The deadly accumulation of tiny things

I’VE BEEN DOING THE BEST THAT I CAN

For many reasons lately, I have been having trouble blogging, must less writing fiction.

It all came to a head about a week ago, when I realized I was having what I thought might be ‘attacks’ of very low blood sugar – and they scared me.

I’d wake up in the middle of the night, or realize after working for a while, and I hadn’t eaten in a while.

My body would be screaming at me, and I felt as if I would pass out if I didn’t eat something THAT INSTANT.

The process of getting food in me – any food in me – was fraught and frightening: I would start eating something easy like cottage cheese, and not stop until I had consumed a couple hundred calories, and then would sit there in the kitchen, shaking, until it took hold, or diverted the blood from my panicky brain to digesting what I had just eaten, or whatever – but it would leave me trembly for what seemed hours after.

So after several days of this, and on the weekend,

I promised my husband I would contact the doctor, and, as the online appointment page offered me a video visit at 9:45 Monday morning, I took it, and was waiting when the doctor tuned in.

Best visit to a doctor of my life: I hate doctor appointments after over 31 years of a chronic disease that I’ve never had help with, and this time it was in the comfort of my own office and computer, and, through some twist I never figured out, the video took up a very small fraction of my screen, and his head was smaller than a passport photo.

Long story short, as every doctor under the sun (it seems), he wants me to entirely change the way I eat.

I said no. It works for me.

But afterward, I got to thinking, and sent him an email suggesting that since we had a blood glucose meter, I could take measurements for a while at different times of day, and maybe figure out what was going on. Other alternatives would involve a hospital stay – something I’m hoping to avoid right now – and the effort required to change my entire system of eating is not something I would undertake unless all else has failed AND he guaranteed it would work. Not likely.

Let the games begin

I spent the next morning after husband picked up some new supplies (his were from 2013) getting the system to work.

I called our nurse. Took the meter down to her office.

She took it down to Skilled Nursing, where no one is allowed right now who doesn’t work or live there, not even friends and family.

She said the meter didn’t work – gave errors – BUT she brought me back in a tiny plastic meds cup a single drop of the control solution (glucose in solution at a particular concentration), and Maggie and I brought it back to the apartment.

Courtesy of good planning (and luck), I had one of the lithium batteries the device needed, and it worked, and I was able to test the monitor with the control solution drop!

Now for individual measurements

I learned the whole make a hole in yourself and gently squeeze a drop of blood out of your finger thing, which I hope not to have to do ever again after this, and started recording both the measurements, and the things which might affect my blood sugar levels: when I ate, whether I felt particularly shaky, how long it had been since I slept (I take at least three naps a day lately), what I ate (though I’m not planning on altering that, and it was mostly low carb stuff).

It’s a real racket: the test strips are $1 apiece, and you need a new one for each drop you test (unless you mess the drop up, and then the spare works sometimes). The little lancets (poky things) aren’t supposed to be reused. And the control solution (I have some coming in the mail from Walmart) was $15 for two 4oz. bottles. And here’s the kicker: you’re supposed to test your meter once a month (or when you think the results are messed up), AND discard the opened bottle after three months, and I defy anyone to use up that much liquid in three months!

I don’t see how diabetics manage their testing.

In any case, I now have a solid week of about 5-10 measurements a day, and I will sort them out in Excel, graph them, analyze the graph and notes, and send a copy off to the doctor.

But the answer is

that although my blood sugar IS lower when I’m feeling very shaky and unhappy, it is NOT low enough to be classified as clinically low. Even when I felt I had to respond this very instant, it was probably me overreacting.

Now I measure, and then I eat if necessary, but I’ve also relaxed enough to realize it is very uncomfortable, but I’m NOT going to pass out, and even at the worst, I can actually breathe through it and handle it rationally.

Which is where the accumulation of tiny things comes in:

This has not been a normal year.

