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The Open Forum: Is High Blood Sugar a Legitimate Cause of Emotional Instability?


Feb 1, 1995

It appears that I am an atypical diabetic. I am a type 2 who was not obese at the time of diagnosis at age 44. In addition, I wound up on insulin within six months of diagnosis, after I had made a good faith effort to maintain my blood sugars with diet, exercise, and oral medications.

From the beginning, I never denied the illness. I immediately went out and bought a blood glucose monitor and began checking four times a day to establish patterns. I embraced "The Diet" right down to weights and measures of foods. I embarked on an program that included daily aerobic exercise. I now run most days and use a stair climber on rainy days, or for cross training. Over objections from my doctor, who said it was not necessary, I lost the ten pounds I had gained over my ideal weight.

When all this did not work, and my blood sugars began to soar into the 300's or higher, I begged my doctor to take me off the oral medications that were not working and put me on insulin. He said that no other patient had ever asked to be put on insulin.

Can this really be true? Am I the only diabetic on the face of the earth who actually found relief in seeing the high numbers come down? I was so tired of waking up in the morning feeling dehydrated, like someone had rung out the inside of my mouth. From the beginning, I was always more concerned how the high blood sugars made me feel than about any long term consideration of complications, though getting the numbers down for today takes care of long term goals as well.

One thing my high blood sugars caused was emotional liability. I became depressed, sometimes hostile and even self-destructive. I once kicked a door facing in the presence of a friend who also, coincidentally, was a diabetes educator just trying to help. I kicked it so hard that I almost broke my toes, knowing well that injury to my foot could be terribly detrimental. Clearly, I was out of control.

Was all this emotional turmoil a natural reaction to my illness, having nothing to do with high blood sugars? I was told this by medical professionals who minimized my symptoms and my request for relief with insulin.

I eventually won out by tantrum. The image of me holding my breath until I turned blue (or got insulin) is not far from reality. But once I got my way, a miracle happened. As my blood sugars dropped back into normal range, the mantle of depression also lifted as quickly as it descended. No longer depressed, no longer crying all day, I really was able to lead a more normal life, even though insulin is fraught with traps. I had a low blood sugar the very first day I was on insulin and learned quickly about the deeply pounding heart, sweaty palms and numb lips that sometimes send me spinning.

Still, and this appears to be where I depart from many type 2's, I would take insulin any day rather than endure the indignities of high numbers and the emotional chaos that high blood sugar created in me.


Categories: Blood Glucose, Blood Sugar, Diabetes, Food, Insulin, Low Blood Sugar, Personal Stories, Type 2 Issues



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