“Hypos are just low blood sugars and once you correct that number by eating some sugar, it’s no big deal.” – person without diabetes.
If only it were that simple…
Hypos, or low blood sugars, are one of the most hated and scariest things associated with diabetes. Definitions and cut off points are surprisingly varied across health professionals too. My doctor considers anything below 3.5mmol/L a ‘true’ hypo (whatever ‘true’ means) but symptoms can kick in no matter what your blood glucose level (BGL) is. From what I understand, if your BGLs are falling quickly, you’ll feel symptomatic as well. Interestingly, hypo symptoms can differ between each person and even between each situation. To people without diabetes, treatment is simple. Just have some quick acting carbohydrates (~15g) such as lollies and once that number on the meter is out of the red zone, the crisis has been averted.
Those symptoms you see on paper or in textbooks are nothing compared to what we actually feel in the moment. You feel hopeless, weak and even defeated. There have been times where I just want to sit (or curl into a ball) and cry when I’m low. Just because.
No one talks about the hypo hangovers you get after ‘recovering’ from a bad hypo. For me, I feel mentally exhausted and drained, which is especially hard as I’m always on the go. I try and get back to my work as soon as possible but I just can’t get rid of the fuzziness around my brain. At this point, I want to cry again, but this time from the sheer frustration of the situation. Double all of this if it’s an overnight hypo.
Let’s not even mention the multitude of emotions you go through with a hypo. From confusion as to where the hypo came from, to anger (and more frustration) from having to eat back the calories you have just burnt in your workout from treating the hypo.
Sometimes, I have one of those hypos where you just want to eat all the food you see. And as soon as you start feeling slightly human again, you feel disgusting from the amount of food you have devoured. Although from time to time, you’ll be amused at the combinations of foods you come up with when you’re having a hypo. (Chocolate and cheese anyone?)
This is why it irks me when people without diabetes compare having a hypo to being hangry. You end up trivialising hypos by ignoring the fact that hypos are a serious medical situation that, if untreated, could lead to death. So please have some sympathy and empathy for us when tell you we are having a hypo. Give us some time, space and maybe some cuddles.