For the first year after my diabetes diagnosis, my mom and I set an alarm at night to go off at 3 in the morning. This was so I could wake up and check my blood sugar— to ensure I would make it safely through the night. This is no small thing, and though I don’t think I’ve ever discussed this with another person with diabetes, I imagine we have all, at one point or another, gone to bed one night with a sinking feeling, an uneasiness, a quiet fear, Will I wake up tomorrow?
I used to, as a teenager who grew up with no religion whatsoever, whisper in the dark while lying in bed, Please. Please let me wake up tomorrow morning.
Getting a continuous glucose monitor in 2014 was a game-changer in this particular realm of fear. It feels akin to a guardian angel. If my blood sugar is low (my notification is set to 80 because once I start to go low, my sugar is like a landslide) it will beep 3 times. If it is below 55, it will beep incessantly with the words URGENT LOW until I turn it off. For my first decade with diabetes, I didn’t have a CGM, and I realize many, many, many people still do not have this access. For that first decade, I did wake up in the middle of the night each time my blood sugar went low (which was countless times, hundreds, thousands of times.) I’ve taken a few CGM breaks in the past few years, sometimes for months-long stretches, and though my body had never failed to wake me up when I’ve needed to treat a low, I have often been unable to help thinking, quietly in the dark, But what if this time I don’t wake up? For a long while in my teens, I just let my blood sugar run high every night, caving to this fear.
Last night, my continuous glucose monitor woke me up at 3:22am. It was beeping loudly, incessantly, and URGENT LOW flashed across the screen. I vaguely remember waking up a bit earlier than that, when it was beeping Low but not yet urgent, and I must’ve silenced it and fallen back asleep. At 3:22am, it was 45.
After getting my bearings for a moment, I drained the box of grape juice sitting beside my bed.
Then, sitting there in the dark, hands still trembling, brain still woozy from hypoglycemia, I got onto my phone and checked to see what the final vote on the Skinny Repeal had been. I wanted to stay up for it, had been watching the debates until around midnight, but started to get too tired and anxious and impatient, so I went to bed.
The reason I’ve been able to have a CGM for the past few years is because of the ACA. From age 21, my circumstances didn’t allow me to stay on a parent’s insurance, and I live in a state that did not expand Medicaid. In my early twenties, in the tumultuous time immediately after graduating college and still today, the ACA has been essential to my ability to get the medicine and supplies I need in order to stay alive. I have to admit, I’m hoarding supplies like crazy these days. Just in case.
At three in the morning, my blood sugar was dangerously low.
At three in the morning, my CGM beeped me awake so I could take care of myself.
At three in the morning, I sat vulnerable in my bed, half-asleep yet frantic to know what the future of my healthcare held.
At three in the morning,
I learned the Skinny Repeal failed,
my blood sugar began to rise,
and I took a deep breath.
Momentary relief in struggle that is far from finished.
The nightmare is over, at least for now. tweeted Elizabeth Warren,
at three in the morning.