Diabetes Knows When I’m Stressed

This past week has been one of the most stressful weeks for my physical and mental health probably since I completed grad school a few years ago. It didn’t help that it was preceded by hormonal blues and a delayed website launch. Among other things, my work life overpowered the rest of my life, making my ability to sustain personal goals nearly impossible.

And maybe it’s my own fault for putting too much on my plate personally? But I did this so that I would have a life outside of work and so that I could be happy. But my inability to have that personal life because of work obligations made me extremely unhappy and not the most joyous person to be around.

What was worse is that when I left the office on Friday, that stress left with me. I couldn’t get it out of my head and my dreams, and my roommate could tell you that when I was hounding the vacuum cleaner on Saturday, cussing up a storm because I couldn’t unlock the filter mechanism, my irritability and frustration had reached a devastating point.

I ended up breaking part of the vacuum when I slammed it against the kitchen counter. This didn’t surprise me. This is why I had a stress ball that I used to throw against my dorm room in college when I felt particularly overwhelmed. But not since I had broken up with my ex more than six months ago did I feel this overwhelming feeling of frustration and anxiousness that no amount of cleaning or running could alleviate. 

Higher Blood Sugar Levels

The stress didn’t just affect my personable-ness, but it negatively impacted my diabetes, too. Doctors and researchers have often told me in the six years since I’ve been diagnosed that stress contributes to higher blood sugar levels. I’ve honestly never experienced this first hand, or at least I have never noticed a direct cause-and-effect relationship.

But over the past week, my insulin resistance started to climb. I started the week taking 1 unit of insulin for every 22 grams of carbohydrate I ate and a 0.350 unit of insulin every hour to keep my blood sugar stable. By Friday, I was taking 1 unit of insulin for every 15 grams of carbohydrates and 0.600 unit of insulin every hour. And my blood sugar was still running high.

By Sunday, that basal rate had reached 0.700. I’ve never had to take so much insulin. And I’ve never seen my rates fluctuate that much in a short amount of time. It’s true that over time one’s rates may rise and a person’s body may become less sensitive to the insulin. I had certainly noticed that since my diagnosis. But this was different.

I hated myself then for letting work stress me out to the point of being a detriment to my physical health. I hated myself for letting work take away from my personal happiness and for interfering with personal projects that mattered to me. So what did I do?

Time to De-Stress

Well for one I had a three-day weekend thanks to President’s Day, and two, I worked from home today due to the weather. I got lucky. Oh and I drank a lot of wine and slept a lot. These aren’t solve-all measures, but by Monday, my mind was no longer on work, and my blood sugar levels started dropping. They’re still dropping. Right now my bolus rate is 1 unit per 20 grams of carbs, and my basal rate is 0.450.

Tomorrow I return to work. My mind deserves a break, but my mind can’t function with an off-balance body. Sometimes diabetes helps put things in perspective. In fact, earlier today, I was checking my blood sugar with my glucometer, and it read 20. I stood there for a second, thinking, shouldn’t I be having a seizure right now? 

I washed my hands and checked it again — it read 90. It was a startling wake-up call and fortunately untrue but remains a reminder to never ignore the signs.

Glucometer reads 20


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