Memory is a tricky thing for a person with diabetes because high, low and shifting blood sugar levels interfere with not just memory but how we view the world. When blood sugar is high or conversely too low, a person with diabetes will have distorted perceptions and feelings. When blood sugar levels return to normal and reality kicks us right between the eyes. What then. Every situation is different. Sometimes we have to apologize to our significant other or our boss regarding our behavior. There are ways to prevent these distortions from happening or managing them, so less or no personal damage occurs. I will be addressing some of these over the next few weeks.
So it happened to me. It happens to everyone, doesn’t it? I don’t blame anyone, except maybe myself at times. I knew enough to recognize adverse impacts of out of control blood sugars.
Who would know that it is not a good idea to hit a cop? So maybe I just pushed him (them) a little, but that was no reason to strap me down to a stretcher. Reality kicked me right between the eyes (thanks, Billy Joel).
I was studying for my upcoming midterms in my senior year of college. It was about three p.m., and the sun was coming through the window. Just Beautiful. I was studying for hours and couldn’t understand why the sun was still out, but it was time for bed, and I went to brush my teeth. I asked my roommates what they were doing up so late and brushed my teeth and went to bed.
I wake up with strangers trying to get me to go with them. I yelled for my roommate, “Lance! Lance!! Lance!!!” no one came. What did come were a few delusions and hallucinations! “You are not going to take me to the psych ward!!! You’re working for the devil, aren’t you! Get!!! OFF!!! Me!” I pushed one of them across the room, and you could hear a bang as he hit the wall on the other side of the room. They left the room as different demons were entering the room. I managed to fight them off me for a few minutes, but they won. I was on my way to hell.
I wake up in a room built of cement blocks laying on a gurney with a Glucose IV stuck in my arm. The nurse came in, and I told her (scared out of my mind) to get me to my roommate Lance. She said that she didn’t know “who” I was who Lance was. I started screaming “Lance! Lance!! Lance!!!” at the top of my lungs. The nurse leaves and Lance came in with a shiner on one of his eyes. He came up and gave me a big hug. The world was right. He was a great friend.
I asked him who gave him the shiner, and he told me I did. He tried to wake me up after I went to brush my teeth, and he said I said nothing and just stared at him for a few minutes then went back upstairs. I never did brush my teeth. He stated that he called 911, and the paramedics couldn’t get to me, so the cops came in. I fought with them but eventually they got me on a stretcher and got me to the ambulance.
As we were leaving, I said I was sorry as we walked to the car. Lance said he was just happy he could be there to help me and that he was home that afternoon. I said, “Well then thank you. I owe you a big one,” he said. “Nay, you just get better.” “Ok, who knew that this town even had a hospital.” We both broke out in laughter.
These prevention practices; to let others know what to do so they can be there to help you, may save your life. Tell the ones you live with, friends and family the signs to look for when your blood sugar goes low. You can’t do this on your own. Asking for help makes a person stronger. It saved my life. It could save yours too.
Eliot LeBow, LCSW, CDE, is a diabetes-focused psychotherapist. His private practice, located in New York City and is also available via Skype. LeBow, who has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1977, treats the many diverse cognitive, behavioral, and emotional needs of people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.