Frustration is probably the overwhelming sentiment. I don’t know at what exactly. Myself? A disease I have no control over? My control over it? I don’t exactly know but it’s a frustration that can sometimes send me storming off into the cobblestoned Riga backstreets pouring muffled curses into my scarf at myself and all things diabetic.
It’s usually the high blood sugar readings that do it to me. When I’m low I just react, eat quickly and move on. But high readings seem dark and ominous. I think in the back of my head I know what happens to your body when you don’t control diabetes. The ugly long term things like losing sight, toes, touch, sensation and your general health and wellbeing. So the lows annoy me – the highs scare me.
Today I stopped in the streets of Vilnius, Lithuania, to measure my sugars. Ellie stepped forward and offered her hands as a platform for me to put my blood glucose monitor on. I tested and I could feel every one of my family members go a little tense. They were waiting for the reading and my reaction – because I have been on a bad run. And in the middle of a bad run everything seems harder. Every bad reading makes me feel more and more out of control.
But it was good. My sugars were perfect and I could feel everyone breath a sigh of relief for me.
But the bad run…..they’re not pleasant. I don’t know when it started. I was sick a few weeks back so the sugars were high but that made sense. Then we were sitting on trains for days on end so my normal insulin regime was completely wrong. You can’t stick to what you know when your energy output has gone from walking several kilometres around cities to sitting still for 48 hours straight. Energy output down – means sugars sitting unused in my system.
So I increase my insulin then mistime the adjustment to when we ARE walking for 10km around a city. Suddenly I can’t stop myself from going hypoglycaemic. Nothing I can do is right. I can’t seem to get my food or my insulin right. So I go screamingly high – and pump myself full of insulin to counteract it – then I plummet and can’t seem to get back to normal.
Diabetes is the balance of three things – food intake, insulin and energy output. Like a set of three pronged scales. Sounds simple. But imagine the scales sit on a table with hydraulic legs. Those legs all go up and down independently – shifting, moving and changing for unknown reasons (fatigue, health, emotions). You strike a perfect balance one day and then the next day nothing works. Then for no reason you can see everything works again.
So it is all about control over what you eat, what exercise you do and what insulin you take. And right now I have no idea what food is good or bad or how far we will walk today or tomorrow or the next.
And on top of this I am walking past countless European cafes selling warm fresh cinnamon buns or jam filled pancakes. For someone whose favourite pre-diabetes food was fresh cinnamon donuts there is only so much one man can take. So in utter frustration I take my eyes off the diet ball and once again the roller coaster begins. Sometimes I just get exhausted with having to think about it all the time – with having to either act or restrain myself every waking moment just so my body is in balance.
But I have finally wrestled back some control. After these low times of wild sugars I have given myself a talking to and focused hard. And slowly it has returned to normal. Soon I will once again enter one of those blessed periods when I actually momentarily forget that I have diabetes.
But Mel spotted my pattern – and the exacerbating factor is my emotional reaction. I go low so I react with an overload of sugars out of frustration (also because I feel so bad and need to consciously restrain myself from gorging on sugar to stop the world from heaving) . I go high and react with too much insulin out of frustration. Then it all goes pear shaped.
My control has come with another very interesting observation. That everything works better when I actively AVOID carbohydrates. I cut them out of the diet as best I can and everything seems to calm down and swing less violently. In Asia it was easier to avoid carbs but here it is a different story.
The Australian doctor Troy Stapleton who is pushing the no-carbohydrate approach to diabetes uses a brilliant analogy. Controlling diabetes with carbohydrates intake and corresponding insulin intake is like keeping a fire at a consistent level using paper and water. Using fats and proteins is more like burning coal.
So a small part of me is looking forward to being back home where I can cook anything I need and have everything on hand. Where I can drop the carbs out and focus on methodically working out what food is good for me and what is not.
But then a rather large part of me says “That time will come. Don’t wish it too soon.” Because I know that in a blink of an eye I will be home. That everything here will be a memory and that this emotional roller coaster will mean nothing to me. Better to wander through ancient, history laden streets with an easy mind than stress too much about a momentary loss of control.