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The Lowest Low. The Highest High.

I woke in a blurry haze in the dead of night and felt my chest tighten as I attempted to inhale and figure out what had interrupted my slumber. I recognised the shaky, empty, slightly numb feeling I’d had countless times before. Oh shit. Hypo.

I wasn’t in my own bed – I was in a hotel room. Oh yes, that’s right, I’m in Leeds for the weekend. Oh, and I’m still a little drunk. This isn’t ideal.

My chest was heavy and my thoughts were disconnected. This always happens when my sugars drop, but this time I knew it was worse than normal. I couldn’t shake myself awake; I couldn’t quite collect myself enough to think logically about fixing the problem.  I attempted to sit up, but the effort to move my body weight was too much. At least it felt like too much. To get out of bed, over to my holdall and find the full bottle of Lucozade I’d nonchalantly thrown in the bottom in the unlikely event I would need it seemed incomprehensible. But I knew I needed something. Now.

I looked over to the table, squinting through the darkness, and spotted the fun size pack of Smarties the hotel had left on the bed during the evening. I had delighted in the childlike innocence of the gesture when stumbling in in the early hours, but now these sweets were my lifeline. Sounds a lot for a 20g box of sweets doesn’t it? I wish I was making that up.

At this point he had started stirring – my insistence at fixing hypos myself means I never intentionally wake him if he’s with me – what’s the point? I just get up, test if I can be bothered in my daze, drink some Lucozade and fall back asleep as quickly as possible, exhausted from the shortened breath, confusion and trembling that a nighttime low blood sugar incurs. I was the same with my Mum when I lived at home, much to her frustration. It was a short-lived, temporary sleep interruption that could be amended quickly, alone, with very little fuss.

But this time it felt different – I needed someone. I needed him.

I whispered his name, barely audible, still not quite awake, and definitely not with it.

‘Mmm?’

Habit here would indicate that I was simply after a reassuring squeeze. But it was only when he reached his hand onto my back that we both realised I was in a pool of cold sweat. I dragged my hand up to my forehead – dripping. And freezing. The temperature of my skin opened his eyes, widening with a sense of urgency when he saw the mild panic and utter confusion on my face.

He sprang into life.

‘Lucozade. Lucozade. Bag.’

I couldn’t process the thoughts my body was screaming at me quickly enough to put them into an audible sentence. But knowing the process, he knew what I was trying to tell him and shot up as I dragged my body over to reach down to the handbag that was on the floor beside me. Still not moving properly, I tugged the bag, tipping the contents out onto the floor with no concern for them, and scrabbled for the tiny, battered pouch that contained my blood glucose kit. I pulled myself to sit upright with short, sharp, scarily-shallow breaths and tested.

7.4? No, I couldn’t see it properly in the dark.

1.4.

‘OH!’

The shock in my voice made him momentarily pause from his urgent Lucozade treasure hunt and turn around. Through the dark, I showed it to him and saw his face drop. He doesn’t understand it all because who does, but he understands more than I could ever expect him to, and he knows that 1.anything is about as serious as it gets. Coupled with the fact that he didn’t recognise the woman in front of him, I saw him weighing up options in his head – ambulance, hotel staff, sweets. He grabbed the Smarties and poured them, in one go, into my desperate, useless, shaking hands. I chucked them down my throat, waiting for my breathing to regulate slightly.

Nothing.

low

I scrabbled around for the light and knocked it over – he handed me the elusive Lucozade, finally found, somehow having the regard not to shake it in his urgency so it wouldn’t cover me as I opened it, and rushed to turn the light on as I guzzled down the entire bottle in what can’t have been more than five seconds.

