In my tender and troubled 23rd year, I blacked out behind the wheel of my BMW 318i with the hand-crank sunroof open. Heading home on Highway 90 in Gulfport, MS, I rolled right over the sea wall onto the sandy beach that balmy summer night.
I don’t recall the moments before I lost consciousness due extreme low blood glucose, but I can say assuredly, The Chronic by Dr. Dre was the soundtrack to this experience on that Saturday night after a busy shift waiting tables at The Chimneys restaurant.
I regained consciousness as two shirtless teenagers, I’ll call them “Bill and Ted,” knocked on my window and said “DUUUUUUUUDE…are you alright?”
I recall the sand and their shirts flying behind out of their back pockets as they took off when the ambulance and police sirens approached.
Managing Type 1 diabetes at this time involved multiple daily injections of insulin and a hell of a lot of discipline.
The EMTs arrived. I felt confused, frightened, and lost. I’m sure they thought I was drunk.
PSA: Hypoglycemia is often mistaken for being intoxicated.
After consuming an unknown number of orange-flavored sugar tablets, my brain and cognitive function slowly returned.
I was so conscientious with managing my diabetes; I couldn’t explain to the EMTs what went wrong that night.
Then one of the EMTs asked, “Have you been under a lot of stress lately?”
I thought to myself: What does that have to do with anything?! and quickly offered, “My mom just died.” It was indeed harrowing two months prior witnessing her transition after a 2-year not graceful battle with breast cancer.
As soon as I uttered the words, I felt the dark power and heaviness of them settle at my bottom perched on the stretcher in the back of the ambulance.
Then I realized I could have killed someone tonight or caused an accident or easily have died!
My life changed that night…or at least my understanding of it. The experience made me realize that managing diabetes is far more than counting carbs and taking insulin.
There are many things that make life with diabetes more complicated.
Stress can cause my blood glucose to plummet or skyrocket (and yours too even if you DON’T live with diabetes and your pancreas functions properly). The mechanism and physiology of stress are the same in all of us.
We often equate weight management and risk of heart disease with diabetes.
Yet, stress is a prominent factor we dismiss as “modern life.” It does not have to be this way.
Research shows that stressful events and circumstances can exert powerful effects on both diabetes onset and blood glucose management. (Lloyd et al. 2005
All these years later, I navigate stressful situations as part of a high-performing science team and one living with diabetes.
I now know my ability to witness and respond to stressful circumstances is a superpower essential to living a vibrant life.
And it’s motivated me to grow, learn, and teach what I’ve learned to others.
Do you have a story or circumstance where you felt blind-sided by stress and it changed your perspective?
What is your mechanism to reduce stress, quell anxiety, or emotional upset?
I’m curious and would love to know. Drop a comment below.
Do you want to know what I do to re-center after a stressful trigger?
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