Low Blood Sugars and Emotional Control


I did something I am not proud of last night. I threatened to hit my husband during a somewhat petty argument.

Why?

My blood sugar was low. Very very low. At the time my Dexcom said 47 with a down arrow and wasn’t keeping pace well. By that point I was probably actually in the 30’s.

As people with diabetes who have experienced severe lows we understand – we are often not ourselves during a low. There isn’t NEARLY enough glucose for proper brain functioning and parts of our brain literally are not working correctly – sometimes the parts that control motor movements (which is why sometimes people with lows can’t stand up or walk properly), sometimes the parts that control inhibitions (which is why sometimes people with lows are mistakenly thought to be drunk, especially by law enforcement), sometimes the parts that control both receptive and expressive language (which is why sometimes people with lows slur their speech or speak sentences that make NO sense and have difficulty in understanding what you are saying), sometimes the parts that control memory formation (which is why sometimes, especially surrounding a severe low, ‘memory loss’ occurs – because memories were literally never formed!), and sometimes the parts that control emotion (which is why sometimes people with lows react with overdramatic anger/rage, sadness and crying, euphoria, paranoia, etc). Sometimes more than one of those.

Last night's blood sugar rollercoaster

Last night’s blood sugar rollercoaster

Last night I was definitely having difficulty with inhibitions and emotions at the outset of my first low. By the end of my series of lows I was losing motor control. This was a terrifyingly long-lasting series of lows. I ate about 7 glucose tablets and began coming up after my initial low (and overreactionary threat). I ate dinner, with no bolus….but then went low again. I began a two hour 0% temp basal and drank an entire can of Pepsi and came up…then went low again. I ate TWO protein bars with peanut butter and finally went up…hoping the protein would help (and it did…until I went low at 2:45am again). My Dexcom read ‘LOW’ (meaning below 40 – it won’t give a number at that level) far too many times.

And while in my head I KNOW that this extremely bad incidence of hypoglycemia was to blame for my comment to my husband, I also can’t stop feeling guilty. A part of me feels like I should have been ‘smarter’ than my failing, stuttering brain. That I should have been able to control myself at all times, despite being so low that many OTHER people would have reacted with unconsciousness and seizure.

The worst part is that our spouses, families, etc. don’t ‘get it’ – because really, how can you POSSIBLY ‘get it’ when you’ve never felt/experienced hypoglycemia like this? How can anyone who hasn’t felt the loss of and inability to regain control truly know what it’s like? They may say they ‘get it’ and be forgiving – or they may say it’s an ‘excuse’ and not accept it as an explanation for our behavior…….but either way we are isolated from them in that we know how it feels and they never truly do.

I’ve only reacted with overwhelming anger one other time when I was low – I was at work and suddenly found myself on the floor (apparently I didn’t pass out, but in the middle of walking I just plopped myself down in a sitting position on the floor in the middle of the store) and when pressed to drink juice by a boss I reacted by striking out and hitting him in the face. My thought process at the time was ‘How dare you tell me what to do?!’ but instead of reacting like a normal person to this thought I reacted with overdramatic anger and violence. Because my brain was not functioning correctly. Now we can all laugh about it but after last night, I no longer find it quite so funny. I don’t WANT to hurt anyone and I don’t want to anger anyone with my own inappropriate and misplaced anger.

Please share with me YOUR stories of extremely low blood sugars. Have you ever hit an EMT, family member, or friend trying to help you? Have you ever thrown things and had a tantrum like a child – because at the time it’s the only reaction that makes any sense to your glucose-starved brain? Have you ever done something ridiculous when low that now you can look at and think ‘What the HECK was I thinking?!’. Have you ever had a low that you had to hear about from others – not because you passed out, but because you lost the ability to properly form memories? I want to hear about them. I NEED to hear ‘me too!’ and know I’m not alone right now, because my feelings of guilt are overwhelming right now.

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6 thoughts on “Low Blood Sugars and Emotional Control

  1. I completely understand what you are talking about here. To just share some background info, I’m 27 and have had diabetes since I was 9 y/o. I was on a Minimed for quite a few of my teenage/early adult yrs. I was pregnant with my daughter and my pump failed, so when I went to the Dr. (even though a replacement was on the way), I was taken off the pump completely and moved to shots. That was 7 years ago, I’m now on pens. I just got insurance for the first time since having my daughter (7 whole years without! I only made it bc my mom works in a doctor’s office and sent me insulin samples from the drug reps) and my new endo is pretty set on me being back on the pump (even though he’s only seen me one time, and doesn’t know really much at all about my history or even current dealings with my T1D). Tandem must give him kick-backs, bc he’s got posters all throughout his practice. I am trying to find the right fit for me, and wanting to know more about the t:slim’s different infusion sets, I found you. So, now that you are up to speed…

    I have dealt with a lot of low bgs for the past couple years (going down to around 30 at the lowest). When I went to my new PCP, he had to switch me from Novolog to Humalog since my insurance doesn’t cover the N. He said it wouldn’t be any different, and I didn’t expect it to be since I have used it many times before. Boy, was I wrong. All of a sudden, my really-low lows became extremely-low lows. For the first two or three weeks, I was constantly having readings between 30 and 17. I’ve never passed out before from low bg, but I know I came close during this time. I even had a few readings say “LO” (17 being the lowest the meter would actually read).

