, go unconscious and die–eventually. My body has become more tolerant towards the human recombinant-DNA insulin I use, and because of nerve damage the side-effects are basically gone. Good because I no longer go all ape-shit; bad because by the time I realize somethings wrong I’m already at or nearly at the bottom and have to act quickly to save my ass.

Back in the day, when I was a newborn diabetic in the 80’s and 90’s I had to use animal (pork) based insulin, and it did the job. But when my blood sugar dropped the side-effects were often extreme. Serious mood swings, depression, anxiety, double-vision. The adrenaline gives me crazy energy so I become nervous and fast-talking, I get really freakin’ confused–can’t figure simple stuff out, get lost in my own home, etc.. I sweat like a 500 lb man running a marathon at gun-point in 100 degree weather. And one of my all time favorite consequences, the loss of motor control–I can’t walk, talk, move my arms–I must look like I’m having a seizure. I lose my inner-monologue, you know the little voice that tells you to “shut the hell up” before you actually say what you were just thinking–and mixed with my mood swings that become’s kinda interesting. When reeaaallly low, like near absolute zero blood sugar, I start to lose my five senses–I can’t see properly, or at all, I can’t hear, smell, taste or feel. That’s very convenient when you’re trying to force feed sugar to yourself, especially when mixed with loss of motor control and the adrenaline and anxiety. And my all time favorite side-effect–the living dream effect, where my blood no longer has enough sugar for my brain to correctly form new thoughts and memories and I start to re-live my old memories and dreams while trying to treat my LBS. Who the hell needs drugs, right?

People wonder why I refuse to drink alcohol or use drugs. If they went through the crap I’ve gone through the last 30 years in the course of my daily life they’d stay clear of anything that removed the control of mind and body VOLUNTARILY, too!

The end result of all of this, is simple. I no longer manage my blood sugars as tightly; staying above a normal levels more often, and I check my blood sugar levels a crazy amount, like sometimes 10+ times a day.

This is a reminiscence of the stuff I’ve done, and can realistically remember doing over the last 3 decades starting back in 1983 when I was a nerdy 11-year-old.

  • I got up in 5th grade class, and uncharacteristically told my teacher to “F*ck Off!” before proceeding to run out into hallway like a boy gone wild.
  • I passed out in my best friend’s house, only to eventually get dragged out by my parents and sent by ambulance to the ER, with a night in the hospital throwing up the pineapple juice my mother tried to force-feed my while I was unconscious. I couldn’t even stand the smell, much less taste of pineapple for nearly ten years after.
  • Countless freak outs while in gym class and school, by then my peers had been well trained. I tend to do better amongst people who know me and my “signs” as I, even to this day, often can’t recognize the symptoms in myself. People tell me to get a juice when I’m unable to do simple things like walk straight–and I’m like “Why? I’m fine.”
  • Because of increasing episodes of low blood sugar, and a constantly lower blood sugar level due to obsessive management, the symptomatic depression caused havoc in my life. Mixed with my natural anxiety, I gave my “mental” health professionals and my parents a nightmare during my teenage years. Without proper care, chronic low blood sugar feeds itself, almost like an addiction. It allowed me to avoid life–just as if I were a drug or alcohol addict.
  • One summer night as a teenager, my blood sugar got so low I started reacting to a dream playing out in real time and within a loop repeating itself over and over again. What I was seeing, hearing, and responding to was a combination of reality and a subconscious memory. It took hours for my parents to calm me down enough to properly treat the “reaction”. Still scares me thinking about this episode today-25 years later.
  • In college I got into a heated debate, probably over something small, that because of plummeting blood sugar turned into a very personal and energetic freak out–“moods swings!” and, as usual, I ended up fleeing the scene. Turns out my professor was so impressed by my “passion” that he applauded me to the class after I left and later encouraged me to hold true my beliefs. I might’ve failed to mentioned the medical reasons that time, he didn’t need to know, right?

In fact my “reactions” as I called them, often resulted in a fear response from others, as they really didn’t know what was going on and what to do–probably not helping me in the whole social, friends stuff.

  • Once I started working a job (at a 24hr convenience store) with differing scheduling and lots more activity things really went nuts. I got a couple of ambulance visits while at my first job, nearly unconscious both times. Once collapsing and my manager (an absolutely awesome person who I still highly regard for they way she respected and worked with me) sat by me while waiting for the ambulance.
  • While working a graveyard shift I freaked out at 3 AM on the customers before gaining enough sense to flee the store and seek out a policeman who was on a break in adjoining parking lot. He proceeded to “close” the store and let me treat my LBS–it usually takes about 10-20 minutes to regain my “sanity” after consuming fruit juice. No one from that job ever knew, whoo!
  • During this time, my first experience living away from home, much of the fun happened at home. When I’m in my comfort zone, like most people, I don’t always behave with my best interests at heart. Sometimes forgetting to eat, etc…
  • I remember once sitting naked in a chair  (While having “reactions” I sweated a lot and clothes became a nuisance;))  in my living room thinking that I was actually dead and that I should jump through the CLOSED window to wake myself up. Yeah that would’ve been a real good idea. I think it seemed like too much work so I just drank some apple juice instead.
  • While waking up one morning I couldn’t move my muscles except in violent jerking motions. So I had to crawl along the floor to the kitchen. But then, how to open a refrigerator door? Every time I grabbed it I nearly pulled the entire refrigerator on top of me–adrenaline makes one strong. I got the juice out of the refrigerator but couldn’t pour a glass. So I leaned against the wall over a garbage can and proceed to “shake” the OJ into my mouth and the surrounding cupboards, carpeting and appliances. It took me the better part of the next day cleaning that mess up.
  • The routine, as I would call it, usually involved me solemnly sitting, soaking wet with sweat, in a chair in my dining room waiting for the juice I drank to kick in. As the pool of sweat collected in the carpeting below the chair I eventually came out of it. The worst is knowing it’s coming, and even though you’ve already treated it with fruit juice, the blood sugar may continue to drop while the digestive system “deals with” the cure.

