I am from New Jersey, and moved to Springfield, Missouri in 2005 to start a doctorate program in clinical psychology. I’m in my third year now, and almost done with the academic part of the program!!!
The program got extremely hard during the summer of my second year. I lost about 20 lbs without moving a muscle, was constantly thirsty, and went to the bathroom every ten minutes. I was also extremely tired. I typically get up before 8:00, but during this time I wanted to sleep until 2:00pm. My thoughts were disorganized and I wanted everyone to leave me alone. Not the best attitude for a therapist to have…
My father has Type I diabetes so it didn’t take long for me to get my butt out of bed and go buy a meter. My first reading was 180. I did some research and found I was in the diabetic range. I was relieved to find this so I could point the finger at something for making me so miserable.
It took about 6 months for me to get an appointment with an endocrinologist due to my current residence in the middle of nowhere. Grad school keeps you busy, but I squeezed the appointment in on a Wednesday. I had seen clients from 8-2, had supervision from 2-4, rushed to the doctor at 4, then had class from 5-8. While at the doctors, the doc went ahead and shot me up for the first time on my way out. I told him I was going to eat so he thought it was safe. My idea of eating is stuffing a sandwich down my throat in the car on the way to my next obligation. I had the sandwich there that day, but wasn’t hungry. I realized how I just walked in to an office, got diagnosed with a chronic disease, was given insulin, and ultimately was told to change my entire life. As a therapist I told myself to let the emotions out and try to deal with how I was feeling. Then I snap out of it and realize the lights green and I need to drive. The therapist voice was then gone, I turned on the music, ate half of that sandwich, and ran into class.
I had to do a 45 minute presentation in class that night, so I was reviewing my notes while the instructor began. I started to feel weird. The words were blurry and I was getting pissed at that piece of paper. Then I look up and sit for a moment. I felt myself getting shaky and sweaty. Everything slowed down and I felt so separate from my surroundings. I thought I was probably low, but it just seemed too unlikely. Obviously my thoughts were off the wall at this point so I didn’t think to test. Instead, I raise my hand and start giving my opinion on how stupid the class was and everyone in there who believes in this theory has no substance, and must be horrible therapists! I really scored some points there!
Once I was done ranting, and realized I had interrupted the teacher talking about something unrelated to what I said, I pulled out the meter. As I tested I heard the teacher say “Kim are you ready to present?” I look back down at the meter and it was 56. I knew that was bad, but I felt like I couldn’t stand up so I just sat there.
The teacher came over, and asked if I was ok. I explained to him I had been diagnosed with diabetes an hour prior and had insulin injected. I started getting teary eyed, which is very rare for me. A classmate came up to me and put down orange juice and chocolate. I drank some and said I could not present that night. He asked what my blood sugar was and when I told him, he wouldn’t let me leave. I sat in class for a while eating chocolate, thinking about how I just acted a complete fool in front of 40 people. I don’t care much what people think, but it bothered me to be seen as “sick”, or unable to do something.
I suck out of class 20 minutes later and went home.
To date, that is the lowest my blood sugar has been. That night I realized I would need to set limits for myself. There was no way I could maintain that type of schedule and manage my diabetes. I fought it for a while, but about 3 months in I changed my schedule to that I would take one more year to finish. I’ve now realized, that doesn’t really help me. I ended up leaving one class for me to take this coming fall. If I took it last fall, I would have been done with school and could have left for internship this summer. Instead I have a year basically off. I will have my dissertation to do, and can work at the Master’s level for now, but I couldn’t get over my rash decision.
That raised my awareness that I wasn’t all back. I was still very tired even with good blood sugars, and I had a tough time focusing. My next trip to the doctor resulted in a diagnosis of hypothyroidism. This has proved harder to manage then the diabetes so far.
The combination of diabetes and hypothyroidism has been tough at times, but I am thankful neither condition is terminal. Things can always be worse. The thyroid has recently received a good reading, and I’ve had much more energy lately. My schedule is back to crazy somehow, but in 3 months that will change.
My last A1C was 6.2 and I don’t feel like I’ve made too many changes in my diet. That is relieving.
My only fears are low blood sugars during sessions. I do not self-disclose to my clients so they have no idea I’m diabetic. I have been low a few times with client’s, but only once did it matter.
I was giving a woman an IQ test. This is a big deal to most people, because our society puts a lot of value on IQ. Well, this woman was working hard and doing well on the test. The standardization requires I finish each subtest before moving on to another. Well half way through the longest subtest I start to sweat. I take off my jacket and continue. Then I get the big outbreak of sweats. I roll up my pants! Very professional. Then I put my hair in a ponytail and notice the huge sweat-pits I have on my gray shirt. I looked at the client and she smiled. I ask her if she’s hot and she says “no”. I move on with the subtest and as I’m writing her response, my hand starts to shake. Now I’m getting pissed. I look over at my diet coke and start cursing it out in my head. I look at the client and hate that she is there which restricts me to the room. She’s giving answers and I’m obviously irritated. The poor woman must have thought she was stupid. I’m sure I was shooting her nasty looks the whole time.
Finally, the subtest is over. I put down my clipboard and ask her if she needs to take a break. She said “DO YOU???” hahaha. Obviously I said yes and stormed out of the room. I go into the library and the room is blurry. I walk straight to my purse, ignoring people in my way or saying hi. I eat a glucose tab immediately and test. It was 64. I was so angry at the meter because I felt so much worse than 64. I got a regular coke ate a few more glucose tabs and finished the testing. I apologized to the woman, we finished testing, and luckily I got to tell her she was average intelligence 2 weeks later.
Now I bring orange juice to every session. I still have a lot to learn in terms of lows. It has been hard to learn what works for me when I’m in a profession where I can’t test when I need to and don’t have access to different foods or drinks while in sessions. Sometimes I’ll drink the orange juice because I feel slightly off or tired and end up with a high reading after session. I guess this is just the learning curve.
Also, I have this idea that every diabetic will have one horrible low that leads to hospitalization. My father did often, and I’m just waiting for it to happen to me. I know it’s unrealistic, but I am pretty hung-up on that. Maybe I am waiting for that to happen because I know it will open my eyes to how serious this all is. Saying you understand something and truly accepting it are worlds apart.
I am happy to have found a place to share these thoughts with others who understand the disease.