Waking Nightmare

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 3:07am, 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 6am 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 4am, 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.




  1. Avatar August 14, 2017 / 8:10 pm

    Dear Sarah,

    It’s a strange, sort-of-karmic, timing you have with this post. Today I was on the phone with my mom (she has t1d, like you and me) and at some point she said she would call me back because she was low and she was walking, and it was hot and I was crazy worried, because she was in Italy and I am in Hungary. I had been reading, not even ten minutes earlier, this post. I felt everything, first hand but also through your words.
    There’s nothing I could possibly say, other than: I know that fear and I would have loved to be able to hug both you, and my mom, and even myself, very very tight.

    I guess I have to be satisfied with leaving you this nonsense comment.
    With love (if I may 🙂 ),


  2. Avatar
    Rick Phillips
    August 15, 2017 / 12:45 am

    Oh I have been so been there and done that. I woke up thinking i was eating marshmallows, with my pillow stuck in my mouth. Here is the thing I recall the most, foam does not taste good.

    I do not know, but maybe feathers would work better?

    Probably not.

  3. Avatar
    Terry O'Rourke
    August 31, 2017 / 3:38 pm

    Your description of this hypo is so genuine. Lapsing between sleep, dreams, and consciousness and sometimes not knowing which one you’re in, is something very few people without diabetes understand. It seems to me that Hollywood could easily weave in your description into a film or TV drama. If done well, it could open the eyes of so many people we know who don’t “get it.”


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