At that point I knew it would be a few minutes before my sugars would start to climb, but I knew with that ridiculous influx of glucose that they would move in the right direction soon enough. Safe in that knowledge, suddenly the panic and the drama of it all overwhelmed me – I was confused, it was dark, I felt sick, bloated and unable to think. I felt completely vulnerable. Out of nowhere uncontrollable tears started gushing down my cheeks as I was scooped up into a ball like a child. And I pretty much was – I didn’t have enough oxygen in my brain to completely make sense of the world around me, despite being present in it. I felt like the eight-year-old who had just been diagnosed and told that life as I knew it was going to change forever. It was that same vulnerability – extreme confusion but an unmistakable and intuitive sense that something was very, very wrong. The only thing I was sure of was that I had the unwavering protection of a loved one who made me feel like I could let my guard down and see me in a way that no one had seen me for years. I was terrified, but ultimately I was safe. All my bloody-minded defiance at taking care of this thing on my own, and getting on with life all singing, all dancing as if nothing is ever wrong became completely irrelevant to the point of hilarity in that dark hotel room in the middle of the night. This wasn’t about undermining my independence; I’d tested at 1.9 previously, also in a hotel room, also in the dark, also after over-compensating for alcohol, and I’d fixed it. Alone. This was about recognising that accepting help, or asking for help, or just acknowledging that help would actually be quite nice, is perfectly ok – because actually, we’re all fragile. In a culture that rewards independence we constantly fight against our perceived weaknesses. But there and then I didn’t really have anything left to fight with. Instead, he was fighting for me.

We had calmed down a bit, and I’d tested again – 3.4. Still low, but things were moving. The panic was subsiding, I was making sense again. Well, sense in terms of how much sense I normally make, which isn’t particularly high on the sense scale. But that insatiable need to feel better led me to reach for the second box of Smarties – there was a sharp intake of breath, which I now know was him consciously stopping himself from telling me to be careful of overcompensating with too much sugar. He’s cottoned on to this stuff quickly.

He made a vain attempt to keep me awake to check I was really ok, but I was gone. The panic, the adrenalin, the confusion, the exertion, and now the relief – had taken it completely out of me.

So what had happened? The combo of an unusually carb-heavy dinner and a couple of cocktails had pushed my sugars up after an impeccable few weeks of food, exercise and stable control. That was fine, I was happy to pay the price for a little indulgence. I tested and corrected in the loo of one of the bars we were in, so that when we went to bed I was back at 7.4. (Yes, this girl now tests her levels when drunk. It seems you can be taught.) But I had taken that reading as a levelling off, where it’s clear to me now that my sugars were still on the drop, and the insulin I had taken was still working away. The alcohol (and copious extreme dancefloor shapes, natch) had meant my slumber was deep, and so my body had to work a lot harder to wake me up, hence the sweats and the dangerously low blood sugar, in a place where I wasn’t in my usual surroundings with my usual fridge full o’food. Cue one pretty extreme fright, and one very nearly almost call for an ambulance.

That’s the thing with diabetes – it’s fine until it’s not fine. I’d also learnt this last year when I’d had a hypo on a ferry in another country 20 minutes from shore and, having eaten my emergency cereal bar already that day, I was left with no quick-fix remedy on my person. I was 2.3 on that occasion and without even asking her, my best friend, without so much as a second thought, got up and bothered an inordinate number of complete strangers until she’d found enough dregs of soft drinks and mouldy, fluffy, bottom-of-the-bag, half-eaten packets of sweets to ensure I made it off the boat without passing out. I could have cried I was so grateful. Again, I hadn’t explicitly asked her for help, but I’d accepted that her help was not something I should shun, mostly because I’m bloody lucky to have people that are willing to give a shit to that extent. Her concern for her friend, and her resulting behaviour without any kind of backward glance at what was required, are worth more to me than my stupid stubborn pride. They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, but you see, we’re lucky there, because we find out what we’ve got when we hit 1.4.

 Loved

24 comments on “The Lowest Low. The Highest High.

  1. I love the wording that you used in this post! I have certainly been there, and lucky enough to have a wonderful man beside me everynight. I am not quite sure what a “1.4” calculates to in my USA state of mind, but I can certainly see that it was quite low.

  2. @ calla rusch, it’s about “25” mg/dl (what we use here in the states) Very scary! My lowest low was 42 (about 2.3 mmol/l).. low for a type 2 and certainly scary, considering I was pregnant at the time!

  3. So well written, Jen. I’m sorry this happened and I’m so incredibly glad you had him with you. I completely understand what you said about the whole “independence” thing – I too am a “handle things on my own” kinda person, and I hate having to ask for help in those moments. But, like you said, it is okay to do so in moments like you’ve described here! Pleased you’re okay, lovely! Take care!

