When Is It Not Diabetes?

Last evening I was all set to update my status on my Facebook page. The text I’d written was something along the lines of, “So far I’ve seemed to handle many of the tough things in my life pretty well, which is maybe why tonight I want to make a mountain out of a molehill.” In fact, I’d already started shoring up a molehill.


That molehill? Oh, you’ll really feel sorry for me: I had plans to meet some friends after the gym for a beer, but when I arrived early at the bar, the band (whose presence I hadn’t expected) was way, way too loud. I couldn’t stand it. Call me old. Call me grumpy. Just don’t call me when that band’s around, because I won’t hear you.

I e-mailed my friends before they left their house and begged off our plans, eschewing the idea of going somewhere else, complaining, too, about the bar’s acoustics and the god-awful noise. I’d anticipated a fun evening at that particular bar, and it was ruined.

I felt sorry for myself. I was touchy and tired, having stayed up too late the night before, and I was on an endorphin rush, too: I’d just had a great two-hour workout at the gym, one of the toughest spinning classes I’ve ever taken. So when my anticipated reward for my day — ending the evening with good beer and a friendly game of poker — fell through due to noise pollution, I became a whiner, he who makes mountains out of molehills.

I didn’t status update about my pain, however. My filter was still in place, and I didn’t feel, in the moment, like publicly railing about my perceived injustices. Instead, I went home to a quiet house and my under-the-weather spouse, watched a bit of TV with Kathryn, and then read for a few hours.

What the heck, you may be asking, does this have to do with diabetes? Everything. Want to know why?

At the gym I worried about my blood glucose while I was spinning because it was such a difficult workout, so I checked my bg half a dozen times during the hour-long class, drank some juice, had a PowerBar, and kept my eye on the bottle of Powerade that I would open if I started to go low.

I was pushing myself, and pushing hard during exercise — really hard — means some of my physical reactions can be similar to that of a low blood glucose coming on. Except I was loving the exercise quote-unquote pain, the high heart rate, the endorphin rush.

Except this caused me to instantly worry about the post-workout blood glucose levels. Have I pushed too hard? Should I have a beer afterwards? I don’t know. But I want the beer. This was a tough class. I’m having the beer.

I’m going to be vigilant about monitoring my blood glucose while at the bar.

I’m driving to the bar and making a mental note of everything I need to remember to take into the bar. It’s cold out, but not that cold, so I’m considering just wearing my fleece and not taking the larger, many-pocketed outer coat, in the pockets of which are extra carbs and a test kit. No, wait. The test kit is in my trunk, in my gym bag. And my insulin pump is in my work bag because I took it off before I went to the gym. I need to remember that, too: Get The Pump!

Since I don’t want to wear my outer coat, I’m going to have to carry everything into the bar, but I don’t have pockets now, or rather, the pockets I have are in filled with my iPhone, wallet, and soon the insulin pump, then keys.

See this? Diabetes, living with: it is a tough life!

Oh, then at the bar, the noise, and I’m sitting there wondering if I should check my blood glucose, all the while feeling somewhat incapacitated, which can happen, easily, when I have too many things going through my head: (1) cancel the plans with friends because of the noise; e-mail e-mail e-mail and hope they see it before they head out the door; (2) drink some of the beer now in front of me, which I already ordered before the band started playing and I realized it was too noisy, and I don’t want the beer, but I can’t leave a full beer, and I can’t be a jerk and complain to the barkeep about the band noise; (3) check my blood glucose, because I’m feeling odd now and it may be any number of factors: (a) post-workout reaction, (b) awkward alone-at-the-bar feeling, (c) anxiety about what to do next, (d) I really am going low, (e) I’m hungry because it’s now 7:30 and I haven’t eaten since lunch; (4) text my wife to ask if she wants anything when I leave the bar and head home, since she’s been sick all day; (5) figure out what I’m going to do for dinner because I’m not going to have the bar’s delicious chicken quesidilla, which I was craving.

In the back of my mind it’s diabetes. This whole time, diabetes. Blood glucose worries. Worried about precipitously dropping to a severe low. Yes, true, I have no precedent for the worries I’m accumulating, but I also haven’t worked out that hard in a while, so how would my body react?

