I had some major realizations recently. Those who know me might say that happens every day. Well, that’s true, but though it’s often a cause for pleasant and great wonderment, it was sometimes the curse-of an active mind, affected by a metabolic disease I was unaware of, or couldn’t manage well. And, I don’t have a good doctor. So, ah…what’s the dis~ease?
I learned in mid 2009 that I have been suffering from hypoglycemia my whole life! I didn’t know that! Talk about a handicap! I know I have been plagued by it since childhood as I have slowly recalled previously inexplicable anomalies in my energy-levels, moods, and behavior-that were always with me. Sadly, I am only now realizing how to deal with it, and seeing improvements!
I remember as a boy, as I lay in bed at night very still, my body would tingle and I would experience the sensation of penetrating the bed, as if I were stiff as a board, but floating in space at different angles, like that triangular spaceship in that old video game, Asteroids. And sometimes, when I woke up in the morning and got out of bed, my legs would buckle at the knees.
Actually, Amber experiences this all the time, when we are out walking. She has a metabiolic issue, too, related to digestion. We both discovered our diseases at the same time, in the same place. I had taken her to the International Clinic in Itaewon, and we had expensive blood tests done that looked at every blood-serum component. I am pretty sure that as with me, Amber’s “low-grade digestion” issue affects her moods (If you are reading this, I am sorry Love, but it is quite obvious. You get full after a few bites of food sometimes, your stomach often requires massaging, after a meal, and your moods drop and spike before and after eating more severely than those of others I have known. We cannot forget the dizziness, either, right? But I could deal with it far better now. Read on and see why)
Also, in the morning-upon waking-I couldn’t make a fist; not a tight one, anyway. And getting up always took a long time, as if I had died in my sleep and was trying to warm a dead corpse. Later in the day, after eating, I would have boundless energy, and a short time after that, be very sleepy. My attention was hit or miss in school. I was recognized for being bright (I was told I got a 150 on my childhood IQ test), yet my test scores were high at some times, low at others. This was no doubt due as much to ADD-like symptoms I had in my bedroom at night, when I should have been absorbed in study-as much as it was likely due to a blood sugar deficiency during exams.
Nobody thought about a metabolic cause. Why? Who knows? Perhaps it is because even today, many doctors do not even recognize hypoglycemia as a disease in and of itself. Who could blame my school teachers and child psychologists in my schools? Even my doctors consistently told me throughout my life that I was “as healthy as a horse”. Pabo! Another reason I love people who pay close attention to details.
hypoglycemia is simple to understand, but easy to miss, even when you know you have it! Amber bought me a great book about it and read one herself. I read a large portion of the book and altered my diet: little or no sugar, starches, fruit juices, processed foods; lots of slow food: vegetables, protein, fresh fruit in sensible quantities, and eating habits that go against the stupid four food group/”three square meal a day” philosophy. Hypoglycemics eat many small meals, when hungry (makes more sense for most people on the go, anyway).
But you can actually forget you are prone to the condition, especially when you feel good! So I was messing up the process of recovery since I discovered the disease’s presence. And if you have a lot of stress, it is really hard to maintain your health as a hypoglycemic, because stress affects eating habits and appetite.
It is also a tricky disease to manage, because I am a moderate hypoglycemic. I am not the type that falls to the floor of the bus near death unless I get a cookie or a candy bar, though if I were taken hostage or lost in some remote place, that could happen to me after a prolonged period, before it would happen to someone with a normal metabolism.
I remember getting very dizzy after workouts as a young man. Like I was going to fall over and pass out. And in the past few years, extreme stress, especially in my relationship before the one I had with Amber, the nature of the life my former girlfriend had made me so worried that I used to get dizzy and extremely confused at work. It was frightening. This was the onset of extreme anxiety due to post-traumatic stress. Chong Go Sunim feels I had suffered that as a boy, too, but that is another story.
Suffice it to say, it can be torture, comedy, constant surprises, and apparent serendipity all in one, if you are eating incorrectly, and have a too much stress. If you have a sense of humor, it can be downright hilarious, though. But, if you don’t know you have it, (which includes forgetting you have this predisposition, by eating incorrectly and taking symtom-masking drugs), prepare for unabated euphoria one minute, depression the next; genius on your tests and at work one hour, and near-retardation at another.
And you can go from being a smart Casanova to an irritable idiot, in a short span of time. Think about what this means at work, in school, and in love. You are in for drama, drama, drama. Well, that’s over now…finally. As Amber had said, before I started takeing meds, ”’no more suffering from this disease’. And I didn’t have to, had I listened to her and not taken medication, and had I been more vigilent.
But if you throw pills at hypoglycemia’s mood-oriented symptoms, I you make it worse. Much worse. It’s tricky, so you have to go through trial and error to master it, but it is much easier without mood-altering medication.
Why had I gone on medication to deal with moderate hypoglycemia? Pretty much as a result of my fluctuating blood-glucose levels, I had developed a “general anxiety disorder”. This is not a permanent thing, though. It is really only in effect if I experience great amounts of stress, and have unbalanced blood-sugar.
Despite the joys and conveniences I have known since coming to Korea, I have had a lot of stress in the last five years; perhaps in the last fifteen, considering the time since first coming here, in 1996.
