Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Low Point

Memories - Wednesday 5/15 Link List
Today's Prompt: Today we’re going to share our most memorable diabetes day. You can take this anywhere.... your or your loved one's diagnosis, a bad low, a bad high, a big success, any day that you’d like to share. (Thanks to Jasmine of Silver-Lined for this topic suggestion.)

This is the story of my most epic overtreat.

I had to be 12 or 13 years old. My mom was in charge of orchestrating local Cub Scout leader trainings for much of my childhood. Saturdays were often spent keeping myself entertained in some empty community room of some local church while watching the adults buzz around doing their thing. I'd help carry supplies in and out, help sign people in at the registration table, help keep the donut and juice table stocked.

Well, I was alone, I was low, and Domino's had just delivered dozens of pizzas for lunch.

You see where this is going.

I finished off the last couple donuts. I drank some juice. Surely no one would mind if I had some pizza, too. It was almost time for lunch.

I opened a box with a large sausage pizza in it. I ate it. A whole large pizza. I opened a second box. I ate that one, too.

Two large pizzas.

I don't know what my blood sugar was when I felt "low." Back in the early 90s, we were told to check at mealtimes. This was around the same time of my life that my A1c was in the 15% range. It's possible I had dropped from 300 to 200 and "felt" low, for all I know.

I don't know how high I skyrocketed afterward. I probably boomeranged back up to the 400s and by the time my dinner check rolled around or my afternoon NPH peaked, I was probably in the 200s. Most of my blood sugar checks throughout my first decade were in the 200s and 300s, which is interesting since my A1c clearly indicated my average was in the 400s.

Back then, we didn't know (and by "we," I suppose I mean my family because if my medical team knew, they didn't communicate it to us) how to find out where those higher highs were occurring. We didn't understand that the meter wasn't giving us the whole picture. We didn't even understand that the data on the meter was as serious as it was. We would see a 350 and merely calculate how much extra insulin I'd need based on my sliding scale. I don't recall anyone ever explaining how to reach a target premeal number or how the food affected the spike or how to time an insulin dose. Your numbers were just numbers and you took the amount you were supposed to take.

The day I finished off my low with two large pizzas, I likely took my "fixed dose" for lunch. There was no carb counting and there was certainly no extended bolus or insulin pump (or at least that we knew about). If current estimates for a large hand-tossed are correct at nearly 300g per pizza, I likely took in well over 600g of carb (not counting donuts and juice) for a low that may not have even been a legitimate (below 70) low. Not to mention about 200g of fat and 4,000+ calories.

I look back on that day and wonder if I've misremembered it. Maybe I did. Maybe it wasn't that much. But that's my memory.

For me, that morning represents a huge gaping hole. A chasm. A hemorrhage. An open wound that no one sought to close. This is how they let us loose into the world back then - and how some people are still let loose today. Ignorant. Lost. Feeling "low." Eating until they feel better.

Most of us are guilty of overtreating a low blood sugar - sometimes on a regular basis. The survival and hunger signals your hormones are sending your brain to keep you alive in those moments are frightening, confusing, and you go on autopilot. Your brain says "keep eating or you'll die." Your doctor says "stop at 4 glucose tabs." This is where I want to plug Ginger Vieira's book Emotional Eating with Diabetes because her chapter on overtreating left me quietly weeping.

The day I ate two large pizzas was a low point for me, but sadly, it would be a good 20 years before I understood how much of an overreaction it truly was.

When you know better though, you do better. It won't happen again. I hope.


  1. Love that sweet little Melissa with the A1c of 15. And you felt fine?

    The differences in care and expectations from then to now are huge. And you're not even old! This was in the early 1990's! Wow.

    What a story.

  2. Have so many memories like this, full of pizza and everything under the sun. Amazing to see how much D-Management times have changed - or maybe in some ways it's just us, caring and "doing better" than we were back then. I really do wish I would've done better, but somethings are just emotional reactions (no pun intended, honestly) and we just eat to feel better. That's something I still go through to this day. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Wow. I've had a few of those in my D-life..but it's astounding how our bodies just take over and go into survival mode, bg be durned. Glad that it didn't end up in DKA.

  4. When I think back on the over treating lows, especially at night in high school, it truly is amazing how far I/we have come. Great post M!

  5. Pardon my language, but HOLY SHIT! I remember driving home from my friend's soccer game, feeling low, and stopping at McDonald's for several apple pie things, a quarter pounder, a coke, and a large thing of french fries. This was in the early 90s; I'm sure that binge put me in the 500s.

    I also remember sitting in my endrocrinologists' office, tanking. I kept asking for more juice, and he kept giving me more, but warned that I'd be REALLY high in 30 minutes. After a half an hour and probably a liter of grape juice, my blood sugar was 92.

  6. You are the first person who has perfectly summed up what "managing" (I use that word loosely) diabetes looked like in the early 90's. My brother was dx in 93 and I was 95 and this is exactly how we handled everything. No idea what an insulin to carb ratio was, no idea how many carbs were truly needed to bring up a low. You'd take the same amount of insulin ALL THE TIME. From time to time I get mad at myself and my parents thinking, "why were we ok with my A1c always being in the 9s" and then I stop and say, "because we didn't know better". Scary times.

  7. Thanks for sharing your story. I'm definitely guilty of overtreating a low, it's so hard not to sometimes when you feel so crappy. I actually just received Ginger's book so I am excited to read it.