Navigating illness, tempering expectations

My recent bout of bronchitis has me wondering how I can be okay with lousy glucose numbers that accompany infections. I don’t know of any illness other than diabetes where the onus is on the patient to keep their illness within certain parameters. We gauge our success by glucose levels in our blood: We feel great when we’ve got glucose in a healthy range and we feel lousy when glucose seems unmanageable.

My newish endocrinologist had me log my food to learn how much insulin to use with my usual food choices. So I’ve been able to smooth out glucose peaks by using the correct amount of insulin. Still, there are days when my glucose skyrockets for no apparent reason. My endo calls this “periods of insulin resistance” while I call it “stress reactions.” I know my body reactions to subtle cues from memory or feelings of shame or suppressed anger prompt my glucose to spike. Thus, I created this blog and call it Emotional Diabetes.

There is another huge influence on glucose levels — that are infections like colds, flu and illnesses like bronchitis. I can pretty much clock when my illness began by looking at my glucose levels. A small cough grew into a chest cough. I thought it was a chest cold but, having had pneumonia a few years ago, it soon became apparent my symptoms stemmed from something more serious.

I chased my glucose numbers as they rose, using more and more insulin. I ended up doubling my 24-hour insulin in order to maintain glucose in single digits. And then my Dexcom awoke me through the night as the glucose levels dropped. I had to guess at how much to drop the insulin dose so I wouldn’t get a bout of hypoglycemia Some nights I had to get up and chew jujubes three times as the injected insulin had me bottoming out.

Fatigue from hypoglycemia doesn’t help one fight off illness. The other component I wrestle with is my feelings of failure when I can’t maintain healthy glucose levels. During this illness, I had my glucose spike and drop twice. The constant movement made it almost impossible to know how much insulin I’d need to get through the next 12 hours. Thus, I wrestle with desperation, exasperation and feelings of failure.

Technology has yet to come up with a head up display for our glucose levels. In the end, we do our best. Still, I ultimately feel I should manage these things better. Those feelings that it’s all my fault come from childhood. Emotionally remote parents make it hard for children to grow up feeling okay about themselves. A lot of us are in this boat. Those feelings of shame are, for me, a fast lane to depression.

I’m trying to be okay with the train-wreck depicted in my recent glucose history (all recorded on my Clarity app). I have an endo appointment in a week or two and I know I’ll have to explain how things went terribly off track. (My last appointment had my endo tech “estatic” over my glucose control.)

All I can do is get back on track. The illness is waning. Things will be okay. I’m doing the best I can and I know many others are in the same boat.


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