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Waking Nightmare: When I Dreamt About Treating My Low Blood Sugar


Last night, in my dreams, I was trying to save my own life. Then I woke up, and realized I actually had to.

I’d been dreaming I was eating gummy bears, but there were only a few left, so I began drinking glass after glass of apple juice. The apple juice was thick, and had cinnamon in it, in that weird way dreams distort reality. A mix between an apple’s juice and sauce. I remember, as I drank, worrying that the juice wasn’t working to raise my blood sugar.

By the time I came to consciousness, body and brain lead-like at 3:07 a.m., my Dexcom only read “low.” This happens when a person’s blood sugar drops below 40mg/dL. At that point, the machine abandons numerical value and says to you, person with diabetes who is in the throes of a medical emergency, Fuck the exact number, good God you need to put sugar in your body right now. 

There is nothing more terrifying to me. Nothing.

It took me a few minutes to realize that I had not, in fact, already treated this low with gummy bears and saucy cinnamon apple juice. That I had dreamt it, and that I was still very much in danger. I must have only halfway woken to the Dexcom’s other “low” alarms, thought to myself, “I need to treat this low” then gone back to sleep instead and done it in my dreams. This isn’t the first time this has happened — I remember more than once in college, waking to my alarm at 6 a.m. for work at 7, hitting snooze, dreaming I had gotten up, taken a shower, gotten ready and gone to work, only to jolt up several minutes later realizing I had to do it all over again in real life. Never a pleasant way to start the day.

Once I got my bearings, I dragged myself to the kitchen and poured two glasses of apple juice, spilling some on the counter and knocking over some cans in the process. I broke off a cube of my roommate’s cookie dough, shoved it in my mouth, and stumbled dazedly back to my bed.

Usually, when I’m treating a low, I start to feel better very quickly, within minutes. Just the relief of swallowing sugar, knowing it is where it needs to be (in my body) and will do its very important job (keeping me alive) is enough in itself to stop my shaking. Not last night, though. As I watched the number on my Dexcom climb back up over a span of half an hour — 62, 83, 95 — I couldn’t stop trembling.

Near 4 a.m., I grabbed a granola bar out of my purse and ate half of it, knowing full and well it would send my blood sugar over the threshold of 200 and into “high” territory. I didn’t care. I just wanted the trembling, the worrying, the waking nightmare to end.

This story originally appeared on Coffee and Insulin.