Facing and Adjusting to New Realities in Diabetes

Diabetes does not stand still; it grows with us, changes with us, and shape-shifts through the years. Diabetes has a way of reminding us that the way things worked yesterday isn’t necessarily how they will work today; how things worked last year isn’t necessarily how they will work next year. Diabetes is full of constant change, not just in the way it throws unexpected blood sugars at us here and there, but in the way our bodies fundamentally shift and change over time, changing not just the details of daily life with diabetes, but the very basis of how we must relate to it and manage it.

I woke up from a nap today with severely low blood sugar. I was really out of it, sweating profusely, and my wife had to help me down a LOT of orange juice just to get back into the 50s! I make it a rule to check before I sleep, having had diabetes for about 22 years now and knowing that my sensitivity for low blood sugar is simply not what it once was. But I thought, hey, I was only lying down for about 15 minutes, sleeping right next to my wife, before we left for an evening out. And so I didn’t check. That was a bad idea. Now, had my wife not been home, I would have checked even before that little 15 minute rest, but this was a reminder to me that my body is NOT the same as it was 10 years ago, 15 years ago, or 20 years ago (and I should have checked today, too — it’s awfully stressful for a spouse to see their partner so out of it, and what if she had thought I was just too tired to go out tonight and not woken me up?).


When I was in high school, I could tell the minute my blood sugar dipped below 70. It was inconceivable that I would ever drop below 60 unless I was somehow stranded with no access to sugar. But it sure as heck wouldn’t “sneak up on me”! That loss of sensitivity has been the most recent change for me, and it’s taken some getting used to. Here and there, I’ve still acted as if my sensitivity were closer to what it used to be, and put myself in potentially dangerous situations such as tonight. This most recent incident was just another reminder that my reality is different now than it once was, and I need to always be diligent in a way I didn’t have to be before.

The reality of NOW
Meditation has been discussed on this website, and in my blog, several times. It’s a big part of my life (when I remember to tend to my practice, that is). The most important part of meditation is the practice of returning to the moment. But it’s more than simply “being present”; it’s a matter of returning to the reality of what is true at all times — that is, not facing away from reality, not pretending things are different than they are, and not spending time imagining how great things would be “if only.”

The changes in how diabetes behaves over time represent a great opportunity to put this into practice in a very practical way. First, we can borrow the idea of “returning to reality” at all times. That means always coming back to our blood glucose monitor, our record-keeping books, our numbers and stats and patterns, to look at what our bodies are telling us at any given moment. Mine is giving me a pretty clear message right now that I simply can’t ever assume I will “feel” a low blood sugar, particularly when sleep is in the equation.

The second part of meditation practice involves accepting that reality, meeting it directly, and working with it. So, I see the reality — my sensitivity is simply not what it used to be. Once I accept that, I can drop silly ideas like, “well, I’ll only be sleeping for 15 minutes, I don’t need to check,” and instead work with my body based on reality — that within 15 minutes I can easily go from “feeling fine” to “totally out of it, drenched in sweat.” Yeah, I would love it if this weren’t true, but I’d also love it if I didn’t have diabetes. But reality is what it is. My only choice is how I deal with it.

How has diabetes changed for readers over the years? What habits have you had to change over the years? How has your condition shape-shifted, and what kind of new challenges have you faced?

Type 2 diabetes and depression have been linked to an increased rate of dementia. What are some steps you can take to reduce your risk? Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to find out.