Flashing Back to Trippy Lows

A woman with Type 1 diabetes recounts some surreal bouts of hypoglycemia.



I usually feel the standard symptoms of hypoglycemia, but once in awhile I experience something entirely surreal.

One of the most impressively surreal bouts of low blood sugars I had was when I was 19 and went backpacking across Europe. It was my first time backpacking, my first time traveling without family, my second time on a plane, and my first time out of the country. After three train rides and a long and difficult walk, my friend and I reached our hostel in the British city of Bath. We dropped off our bags and immediately went to see the ancient Roman baths that gave the city its name. My friend had gotten a bit ahead of me, so I was marveling at the Great Bath solo.

But then it hit me: my blood sugar was low. I mean real low. Like sit-down-and-concentrate-and-not freak-out low. I sat on a stone and stuffed whatever I had in my mouth (I believe it was half a roll of cherry Lifesavers). I couldn’t stand up for a bit, so I just sat and stared at what was in front of me.

At one point, I turned my head to see something to my right. But I only could see the view of what I saw when I was facing forward a second before. I turned my head back, but I could only see what was to my right. I started rotating around the stone until I made a full circle and each time I pivoted I could only see the previous view. After maybe five minutes, I was no longer stuck in a world where my eyes only saw the past.

I stood up and found my friend; she didn’t even know anything had happened. I decided not to share this trippy experience with her. After all, this was the first day of our three-week backpacking excursion, and I didn’t want to freak her out too much. I did enough freaking out for the both of us.

Lately, I’ve been getting some surreal lows when I wake up in the middle of the night because of low blood sugar. I wake up convinced I don’t have to treat the low because it is isolated in one part of my body.


Oh, the low is only in my right arm, I think.
Then, the slightly more rational part of me responds: Wait, I’m not sure that can happen; can that happen?
Sure: it’s like having an arm fall asleep.
Does your whole body fall asleep?
No.
So why should just an arm be low?
Just shake it and it will be ok.
Wait a second. I think you are not telling me the truth.
I am!
No, I don’t think so; I think you are confused.
Wait, why am I having an argument with myself? This doesn’t make sense. Hold on, I need to GET UP!

I follow this confused banter with a pint of ice cream, chocolate syrup, and a blood sugar level exceeding 350 mg/dL in the morning.

The good thing about such experiences is that I can both remember them in detail and laugh about them later. While I try to not have lows, at least a surreal low leaves me with a good story to tell.

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Paula Torres is a producer and project manager of educational products. Based in Brooklyn, NY, she spends too much of her free time going to the movies. She can be contacted at pmtorr@gmail.com.