Which brings me around to the catalyst for this blog. I decided to try to cobble something together about the mountain/molehill thing when I was pouring a glass of water before bed: Can I ever find a block of time during which I don’t have worried thoughts about my illness? Will I ever be able to completely accept that I’m doing a good job managing my illness? Not feel guilty about living — trying to live — a normal existence (howsoever you want to define normal)?

My mind sometimes — like last night — can do a great job turning my self-management attempts to one extreme or the other: either I’m going too far or not doing enough. Last night, the spinning, the exercise: maybe I’d gone too far, too much. I acted, at the gym (for the most part) as a person without diabetes. Pushing. Really pushing.

It seems, however, that this is part of the illness, and, at least for me, the type of issues I must learn to balance (learn, learn again, and then once more; repeat) for the remainder of my days.

Or keep having evenings like last night. If the molehills have to do with diabetes, can they ever really be molehills?

Hi, Type 1 Diabetes. You can really suck.

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  • Eliane Yamashita

    Hi, Eric. I know exactly what you feel about managing Diabetes type 1, all day long. Everyday, every hour, before and after meals, exercise, sex and even having fun with friends. Imagin, that it could be much worse if you were a woman, because you have an extra worry: hormons. Try to estabilize your glucose with this thing. You have two weeks of a good control and oher 2 weeks trying to find out what is happening with your body. when you discover what is going on, your hormons back to the normal state and you must back to older dose of insulin. It really sucks! I make exercises everyday and i discovered that if you do aerobic exercise intercalated with musculation you can start your week pushing hard but you have to decrease weight and intensity along the week. So, if you go spinning on friday, you must do it lightly. I’m trying to find out this equation of exercise duration in my body for the last 10 years. And this is what I can share with you.

    Sometimes I really wish that I could have a vacation of all this diabetes things… But we can’t complain.. at least we can share our sufferings.. count on me!

  • Eric L


    Yeah, well, I am male, but I can say that hormones are part of my issues with diabetes as well: Last year I had my thyroid removed (cancer) and went through five months of very bizarre hypothyroid issues during the radiation treatments and attempts to establish the correct dosage of daily thyroid hormone.

    (BTW, this is not an, ahem, “Who has more hormone problems” peeing contest, or anything like that.)


  • Moe

    OK, I have a solution for you. After 46 years living with Type 1, the big issue now that I’m in my mid 60’s is that you don’t see the low’s coming. (Adrenalin gland doesn’t warn you any more like it did when I was younger). Avoiding the severe low’s (like when your wife needs to call 911 because you’re unconscious)has been my biggest problem in the past. The solution that is working now is to minimize the need for Humalog (or whatever instant type you use). I try to depend mostly on the Lantus. Of course, in order to do this, you have to dramatically minimize your carb intake. Check out my blog on how this works: http://typeonediabetic45.blogspot.com/

  • Natalie Sera

    I’m interested to know that you have the same reaction to vigorous or prolonged exercise that I have — I can’t tell if how I’m feeling is due to the exercise, or due to a low. But that’s why we have our handy-dandy meters with us. Which are now much more portable and easily usable than they were 20 years ago, when I was first diagnosed! ūüôā

    I understand your complaint about the band noise. I do not know why, these days, bands think they must deafen everyone. I don’t like music or TV in restaurants anyway — I go to talk with friends, and don’t want to have to scream over the noise. So your feelings of discomfiture are totally understandable, and it’s not making a mountain out of a molehill — diabetes already gives you enough mountains to climb!

  • Sarah

    Hi, Our mutual doctor gave me your blog address. I really appreciated this entry as I take an intense spinning class in the area and wonder about checking myself during and the logistics of doing so. Boring questions here, but do you just keep spinning while you check? I like to work out hard but am also not sensing lows as well lately.

    Thanks again for writing your blog.

  • ken

    You people are scaring the “hell” out of me. I was told by my doctor about 2 years ago that I am pre-diabetic. My A1c score originally was 6.7, and just last week it was down to 6.1. So, I am dieting and exercising to make sure my pre-diabetes doesn’t go further. I will do just about anything to avoid being type 2 or type 1. I admire the dedication each of you have and hope and pray for all diabetics each day that your days are happy ones. So live simply, love seriously, care deeply, speak kindly and leave the rest to God.