Holy crap, it was just a matter of time before pop culture came up with a word that describes so much of my existence.  I spent years with undiagnosed blood sugar problems.  Years that postponed my ability to drive, a real crimp in the lifestyle of a late teen.  Years that made me think that my glucose mediated emotionality was just something I had to work on in psychotherapy, emotional regulation really goes right out the window when your blood sugar is plumeting, but who knew?  Not me!  I had hints.  I worked as a unit secretary while a starving (literally) college student.  One night, the nurses, sick of my shitty mood, said “Have you had ANYTHING to eat today?” and when I grumpily conceded  that my work schedule resulted in my missing the two weekend meals my crappy meal plan offered, they practically held me down and did a finger stick.  A $20 was pressed into my hand and a nurse walked me to the cafeteria to get food.  “No, not that.  Get this.  You need sugar” she said, swapping my diet soda for a sugary one.  Another “hint” came later, when I was married to the ER resident.  I came home from grocery shopping in a wretched mood.  I was actually slurring my words too, as I muttered expletives at my husband, the groceries, the cabinets, and the refrigerator.  “When was the last time you ate?” my ex asked me.  I don’t recall my exact words but my reaction went something like “YOU’RE JUST TRYING TO INVALIDATE MY TOTALLY VALID ANGER!  YOU MEN ALWAYS TRY TO MAKE WOMEN THINK THAT THEIR EMOTIONS ARE BIOLOGICALLY MEDIATED!  F*$K YOU BOB!”  Bob, to his credit, calmly mixed me a juice with a spoonful of sugar.  “Drink this.  If you’re still pissed off, we can fight then.”  Ah, the chagrin of realizing he was right.

And then the diabetic.  My grad school boyfriend who was a type 1 diabetic and who played games with his blood sugar and insulin like a gambling addict at the races.  Dietary restrictions be damned, he had a glucose infusion set and a blood sugar meter.  We checked my sugar a few times when I was being shitty, and what do you know?  Low.  60s and 50s and one horrible night, so low he wouldn’t tell me, just force fed me candy while I re-enacted scenes from the Exorcist.

So here it is, the pop culture reference I’ve been waiting all my life for.  Enjoy!


bad dream and blood sugar

Which came first?  The low blood sugar or the bad dream that woke me up this AM at a quarter of 5?  The outcome is the same – laying in bed after sleep-kicking my husband (hard, btw) and not able to ramp down and go back to sleep.  So I’m up, drinking sugary coffee and turning my brain away from the bad family dreams to doing crazy things with PDFs.  The PDFs are for a student I work for.

My husband asked me last week if I felt that my job was challenging enough, “You know, I mean intellectually.”  It is challenging in other ways, for sure, and I’m glad he realizes that.  Is it intellectually stimulating?  Well, I do miss the more scholarly pursuits that I had once been on track to do forever.  But I think even if there had been jobs to be had, I would have eventually felt like what I was doing was glorified naval gazing.  With my job now, what I do is a lot of problem solving.  And it’s problem solving that allows people to get to where I got, to get an education, to have the tools to discover and choose (at least to some degree) what they want to be “when they grow up”.  While I do like the helping people angle, I have to admit that this is probably secondary.  I am by nature a problem solver.  I like untying knots.  Christmas lights used to be my job as a kid.  There is something engaging and ultimately rewarding about finding the connections, tracing the path, removing the tangles.

Ok, so I’m up.  Coffee’s working, time to work.  Do something engaging.  Untie a knot that is workable.  The ones that exist in my mind and body can wait.


shine on

Looking for glare guards for a student.  This student has migraines and quite significant photosensitivity.  Oh boy can I relate.

I told my boss I found some that got good reviews and asked if I should forward the info to the student.  Boss says yes and get one for yourself if you want too.

