The Other Me
‘Looking For Answers’
The light-headedness often felt like a disconcerting tickle which weaved in from the back of my head. It wasn’t always there, but when it was it was distracting. Again, I saw Dr Warren – I’d done nothing but see him regularly over the last year.
He asked me if I felt symptoms this very moment. I felt only the faintest symptom – although maybe I was worrying myself into it.
Dr Warren pulled out a little blood sugar meter – the sort that diabetics used. The meter was no bigger than a keyring. Dr Warren stuck a testing strip into the meter, then used a lancet to prick my finger. He applied the end of the testing strip to the blood on my fingertip.
The meter had an LCD display that showed it was calculating. I held my breath. Dr Warren told me anything between 3.3 and 8.9 was normal. The machine beeped as it proudly proclaimed its result.
Dr Warren loaned me the meter, and told me next time I had symptoms, to test myself, as this would help determine if I was suffering from low blood sugar.
I left the clinic, sure that Dr Warren had loaned me the meter as a means of assuring myself more than anything else, but the anxiety chatter in my mind lambasted me relentlessly that my blood sugar readings would be low, so I tested obsessively – tested until I had to buy new strips for the meter – and yet with no real understanding of how blood sugar worked.
The readings I got back were no assurance, with wild fluctuations – figures (after meals) sometimes in the 8s, which then gradually dropped into the 4s. Some afternoons, I was even in the high 3s, and then I’d panic. I thought of blood sugar like a fuel tank, which is always ticking down, and could run empty.
My poor fingertips became riddled with pinpricks from testing, until I decided, that was it. The lowest reading I’d gotten was 3.7. This was proof I was okay. The anxiety mocked me that I wasn’t, but I ignored it as best as I could, and put the meter away. I refused to keep doing this.
Over the next week or so, I still had light-headedness, I had anxiety, and, sometimes when I lay down, it felt like the room was swirling. Low moods were regular. But I felt a freedom that I wasn’t testing. Blood sugar wasn’t my concern. The anxiety had latched onto it as a possible health issue, and had channelled my OCD into worrying about it. No more.
One morning, I had breakfast, and in the afternoon caught up with a friend for a late lunch at about 3.00 pm, where we each had half a sub from Subway. Around six, I took my evening walk, but began to feel heavy and uncoordinated. I plodded through my walk, the low blood sugar thoughts again manic in my head. No. This was just anxiety. It had to be. I didn’t even have light-headedness now. But my anxiety countered. The argument spilled from my head and washed over me in a wave of self-loathing. I was so sick of this. At some point, surely it had to shut up.
I got home around seven, fetched the blood sugar meter, and made a vow: This is the last fucking time I’m testing. I’d prove this to myself, once and for all. I’d prove this to the anxiety. I’d prove this was anxiety. And then I’d return the stupid meter to Dr Warren. I would win, over the anxiety, over the thoughts, over this latest of health issues.
I stuck a testing strip in the meter, pricked my finger, and applied the end of the testing strip to the blood pooling on my fingertip.
The digital display on the blood sugar meter showed it was thinking. Then it beeped with the result.