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Lows in Public.

"No alcohol, please!"I heard the Dexcom BEEEEEEP!ing in that frantic, "you're low" kind of tone and my brain was swimming with confusion, so I went to the bar at the dinner event and asked for an orange juice. 

"Do you want vodka in that, as well?"

"No, definitely no thank you.  Just juice, please."

The bartender filled up a small tumbler with orange juice and I downed the contents of the glass in one giant gulp. 

"Thanks," I said, and wandered off, fishing my meter from my bag to get a true assessment of how far down the rabbit hole I'd fallen.

There isn't ever a convenient time for a low.  I suppose the ones that happen when I'm at home and are only in the 60 mg/dL range and can be treated with the logical and tempered rationing of glucose tabs are better than the ones that happen in public.  When you're at a dinner event and you're trying to meet people and make a favorable (or at the very least, coherent) impression, it's not the most opportune time for a 38 mg/dL to make an appearance.

Once I saw the number on the meter, I became this strange, hypoglycemic bear, foraging for food and ready to growl at anyone in my way.  The very nice waiter who was bringing appetizers around to the attendees ended up with an empty plate after I had my way with him.  (Which sounds worse than it actually was; he only had three snacks left, but I snagged them and might have bared my teeth at him in the process.)  My low symptoms were peaking, with tears in my eyes and confusion on my tongue and every skin cell buzzing with panic and adrenaline. 

I do not like being low in front of people.  I don't like that momentary weakness and the vulnerability and that empty, lost look I've been told takes over my eyes.  I don't like that lack of control.  I don't like when my knees buckle while I trying to keep myself upright.  I don't like the look of "Are you okay?" that comes over the faces of most people, because it's one of the very few times I have to answer, "No, I'm not."

Thankfully, I was at a diabetes-related event, surrounded by people who either had diabetes, cared for someone with diabetes, or worked to cure diabetes.  So when I casually mentioned to Jeff Hitchcock that my blood sugar was tanking and I didn't know what was going on, I was ushered quickly and covertly to a seat at a nearby dinner table so I could make sense of things.

"I'm fine, you know.  I had juice.  I'll be fine in just a few minutes," I said, folding and refolding the napkin on the table while I waited for my blood sugar to respond to the juice.

"I know," he said, his voice calm and reasoned.  "We'll wait."

As it always does, the panic subsided.  My blood sugar came back up into range (and went up just a bit more than it needed to, thanks to downing that whole glass of orange juice).  And I was able to rejoin the dinner conversation without needing a three-minute lapse between thoughts, thankful for people who "know."

Comments

There is something to be said about the unspoken words between "I know" and "we'll wait". It's the most comforting feeling when low - if there is one.

I was diagnosed just a few months ago in the middle of my second semester of grad school, so almost all of my lows have occurred in public. My first low actually happened while I was teaching! Ironically for me, no one ever asks me if I'm ok when I'm low (with the exception of that first, very obvious one). But I get questions all the time when I'm doing a routine blood sugar test.

Having an extreme low in public is the hardest thing about diabetes in my book. I worked in a vet clinic and occasionally had "one of those lows" while checking in a patient. How do you explain to a stranger why you suddenly need to leave the room when you can barely form a coherent thought? Thankfully, I do not have to deal with that anymore as I do not work with the public. Oh, the many joys of being diabetic - NOT!

So well articulated. If I could write this well, I wouldn't change a thing about how it was written because it was exactly how it feels when I have a low like this.

To all T1's out there that know exactly how this feels, raise your orange juice glasses and toast one to the day that WILL one day come where we can all say:

"I'm so glad that's behind me. Thanks for curing me doc."

Thank you Kerri.

Whenever I'm having one of those Officially Scary Lows, I picture you and George and Scott and Kelly and everyone else from the DOC sitting in front of me saying the exact same thing. It helps more than you know (:-)

Awesomely put Kerri. I hate lows in the wild so to speak. I remember a low at a camp family spring program a couple of years ago that made me teary and crying for no particular reason. It was so nice to have someone that "knew" and just sat beside me until I came up.

Moral support is comforting :) It's much different than "pity support".

