In Which High Stress Causes High Blood Sugar
Trying to keep it together when your world is in crisis.
By Kathryn Foss
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
October 2011 — I had been home from America for about an hour when the bomb went off. My apartment shook and the noise was deafening. My two-year-old was in the midst of a tantrum and the explosion stopped her mid-scream. She ran over to me terrified, only saying "Mama," and reaching her arms out to me; I picked her up.
My husband was out buying dog food and I immediately tried to call him. He answered and I could hear car alarms, sirens, and panicked voices. He was about three blocks away from the blast. There was glass blown out from shop windows everywhere. He made his way towards where he thought the explosion happened, but only made it about a block away before common sense, debris, and a hysterical wife persuaded him to just come home.
I spent the next few hours fielding concerned text messages from family and friends around the world and glued to the television, desperate for information. About two hours after the blast, it was confirmed: It was a bomb, a car bomb in front of the Prime Minister's office, and it was huge.
My city was in chaos. Speculation was rampant. And that is when the shooting started. There were not many details, but several kids at a political youth camp had called police, updated Twitter, and texted their loved ones: There was a man dressed as a police officer and he was trying to kill them.
The bad day suddenly got worse. His shooting spree lasted for about an hour and a half before police were finally able to get to the island and arrest him. Police were saying that at least 10 people were dead. At this point, my eyes were blurry from being awake for over 24 hours, my heart was pounding, and my head was full of the violent images I had seen played over and over again on television.
I decided to go to bed, and part of my bedtime routine is checking my blood sugar. I checked it as normal and it was 170, despite the fact that I hadn't had anything to eat in over four hours! Confused, I took my metformin and Victoza and collapsed into bed where I slept maybe two and a half hours the whole night.
The next morning, my fasting blood sugar was 140, which for me on Victoza is extremely high, taking into account that I average between 80-100 since I began taking it. I turned the news on and my heart sank at what they were reporting. In the few hours between me going to bed and waking up, the death toll had jumped from 10 to over 80.
The entire country of Norway was in shock and disbelief, including myself. Even though I am an American, I have a Norwegian husband and a Norwegian daughter. I have lived here for eight years, speak the language, and have made many dear Norwegian friends. It was hard for me to comprehend that something like this was happening here in this beautiful country I have come to love.
Over the next four days, I didn't sleep more than a few hours per night and my body was suffering. Through all of this, my blood sugar was consistently high. It was high regardless of what I ate or when I ate it. My focus finally started shifting off of the terror attacks and back onto my health and general well-being. I finally googled, "Does stress cause high blood sugar?" and was relieved to read all of the first hand accounts of diabetics who have also experienced elevated blood sugar when under stress.
Remarkably, as my body absorbed and processed the shocking events, my numbers started stabilizing. Now, a week later, they are back in a good, controlled range. Through this experience I learned this truth: Stress is not good for diabetes and will mess with your numbers! And although this was a unique situation, it did make me stop and think of how I can better manage stress to help my body along.
The gunman killed 68 people on the island that day, and 55 of them were under the age of 20. While my blood sugar is back to normal, I think that Norway has a long way to go.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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