I needn’t list the things that have happened, or the continual stress of being locked down or the reason for the lockdown.

The worry about whether loved ones were okay has been huge; some were not, which was even worse.

And I’m sure this was my version of covid fatigue: the stress level got so high that a slightly (okay, it was scary and not little) exaggerated feeling of doom accompanied the more frequent occurrence of something uncomfortable and frightening of episodes that have been happening all along.

And I’d been making them worse without realizing it.

Because my brain stops working when I eat, and then I have to take a nap to restore it to even remotely usable conditions, I was postponing eating as long as I could, hoping to get some writing done.

Which led to

So when I finally had to admit I had to eat, we were at full-blown hunger – and the lowest of my normal range blood sugar range – and it took time to recover. A lot of time. Even after eating.

I might have been able to shorten that time had I been willing to eat something with sugar in it, but that also messes with my brain, with consequences sometimes lasting more than 24 hours, and I didn’t want to start down that path. So I accidentally made things much worse – and then freaked out over it.

I told the husband. I told no one else until I talked to the doctor.

We all try not to worry the offspring, right?

But I have been in a high dudgeon state, and of course incapable of writing fiction. OR blogging. Or, indeed, anything except wondering if this was going to be it.

I’m not even sure they would check for low blood sugar if I ended up in an ambulance, and husband wouldn’t be allowed to go in with me. Which added to the worries, as, if it’s really low, and not corrected, you can literally die.

When I had to deal with it because it happened at 3-4am, I was not in the best state to be rational – sleep deprivation does that.

And, as usual, the solution, eating, was putting on weight – and I already have to deal with that, and no, I do NOT seek help from doctors for that: their success rate, long-term, is 2%, though somehow EVERY SINGLE TIME you see one they mention you should lose weight, as if it were something you could decide one night, and have done with by the morning.

So I also have not much to write about or post about.

Us being in the middle of an unchanging physical, global, and electoral nightmare.

And California, which had seemed to be doing okay, is now having most regions almost to the highest pandemic status, including the Greater Sacramento area, and is no more free of covid problems than the rest of the nation.

If you’ve ever done a stress inventory (you should – find one online), I know my stress levels (with an easy life in a nice place and people bringing me dinner every night) are in the DANGER ZONE. I can only imagine what it’s like for others who don’t have our resources, who have to go to work, whose children are in school, who have a relative or friend in the hospital or who work in one.

I apologize for the self-centered nature of the above half-assed post.

It’s all I got right now.

That, and watching the sales graph at Amazon: sold two ebooks this month! After nothing for several months before that. And it isn’t going to get any better until I finish book 2 and revisit the complete marketing problem – from website (prideschildren.com – don’t go; it’s very rough right now), to ads, to finding more reviews (pretty please – if you’ve ever planned to write one, now would be very nice).

I’m really trying to get to the VERY good end of this volume. Can’t wait.

I am glad to put this scare behind me, and hope to be able to create more than a few words of fiction every day, because I can’t wait to get to the end of this one.


************

Let me know how you’re all coping with stress, and if you have stories of how it’s pushed you far out of your comfort zone.


Recommend PC to a friend if you were always planning to do that.

Bye for now. I have no idea when you’ll hear from me again, but I really miss you.


************

34 thoughts on “The deadly accumulation of tiny things

  1. joey

    I did not think this was half-assed or that you were self-centered, I think you were on the dot, to the tee helpful and honest. Especially this, “as if it were something you could decide one night, and have done with by the morning.” I hope you find your new normal with food and eating. It’s so important, and it deserves this focus.
    I get seriously hangry when I put off eating. And as you know, that does no favors to anxiety, so I have learned to yield to the pangs. I am one of those women who always has fruit or seeds or nuts or something in my handbag. When I was a young mother I would spiral into a panic and wonder why I felt so poorly. Food. We need it. I still don’t like to eat breakfast when I rise, as if I must work up an appetite, so my brekkie is at about 10. Other than dinner, I eat the same 20 or so foods all the time, which many people find dull or odd, but it works for me.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I stick to the foods I know I like, work, and will not be a problem. When I don’t, I’m so sluggish the next day I can’t think.

