Beep! Buzz, buzz. Beep!
No, this sequence of sounds is not describing a car alarm or a cell phone going off. Rather, this is what my CGM does whenever I have a low alert, and it’s extraordinarily disruptive – especially when I am in class.
I use a Dexcom Seven Plus CGM, which is an older model compared to the sleeker, prettier, and backlit ones that I know is used by other people with diabetes. Before I continue, I must say that I feel very lucky to have a CGM in the first place. I was first introduced to it about four years ago during a one-week trial period that my endocrinologist coordinated. I was amazed by the technology and appreciated the consistent knowledge it gave me concerning my blood sugar. A year later, just as I was starting college, I got my very own CGM. While I still love it, I have realized that sometimes it is more of a nuisance than anything else.
For instance, I was scared away from yoga during my freshman year when my CGM began going off in the middle of a class. I was mortified. One moment I was in downward dog, the next I was scrambling to silence my CGM. I remember turning bright red as I saw the other people in class looking all around the room, trying to figure out where that annoying beeping and buzzing was coming from. I was further humiliated when the yoga instructor acknowledged the “disturbance” and how everyone in the class ought to try to focus and forget the rude interruption. Shamefully, I wolfed down four glucose tablets to fix my low and laid in child’s pose (a very fitting position) for a few minutes to collect myself. Once the class was over, I considered explaining to the yoga instructor what had happened, that I had a medical issue and couldn’t control when my device would go off. Instead, I practically ran out of the room and didn’t return to yoga until recently.
Before you tell me that my CGM can be silenced by adjusting a few settings, let me assure you that I discovered that a long time ago and disabled high and low alerts. However, there is no way to silence my CGM senses that my blood sugar is 50 mg/dL or lower. I am grateful for this in the middle of the night, when the combination of loud beeping and vibrating successfully wakes me up from a deep sleep so I can correct the low. But what about when I am in social settings, like in a classroom? Fortunately, I’ve never dealt with the horrifying situation of my CGM going off in the middle of a lecture hall. But it’s not fair that I have to check my CGM every 15 minutes or so just to make sure I’m staying on track and not hovering to a low blood sugar. It distracts me from taking notes, and I am always worried that my professor will see me checking the CGM and assume it’s a cell phone. I have one professor who is particularly strict about electronic devices, so I am just waiting for the day when she scolds me in front of 100+ people.
As I reflect on all this, today is the day I tell myself that I shouldn’t feel shame or embarrassment in trying to be proactive with my diabetes management. So what if I get called out on glancing down at my CGM? If I continue to do it, the worst that could happen is that I have to have a conversation with the professor or instructor after class that will probably embarrass them more than me. And if I don’t continue to do it, there’s the potential that I could put myself at risk of having a really bad low that I can’t fix immediately because I’m too worried about what other people are thinking of my beeping and buzzing CGM. It sucks that my CGM isn’t always conducive to my learning, but the combination of adapting to it and feeling no shame regardless of what happens will make it an obstacle that is easier to overcome as a person with diabetes.