Sunday, November 04, 2007

What Low Blood Sugar Feels Like

Aw heck, I'm not sleeping anyhow (did I mention that both high and low blood sugar will absolutely prevent me from sleeping?)

Here are the low blood sugar symptoms. They vary greatly for me, and I know diabetics tend to be really individual about the type and severity of their symptoms, but here's what tends to happen to me:
  • Unlike high blood sugar, part of having an insulin reaction is NOT REALIZING that I'm having one. There's a strange mental impairment that keeps me from figuring it all out. At one time I had a "Confused? Get Sugar!" sign posted on my bedroom wall, and it actually worked, but I rarely wake up with insulin reactions anymore.
  • Before the symptoms get really bad I tend to become giddy and goofy and talkative.
  • Or, if I'm alone, I'll get REALLY WORRIED about things. This is usually the tip-off for me that something is wrong.
  • I get incredibly creative ideas. I think outside of the box. If I could stay in this brain-impaired state forever I'd be brilliant.
  • After those initial symptoms, my skin gets chilly and I break into a disturbing cold sweat. I become "clammy." This always amazes me, because it's so weird: it comes on suddenly and just GUSHES.
  • I see spots. If my blood sugar is getting low at work, this is usually the tip-off: I can't see the computer screen properly.
  • Sometimes the inside of my mouth goes numb.
  • I don't crave food, but when I eat it it tastes INCREDIBLE. There is NOTHING so delicious as breakfast on the verge of insulin shock.
  • A warm, floating feeling similar to being in a warm bath.
  • Confusion. I stumble over words, my voice sounds funny in my head, I stop making sense. I may start to say outright stupid, meaningless things.
I rarely get to this stage without fixing the problem, but for a brief time (when I first moved away from home), my diabetes was VERY poorly controlled and things became much more serious. Once I woke up and I couldn't move my legs; after eating some convenient sugar I was able to walk the way people with muscular disorders walked, with a wide swing and more jittery stumbling than actual forward motion. It was horrifying. One other time I found myself suddenly in the kitchen, feeling terrified and confused, and while my roomates looked on I jumped obsessively until I collapsed.

From those (hopefully forever gone) experiences I began to view insulin shock this way: if your mind is a boat sailing along in the sea, the encroaching insulin shock is like a contagious insanity spreading among the crew. The ship goes more and more out of control as things get worse...but YOU, the immune crew member, don't notice the insanity at first. Eventually you notice that you're the only sane one on the ship, but there's only so much you can do to get things back under control.

Nowadays I don't get insulin reactions much...they usually happen in bars when I'm fighting an insulin high with too much vigour (see below), though I do sometimes get them at work in the morning (at which time I'm briefly REALLY GOOD at my job, before the spots block out my eyes).

One important lesson I've learned is that it doesn't take much to raise blood sugar again. I usually end up eating too much food because of the delayed reaction; you eat some sugar, nothing happens, so you eat more and more...but meanwhile your sugar is just taking some time to digest.

So now you know.

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