The Blood Sugar Blame Game

Meagan Esler

| Feb 14, 2012

Wiped out and dejected, that's my state of mind this morning. I had a really low blood sugar, and it's left me feeling like I've been in a fight. My arms and legs feel heavy, and my "low" headache lingers, but I remind myself that it could be worse. I'm fine, I treated it, and my day will go on.

A Facebook friend posted a moment ago that she just had her third low blood sugar of the morning. I sent her a cyber hug and am full of sympathy. It's no wonder that low blood sugar is so frustrating to us: The feelings associated with it go way beyond the physical. They also hit us emotionally.

Here comes the blame game: I know that I should have eaten earlier. I know that I shouldn't have tried to finish that paperwork before breakfast. I even told myself that I was in for a low if I didn't grab something to eat soon. And yet, even after seventeen years of life with type 1 diabetes, I ignored my own warnings. Now here I am, feeling exhausted and guilty for doing it to myself.

For me, the emotional toll of diabetes is far more difficult than the shots and finger sticks. Guilt and diabetes go together like birthday cake and ice cream. We blame ourselves if our blood sugars are too high or low. We beat ourselves up if we don't get enough activity or if our doctor puts us on yet another new medication.

I always feel like a failure if my stats are less than perfect, despite my knowledge that with diabetes, perfection is out of reach. The reality is that often our crazy blood sugars aren't our fault at all. It's impossible to flawlessly mimic our own pancreas every day. On top of that, dealing with a chronic illness twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, can break you down and lead to mistakes. I know that this morning's low occurred because of mistakes I made, but I force myself to remember that mistakes happen with diabetes.

When I'm beating myself up and feeling bad, I think of what a type 1 friend said to me after a recent rough low blood sugar: "Keep your chin up. Just like the last one, and the next one, it'll pass." He's right. We've got to dust ourselves off, let go of the blame, and get back into the game of life.


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Categories: Chronic Illness, Diabetes, Diabetes, Emotional Toll of Diabetes, Finger Sticks, Guilt and Diabetes, Low Blood Sugar, Mistakes, Type 1 Diabetes, Type 1 Issues

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Posted by Anonymous on 16 February 2012

Dear Meagan,

My son has Type 1 like you. I feel for you both, having a condition that is 24/7/365. It is not easy to do anything 24/7/365... While it isn't possible to take a break from Type 1,it is certainly very human to want that break from it.

Don't beat yourself up. You are doing the best you can. Nobody is perfect but why not just try for "good-enough" most of the time?

You are not alone.

Sending you my very best wishes,


Posted by Anonymous on 16 February 2012

And so say all of us! And so say all of us! Thank you. I couldn't have said it better

Posted by Anonymous on 16 February 2012

So glad to see others that have a lot of the similar or same problems I do. If only the health care professionals would read this stuff and understand. EAch of us so different. Too Sweet until Not so Sweet

Posted by rosiolady on 16 February 2012

I agree that low blood sugars are never completely avoidable. You make a very good point that we can't completely mimic a functioning pancreas. Do you know, people without diabetes also (not a few of them) suffer low blood sugar episodes but not usually to the point an insulin-dependent diabetic can. Enter the insulin pump. After 41 years with type 1 diabetes, I bleieve it was in 2005 that I got my first insulin pump. Once you get your basal settings figured out and your insulin-to-carb ratios, you no longer have to eat at a particular time because of too much "onboard" insulin from an injection. I certainly understand that they are expensive and most insurance does not pay the entire bill, and of course they take a bit of getting used to. But not having to worry about whether I'm eating exactly what I need exactly on schedule is no longer such a worry for me. I wholeheartedly recommend that anyone who can manage the expense, and is a type 1 diabetic, should give an insulin pump a try. So many things as well as what we eat and how much exercise we get can affect our blood glucose readings. Stress from any source makes a huge difference, for example. You still have to monitor your BG levels closely and frequently, but I have had fewer severe lows since using the pump, and I also find it liberating not having to inject insulin 6 times a day!


Posted by kdommer on 16 February 2012

I agree with you whole-heartedly! But on the flip side, my heart soars when my test results are good - it's like getting an A! :-)

Posted by Anonymous on 16 February 2012

As the mother of a diabetic son, I appreciate reading about what it really feels to be diabetic, how a low can affect your wellbeing long after it has been corrected. All this i had guessed, but was never told, for fear i suppose to alarm me. My son has always put on a brave front and a "don't you worry" attitude. You mention the guilt feeling you have when things are not going perfectly, but i wonder how many parents have a guilt feeling for having brought into the world a child with such a heavy load to carry through their life.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 February 2012

Boy, are you RIGHT !!! I've been a brittle diabetic for 28 years (late onset type 1 ??) and have been on an insulin pump for 6 years. Despite only eating an average of 30g of carbs per meal, and getting semi-regular exercise (walking on a treadmill 3 times a week for half an hour) I get VERY frustrated/exasperated/ANGRY when I get a rash of unexplained lows or HIGHS.

For me, the lows are (usually) somewhat easier to deal with...but still scary. I've got hypo unawareness...and have found my BGs in the 30's (after my wife says "your gettimg bitchy...go check your sugar" (grin).

The highs drive me nuts. I can understand them when I've been stressed at work, or sick, or maybe eaten more than I usually do for a meal, but when they sneak up on me for NO REASON...arggh...

Thanks for the article... I appreciate it!

...joe...64 yrs old...and still slaving away at the State of Florida for another 2 yrs & 5 months...

Posted by Anonymous on 17 February 2012

Like you, I can usually figure out what caused a low. Now, a high, that's a different story. It can be caused by your own body releasing stored sugar in response to illness or stress. But, the lows, we know what causes them: too much insulin for the amount of carbohydrate/sugar in our system. My favorite "should have known better" story is when I made my favorite winter soup that contains white beans and macaroni. I always count 15 gm carb per half cup. So I planned on eating a cup and a half, and pre-meal bolused 4.5 units. Well, as I was serving it up to my husband and myself, in flat, heated pasta bowls, I measured a cup into mine and thought to myself, my that looks like plenty (in the shallow bowl) and only served myself the cup. The extra 1.5 units I took was enough to drop me 75 points in the night, and I woke up with a low in the 50's. Completely my fault. Must pay better attention. For folks like us who are not insulin resistant, it just takes a small miscalculation to produce a low. What really gets me is that the meter companies think it is OK to have a 20% variance, when we have to so carefully toe the line.

Posted by Anonymous on 19 February 2012

Meagan, What a wonderful article, so well put. (I'm 55 and into my 45th year type 1). Bravo. Mark

Posted by Anonymous on 23 February 2012

Hi Meagan,
What a brilliant post - I couldn't agree with you more. So glad I managed to find you on here whilst browsing! I hadn't read any posts from you on your Unapologetic Diabetic blog for a while and was hoping and praying that you hadn't disappeared from the writing world. Hope you are well!
Daisy (Diabetic Dais) x

Posted by Anonymous on 1 March 2012

I need this article right now as I just had a hypoglycemic episode a few weeks ago where my husband woke to me having a seizure. I had to go to the hospital because I tried standing up but since I was still convolsing I fell hitting my head on the night stand and dislocated my jaw...on top of somehow spraining my ankle. This was the worse one yet, and it had been a long time since I had a seizure last. I've been emotionally drained, worrying, and been crying because I could have died - leaving my husband and two-year old son without me. This article is helping - thanks! Teresa Hart

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