THE FOG OF HYPOGLYCEMIA

I have never seen a reason to hide my diabetes, be it in a job interview, on a date, or even at a traffic stop. But that doesn’t mean my diabetes doesn’t affect what I may or may not do in each of those circumstances. Especially when I go low. Not just below-70-is-the-definition-of-hypoglycemia low, but I’m talking about the I-must-have-a-panda-bear-wrapped-around-my-head-and-I-can’t-tell-what-is-real-and-what-isn’t kind of low. I’m talking the glucose-meter-just-registered-a-two-digit-number-that-starts-with-a-two kind of low. I’m talking the black-out kind of low.

For me the scary things about this kind of low is that I don’t feel it coming on, and I don’t usually realize when it’s happening. And when I do finally get my glucose levels back up to a more cognitive state, I have a lot of trouble discerning what happened from a dream, so I end up asking a lot of rather embarrassing questions.

I bring this up because I’ve gone low a few times on the phone while I was at work. Back in 2010, it happened on a conference call. There was an agenda for the call, so I knew that my turn to provide a status update on a number of things was approaching. I tried to focus on what I would say, and focused so much that I neglected to think about other things. Like how I was feeling. So when my turn came, I must have babbled incoherently. I probably sounded drunk while I was trying to portray that everything was fine. I clearly remember the image of my boss storming out of her office where she’d been listening to the call just to ask me what I was doing. This is when I realized something was off.

My response was to bail. “Hey, so, I think I should tell you more things, but I’m really, really low right now, so… right. Stop diabetes and all that! Gotta go,” and I hung up.

After the conference call had ended, I received a few angry emails from others who had been on the call asking what my problem had been. Severe hypoglycemia was all I could tell them. They knew what that meant (yes, this was when I was with “Big Red”), but I felt some trust had been lost and there was no way I could help them understand how it felt. Or how embarrassed I was. Or how helpless I felt. Or how guilty I still feel.

The ironic setting of that particular incidence aside, I think it’s important to share with people that when this happens, even in environments where no real harm is done, those of us who experience it first hand are upset because we let ourselves down. We should be able to feel a low coming on. We should be able to realize when our brain isn’t working quite right. We should at least have the ability to recognize that feeling as though all the fog in San Francisco is hovering over our head and we can’t get out of it.

Most of the time, we are aware of these feelings. And we guzzle a juice box or five to remedy the situation before it gets worse. But every now and then hypoglycemia slips by us and puts us into situations that in a way, we’ll never quite get over. Even if it doesn’t matter to anyone else, it still matters to us. At least, that’s how I feel about it.