      I’m sure there are plenty of other thing that MIGHT work – not sure I want to expend the energy to find them, when every mistake costs me a writing day or two in soggy brain.

      Thanks for understanding!

      Liked by 1 person

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      It felt like a battle!

      And acflory has me thinking about how to use that idea of a few almonds spaced out. I have pecans, so I’ll use those, but I tried it this evening – was hungry for dinner – held it off 1.5 hours with a few spaced out almonds and pecans!

      It needs a lot more work, but I will travel to Australia and personally kiss her if this works reliably and repeatably.

      We’ll see.

      Liked by 1 person

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  2. Lloyd Lofthouse

    That was a roller coaster you had to survive. It read like you were strapped in and couldn’t escape, a never-ending cycle of ups and down with little in between. Hopefully, keeping a record of the blood sugar level will help figure out out to control it.

    There is one group it seems that the lockdowns have helped, combat vets living with severe levels of PTSD.

    Last time I talked to my VA PTSD counselor (through WebEx) I mentioned how relaxed I was, because I wasn’t going out of the house much at all, maybe a couple of hours for one day every two or three weeks to shop and stock up with essentials. He said he was hearing that from most of the combat vets he works with.

    Being isolated seems to have removed us from most of the triggers that sets our PTSD off.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I’m so glad you’re not being triggered.

      I only have medically-induced PTSD – triggered by all the things that have happened – and that’s WAY bad enough. From the over two-week period when they finally figured out where to put the third (and only necessary) stent. Pretty hellish.

      I can only imagine what you vets go through! I am sorry those in charge don’t do far more for you. I still think some of the discharges are people they should have helped instead of dumping.

      I’m surprised, though, that you are not under more stress from being locked down – that lack of control is part of it. Glad, but surprised. Having fewer triggers probably is a reason.

      Liked by 1 person

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  3. acflory

    Ugh. I was getting a little worried so I’m glad it’s ‘only’ blood sugar. Ouch, I feel bad writing that as I know how you feel and the stress you’re under. Once you have your results and can see proof positive of what’s going on, may I suggest almonds? The plain, natural kind. I nibble them all through the morning when I’m trying to write because, like you, once I ‘eat’ properly, I get sleepy.

    Anyway, I’m glad you have an answer and it’s not tooooo terrible. -hugs-

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I have almond flour every day – California grows lots of them. Even around Davis. They go into my ‘cereal’ mixture, and a hot drink.

      I didn’t know I could eat continuously – I avoid eating if I can, and then prepare to be felled.

      I’ll think about that.

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      1. acflory

        It’s the ‘one or two’ whole almonds [skin? on] at regular intervals that seems to work for me. Also salted peanuts, but they’re nowhere near as healthy. lol

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        1. acflory

          lol – that sounds delicious! I don’t make quiches very often as the Offspring isn’t that fond of them, but I might give that a try next time.

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        2. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          I have to thank you. I’ve been munching a few pecans at intervals this morning, and have neither crashed nor had to go eat – fabulous!

          Scene 31.3 is finished, thanks to you.

          I don’t know why I hadn’t come across this grazing idea and tried it before. Did you invent it?

          Liked by 1 person

        3. acflory

          YES!!!!! Oh that’s fabulous news Alicia. I’m so glad it’s working for you too.

          I think the idea started when I noticed that if I ate cold left over schnitzel [just the meat on its own] for ‘brunch’, I’d get through the day without getting sleepy. Then, at some point I must have decided to try a different kind of protein, to see if it would work. And voila I chose nuts over cheese coz I like nuts and don’t like cheese all that much. 🙂

          Speaking of cheese, I wonder if it would work for you as well? Maybe small cubes to snack on. The only thing might be if you have a sensitivity to lactose or something.