I feel the exact same way about the way people normally react to me when Im low. I hate with all that I am, having to ask someone for food when Im low because it ends up being explaining the whole thing to someone who doesnt know squat!
I wish that for once, people around me understood whats going on..you are so lucky to at least at a few times, be with all these wonderful and understanding people.

A few things:

1) It always seems worse after you see the number. Like, the "oh shit" factor really kicks in then.

2) I almost cut a man at 5 Guys yesterday because he walked off with MY order. Then I checked my blood sugar and it was 36. Dude's lucky he didn't get hurt.

A few weeks ago I had a "scary low" at work. One minute I was talking to a co-worker about a client and next thing I knew I could hardly speak and my legs were shaking. It is so unpleasant having that feeling of being out of control. The co-worker I was talking with had never had experience with anyone having a low and I think they were more freaked out than I was! Nice to have support from people who just get it.

I went directly from my annual eye exam (good news: no retinopathy, bad news: corneas are failing) to get new glasses. Told the woman I wanted brown Polaroid lenses and quickly picked a frame. As I handed her the frames, I realized I was low. Pulled the meter out in a hurry, 49, and started stuffing glucose tabs in my mouth. She asked if I was OK. Said I would be in a minute. She asked if I wanted to stop and I declined. She handed me the binocular-like device to hold up to my eyes to get a measurement. Then she asked me if I wanted her to hold it as my wildly shaking hands had the thing bouncing all over the place. Why didn’t I just pause and do it later? Because breaking my most recent glasses had me wearing my 80’s glasses and you KNOW what they look like. They are the giant glasses that elicit all the laughs at awkwardfamilyphotos.

I always feel more low once I see the number. But I've been over 200 all day today, so I'm dealing with the other end of the blood- sugar-problem spectrum.

I always feel more low once I see the number. But I've been over 200 all day today, so I'm dealing with the other end of the blood- sugar-problem spectrum.

#ada2012 was filled with crazy lows for us card carrying members of the DOC! You and I both had D Dads watching out backs! I'm glad you had Jeff with you - It makes all the difference!

John spots my low immediately .. the blank look as I stare at 'something' a wall perhaps... he sees it wayyy before my first sign hits me.. the tongue thingy and/or the twitching toes...
After 54 years on insulin the 'signals' are still the same.
A great sign that there is no nerve damage yet he he he

I can usually tell by looking at my daughter if she's low, she turns gray around her eyes.

Thanks for writing this Kerri, it helps me understand how it feels.


I think I hate the rage lows (you know, the ones where you just lose it and want to kill someone and end up shrieking and crying and being all nuts) in front of my family more than anything else. I'd rather my friends and professors be mildly scared of me than have my sister or my father be scared of me (especially because they don't "get it").

So beautifully articulated, Kerri. So hard to express that vulnerable feeling, when you know you have it in hand (sort of)) but blessings to Jeff who waited - and understood. Thanks hunny, for your gift of being able to describe the indescribable . x

a "don't get it" bartender

maybe you should have asked for a glass of straight grenadine, to give him a clue
thank goodness you were with "get it" people

Great post, Kerri. So incredibly written, and such a beautiful feeling to know the power in those words. Lows in public just aren't fun. Like those, or the kind that hit you as you're walking to a dinner event and lead to you wondering around in a city you don't know and being late to said event...And then being "rescued" by someone with a familiar bag who didn't think you looked OK as you were fumbling with an insulin pump. Magical people, we can find when needed.

lows always seem to knock me off my toes, but lows at work make everyone go into panic mode.....(annoys me, but it is also nice to see they care- even tho they don't completly understand the real affects my body feels at that moment....)

Then there are the moments when I completly freakout because my diabetes is on the frits & it scares me for a sec until I claim control and make things better.....those are the days it hits me smack in the face oooo I have an illness...

der then I have to calm them down- it's okay I got this, just let me make a couple adjustments..... gotta love those moments of realzation (not sure spelling)

nothing beats the moments of being stared at stuffing anykind of food franticaly into your mouth & downing a full glass of liquid, while stabbing your finger for a BG test....PRICELESS Diabetic moments

We'll wait.

Any time someone says that to me it brings tears to my eyes and my heart is flushed with warmth and gratitude.

