Riding the Roller Coaster

So, it’s on to Tikal from Guatemala City. The trip from Guatemala City to Tikal is a short flight; all in all, it’s about an hours plane ride in a puddle jumper. After arriving at our hotel, we decided today would be the day that we go to the city of Tikal and see the ancient Mayan ruins.  After all, it was a beautiful day, and the plane ride was smooth.

Roller CosterI reduced my basal insulin by 70%, and it was a good thing that I did. We hiked for almost 4 hours straight, climbing the ruins.  It was a good day with no diabetes complications.

Unfortunately, things got a little bumpy the following day on the way back. It was time to eat lunch, and my blood sugar was a little on the high side. There are times, where you don’t have much of a choice, either you eat, or you don’t. I need to eat, and this was one of those times as we were going to be taking a plane flight back to Guatemala City in just two hours.

I decided to go ahead and eat, making corrections for my blood sugar level. I knew that it was going to go up, but I never saw this coming. I didn’t think to anticipate for the higher insulin resistance once my blood sugar level peaked. As my blood sugar proceeded upward so did my stress levels.

If not to make matters worse when one’s stress levels reach a certain point, the body will produce cortisol thinking that the body needs more sugar to deal with the increased anxiety. This is a typical reaction to stress, anxiety and a wide range of other emotions including depression. This is not a good thing for someone who doesn’t produce insulin to counteract the increased blood sugar that cortisol produces.

To add to all this, I may have miscalculated lunch. Remember, when you’re on vacation, it is harder to manage your blood sugar since you are eating out all the time.  Maybe due to something in the ceviche, but I don’t know, and at that point, it didn’t matter. I said to myself, “I’ll keep a close eye on my blood sugar and make any adjustments I need to when I get on the airplane.”

Roller Coaster Ride
As I sat in the lobby of the hotel with plenty of time but feeling as though we were out of time. It was the type of anxiety you feel when you’re in the front seat of a roller coaster train. When you are the top of the first hill, looking down and that sick to the stomach feeling of nausea takes over.

Every little thing was bothering me on what was now my roller coaster ride from hell. On the taxi ride from the hotel to the airport, all the beautiful scenery distracted me, but when I noticed how sad I was, I checked my blood sugar as we pulled into the airport. My blood sugar was a lot higher than I had originally thought.  I was confused disorientated and fixated on making that plane. I pulled my pump out and put it back without bolusing my insulin.

We got our tickets and checked our bags.  We’ve arrived at what was a pretty antiquated security checkpoint. When I showed them my insulin pump, they didn’t know how to proceed. It took five security personnel to figure out what to do. I went around the metal detector, and they patted us down, awkwardly.

The guards were pointing and laughing at me, making me feel like a little kid being teased on the playground. Luckily my friend spoke Spanish, and I asked what they were laughing about? He said that they were laughing at each other’s lack of knowledge and making fun of the person who patted me down.

One thing for sure, a little paranoia kicked in, and my blood sugar hadn’t changed.  I finally did give myself the appropriate amount of insulin just before boarding.  As we were boarding the plane, we chose the front seats in the cabin section. There were no seats in front of us to put our carry-ons, so they had to go in the overhead compartment. As I was fumbling to put my bag up, I heard people laughing and trying to put it out of my mind reminding myself that my blood sugar was very high, and my mind was playing tricks on me.

I sit down and check my blood sugar one more time and see that it is higher than it’s been in several years. I started to sulk and feel sorry for ruining the trip.  Luckily I had told my friend about my high blood sugar before boarding the plane. I told him how bad I felt, and he said not to worry about it and that it would soon be over. Traveling with someone who knows about diabetes and is aware of what happens when your blood sugars are high or low comes in handy.

At the end of this roller coaster ride, the plane came to a halt at the gate, and my blood sugar had amazingly returned to normal, way faster than expected.  Maybe the reason it did was our laughter. For the rest of the flight, my friend talks to me about old times and funny things that had happened to us. It got my mind off of my blood sugar levels, and it reduced my stress incredibly. Laughter is a powerful tool to reduce stress and anxiety and maybe even blood sugar levels.

In the end, I’m not a hundred percent sure as to why my blood sugars went down so quickly. There were many factors and laughter was one of them.

One thing I am a hundred percent sure of is telling people who know how to support you, and your diabetes is important. Your friends and loved ones who know you the best can be an invaluable source of support when you’re struggling with your diabetes.

Eliot LeBow, LCSW, CDE, is a diabetes-focused psychotherapist. His private practice, located in New York City and is also available via Skype. LeBow, who has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1977, treats the many diverse cognitive, behavioral, and emotional needs of people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

For more information go to his website or Facebook Page or set up a free 30-minute phone consultation to see if talk therapy is right for you.

Medical Disclaimer:
All the advice included in this blog is therapeutic in nature and should not be considered medical advice. Before making any changes to your diabetes maintenance program, please consult with your primary physician or endocrinologist.

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