          Anyway, the important thing is that we’ve both stumbled on something that works for us.

          Keep writing! lol

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        4. acflory

          I’d definitely experiment with both chicken and cheese…in small quantities. I have no idea how animal based proteins are digested vs plant based proteins. I know meat works for me, but it might have some other effect on you because of your conditions. More importantly though, a bit of variety is always a good thing if all three have the same beneficial effect.
          I’d be really interested to know whether they all work for you.

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        5. acflory

          Yes, ease of use is a biggie too. Meat and cheese are probably great standbys if you ever run out of nuts. Btw I read something about walnuts being very good for you, just as a food source. Sadly I can’t remember precisely why. Anyway, have to go do some /more/ mowing… :/

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        6. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Do you have something like my ME?

          My almond flour is made from whole almonds. Tasty – I mix it with butter, use it as a bottom layer in my quiches for a bit more protein and fiber. If I’m making a ‘cookie’, I add a little vanilla and sweetener.

          Liked by 1 person

        7. acflory

          I don’t think so, Alicia. I worried that I was getting insulin resistance for a while, but the standard tests came back normal. -shrug-

          I do however restrict all chemicals in the house to the barest minimum – as much for the Offspring as for me. A fly swatter kills flies just as well as insect spray and it doesn’t leave a nasty smell. 🙂

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        8. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          So, normal metabolism – foiled again!

          But I’m still going to try the idea, and have husband bring me some plain almonds, not salted, next time he goes shopping.

          Most things which work for normals don’t work for me, but one can always hope.

          Just the same as most advertising for genres doesn’t work for me, but I keep hoping to find the key for me.

          Thanks!

          Liked by 1 person

        9. acflory

          I’m reading these comments from newest to oldest so…I’m so glad it worked! lol

          As for genres…-sigh-…most scifi readers are men, so character driven scifi featuring a woman who isn’t a ‘kick arse male without the plumbing’ just doesn’t work. Women on the other hand don’t really read scifi….

          Maybe we need to start a new genre. Damned if I know what we’d call it though.

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        10. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          How often do you eat them? Or equivalently, about how many in a morning or day, total?

          I have never tried keeping something constantly in my stomach. I HAVE done some fasting – when it’s working, you live off the fat of the land (and a little protein), and don’t even think of food. Except that I don’t get much done but the weight loss during that time – we’re okay, brain and I, but not creative.

          Liked by 1 person

        11. acflory

          Hmm…depends what I’m doing at the time. When I’m just sitting and writing, I might nibble a half cup over 4 to 5 hours [I write in the morning and don’t have breakfast until lunch time].
          At the moment I’m doing strenuous work in the garden, preparing 1.5 acres for fire season so I’d probably go through a cup of almonds in the same time.

          By eating the almonds, I’ve been able to cut bread out of my diet almost completely. I still love bread, but even a single slice makes me horribly sleepy. No idea why. In fact, most carbs have the same effect unless they’re balanced by protein and heaps of vegetables.

          I’ve never fasted as I believe weight loss has to be slow and steady to give my body time to adjust to a new ‘normal’. I lost almost 6 kilos over 2 years by simply reducing the sugar in my coffee from 1 teaspoon to approx 1/5th of a teaspoon. Plus I reduced the number of coffees so I could sleep at night. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but the weight loss was effortless. Of course I put the kilos back on over the last 11 months of lockdown, but the physical work is starting to reduce them again.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Thanks!

      I was pointing out that you have to deal with it, because it COULD be stress, but it could ALSO be a real warning from your body.

      You shouldn’t relax if your body sends you messages; be on alert.

      And it’s hard to relax if you think something dire might happen.

      Liked by 1 person

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  4. Chris

    “Deadly accumulation of tiny things” summarizes it perfectly. Stress is an incredibly insidious factor. You don’t even feel it.

