S**T Happens, So Does Hypoglycemia


That awkward moment when someone asks a (seemingly) innocent question about your diabetes and all you can do is shrug, because if you open your mouth obscenities will fly out of it…

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m on edge.  The last few days have been rough on my family.  My youngest son, Adam, became quite sick on Tuesday.  And on Thursday night, things took a turn for the worse.  On both Friday and Saturday, Mike and I took Adam to urgent care.  Luckily, he was treated there and we did not have to go to the hospital.  Unluckily, the treatment involved big injections into his butt. Adam was brave, but it was a painful ordeal.  For him, though, it came and went. He mentioned a few times that his butt was sore, otherwise, he’s mostly himself again. For me, seeing him so sick ripped up my heart.

Adam had improved enough by Saturday night that Mike felt it was fine to go out with his running buddies to celebrate completing the Tiberias Marathon.  I  stayed home, and got the kids to bed.  I could have easily gone to sleep at the same time as the kids, but I knew I should stay awake to catch up on the laundry and email I’d neglected for several days.  It turns out to have been an excellent decision.  Here’s why:

1. I had turned the ringer off on my phone when I was getting the kids to bed, and forgot to put it back on.

2. Mike forgot to take his keys when he went out.

3. On his way home from dinner, Mike started to feel really bad: disoriented and shaky.

4. In the elevator in our building, he texted to me, “please open.”

5. My phone didn’t make a sound, so I didn’t know to run to the door. But I was working at my computer, near the front door so I heard the scuffle of Mike’s arrival.  

6. Mike was pale.  “I think I’m low,” he said.

7. Yes, 35 is definitely low.

8. Mike ate voraciously.  Anything his hand could reach went into his mouth.  Then he collapsed on the couch and the roller coaster began.

I went back and forth between checking Adam and checking Mike for the next several hours.  When all seemed okay, I allowed myself to fall asleep for a few hours.  You might expect that I will now tell you how fragile everything felt over the weekend.  It did.  It was miserable.  I’m so grateful that things are better right now. But, no, I’m not going that route. Instead, I’m going to talk about how pissed off I got when I relayed the story of the “35” to some friends.  They all responded in the exact same way, by asking the innocent questions – what happened? or how did that happen?  

You know what guys, hypoglycemia happens.  

Hypoglycemia is part of life with diabetes.  When you ask why it happened, the answers we can give you are that we took too much insulin or didn’t eat enough.  We don’t really know how all of the other factors, like the ebb and flow of hormones, play in. But that doesn’t mean we’ve done something wrong, and those innocent questions of how and why  leave us no choice but to answer that we’ve fucked up.  So, yes, that’s the truth.  But imagine if someone told you that you had to drive across the country without a map and predetermine the precise amount of gas it would take to do so, not to the gallon, but to the drop. There’s a good chance you’d run out of fuel on the way because you got lost and drove extra miles, and there’s a good chance you’d overestimate your needs, assuming traffic and detours, and have some to spare. 

Next time I mention hypoglycemia, if I don’t offer up a reason, don’t ask me what happened.  Just agree with me that it sucks.  Blaming the unpredictability of diabetes is much kinder than blaming the person with diabetes. 

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Scott K. Johnson
8 years ago

Jess, this is an incredibly powerful post. 

Thank you. 

9 years ago

Amen Jessica!  Love the driving analogy; I think I’ll use it next time someone says “what happened” or even better “what did you do wrong?”.  Makes me want to slap them!

9 years ago

It’s very often a struggle to explain to my family that yes, my partner is very much in control of his diabetes, but yes, sh*t does happen and it’s not typically explainable. People are so quick to judge and look for mistakes when they’ve never had to deal with it first hand themselves. 


Sheri Zimmerman
Sheri Zimmerman
9 years ago

Great write up.  Love the map and gas story.  That is perfect.  I hate explaining it to people.  Especially, the SAME ones… over and over!  It’s called LIFE.  We cant control everything.  Hard as we try.  People who arent diabetic think everything should be so simple!  HA. 

9 years ago

it will especially happen if you have hypoglycemic unawareness. i have 35’s ALL the time. if i’m lucky, i catch it but i’ve passed out three times in the past 15 months.
yep, it happens.

Robert Woolfson
9 years ago

I love the driving across the country analogy.  Perfect.  Wish you guys all the best, hope everyone has recovered fully.

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