    – Vicki

  4. Thanks for reading Calla! Yep I think mommabetic is right (it confuses me too!) – pretty low that’s for sure. Loving the blogs! xx

  5. Thanks lovely! Yes I’m the same – pretty stubborn about it, but I think the lightbulb in that moment for me was that it was ok to acknowledge that help was really nice – not because I needed it necessarily, but was happy to give in to the hypo a bit and let someone else take over. I’m back to my annoying self now for sure :) xxx

  6. Ahhh, I got upset reading this, how frightening! So glad you’re back to your usual Jen self and that you weren’t alone at the time. Love you lots xxx PS ‘Smarties have the Answer’ has a new meaning now!;-)

  7. Ah bless, I’m ok doll! Thank you for reading lovely. Love you xxx

  8. Didn’t expect to cry reading this but I did. Probably my mummy instincts, my fears for my child. Thank goodness someone was with you. My son is never moving out until he has a long term girlfriend who is preferably a nurse!

  9. Ahhh, there’s been a few tears at this! I’m pleased it’s connected with people – it was scary, but it was also easily fixed. What I was trying to say is that I COULD have fixed it myself but in that moment I realised that I didn’t have to be on a type 1 crusade on my own. I think in the world we live in where independence is so fiercely encouraged, actually accepting help is sometimes a braver thing to do. But yes, a nurse partner would be most useful, better tell him to start looking! :)
    Thanks so much for reading xx

  10. Luckily you weren’t by yourself. It’s one of my biggest fears to be alone and that low. But I feel I should let you know that alcohol stops your liver from producing glycogen. So your sugars will always drop after a night of cocktails. Keep accepting the help you need—and deserve.

  11. Ah I think I would have just about been ok if I was by myself (you have to be, don’t you?) but I was thankful to let someone else take control in that instance! Yes I was aware of the glycogen thing but I never seem to drop as dramatically as that. Lesson learned hey! Thank you so much for reading and commenting :)

  12. I wish I could jump through my computer & give you a hug!
    Xoxo

  13. I wish I could jump through my computer & give you a hug!

  14. So sorry to read about your low. So happy to see that you overcame. Well done. Great post.

  15. Oh bless you! Thank you so much, that’s really kind. Yes I definitely needed a few hugs, but then once I was fine I was totally fine, as if it was nothing! Weird thing this, ha. It was an experience that’s for sure. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, I really appreciate it :) x

  16. Hi Stephen,

    Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment. Yes definitely a scary episode but one I’ve learnt from for sure, and it’s been great to see other people can relate to it too. Thanks again :)

  17. This post is so inspiring – i hope that at least one day, i may be able to live up to your man. My boyfriend has been type 1 for three years and I am lucky to say that I’ve never had to deal with a situation like this. Reading through your experience makes me realise the importance of all the sugar tablets in EVERY handbag I own. A great post! x

  18. Hi! Ah thank you so much for reading, so kind of you to comment. I’m sure you live up to this fella! I think he felt partly responsible for feeding me so many cocktails, not that I needed persuading :) Good for you for taking an interest in your boyfriend’s T1, it’s a tricky one, I still don’t understand it and I suffer from it ha! x

  19. Reblogged this on My Pump Blog and commented:
    Wow that is very low, I had one at 1.9 not so long ago and it was very scary indeed.

    Stay safe.

    Andrew

  20. Yep a little bit scary! All ok thankfully. Thank you so much for the reblog! x

  21. Hi, no problem at all. Take care Andrew xx

  22. Woah quite an intense post. Your writing is so vivid I feel like I was right there with you. I recently got diagnosed with type 1 so I have not gone hypo yet (thankfully). I know its kind of inevitable but man I must say I’m more than a little nervous after reading this post! But, I’m glad I did because I feel prepared in a way now! Take care of yourself! Love the blog xx

    -Complex.
    p.s. I just started my own blog about my “new” life with type 1 ! Check it out!

  23. Hey Rachel!
    Thanks so much for reading, and welcome to the T1 club (arghhhhh!) so sorry that post made you nervous! Ive been diabetic for 18 years now and that’s the only one that’s been like that. Normally I get them in the night, so I just wake up and have some juice that I keep by my bed and that’s it! Not as dramatic as that but that one was pretty scary for sure. You’ll soon get used to what it feels like when your sugars are dropping and be able to fix it quickly. It shows what *can* happen when you’re not quite prepared I guess. I will have a nosey at your blog now! Take care x

  24. Hello!

    No need to apologize! But that does makes me feel a lot better…the fact that you only had one serious episode in the last 18 years! The way the doctors were talking, I thought I’d be having one every week. Anyways thanks so much! Hope you enjoy my blog….just starting out so not much content yet! Can’t wait to really get into it!

    -Complex.

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