A Diabetic Addiction

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Do you ever feel like diabetes gear is addictive? Or, rather, that it doesn’t take long to become dependent on something that, just weeks earlier, wasn’t a part of your life at all? I remember feeling that way when I first got the pump — within two weeks I’d forgotten my Lantus doses and was terrified at the idea of having to go back and figure out how to use long-acting insulin. Ditto my continuous glucometer. I hate wearingPhoto 50 the thing (here’s a photo of my latest sensor, on my stomach — check out the extra backup adhesive all around it), but I’ve now gotten so used to being able to see my blood glucose levels in near real time that I get very nervous when I don’t have it on — or when it’s calibrating (as it is now). 10 hours of BS blindness? I may as well not eat!

The most recent example of this trend is Symlin — I started taking it in early September and since then have basically never missed a dose. So I’ve somewhat forgotten how I used to react to food — which is to say, so quickly that my blood sugar would start to rise before I’d gotten up from the table. This is a useful trick when treating lows (forget 15 minutes — I can see results in 5). But it’s very frustrating if, for example, you’re trying to eat breakfast. (I got to a point where I was giving a full insulin dose an hour and a half before I ate breakfast and my blood sugar was still going high before the insulin acted.) With Symlin, on the other hand, I can wait up to a half hour after I eat before taking insulin and there’s no problem at all. It’s amazing — it’s as if, by giving myself a shot in my stomach, I’m flicking off my stomach-emptying switch. Combined with my switch to cottage cheese breakfast, I’ve been having great mid-morning readings for the first time in years.

But on Friday I accidentally left the house without my Symlin pen. And then I went Christmas shopping — stressful to begin with — and didn’t eat lunch till three, by which point I was getting a little dizzy (less because of blood sugar and more because my “Christmas shopping” had devolved into me trying on 12 different pairs of jeans). I decided that I would go to California Pizza Kitchen and, clearly, would get the delicious-sounding Moroccan chicken salad with dates, avocados and almonds. And oh, it was good. To minimize the impact on my BS, I even hand-picked out every single dried, sweetened cranberry that had made its way into my lunch (insidious Craisins). And yet, by the time I put down my fork, the arrow on my CGM was pointing directly upwards; it peaked somewhere above 200 and I spent the rest of the early evening trying to get it down. As soon as I got home, I found my Symlin pen and put it in my bag.

I hate being dependent on things in general, and it makes me particularly nervous to depend on devices and drugs that are so intimately related to my health. Because, as I’ve learned from past experience, pumps and glucometers appear to come with built-in sensors that can detect precisely when you’re out of range of a Fed-Ex delivery site (case in point, the top of a mist-shrouded mountain in China, where the only food available is large bowls of noodle soup) — and then fail. But unfortunately, since our pancreases are off-duty, we’re the ones in control. Since my pancreatic powers of blood sugar awareness still leave something to be desired, for the time being, I’m going to have to accept that sometimes it’s okay for me to be dependent on drugs and technology — and to recognize how grateful I am that all these things exist.

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