Hypoglycemia Unawareness

My parents celebrated a big anniversary this weekend. Out came the photos, a combination of loose ones from a bunch of weddings that had made it into no one’s album. This flipped on the highlight reel of my long history of callousness toward PWD.

Rarely-seen photo of bridesmaid friend with d-bag:


At the time this photo was taken, I didn’t notice she was holding her diabetes bag. Seeing it now, I know she must have been low, because she didn’t always carry the bag; at a wedding she would likely leave it at a table. In this moment, the wedding was about to begin, and she probably didn’t want to say, um, no, wait, I’m low. Instead she soldiered on all maidenlike with her d-bag. I think I’ll have a glass of wine, want one?

Finding this photo made me remember other hypoglycemic people who didn’t get my props. I am sorry. If I believed in very obvious karmic justice, my current situation would make perfect sense.

A FARMER: In high school, I worked on a farm. My job was to sit on top of a wooden bin of corn by the side of the road, selling corn to whoever stopped by. Mostly I was alone, reading novels. The farmer would come periodically with a truckload of corn he’d picked. I remember he was very skinny, very tan, and very nice. I knew he had diabetes, but did not consider this information relevant. Once, he was short with me about the speed or grace with which I’d dumped a bag of corn into the bin. He then climbed into his truck and barked at me that he was going to take a nap. It was the only time he’d ever been unfriendly to me. He came out of the truck twenty or thirty minutes later, looking fearful and mopping his face with a rag. He seemed to want to talk about how something was a surprise, came over him suddenly, it was the worst he ever felt, he was sorry he scolded me. While he spoke, he hunted through the rejected nectarines for a non-moldy one, and then put practically an entire nectarine in his mouth at once. Gross. 

A ROOMMATE: Also in high school, I briefly had a roommate in a tiny room, and she had a mini fridge. A mini fridge was not allowed in our dorm, but this roommate could have one because she had diabetes. Whatever. She presented the fridge to me like it was a treat, a real coup, and offered me a shelf in it. I was annoyed that it was taking up space in our too-tiny room but (heroically) did not complain. I noticed that her insulin took up about 1/1000th of the space of the fridge, and the remainder of the space was filled with frivolous things like juice. The fridge became the step I used to climb up into my bed, because—of course—my roommate had to have the lower bunk, because her diabetes might cause her to need to get up in the middle of the night. She’s really milking this.

A GRANDMOTHER: I had a grandmother with Type 1 diabetes. She’s why I associate T1d with glamour, Jews, wealth, high heels, jacuzzis, life-size porcelain Italian greyhounds, and lipstick. Also Valium. This grandmother had ornate dishes of sour balls all over her house, even in the bedrooms. I remember my mom telling me she shouldn’t have candy; it’s bad for her! Indeed, she could often be observed fumbling for a dish of candy or riffling through one of her enormous handbags for her butter rum Lifesavers. We didn’t realize she surrounded herself with candy as a lifesaving measure. So sad she can’t get that sweet tooth under control.




  1. Rick Phillips · July 13, 2016

    It is a long road as we progress in histories with diabetes. My mom and aunt both had type 1 so yes I do know the feeling of looking at pictures.

    I referred your blog to the TUDiabetes.org blog page for the week of July 11, 2016.


  2. mumoftype1 · July 14, 2016

    I loved your blog! It’s funny how we change, isn’t it? My uncle has type 1 diabetes and I never once noticed him do anything about it as a kid. Going back to Scotland last year, as an adult, we really connected and he and my son got on well.


  3. Ashleigh · July 14, 2016

    NIce insights into hypos, and other things that we dont notice or think about until later. I really enjoyed reading this.


  4. lifeont1 · July 14, 2016

    I just love your perspective. I really need to come to RI soon so we can have a shandy and give ear scritchies to your pup over a chat. Xo


  5. Reyna · July 14, 2016

    I didn’t really have any exposure to t1d until Joe. My father had and ultimately succumbed to t2d.


  6. type1tot · July 16, 2016

    You are not telling the whole story. How pissed were you that the bridesmaid ruined the picture w the big black bag, why did she not think to get a small, tasteful, more match-y one? Seriously though you are digging deep unearthing your previous insensitivities to T1D. And they aren’t that bad! But funny in the number of them. But still. I don’t take the occasional ignorance of T1D personally. I usually just think, you lucky SOB, you don’t have to know, enjoy it. You must feel a great weight. There is no explanation. Blame Monsanto. Or whatever. You’re a nice person. (But not so nice as to be boring.) People get diabetes. And sometimes multiple members of the same family get diabetes. Regardless of their mother’s karmic load. Hey, can’t remember if I said or not yet, I’m so sorry. It must be hard.


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