    Last winter, about a month before this all madness, I was getting ready for a lovely short trip. Then the day before I woke up with numbness and tingling in arms and legs. I was like, what is this? After several hours, it was still there, even getting worse. I went to the doctor, he didn’t even examine me, didn’t even take my blood pressure. “It’s just stress”, he said, and told me to take it easy and enjoy my trip. Half an hour after I left the doctor, the numbness was gone.

    I’ll never underestimate stress again.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I’m so glad your doctor was able to hone in on the problem AND that it was the right answer for you – not a given.

      I’m appalled, though, that a doctor would treat symptoms as imaginary like that. It’s called gaslighting.

      If you had had a stroke, or a heart problem, or something neurological (a brain tumor growing big enough to finally press somewhere dangerous), minutes would have been critical.

      Not trying to be a downer here, and it was obviously the right call, but I can see a potential for disaster. If you were worried enough to see a doctor, he should have at least examined you while you were right in front of him.

      Even ‘panic attacks’ are real. Being ignored usually makes things better, not worse. The symptoms could have gotten worse after the trip started, and there you would be, in a strange place, where you shouldn’t have gone. Just saying.

      Although it’s usually women who get that kind of brushoff.

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      1. Chris

        I did think of that too. To be fair, he did ask me several questions that would’ve likely revealed something else – such as, “Do you feel dizzy?” or “Do you have difficulty walking?” etc. It’s just that I’m old-school, and I expect the doctor to actually put their hands on you, or at least measure some basic vitals, like a heartrate. But, oh well, it seems the world has changed, and now doctors simply “google” the questions they’re supposed to ask, then the system tells them what to do. A bit depressing, but it is what it is.

        Hopefully you’ll feel better soon!

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        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          I’m fine. Finding out how my blood sugar varies was a benefit.

          Lack of knowledge drives me up a steep cliff, as being dissed or treated like someone being difficult (internet-gained information) is hard to take when you’re 71, and people have been NOT helping you for as long as they have me (we should have a cure for ME by now, and if we did, we could have helped the long-haulers).

          Blood sugar doesn’t respond quickly, so it, per se, doesn’t overreact to stress or panic or hysteria, whereas blood PRESSURE does. I have a perpetual problem with doctors, their nurses, and the whole situation of girding myself for the experience CAUSING blood pressure readings which are high.

          Since they also don’t like any measurements they don’t take themselves (I must be lying or wrong if I take measurement I’ve been taking at quiet times at home to the office, and they get different numbers).

          Every time I point out they are not following the American Heart Association guidelines for measuring BP accurately (https://www.heart.org/-/media/files/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/how_to_measure_your_blood_pressure_letter_size.pdf is one easy way to do it).

          Note how OFTEN the guidelines are disregarded:
          Measurements are taken with your legs dangling from the examination table.
          The nurse ignores your request for a few quiet minutes.
          They take it after you’ve just had a difficult session with the doctor.
          The nurse insists on talking to you while she’s preparing you and then taking the measurement.
          You have scrambled to get there – which implies ‘exercise’ in the 30 minutes before a reading.
          Your feet are not flat on the floor.
          The chair does not feel supportive.

          And then you are judged by a number which they’ve created.

          Just saying. I don’t believe their numbers – and I have a hard time finding a comfortable position even at home – my pain levels are in the way.

          Kicker: I’ve tried all their meds after my stents in 2017 (another long story) – and tried meds in four out of the five classes of blood-pressure-lowering drugs. All of them made me sick.

          I would have MUCH preferred to just take a pill.

          So I do it periodically for a couple of weeks, reassure myself, and am very aware that the last thing I need is a stroke!

          This last thing is worrying me because it’s very hard to lose weight any time, without exercise it’s almost impossible, and without being able to go periods of time not eating, you are doomed.

          Now I can relax about the blood SUGAR being a problem, I can go back to the other stuff.

          Liked by 1 person

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