When I switched my pork based insulin to the rDNA human insulin my body reacted poorly and the intensity and unpredictability of the LBS episodes increased for a short time.

  • During that time after work one day I got in my car with a normal blood sugar–I always check first as it’s my life and the lives’ of others at stake and I knew what I was capable of when not behind the wheel of a multi-ton car. During the ten minute ride home, my sugar fell FAST and I ended up nearly killing myself, and possibly others, within blocks of my place. Eventually I hit a parked car about twenty feet from my front door. But I live in a college neighborhood, and some frat boys coming from a party thought I was “drunk” and trying to leave the scene so they held me down, preventing me from treating myself. Now that’s not a good idea. I’m not quite normal in the head, I need food to survive, and have adrenaline pumping through my system to give my body the chance to treat itself. I’m pretty sure I messed up at least one of those poor bastards with a well placed knee. By the time the cops arrived the “good samaritans” had fled (underage drinking is illegal!) and I was basically unconscious–ambulance here I come.
    The irony is that except for the ding on my car no other consequences resulted as the parked car was uninsured, which made the accident the other driver’s “fault” by default;)
  • Some assorted other episodes at work: once asking the customer to count his own change back as I couldn’t figure out the math, I once told my manager that I really wasn’t happy at work or life anymore and was thinking of quitting and moving away (he was sooo happy to find out I just needed some orange juice to “fix” me) and a few other collapses behind the counter, etc…
  • I once almost broke up with a girlfriend under the influence of low blood sugar. Remember–mood swings!! I don’t think she ever looked at me the same way again. Brutal honesty, even when stated by a completely messed up person, still has a ring of truth to it. Be warned, what you say while having LBS sometimes can’t be taken back.

Eventually as I got older and the insulin got more sophisticated, my episodes became much less dramatic, and easier to address without all the drama. Thank God!

Modern insulin like Humalog and Novolog get absorbed by my body and clear my system much faster. Older insulin types sometimes took hours to reach their full effect–leading to a lot of these problems. How many of us can plan our days hours in advance, especially in a dynamic environment like a busy retail store?

No matter what the circumstances, I take complete responsibility for what I do, whether under low blood sugar or not. Even while unpredictable things can happen, I always take the necessary steps to ensure I don’t put others at risk from my potential behavior. While driving I pull off the road at the first sign of trouble–keeping many varieties of sugar in my car year round. And I check my blood sugar very often at work–with current technology it takes less than a minutes work to get accurate results.

Nowadays most of my LBS’s simply result in an elevated pulse rate, some mild confusion and irritation, and if untreated a panicked feeling kicks in to get me moving. I have to be extra careful I don’t get too low too fast, with my Gastroparesis it takes longer for my digestive system to deal with the fruit juices I ingest to raise sugar levels.

A warning to people, who like me when younger, keep their blood sugar levels too low, frequent LBS episodes and prolonged low blood sugar may increase risks for other serious health concerns, other than driving a car into a tree;) The extra adrenaline the body uses to treat LBS’s stresses the heart and circulatory systems. It is believed, but inconclusively proven, that this stress can lead to higher risks of heart disease and strokes later in life.

And when someone with low blood sugar treats themselves they usually eat/consume TOO much food, resulting in HIGH blood sugars or hyperglycemia. If the LBS occurs at night, after the treatment I get very tired (from all the adrenaline and lack of sleep) and go to bed when my levels are safe. But my waking blood levels hours later often are dangerously high (the body continues to digest food hours after we eat). Over time these episodes of high blood sugars that came from the treatment of low blood sugars can put me under the same risks that poorly managed diabetics have: kidney problems, eye complications, circulatory issues in feet and hands, high blood pressure, etc…

Basically what I’m telling people is Low Blood Sugars are bad, potentially just as bad as High Blood Sugars. Always listen to your doctor’s advice and counsel, keep your glucose levels where they what you to keep them. Do what ever it takes, it’s not just your life and future–but other people are affected as well. Remember that your friends, family, and coworkers have to witness these freak-outs and that’s really not fair to them. And other drivers on the roads need to know that you not about to decide to use the oncoming lane as a passing lane.

These memories, or what’s left of them, sometimes scare me and most often cause me to laugh at the stupidity of my actions. But they are a constant reminder that I don’t like losing control and having the panic and sense of helplessness that comes with each and everyone of these episodes. It takes diligence every day to prevent both highs and lows in diabetic management, but my quality of life depends on it. And jumping naked through a closed window just sounds painful and messy;)