    Having T1D for approx 18 yrs, I can honestly say I have never been more scared due to bgs than I have been in the past month. Just like high bg can make me really crappy and hateful, low bg can, too. My might-as-well-be-husband (father of my child, been together for 9 yrs now) is a tremendous help, often sensing my low bg before I do (I have hypo unawareness). Still, that doesn’t mean I can’t get really confused, my brain not telling my body how to function, getting “stuck” like I know what to do but it’s just on the tip of my tongue and I can’t quite get to the point of “doing”. It can be very frustrating sometimes, though, when he’s trying to help me but in my state of low bg I just feel like he’s barking orders at me. There have been times when I’ve shouted and yelled at him and said really, really crappy – even disrespectful – things to him. There’s no reason to belittle a person who is trying to help, but you don’t always even realize what you are saying.

    I know that my diabetes takes its toll on him. I worry a lot that it’s causing a rift or a divide between us. It’s getting easier since I have insurance and we aren’t paying cash for syringes, test strips, etc. But the emotional toll can be quite overwhelming. That’s when I try to just talk to him, and explain how I feel. I’ve said many times that I wish he could be in my body for just 30 seconds when my bg is 20 so he could understand the range of emotions I can feel. I always apologize when it’s needed, and try to let him know at random times how much it means to me that he is there to help me during those times. I leave him a note every week night before I go to bed, for him to read before he leaves for work in the morning, and I say things (that I truly feel) like “I know my diabetes can be a burden for us both, and very overwhelming. I just want you to know how much I appreciate you being by my side to help me when I need it and can’t quite help myself. You’ll never fully understand the magnitude of knowing you are always there.” That type of stuff.

    Try not to feel guilty, even though that’s really hard. Daniel & I spent the first few yrs of our relationship with me in the throes of addiction very deeply. I’ve been in recovery for the past 7 yrs. He knows me in & out, and that leads me to believe that in his heart, he really does know that I didn’t mean whatever I said or did. I think the most important thing is to make sure you talk to your significant other when your bg isn’t crazy to make sure he knows that you never would have threatened him had your sugar not been low, that it isn’t an excuse, and you don’t mean for it to be….you know, the stuff you feel in your heart.

    • Michele, thanks so much for sharing your own story with me! It makes me feel better to know I’m not alone in all of this.

      So glad to hear you have insurance again and have come through your addiction with a strong man beside you! Best of luck to you in the future with your hypo unawareness – it totally sucks to not feel your lows. Have you considered a CGM device because of this?

  2. Desiree says:

    My son was just diagnosed and he has a ton of lows and is only 8 years old. Just last night before checking his blood sugar he was low and mad and grumpy we woke him up and he was mean. Real mean – especially to my husband. I can take it as a mom. I know its tough for him. My husband thinks he is just rude and disrespectful. I am going to try to get counseling. I can at least show my husband this blog and hope he has a better understanding of how blood sugar can affect temperament.

    • Yes. Definitely share this with your husband. Let him know that, despite how it may look, your son is not being rude and disrespectful on purpose. His brain is literally STARVING for glucose, which is what the brain runs on, and it’s beginning to shut down. Reasoning, judgement, emotion, the ability to problem solve, self-control…………all of those things are majorly affected when your brain starts shutting down. Your son may not even remember being rude after the fact, or if he does, he may be embarrassed by how he’s acted.

  3. Beau G says:

    Hi! LADA diabetic here, who used to have daily and multiple daily lows. Once right after a 40 carb meal! That time i passed out in a store, and was seizing by the time paramedics arrived. I vaguely remember the paramedics (?). My spouse says I was like a wild animal, fighting them like I was being tortured. Sadly I have no recollection of this. After 16 hours or so I became aware of my surroundings – the local ER, and spent several more days in the hospital trying to stabilize things. Several weeks later, I sent a catered lunch to the paramedics and firemen who saved my life.

    I used to have incidents like the one above several times a year, until a very bright Endo realized I was LADA and not Type 2. After numerous insulin changes, a CGM and a pump, all is right with the world.

    My moods are strictly governed by my sugars. If I am high or low, I am grumpy. Always a tell tale sign to those around me, even if I am too dense to recognize it.

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