It wasn’t until my sister jokingly pointed out that “I’m high” means something completely different to most people than it does to me, that I realized: strangers must think I’m NUTS! I’m not shy about my diabetes around friends and family, so comments like “I’m high” are common and don’t generally turn heads; but, for those of you who don’t know me, let me be clear: I do not do drugs (well, besides insulin). So, what does being high mean for me as a type 1 diabetic?
My definition of a “high” is: blood sugars greater than 130 mg/dl fasting (when I wake up in the morning) and 180 mg/dl during the day. For me, a “high” has both physical and emotional symptoms, which I’ll do my best to explain.
My physical symptoms:
1. Headache: It’s not debilitating. I don’t need to sit in a dark room or avoid sound or anything; but, it’s persistent and annoying and one that doesn’t go away with Advil. When I get really high, the headache does become nauseating, though.
2. Thirst: My mouth gets very dry, I have a hard time talking due to a dry tongue, and I lick my lips constantly (which is probably why I always have chapped lips!). No amount of water helps, either.
3. Fatigue: An overall “groggy” feeling. Things that I normally don’t have to think about (breathing, not dragging my feet when I walk, putting sentences together) take extra effort, I get grouchy (my family can attest to this), and my body feels weak and tired.
4. Queezy: I don’t actually get sick, but I compare the feeling to car/motion sickness. Like the headache, it’s persistent and annoying and nothing settles it until my blood sugar comes down.
5. Blurry vision: This one is harder to describe, because I can still make out words and shapes as usual, but I find myself constantly squinting. I don’t notice a difference in what I am seeing as long as I squint.
My emotional symptoms:
1. Failure: I feel like I have done something (or everything) wrong. I ate too much, I didn’t give enough insulin, I miscounted my carbohydrates, I didn’t exercise enough, etc.
2. Anger: I want to throw my meter at a wall and give up. I’m always thinking about diabetes, and do my best to follow recommendations; but, every time I see a high, it feels like it doesn’t matter.
3. Fear: Since I work in the medical field and have studied diabetes extensively, I know the possible complications and what can happen when blood sugars are high, especially when they have had diabetes for a long time. With this knowledge comes fear. Every time I see a “high”, I feel one step closer to all of the bad things that could happen.
So, while I can’t compare my “high” to other “highs”, I hope that this explains what “high” means for me. Next time you hear someone say “I’m high”, try not to jump to conclusions! My drug (insulin) ISN’T working when I’m high!