When I was a young Amanda, I used to cry out for my mom when I felt a low blood sugar in the middle of the night. Many a time, my lows were extreme, as low as 30 mg / dL. My mom would carry me to the bathroom to check my blood glucose level then go further down the hall into the kitchen. We would sit together on the floor and drink juice or eat a peanut butter sandwich. The next morning we would wake up and I wouldn’t remember ever being low.
Above is baby me before diagnosis and my low blood sugar reading while along on my last adventure in Arizona.
Fast forward a few many years- When I went to college, I found comfort in my roommate who picked up very quickly on my BG fluctuations and was always happy to help me get juice when I ran out. But when she moved out (her own medical reasons), the fear of going low accelerated drastically. I specifically remember one hard night in February of 2017, I could not get my sugars up for the life of me. I ate upwards of 7 bowls of oatmeal after dinner (each bowl was roughly 50 g of carbs). I was journaling during the midst of this horror and wrote the hardest feeling I have ever felt: “the worst feeling in the world is being alone when you’re low and just wanting your mom to make me a peanut butter sandwich.”
This is my wonderful roommate Kate drinking some juice she bought me :)
I think the combination of my “growing up” experiences, no matter how rough, left a significant impact and forced me to be confident in my abilities to survive on my own. I had most of these memories without a Dexcom / glucose monitor, thus relying solely on my gut feeling and remembering to manually test my blood sugar. I now have instilled in me the confidence that I can make it through the hardest times alone. I have learned by experience how to avoid getting in those mentally degrading, deep thoughts that I am hopeless and incapable of living a full life.
NEVER LET YOUR “DISEASE” HINDER YOUR EXPERIENCES!!!
I know how to be prepared. I carry the literal extra weight of hypoglycemic snacks and plan A-D back up medical supplies on every excursion.
So when I ask y’all, my fellow t1d community members what holds you back the most, the questions center around the same objective, fear of being LOW & LONELY:
“Do you ever have waves of anxiety when you’re hiking off the grid (alone or with others) about going super low? Do you have any tips/mantras that help you relax about this?”
“How do you get over the fear of something going wrong while you’re by yourself out there? Do you share your itinerary with anyone?”
Carry 2-3 hypo snacks per intended hour of being outside/ hiking/ climbing/ etc.- Juice boxes work best, but they are not plausible to carry around, thus I always leave 2 in my car or whichever vehicle I am taking. Then I carry either enough hypo snacks to last the whole day: 10: or I carry 2-3 snacks per hour. Many a time this looks like a random handful of Gu Energy Gel packs from a box plus a bottle or 2 of glucose tabs.
Trust your heart and gut and physical feeling – most of us know what it is like to have a low blood sugar. When hiking alone, I feel a more personal connection to the land I am experiencing. I am not distracted by social interaction or conversation. Thus, when I stop, I am able to really feel intuitively how my body is holding up. This moment is powerful, allowing my body to talk and allowing my soul to listen. Open yourself up to your body, don’t hate your body for being disabled. Remember you are out there, you are hiking, you are living, you a freaking bad-ass!!
Look at all those smiles against all those views! Experiences!!
Depending on the trip, I do sometimes let people know what trails I am on, but that doesn’t do much good when there is no signal in most any part of the wilderness areas to which I explore. Thus, my extra precaution is wearing a medical band as well as attaching a bright red rubber medical tag to my backpack. People are nosy, people have cool stickers and pins on their backpacks, it’s like a bumper sticker on a car. So if someone does not bother to look for a tag on your body, they might notice a bright red tag on my black backpack first.
Honestly just focus on the scenery. Eat snacks as your go, it’s ok to be a little high when you’re hiking, it gives you some wiggle room to drop. You’re going outside to live and experience a life of nature and wilderness. Diabetics and Diabetes are not perfect. You will not always be 100 mg / dL and once you realize that, you will be able to experience more. When you lift the weight of anxiety and struggle of having perfect blood sugar levels, that stress will also take a stress off your blood. Stress affects numbers, so remain calm and at peace with your body. Look how amazing that tree is, all these years it has stood tall through all of those seasons, wow, just take that in. And that rock, look how round it is, it must have traveled far for your open eyes to see its beauty here today. Be thankful for that experience.
Some of these views were taken during low BG moments on trails, others were appreciation views, and some where in the complete absence of thought of having a disability, killing it, living life!
Comment what you found helpful, did you use any of my advice, or if something else is hindering you from getting outside. I’m here to help and create a community space for diabetics in the outdoors experiencing the best of life!!