Sweet, because at work I have a nice new computer (an all in one) that has a big shiny monitor.  I have never used a computer with a shiny monitor and I know that this is going to be an issue for me.  I’m also desperate to get some alternative lighting in my office because right now it’s overhead fluorescent lights.  Ugh.  I’m told the couch I asked for was delivered yesterday.  It’s not new, we’ll see if it’s un-moldy enough to stay in my office.  New has drawbacks too – some materials make me sick from the fumes.  I don’t know if it’s glue or dye or fabric treatments or all of the above but I know there are some pieces of furniture I basically have to run away from.  I am hoping the couch is good.  I need a place to get horizontal sometimes when I’m at work, like when my blood pressure or blood sugar drop into the craptastic range, or when a migraine is making me feel like I’m on the deck of a ship.


not so accu

I’m assuming the “accu” in accuchek stands for accurate.  Or at least is meant to evoke the word “accurate”.  But a side by side comparison of the two blood sugar meters leaves something to be desired in the accuracy or even convergence department.

I blogged about my blood sugar being so very low lately.  And I realized that one possible reason for the very low readings is that I have a new monitor.  The last time I was checking my sugar, I was using the meter my insurance company would pay for, the aviva accuchek.  When it came time to renew my prescription, my insurance company wouldn’t pay for the test strips, instead recommending a new monitor with new strips.  The Freestyle lite.  Was the change in monitors what lead to the change in blood sugar patterns or was it that months ago, my blood sugar was just better?  I got some aviva test strips to do a side by side check.  Here are the results:

Blood sugar monitor comparison
Person accuchek aviva freestyle lite Difference (raw)
1 105 83 22
2 121 111 10
3 124 106 18
1 99 84 15
1 114 83 31
1 108 86 22

And so we have some good evidence that the freestyle is reading consistently lower than the aviva.  But which one is “right” or closer to right?  For that, I’ll need my doctor’s help.  See, I do have a problem with recognizing when my blood sugar is low.  As I blogged about before, I feel crappy a lot and a lot of my crappy feelings are similar to symptoms of low blood sugar.  So I have the possibility of symptom masking going on.

So we could approach it from a different angle then.  There are times when I have eaten not long ago that my sugar SHOULD be higher, certainly higher than the readings I’m getting from the freestyle.  Like a half hour after eating or drinking soda and the meter is telling me my blood sugar is  in the low 80s.  That’s some decent evidence that the freestyle is giving false lows, telling me that I’m hypoglycemic when I’m not, and that I’m not suffering from hypoglycemia unawareness as much as I’m suffering from screwed up blood sugar monitor.

So what then should I assume is going on when it reads 55 and I feel bad but not markedly worse than I’ve felt when it reads in the 70s or 80s?  If it the monitor reading is falsely low, and if it is anywhere from 72% to 79% of the reading I’m getting from the aviva, then even a falsely low reading of 55 would be a low reading on the aviva (somewhere around 69 to 75).  And if the aviva is the (more) accurate blood sugar value, or at least less inaccurate, then that means my sugar is between 69 and 75 when the freestyle says 55, and I should still feel low.  But I don’t.

My guess is that it’s a combination of factors which are contributing to my blood sugar readings.  I think I am a little unaware of when I’m low.  I’m a bit autonomically screwed, I think there’s plenty of evidence for that.  And I have a history of passing out from hypoglycemia, which is what happens to people who get low without the “boy I sure need to eat something” feeling kicking in.  And I think that the fingersticks are at best a rough estimate of blood sugar.  These two things together mean that I’m going to have a hell of a time keeping my blood sugar where it should, of avoiding getting into a blood sugar trough (hypoglycemia begets hypoglycemia) if I can’t identify an accurate means of measuring my sugar or a constant to apply to the inaccurate reading which will make it accurate.

From what I’ve read, from journal articles to manufacturer’s specs to patient boards, it seems a clear conclusion that the glucose meters are basically inaccurate as actual measures of blood sugar and are better at providing blood sugar trends.  I guess I can thank god I’m not an insulin dependent diabetic.  I’d hate to have to rely on these things to determine insulin dosing – nightmare!

hairs, bears, and blood sugar meters

I’m shedding.  As I’m sitting at my desk, listening to my husband tell me tales of hackery and woe, I brush a few stray hairs off my work space.  And then see more, just over there.  And a few more to my right.  I’m accustomed to seeing hairs in the tub drain, more now around the sink, and on the bathroom floor.  I’ve reached a point where I’m rivaling the cat for volume of hairs found off my body.  “Maybe it’s a medication” my hairdresser says.  Maybe it’s malnutrition, I add silently in my head.

photo of a woman's hand holding a teddy graham

Hi! I’m the hypoglycemia bear!