I may not be with it much at that time, but I always, always feel that warm rush of understanding and compassion. I immediately relax knowing I don't have to worry as much.

It feels something like love, regardless of where it comes from.

P.S. Thank you for expressing that moment, those feelings, so well. Often your blog makes me feel the way hearing "We'll wait" makes me feel: understood. Not alone. Seen. Loved.

((thank you!!))

First of all, thanks to Jeff for waiting with you. I typed "taking care" of you first, but decided that's the whole problem with public lows. We don't want someone else "taking care" of us. And being vulnerable sucks.

I don't get any rage or anger with my scary lows. Just panic. The confusion sucks, but the worst part for me is not being able to talk & knowing that if I don't head that blood sugar in the right direction, I won't be able to swallow soon either.

When those lows do happen, I too picture all my favorite DOC cheerleaders "talking" me through it. And the thought is usually just silly enough to keep me moving instead of being paralyzed by the panic.

Thanks for sharing, Kerri. You're blog is amazing. And I'm not just saying that because you like Eddie Izzard too or because your blog is how I found this whole incredible network of love we call the DOC. I'm saying it because you put into words what a lot of us feel, but can't express.

Wow, reading articles like this makes me realize how truly lucky I am in how my diabetes have manifested. I've been type 1 for 16 years and I've only ever had one seizure 15 years ago, and I would never say I've had a scary low. I usually feel them come on around 4mmol and I've never had trouble thinking or speaking or treating myself. Makes me very thankful that for whatever reason my body is able to pick it up quickly.

Lows are the thing that separate us from the rest of the human race. They can be scary, odd, vicious, horribly frightening, funny (occasionally), and just f'ing weird. There is nothing... NOTHING like them. Kerri, call me. Let's write a book about low blood sugar.

Everytime I go low at work I try to walk to the training room at work, sit in a chair, with my meter in front of me and juice boxes lined up.

Almost everyone at work know I have diabetes. I will hear those comments, Are you ok, can I get anything for you?

And if I don't look too good someone will call for a manager.

My fear is to be alone with a low.

I'm switching campuses (I work for the local school district) next school year, but at my last one, there was a teacher who "got it." She had had a student with T1 before, and she could always tell when I was low, even sometimes when I couldn't feel it. She said there was a "look" in my eyes, and my speech was different. No one else on campus ever noticed, and I could fool them into thinking I was okay; when I really wasn't, I knew that there was someone there who did get it.

(Note: There is an awesome nurse as well as other spectacular people at my new campus that "get it.")

And then there's the awkward silence that you feel you need to talk incoherently to fill the void until you become normal...I've said some stupid things before!

I may not love the lows, but I love the feeling that the people around me either understand, or know how to take care of me. It defiantly makes me feel good about my diabetes! If I had to have a low, it would most defiantly be in a setting like this, as opposed to in the airport, blood sugar a nice 47, lost my mom, and no one knows me... That's happened. I will stop rambling on now and say, perfect Kerri!!! Lovelovelove your blog, and this is a perfect insight to the type ones life!!!

I could relate to this soo much! I was at dinner out, BG was 1.8 (32) and drank the whole glass - it had gone up to 10 (180) by the time food was there! I hate that about hypos though- that sense of weakness. When I'm at home my head is literally stuffed in the fridge - I had my own mini 3 course meal the other day at 3:30pm!
Thanks for sharing- always love reading your posts.

Beautifully written... I want to kiss Jeff!

You all are lucky you can tell when your blood sugar is dropping. Only checking every 2-3 hours tells me. Once I was at my doc's office and could not understand why people were rushing about. I had no idea my BG was 22. I wish I could afford the continuous glucose monitoring device but insurance will not cover the on going supplies.
Thus I have had many a public low bg incidents. Once I thought I was in another country because I could not read any of the street signs. I felt so wobbly that I sat down on the street. I could not even figure out how to use the phone. Thank goodness, I had my Mom's number under one button and when I pushed it I was able to call her and make no sense to her. Thank goodness she was able to direct me across the street to a hospital....yes the whole time I was across the street thinking I was in another country...where I informed the guard that my Mom told me to come over here. I lost consciousness after that.

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