Interpreting Hyperglycemia: What It Means

Patient Expert

Mornings can be tough for diabetics. The number we see on the screen can sometimes feel like a determination of how our day may be. And I love breakfast. It's my favorite meal of the day (when done right). But last Sunday I woke up to a bloodsugar reading of 306 mg/dl. This is not an anomaly. It happens. But Sundays are special. Sundays are leisurely out-for-breakfast kinda days. So I was bummed when I saw such a high reading pop up nonchalantly on my glucometer.

"Ugh. I see how this day is gonna go" was my first thought. Followed by Why? Followed by Damn diabetes But then I thought, why let stupid diabetes ruin my Sunday morning happies? So I decided to be proactive instead of merely moping. Oh, I had my moment, but I'm stubborn and was determined not to let it last. All that mattered right then was that I was hyperglycemic and needed to do something about it. So I did what most diabetics with an insulin pump would do (I think).

First, I retested to be sure that high that I didn't really feel was correct (it was). I then changed my infusion set and reinserted my insulin pump. One possible reason eliminated. Besides, putting new insulin in the pump reservoir makes me feel safe and more secure. I like doing it. It doesn't feel like a chore to me like testing my bloodsugar sometimes can. Afterward, I took a shower (which always gives me the feeling of renewal), a new start. Then I made myself coffee, because darn it, I still wanted to indulge in part of my Sunday morning ritual (but didn't want to eat something that would skyrocket my bloodsugar). I felt better.

I drank my coffee on the patio outside and soaked up the sun. I let the early fall breezes wash over me as I read the Sunday Times and forgot about diabetes for a little while. A couple hours later (it did take over two hours), I was back in range. And hungry. And darn it, I still wanted that Sunday breakfast with my best friend that we'd both been looking forward to. I didn't want to let the emotional and physical side-effects of my disease get in the way of my plans-of my happiness. So my grumbling tummy and I decided to do just that. It was a small victory.

Off I went, best friend in tow, to our favorite little diner that serves breakfast around the clock. I could eat my egg sandwich in peace--without the side of guilt that would've accompanied the meal had I eaten it earlier. That matters to me. Waiting a couple hours to eat and not giving in to the crummy feelings that often accompany hyperglycemia (for me, at least) seemed like a decent trade-off. These days it seems I keep learning the same lesson: compromise is a big part of getting along in life (with or without diabetes). This time the lesson was not lost on me.

So, you may be asking yourself "Who cares? Why is this lady telling me her cutesie little Sunday story?" Good question, I say. It's because so much of life with diabetes falls on the emotional side of things-a side we often forget to mention or deal with not only in the medical/health community, but within ourselves and our relationships with people in our lives who don't have diabetes. I think the little stuff matters-the small victories, the ever so slight shift in attitude or belief. Those are the steps, the moments, that send us on our way to a healthier and happier life. Start small. Diabetes can be overwhelming enough. And, like many things in life, I like to remind myself that it's an inside job.

So while our first thoughts upon seeing a 306 mg/dl may still be "Damn! Diabetes sucks!" Or "Why am I working so hard if this is the best I can do?," we can call our own bluff and recognize such thoughts for what they are? Old conditioned responses that no longer serve us well. One the one hand, it's natural to feel that way (frustrated, defeated, fed up). We don't need to beat ourselves up for how we're feeling-but we also don't have to buy into our own crap. We can challenge ourselves just as we'd challenge a doctor who'd tell us of our inevitable demise or a friend who says life is over after __________ (fill in the blank: 50, diabetes, having children, menopause, divorce, the list goes on and on). Why not focus on something that feels better?

Now, more than ever before, I make it a point not to add to the list of myths, horror stories and misnomers and plain ol' misinformation about diabetes by reading too much into every bloodsugar, A1C result or feeling. When we're telling stories to ourselves about who or what we can be now that we have ___________ (fill in the blank: diabetes or a loved one with it, neuropathy, depression, old age, etc.), we become the perpetrators of lies. We are the gossip-mongers spreading half-truths, myths and thoughts that really can hurt more than sticks and stones.

So let's stop pitching in.  Take Jordan's tagline and flip it: Just don't do it. Don't give in to the hype. Don't become the one limiting your own self and what is possible for you. Don't tell yourselves stories about the information your glucometer or CGMS or doctor or anyone else gives you. It's just information, not an indictment. It's there to help. Take the information and think about what the best course of action is. Remind yourself it's there to guide you. Let it do that. And decide for yourself what it means.