Yesterday, while stuffing my face to move up from a quite low blood sugar (55), I started wondering about bear shaped food.  Specifically, two of the several snacks I had immediate access to were teddy grahams and gummy bears.  I have since dubbed a teddy graham as the hypoglycemia mascot.  His name is Hawthorne, the Hypoglycemia bear.  When my blood sugar was reading in the 70s, I found this uproariously funny.

And this brings me to the topic of blood sugar meters.  Earlier this summer, my doctor had to renew my script for blood sugar testing supplies.  He wrote for the aviva monitor supplies I usually use and the pharmacy freaked out.  Turned out that it was no longer a “preferred” meter by my insurance company.  After much phone wrangling, I was given one that my insurance will not kick, the freestyle lite.  Partly because of my nature, and partly because of many years of graduate training in an experimental research field, I have started to wonder if this new blood sugar monitor is the driving source of variance in my recently very low blood sugars.  A simple, if not cheap, way to find out exists.  I will be buying (out of pocket) some test strips for my old monitor and using it as a comparison with the new one.  So far, an internet search on the new monitor is not very elucidating.  One Amazon review says it gives “falsely low” blood sugars, but this reviewer was speaking for diabetics and based on the context, was discussing results in the “normal” to high range.  I want to know how the monitor does at the low range.  If you read product details from the manufacturers, you will see that they often give a breakdown of accuracy within ranges, i.e. “this monitor is accurate to a level of x for blood sugars below 70….”

So I will soon be conducting a study comparing the two monitors.  I know enough to realize that while the freestyle lite might be running low, the aviva might be running high.  And this is why the next time I have blood drawn, I’m asking for a glucose and I’ll test capillary blood sugar with both monitors when they are doing the glucose draw.  I’ll post results, possibly in two batches since it might be a while before I have a blood draw (let’s hope it’s a while, I had enough blood drawn this spring and early summer that I was feeling like a pin cushion).

over reactive?

Oh.  My.  God.

This is ridiculous.  I don’t think this is reactive hypoglycemia.  Today, I did not want to get out of bed.  I had a headache already and every inch of my body was saying “hell no” to the waking up.  But up I am, and my blood sugar is 66.

I did a high monitoring day yesterday to try to see what the hell is going on.  Is it going high then plummeting?  It doesn’t look like it.  Usually, my iced coffee has sugar in it, but I did splenda yesterday in case the sugar was bringing my blood sugar up high, then crashing it down in the afternoon.  Nope.

Time Blood sugar (finger stick) Food
6:05 81
6:30 to 10:00 1.5 – 2 cups coffee with rice milk & sugar.
8:41 72
12:05 74 1/4 cup teddy grahams, 1 hard candy.
12:24 76 1 hard candy, 7 skittles.  med iced coffee 1.5 Splenda & rice milk.
1:11 94 lunch wild rice & orzo salad, oil, garlic, cooked red peppers, cooked mushrooms, raw corn, grape, about 1 doz grapes in addition to salad.   Done eating at 13:30 continuing coffee.
14:05 81
15:41 99
16:58 95
17:58 70  15 skittles.
18:55 87
19:25 83 dinner. 3 slices baked & fried yam, 1 fried egg, 4 slices ham. 1 bottle ibc root beer.   19:38 finished eating.
20:00 salt & vinegar potato chips
20:40 94 last sip of root beer.
22:05 89

This is a problem. I will pass out from a low blood sugar.  It’s like my own little insulin reaction,  minus the exogenous insulin.  Memories of being dragged through the cafeteria in a stupor, of passing out in restaurants or just outside of them are not recent but they’re potent enough to still leave quite an impact.  Having a blood sugar monitor helps.  Unlike when I was a kid, I at least now can check (if I think to) my sugar and try to take corrective action before it gets to the point where I am semi or unconscious.  It’s the “if I think to” part that’s tough for me.  I either have to check it on a schedule or I forget to check it at all.  I explain away the bad feelings as mood, or general unwellness that I feel a lot – i.e. maybe it’s a migraine coming on, or the room’s too warm and my blood pressure’s tanking.  I can’t exactly carry around a BP monitor too, and even if I did, I’d barely get anything done for having to stop and check first the BP then the sugar every time I don’t feel good.  I don’t feel good a lot.

