The Corn Flake Traveller on Hypos
The Corn Flake Traveller on Hypos
It may sound strange but I don’t look so negatively on my hypos as most diabetics tend to and I wouldn’t really want to trade-in the experiences I have had whilst going hypo even if I could. In fact during my teenage years there were occasions when I would purposefully inject too much in order to have a hypo, although I knew this was asking for trouble so I didn’t do it that often. I think it was the change in perception that interested me the most, a thing that all of us like to do, especially on the weekend.
Some of these experiences I refer to have been a really big tick off the list of experiences one can have in life. The scariest, most profound and on reflection most amazing experience was when I was travelling around South America and flew home to see my family. I had just spent 26 or 27 hours travelling home from Buenos Aires and arrived at my mum’s house shattered so went for a little afternoon nap. During this little siesta my blood sugar level must have dropped and I woke up in a really strange state of consciousness, I guess a combination of the jet-lag and the hypo and (like with many hypos during the night) I had some memory deleted so I couldn’t remember travelling back to the UK. The house was empty and in this strange state I was in I couldn’t really work out why I was in my mum’s house and my only conclusion at that time was that I had died and gone to heaven. I wandered around the house for about an hour trying to remember how I had died and what the hell had happened but I eventually thought “hmmm I wonder if I’m going hypo” and just to make sure I decided to eat some heavenly sugar. Eventually reality became more lucid and I realised I hadn’t died which brought me to tears; tears of joy, relief and an emotional release after thinking I had been dead for so long.
I find the delusion of the hypo experience to be much worse if I don’t have sugar straight away, in fact the more I prolong eating sweet stuff the worse the delusion is, more common at night for me as I don’t always wake up and I’m not awake to eat (I have only ever had deleted memory during hypos when I am sleeping). The strangest of these deeply delusional incidents was when I fell asleep on a bus in Bolivia and came around on the streets wearing just a pair of shorts – you can read about this in the Introduction to my book or my previous blog post.
I’ve had all the usual symptoms of going hypo such as sweating, hunger, dizziness, shakes, weakness etc etc but I’ve also had some that I haven’t seen talked or written about for example on maybe 7 or 8 occasions in my life going hypo has affected my nervous system and caused me to convulse uncontrollably. The first time this happened was when I was on a balcony in Buenos Aires which scared the hell out of me, more because I seemed to have lost control over my body than the fact I was on a balcony. All the other times these hypos symptoms have occurred have been pretty funny really, one time my step-dad came home and found me on the floor moving like I was having a fit, after I reassured him I was alright we were in hysterics as I shook my arms and legs all over the kitchen floor. This does make it harder to eat sugar though, one of these hypos caused me to spasm and throw a bowl of sugar covered corn flakes all over one of the hallway walls and if this happens to you I recommend getting down on all fours.
Other strange symptoms include a sudden feeling of ‘there is no hope’ and feeling suicidal, again the first time this happened was pretty dangerous as I was walking down the street in New York and suddenly started seriously thinking about jumping in front of a bus. Luckily I thought, “well before I jump I might as well have some chocolate bars”, a kind of last supper but luckily I started feeling better shortly after. The change in mood symptom can be the most difficult to detect as most people just think I’m being weird rather than need sugar so I would suggest being aware that if you have a friend or relative who is having a serious hypo they may not be acting themselves. I have acted completely crazy at times due to the Fight or flight survival mode kicking in on a subconscious level. In fact there is a link to all the emotions and you can’t predict which one the hypo is going to trigger, my wife would love to tell you stories of how daft and juvenile I can sometimes act and my parents could tell you about the times I have become aggressive. The subconscious mind in survival mode isn’t rational; when I am in this state of mind I often don’t want any help and even refuse it quite aggressively, luckily my loved ones have developed ways to treat me like a child and offer me treats if I eat sugar.
I have also had occasions where it seems to find strength from within; I was emitted to hospital in Brazil and they wanted to stick a needle in me to administer sucrose solution which my subconscious mind was not happy about. I started throwing nurses and medical equipment across the room in an act of strength I didn’t know I was capable of, in the end 4 nurses and 2 security guards had to hold me down while they tranquilised me.
Another thing I haven’t seen discussed much is the huge variation in the severity of the symptoms. I have had hypos where I feel a little weak and just eat some chocolate but on other occasions I have felt so weak I have had to lie down why someone else runs to get me some sugar and most hypos cause me to sweat a little bit but I have had hypos where it is pouring down my body to the point where it was almost unbelievable how much is coming out of my skin.
So to sum up; hypos can affect your mind and body in a large number of ways and by varying degrees of severity so be aware that if something doesn’t seem right it probably isn’t. This includes diabetics being nasty and aggressive towards you, remember it is unlikely to be their conscious/rational mind so give them sugar no matter what they call you and I always say if in doubt prick a finger.