When people ask me about living with diabetes one question that always comes up is, "what number should you blood sugar be?" I usually tell them 70-110 is considered normal but explain that with diabetes it can fluctuate a lot.
The next set of questions always seem to be, "What is too low?" What is too high?" What happens when you go too low or too high?"
This is the story I tell to explain it and my DSMA Live co-hosts have encouraged me to share it today.
The Dragon and the Cliff
Imagine there is a cliff, a very scary cliff and when you look down over the edge you see a steep slope that suddenly drops off into a pit of total darkness.
Now imagine far off in the distance, on a firey mountaintop lives a dragon. A fire breathing evil dragon.
Pit = Low Dragon = High ::moving on::
The climb up the mountain to the dragon is a constant gradual slope after only a few yards from the cliff. It's a long way up that mountain but the walk is easy. You can even run it no problem, not that you would want to. The problem is, every step closer to that dragon and his firey mountain means you are inhaling terrible fumes that are so slight you may not even notice them at first. But each breath is bad for you. Each breath is causing harm to your body. You may not know it but it is happening and it gets worse the closer you get!
The cliff is no better. In fact it is tricky too because you can walk down the beginning of the slope for a little ways but soon it gets steeper and eventually drops off to certain death! The lower you are on the slope the thinner the air gets which makes it hard to think straight. And not being able to think straight makes it hard to remember what to do to get back up the slope!
The best place to live are those few yards between the cliff and the beginning of that giant mountain. In that space grows all the best food, the air is perfect, the grass is green, and there is even a clear stream of water running through it! It is perfect and where you want to be.
So how do you get to stay in the most perfect place in this imaginary world and avoid the pit or dragon? Well this is the tricky part. You blood glucose level determines where you are between the dragon and the cliff.
When my sugar gets high I start up the mountain and although I can walk for quite some distance before I notice all the damage being done by the toxic air I am breathing. A lot of people think since they cannot feel the burn in their lungs that it's okay, but it's not! Sneaky dragon indeed.
When my sugar gets low I start down the mountain towards that cliff. Sometimes I can be running down that mountain so fast I keep going all way to the cliff and start to slide down into the darkness. So scary and so very steep!
So that is the challenge of diabetes. With every meal, every dose of medicine, every activity, every sickness, everything that can change your blood sugar can move you up or down that mountain. And sure there may be a long way to get to that dragon, but along the way you are already being hurt. And even though that cliff is nearby and you are probably familiar with how close you are to it, something could happen to make you take a spill down it quickly which is why you have to have lots of tools with you all the time just in case!
The thing to remember is, you can do this. You can live a few feet from a scary cliff and a few yards from the beginning of a dangerous mountain. It takes having the right tools, the right information, the right support, and the right frame of mind.
Does this make any sense to you? I find people get it and especially get how scary a low is. Also how invisible and sneaky the damage from highs can be. I tell people I lived with an A1C of 12.5 which is like 325 average for a long time and I didn't feel anything. When you are young I guess you can breath those toxic dragon mountain fumes without knowing it but all the while it was doing damage to my body.
I feel like this needs a picture. I cannot draw so if someone can come up with something cool please email it to me and I will post them all next week. firstname.lastname@example.org