I’m getting better at checking the sugar now when I don’t feel good.  It would help if the pharmacy would fill the damned scripts for the full amount.  As it is, they consistently short me on strips.  A monthly script for checking 5 times a day does not equal 100 strips a month.  I suck at math but even I don’t need a calculator to add that one up.

My husband (god bless him) spent this AM researching glycemic index and glycemic load.  “How do you feel about raisins?”  “Errrr, not overly fond of them although I did find myself craving them yesterday…”  “There aren’t a lot of foods on this list with a glycemic load over 20, but raisins are one of them.”  Ok, so raisins it is.  My gut won’t thank me for that though.

Here’s the big revised table that the article I linked above references.

blood sugar battles continue

I got out of work yesterday around 5:00.  The minute I stepped out, I smelled food from the two restaurants near the back entrance to my building.  Oh that smells so good.  Maybe we should just get dinner in town before we go home…I thought blearily.  Tired, and feeling run down, I waited for my husband to pick me up.  A few minutes later, in the car, I thought to check my sugar.  61.  God damned 61.  Are you kidding me?  I ate lunch!  A nice healthy lunch!  With wild rice and veggies and everything!  WTF?!  It makes me wonder how long it was low for.  I was getting snacky at work around 4:00…but didn’t have any interest in procuring food.  I just wanted to get some work done.

So, a bag of chips and a third of a bottle of rootbeer on the way home.  Then dinner (chicken salad on rice crackers).  Somewhere between a half hour to an hour after dinner, my blood sugar was 125.  Then a little over an hour after that, it was 77.  Holy cow.

I’m adding fruit to today’s lunch.  And apparently I need a post lunch snack.  And a post dinner snack.  Again, I say wtf.  This is getting ridiculous.

Dear blood sugar,

Fuck you.  Seriously.  How dare you drop for no good reason?  I ate!  I ate healthy even!  I had an egg, sweet potatoes, and two lean slices of ham.  And within two hours you were on your way down, 77 and dropping if how I felt was any indicator.  So I had a granola bar.  And some chips.  And hey, I still feel like shit and you’re at 77 (still?  again?).  So I’m busting out the big guns….that’s right, it’s time for the root beer.  Mwahahaha!  Take that.


This is how I’m feeling.  I was doing well until a low blood sugar – yeah, I gotta get this under control.  The problem is eating in the morning really kicks up the gut symptoms, but not eating in the morning is making me crash in the afternoon.  My husband made food for the both of us, very nice, and I’d have liked to have been nice in return but instead I was just cranky.  I did an ok job of keeping it in check but I still feel bad for being cranky.

The exceptionally crankiness has passed.  Replaced now by chagrin at having been cranky instead of grateful, and a growing frustration that I can’t zip around the house doing all that I want to do because it is hot and there’s a storm looming, which means I have storm head – but I have things I want and need to do.  Gah.

Well, at least there’s a reason for feeling crappy (physically).  I’ll try to keep that in mind.  And let myself off the hook a bit here because the self recrimination is not helping.

G 67…


No, Glucose, as in blood sugar.  Nothing like starting your day off with a little hypoglycemia.  “I’m thinking of buying some of those glucose tablet thingies,” I told my husband as I sat on the couch cramming juice and cookies into my face.  “I need to find a way to get it up faster…”

THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID! he announced with glee.  “You know, I knew it was bad but, I didn’t have the…um…whatsit…to uh, reconstruct the phrase just now,” I told him.  I’m glad we can find humor in this crap.