Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Those Highs and Those Lows . . . .

Since posting yesterday’s Mirror Mantra I’ve been pondering it quite a bit.  Not so much the fact that I tend to have emotional responses to the numbers I see - I think that’s just part of my personality.  (Spoiler Alert:  It is my inspiration for next week’s Mantra!!)  Instead I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how I view the numbers on my meter.  I’ve often admitted that given the choice, I’d rather be too low than too high any day of the week.  Rational thought will tell you that too low is just as bad as too high, so how have I twisted things around in my head so that I believe highs are bad and lows are good?  I’m no shrink, but here is how I think I developed this skewed view of blood sugars.

What gets drilled into a diabetics head over and over?  “You have to take care of yourself or you’ll go blind, lose your feet, wreak your kidney, die, etc. etc. etc.”  Thirty plus years of hearing those scare tactics boil down to a feeling that high blood sugars equal complications.  And thus, high blood sugars are bad.  This is true enough, but we all know that no matter how hard we try, sometimes highs are bound to happen.  That’s why it’s so important to start taking the emotion - and the fear - out of those highs and instead applaud ourselves for catching and treating the high blood sugar!  Positive reinforcements beat scare tactics any day - at least when it comes to my motivations.

How about those lows?  How on earth has my twisted brain come to view a low as a success?  After all, lows can be just as dangerous as highs!  The easy answer is that lower blood sugar means lower (which we’ve been told time and time again equal better) A1Cs and less chance of complications.  But there’s more to it than that.  The more I thought about my reaction to lows, the more I realized that my response is quite Pavlovian.

From the moment of my diagnosis, and for the decades to follow, sugar was taboo.  No more cake, candy, donuts, sweet treats - unless they were sugar-free, and back then the sugar-free “treats” were just plain gross.  But there is an exception to every rule, and growing up the exception to the “no sweets” rule was a low blood sugar.  Even now, I often treat lows with Starbursts or jelly beans or a spoonful of chocolate frosting.  If a low gets “rewarded” with candy, it’s pretty easy to start seeing it as a great thing, right?  Perhaps I need to treat lows with my least favorite flavor of glucose tablets instead . . . .

So there is a peek inside my warped Brainabetes  Diabrain  Diabetes Brain.  Thanks to my Mirror Mantra, I’ll be trying hard to rework the way I view both highs and lows.  Any warped views in your Diabrain??


  1. Well said.

    After years of being tutted at for being too 'high' it's more than natural to see a borderline hypo as something to aim for.

    Coincidently I've been giving this a lot of thought lately and no matter how many times I try to convince myself that being a little high is not too bad in the short-term and better than being hypo, the mind can't agree with the logic.

    Even now we are told that we need to aim for a 'low' HbA1c. How is it not possible to link this to the mindset of low = good?

    Best wishes to your Diabetes Brain and good luck in getting it reprogrammed.

  2. Karen, I really liked your explanation of how possibly using your least favorite flavor of glucose tabs to treat a low might help break that connection between low=good(tasting sweets you normally don't allow yourself to eat).

    I am right there with you and I have actually started treating with only apple juice or glucose tabs (instead of tasty candy). It's been a challenge but truly the hardest part is remembering to carry those "appropriate" low treaments with me at all times.

    Keep us posted on your success. I am certain you can do this!

  3. I continue to be fascinated by the bloggers in the D-O-C. I'm fascinated by the similarities we have and the vast differences. Personally, I have trained my brain to believe it's better to be high than low. I know that's not true but my mom used to tell me she'd rather have me high than low when I was at overnight activities or on vacation or whatever. Even at diabetic camp with its medical team and food at my fingertips, I would rather be high than low.

    Highs are easy for me to deal with. I don't get extra thirsty or need to pee unless I am hospitalization high! So readings in the 200's don't bother me. It's easy to take a correction bolus and wait it out. A low in public, for me, is embarrassing and scary. It calls attention to myself in a way I don't want. Even if people know I'm diabetic I don't like to eat in front of other people. Especially when I'm shaking and sweating.

    Another thing my mom told me growing up is that highs equal damaged organs. Lows equal brain damage. Oh the psychology of the diabetic brain on emotions!

    Do your best to see those numbers as numbers. That's what I try to do. It's just a number and nobody is grading you. Tell your brain to shut up about the A1C. That happens every 3 months. Take care of what you see today. Step outside yourself and see the numbers from an analytical perspective. I know it's hard to reroute decades of a skewed mindset.

    We're all in this together and encouraging one another. Keep up the good work!


  4. i used to treat lows with teaspoons of sugar. straight sugar. YUCK! lately i am a fan of SWEETTARTS, but i really like them! i think i may have to start carrying a few packets of sugar around instead as a sort of deterent! LOL!!

  5. I've only been at this diabetes life for 7 months now, I treat lows with glucose tablets rather than candy, as I don't want to have candy in my purse or the house because I will want to eat it at other times. I don't mind the flavor of the orange glucose tablets, but I wouldn't want to just start munching on them, I know that they are just for life sustaining sugar. I do use apple juice sometimes if I'm at home when I have a low. Neither highs or lows are good, I don't like seeing anything up in the 200's especially at a before meal test, but I feel so "helpless" when I'm low, even though I know exactly what to do to fix it, that is when I feel like I have lost total control of my body.

  6. Thank you SO MUCH for posting this. I have the same mindset and I think the drama of my diagnosis (DKA) caused it. I never ever ever want that experience again, so I freak out at highs. Lows don't rattle my cage nearly as much. After reading how everyone is so cautious with lows, I was starting to think I was a defective diabetic! Glad to know it's not just me. :)

  7. I am with you that I would rather have the lows than the highs, but since I am hypounaware, the lows scare me also. The lows do help pull down the A1c and our doctors seem to like that better. Before getting a CGMS, I was having problems with passing out. When my eye doctor asked me how my blood sugar was, my response was “not good.” I said not good because I was passing out. You could see his body tense up. I explained to him what was going on then at the end, I added what my A1c was. All he heard was that A1c and did not bother to hear the passing out part. He relaxed and started joking around saying my A1c was probably better than his.

  8. those are some crazy looking candies in that photo. do i spy a gummy fried egg? yow!


Thanks for your comment!