Recently, I had a period where for three days, I dealt with BGLs that would not drop below 15mmol/l. Most of the time, they were above 20mmol/l, which is revolting and even more so when considered in the US-measure: 360mg/dl. (I’m not sure why, but for those few days, I kept converting my high numbers to US numbers. For anyone playing at home, I hit 461mg/dl. Don’t play at home. Really. Don’t. And file under: #StupidThingsIDoWhenHigh and also, I am good at multiplying by 18.)
Anyway, it was crap. I felt crap. And I wanted to cry. A couple of times my stupid meter simply said ‘hi’ which is not so much friendly as a declaration of giving up. It doesn’t know where to go above about 33mmol/l, so it just stops working, instead throwing out random greetings. My CGM graph was off the charts.
Why was I high (hi)? I’ve no idea. Seriously. No idea. I wasn’t eating cupcakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I went through the usual checklist of ‘things that could possible make my BGL high’ which includes:
- Eating cupcakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner
- Forgetting to bolus
- Not bolusing enough
- Bent cannula
- Dodgy insulin
- Impending virus
- Exercising when already high (ha, as if!)
- Eating ridiculously large quantities of ridiculously high carb foods
- Eating a whole jar of Nutella in one sitting
- Infection at cannula site
- Pump not delivering properly
- Following a paleo diet/I Quit Sugar diet and pretending I’d cured myself of diabetes and didn’t require insulin anymore
- Anything and everything else ever and ever and ever and ever
I wasn’t forgetting to bolus – I actually was correcting every couple of hours. I (as it turned out, unnecessarily) ripped out three cannulas – and starting looking at the fourth one very suspiciously, wishing I had see-through skin so I could identify any bent-cannula hiding under the skin. And then thinking about how creepy having see-through skin would be and then vomiting a bit in my mouth.
Nope. No reason at all.
I stopped eating anything carb-containing, instead eating a salad of greens and chicken for lunch and chicken soup with (non-carb containing) vegies for dinner. I rage-bolused for the milky coffee that I really needed at 3pm –the only carbs I consumed for the whole day.
And still, every time I checked, I was sitting close to 20mmol/l. Any reading of 15mmol/l, which ordinarily would result in me throwing a mini-tantrum, seemed a victory. But it was fleeting and before long, I would be heading upwards again.
By day three, I felt that I had an aura of exhaustion surrounding me. My limbs were heavy and climbing the stairs to my office was draining. I countered my exhaustion with ridiculous quantities of coffee, replacing my usual latte for a short macchiato to minimise the milk I was drinking.
I had a lunch of sashimi (my favourite no-carb lunch) and got on with my afternoon at work.
At about 2pm, I checked my BGL, expecting to see another high number. But instead, I had my first number under 10mmol/l for three days: 9.8mmol/l said my meter.
Over the next couple of hours, I kept a close eye on things. I had quite a bit of insulin on board (yes, I know I shouldn’t, but of course I rage bolus when numbers won’t come down and I am frustrated) and I didn’t want to crash and burn with a nasty hypo.
I kept a fruit box of pineapple juice next to me and took a sip every now and then and managed to not dip below 4mmol/l.
By the next day, I was back on a far-more level playing field. My numbers were in-range and there were no more surprises.
I reviewed my BGL readings and pump activity for the previous days and in all honesty can’t say what I would have done differently. There really was absolutely no discernible reason for the crazy-high numbers – at least none that I could see.
Although my BGLs remained stable for a few days afterwards, it took me some time to get over the sludgy feeling that follows an extended period of high numbers. I was tired and achy and my legs continued to feel heavy.
All in all, it was about six days of feeling below par – first from the high numbers and then its aftermath. And, of course, the emotional frustration that comes with not being able to pin point the reason for feeling crap – and then being able to fix it.
When people ask what living with diabetes is like, I don’t know how to put into words these sorts of experiences in a way that makes any sense. I can explain the number of times I have to jab my finger to check my BGL. I can talk about how I wear a little box shoved in my bra and press a few buttons for it to deliver me some life-saving medication. I can count out the number of hours I spend with healthcare professionals each year.
But how to explain and quantify the frustration? How do I explain the sense of helplessness when I can’t work out what is going wrong? How do I explain that sometimes there are simply no answers and we just have to ride it out until things (hopefully) get back on track?
I’ve no idea. But for me, this is the essence of diabetes. The frustration and helplessness. And it remains for a long time after numbers get back in range.