When you fist get diagnosed with Diabetes the doctors give you a brief education on the disease. I had mine while wasting time locked in a hospital for the weekend. The nurse would wheel in a TV with a VCR hooked up to it (this was in 1996) and play some outdated video very similar to the types you would see in drivers ed in high school. They would show you the basics and try to scare the crap out of you by telling you about all of the complications that can happen if you don’t take good care of yourself (think, red asphalt for diabetes). They show you how to shoot up, sorry, to inject insulin and how to test the amount of sugar in your blood. But the education is brief and shallow. They don’t mention the social implications of a disease that involves such a social passtime, eating. They don’t mention the fear of not waking up that comes when your go to sleep the night after your blood sugars have dropped so low you had to call 911 on yourself because you knew it was very likely you would pass out in the next few minutes with no one in the house to help. And they don’t mention a million other things that you learn along the way.
After 14 years with the disease, I thought I had pretty much experienced all of the cautionary tales and knew how to keep myself safe. Last week, however, I found there was a new lesson to learn. I have been dealing with a new, temporary, chronic disease, Mulitnodular Toxic Goiter, which in essence speeds up all of the processes in your body. It is like being on speed 24 hours a day. It sounds like a great condition to have because you could get so much done and have massive amounts of energy. The problem is that your body actually needs rest. It needs sleep and down-time and relaxation. My body no longer gets this. I thrash around at night and never get any deep sleep. I am forever in that light phase of sleep where you dream, the most useless level of sleep. And so I am tired. I am tired every day at every moment. I have started playing around with ways to get some sleep. I have tried a nice drink before bed, but with my hyperexcited state it doesn’t do a thing. I have tried meditation before bed, staying up extra late, and turning down the lights 30 minutes before bed. I have recently even tried Tylenol PM. The tylenol my doctor has recommended to reduce the swelling in my thyroid and the P.M. sounded good to me so I took 2, the recommended dose. And, oh what a sleep I had. After about 9 months of not really sleeping it was welcomed as much as a sweet summer rain. The problem came when my blood sugars dropped in the middle of the night.
Plummeting blood sugars in the middle of the night are not a rare occurrence for me, although they can be a scary one. It is a bit disconcerting to be awakened, shaking and sweaty, and somewhat disoriented. I feel my way into the kitchen through the darkened house, trying not to bump into too many walls so as not to wake my sleeping family. I stumble to the fridge and pull out the milk, make my way to the cupboard to get the chocolate milk mix and hopefully remember a cup before I pour a gallon of milk on the counter. I have done this enough times that it is pretty much on auto-pilot. But this night was different. With those sleeping pills on board, I was barely able to function. I felt low, but the thought that I needed to do something about it didn’t occur. I simply felt low and knew that was bad. After about 30 minutes of laying in bed like this, I thought I should do something about it, but the only thing I could think was to stand up. Once I was up, I was lost. Bathroom? No. TV? No. Kitchen? Maybe, let’s go see.
Once in the kitchen the overwhelming need to eat started. So I looked around and could not figure out where to find food. I just stood there staring at a closed cupboard, a sink, the skylight, fridge door, 3 inch square white tile with grey blue grout that had at one point in time been white, but, after years of use had been tinged with the food and spilled drinks. Maybe I should buy something to clean that, I’m sure someone has come up with a new caustic cleaner that will turn the gout back to white, but will poison all of the food we will put on the counter for years to come until we each have 4 arms and 6 legs and can walk on the walls. Maybe I should just use some Simple Green, but I can’t find it at Costco anymore, or anywhere for that matter. Maybe they went out of business, but when I am up at my parent’s place I still see their factory building standing with their name still on it.
Oh crap, food.
Try the cupboard door. Almonds,spaghetti noodles, chocolate milk mix. Hmmmm.
Fridge, Left over pizza, ketchup, pickles, milk. We’re getting somewhere now.
Milk plus chocolate milk mix makes something, I just know it.
Cup. Spoon. Pour milk. Spoon up mix. I watch my hand try to scoop up the mix which it does just fine. The problem comes when my shaking hand tries to transfer the mix from the canister to the cup of milk. Half of it ends up on the counter. So I go for another 5 scoops just to make sure I get enough in the cup. Mix. Drink. Ignore the incredible mess I have just made on the counter, one for which I know I will be mercilessly teased by my husband, Tony, in the morning, but all I can think of now is BED. I stumble back and pass out.
When the morning comes, I am refreshed from the first good night of sleep in months, but I know it will be quite some time before I risk that again. The chances of a diabetic dying in her sleep are always there. We try to reduce our odds by being in good control in the day and by training ourselves to be sensitive to the body sensations of being low so we can wake ourselves up. I have even become aware of the types of dreams I usually have when I am low (typically food based) and have trained myself to wake up. But taking sleeping pills, although effective for sleep, really increase our odds of not catching a low and reaping the consequences. The body cannot live on too little sugar in the blood. It will simply stop living. For me, I choose to be tired. Life is much better than sleep. The old saying, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” has new meaning for me lately, one in whihc I do not want to learn firsthand.