What it feels like to be 'High'

Even the most well controlled diabetic has highs and lows, of their blood sugar that is.  I’ll often say, “I’m high” which obviously might incur varied responses from people, few of which are positive or helpful, but in context of having Type 1 Diabetes this is a more understandable statement.  Despite this, for people on the outside it is hard to know what a “high” feels like or what it really means.  During these times, I definitely don’t feel “high” in the sense of being euphoric, happy and on drugs as some people would jokingly insinuate.  It’s the complete opposite; I feel tired, stressed and annoyed by my high blood sugar reading.

Personally having a high blood sugar level feels pretty terrible, it can often be the result of nothing in particular that I have done.  On top of this, knowing that having a high can be associated with an increased risk of future problems can become quite emotionally draining.

I know these feelings are different for everyone but when I’m going high (ranging from 10.0mmol/L and upwards (approx 180mg/dL) I start to get signs of being tired, for example, I yawn a lot, I sometimes get black circles under my eyes and my eyes start to feel very heavy.  I also feel abnormally hungry and thirsty even if I have just eaten something.

This is the pure evil idiosyncrasy involved with having a high blood sugar, for me.  I feel hungry, and I just want to eat and eat and eat, obviously not helping my situation in any way.   It is so horrible when I decide on what yummy things I’m going to eat and then I test my blood sugar and find that I have a high reading and have to cease all further attempts at satiating that hunger.  Unfortunately the need can’t always be put in the corner and I have been known on occasion to have some food and do an extra bolus to counteract both the high and the food.  It’s naughty but sometimes it’s necessary in order to keep myself sane as well as my diabetes eventually under control.

There are some circumstances in which I know I am high without a doubt without even testing my blood sugar level.  For example, if I am driving and I feel my eyes getting heavy or when i wake up through the night desperately needing to go to the toilet, I know my blood sugar level will be higher than normal.  If I am undoubtedly sure and unable to test my blood sugar at that time I will do a very small bolus of insulin to at least send my blood sugar in the right direction but most time I will test even when I am driving just to be sure.   Because I have been diabetic for 18 years already, I often know how my blood sugar is before I test, but this is not always guaranteed, and definitely not always right so it is important to test my blood sugar regardless.

In most circumstances I know I am high but I think it is important to test to confirm and to bolus correctly in order to bring it down to normal levels again.

I consider myself to be well controlled and it is usually due to poor carbohydrate counting that that i have an irregular high.  I have had the occasional week where I have been high for no discernible reason that I can gather, but after a few minor self adjustments of my insulin levels I return back to normal levels.

There have been some weeks where I’ve spent the whole time chasing my levels and trying to correct them.  I end up feeling exhausted and emotional when I can’t get it back under control in one day but I know that it is just my body telling me that something needs to be different.  Once I eventually get that telegram, which sometimes takes a few days, I can get back on track.

A high blood sugar can happen for a number of reasons including the obvious of eating too much or not bolusing correctly.  But this is not always the only cause.  Sometimes having a cold or infection can raise blood sugar levels, being emotionally stressed, nervous or excited can also be a trigger.  Equally, doing different activities affects blood sugars in different ways.  Diabetes, and the ins and outs of blood sugar levels are so subjective to each individual it’s important to get a handle on what these different things mean for you and how to work with them.

Remember, a high blood sugar level does not always happen because someone has been doing something wrong, it can happen for so many reasons, but, derogatory comments from other people who randomly peek over your shoulder to look at your blood testing meter don’t help.  Having diabetes is a full time job which takes constant monitoring.  It can be stressful at times but it can also be very rewarding.  It’s always best to take it one day at a time and take each hurdle as they present themselves.