The High Life

This was originally posted to my blog, Diabetes Odyssey.

Last night we went out to dinner for teppanyaki with a group of friends to celebrate one of their birthdays. It was a very wonderful evening for many reasons; we got to visit with friends we don’t see as often as we’d like, and we had an awesome cook who was talented as well as hilarious. And I got to get out of the house…I don’t get out much these days.

If you don’t know what teppanyaki is, it is a style of Japanese cuisine. The cook uses a huge iron griddle (of which all the guests are seated around) and gives a wonderful show of cooking your food. Our cook was wonderful and helped to make the evening a total blast! We were greatly entertained by his cooking and jokes. I haven’t laughed that much in awhile.

Since this is a diabetes blog, I’ll get to the point of why I’m mentioning last nights great fun. I consciously decided not to worry about my blood sugar for the evening, knowing we were going to eat much more than I’m used to in an entire day let alone one meal. Even though I bolused as best I could guess for what I was going to eat, and then again after I ate, to correct for what I figured I’d underestimated on, I still ended up massively high about two hours after eating.

Oh, the joys of diabetes.

At it’s highest my blood sugar reached 400. I haven’t had a blood sugar above 300 in months, and my blood sugar rarely reaches over 170 these days, and that’s a bad day.

The teppanyaki was delicious. There was a ton of food and each and every item was cooked with a sauce that obviously had sugar in the ingredients. I had soup, salad, veggies, chicken, shrimp, and rice. I also had vanilla ice cream which I really should have skipped, but I was not worrying about my blood sugar, remember.

It was all so worth it, though. It’s OK to do things like this once in a great while. If we do not let loose once in awhile, we’ll burn out and loose all control.

One thing this brought to mind is the realization of a difference in how high blood sugar feels when you only experience it on occasion, versus when you live with chronically high blood sugar.

Now days, with my blood sugar staying in the low 100’s and below most of the time, when I do experience a BG above 150, and especially when it goes anywhere above 200, I can really feel the symptoms of the high. Dehydration, dry mouth, tight crampy muscles, irritability, insomnia, laziness, munchies, nausea, frequent urination, blurry vision…

When I spent 25 years solid with blood sugars rarely below 180 and often north of 250, I rarely noticed any symptoms at all. It wasn’t that they weren’t there, it was just that my body was accustomed to them. I felt normal because this was my norm.

This brings me to a startling and frightening revelation. OK, maybe those words are a bit too much, I did realize this a long time ago, but last night as I dealt with my high (which means I wasn’t sleeping), I spent some time thinking about it. I spent so many years never checking my blood sugar, never thinking about what I was eating, and just taking my standard dose of insulin without knowing what my blood sugar was first or thinking about how active I was going to be or what I was going to eat. There was no planning, no balancing, no caution.

My god! How did I not kill myself?! Really, how did I survive all those years without overdosing on insulin? All it would have taken was one day of too much activity, not enough food, and too much insulin, and I would have gone to sleep and never woken up.

Of course, I was killing my self in another, much slower way by running massively high all the time. But you get my point, I never knew where my blood sugar was so I could have easily caused an immediate emergency at any moment.

Scary stuff there, yall.

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I feel every symptom, low, high and so on but above 250 it’s just god awful. I’m sweating, palpitations etc. I just I hate this frickin disease!

It’s funny, I think of myself as being really conscientious and controlled and being a Good Diabetic lo these last twenty years or so, but this totally brought me back. When I was in grad school in the late-80s early-90s, married with a kid, not that long after I’d been dx’d, back when R/NPH was the standard (only!) treatment, I went through at least 4 years, maybe more like 6, where this describes my exact attitude. I remember my physician at the time trying to get on my case about why I hardly ever tested (“Aren’t you even curious???”). But I was going crazy with the degree program stress, not to mention family, and my attitude was “shoot up and forget it” (except for the crashing hypos of course–hard to ignore THAT). I’d really forgotten about that phase in my experience with T1 but it really went on for quite a while. Just f*** OFF! was my basic attitude.

Of course glucometers were just coming on the market, and with R/NPH, your options for control were pretty limited. FINALLY getting a specialist who changed me over to MDI, which for the first time put me in charge of my medication rather than the other way around made a huge difference. But thinking back on it now, yeah… I don’t think in my case it was so much post-adolescent rebellion as some slightly-older related form of anger and denial, but your description really brought it back, along with the question how DID I survive that?

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I spent years trying and failing just with urine tests.
It is only by my family not treating me sick, that I kept moving forward and did not die trying. Now I have the tools, it’s still a daily trial but with some success.
I too, get more dramatic signs with my high sugar then years ago when it was always up there. I also think reactions to high sugar change with age.