The great news is, the afore-mentioned realizations. Through my relationship with Amber, the things I needed to do to make changes in my life, now stand out in greater relief more than ever; the most important of which was to get off the ‘anxiety medication’ I was taking, which was really something of a hinderance to a man with hypoglycemia, rather than an aid.
But here is what it was like on the medication: I was on pills that bipolar patients and other psychiatric patients take. My sister thought they were too strong, and she is in the therapy and medical fields for over a decade.
It was like swatting a fly with a sledge-hammer. It made me drowsy, forgetful, dreamy, and generally a space cadet. And when they wore off, or I didn’t take them for a few months due to lack of funds, or for having felt too good, I think it made it harder for me to adjust, and I when I returned to them, I didn’t realize they were significant in making me moody and unable to tell when my sugar was dropping-because of the fog they put me in.
Of course, the diet mismanagement-due to feeling good, also added to the problems of taking the drugs. This also makes the “come down” worse, when your sugar drops around the time the pills are losing their effect. A perfect case in point would be the fight that started the fight to end all fights with Amber a few weeks ago.
We were coming out of a movie, I was carrying her, and we were laughing, and then she stated worrying about getting home late. I had just drunk about one and three quarters worth of big, ball-park sized cups of beer. I had finished a bucket of popcorn, and downed a tray of nachos with processed cheese.
That morning I had had a little baby-orange pill, and a big mommy-white one. Now it was about ten forty-five PM, and the pills were worn off, but my sugar was spiked! My meds had gone beddy-by, by I was ready to shoot through the roof, and when Amber suddenly said something I thought had no relation to the price of tomatoes in Afghanistan, I thought it was too sharp, and I raised my voice to her. What was really happening in my body? I will show you:
Mental Perception of Stress Source (MPS) + High Blood Sugar Surge (HBS) [OR Crash form the hyper-insulin reaction common to hypoglycemics after a large meal or after eating too much starch, processed food, or alcohol; they turn to sugar too quickly-which can make you a nervous wreck] + Over-Active Cortozol Production [a stress-response hormone] (OACP) brought on by the wind-down of the white pill + Increased serotonin Production (ISP), from the wind-down of the orange pill.
Serotonin is a hormone in the brain that promotes neural function so your nerves fire rapidly across the synapses between them-to run mental processes smoothly and faster, and which the little orange pill inhibits to keep you at a slower pace (since the problem with stress is it speeds you up) = the final blow up. (-.-)
Now if you bypass all the jargon (which I made up from common sense; I still have to research this to see if I got it right), you notice the first part of my paragraph above talks about “perceived stress”. This is where mindfulness comes into play-if you don’t want to fight issues or disease with chemicals. If the communication lines in your relationship, are challenged, you need mindfulness (unless you’re The Dude and you smoke a lot of pot). But that is for another article.
Hypoglycemia or no hypoglycemia, if you cannot understand what is happening in your relationship, or you’re prone to misunderstanding (par for the course in international relationships between occidentals and orientals), you need to let go. Meditation helps there.
So, I have changed my attitude about things that were bothering me. I have taken my health into my own hands. I have resumed my meditation and spiritual practice, and I have begun to do other things with my life.
So, most important steps (even before diet and exercise) for a hypoglycemic-to heal his or her life-are to deal with attitude and pills. Change the former; dump the latter (if you can).
Then, stop putting garbage into your body. I have done all three.
I now feel like I have become a new man in just a few weeks! I miss my beloved dearly, but I am not the mess I was for a year the last time I broke up with someone (I didn’t know I had hypoglycemia, and with this disease, YOU ARE what you eat!). I haven’t lost any glasses, pencils or pens (which for me can be expensive), keys, or wallets. And what’s more, I don’t come close, because I am more lucid; clear-headed.
Another thing? Korea doesn’t get me angry like it used to. I am sorry to say that, but every single foreigner here knows exactly what I am talking about. Remember though, it is not one thing or another; all the pats of the problem I mentioned above are like the different structural features of a bridge; all support and depend on one another. My life is more balanced now. I had been focusing too much on my love-relationship; probably trying to compensate for having been so unhappy in love for the previous decade, and because I really wanted my relationship with Amber to work out well. She is the kindest, sweetest, most talented and forgiving woman I have ever been involved with. And she is beautiful, from every angle, in different ways, every moment. She is an artist’s and poet’s dream. We are also amazingly similar where interests, idealism, and thought processes are concerned. We differ in our cultural perceptions though. The coming together, or working together methods reconciling those perceptions takes time in all intercultural relationships, but patience, honest, and very clear communication are needed. Those three things, and acceptance!
I learned you can’t rush it. You don’t push a sailboat, I have finally realized. You ride in it, and guide it with the winds of change over smooth and rocky seas, through storms and sunny days. I am seeing my friends more, making new friends, and drawing and writing more. I am exercising regularly, too. I have also found time to edit photos and post them, so my galleries are growing.
Since coming off the medication I am eating better, because I was accidentally and sometimes deliberately using the pills as a crutch, thinking I could cheat on my hypoglycemia diet more by taking them; this kills a hypoglycemic slowly, because poor diet in hypoglycemia is how we turn into a diabetic. And along the way, his life a roller coaster ride in which ou become addicted to drugs so you can stay on the roller coaster! How crazy!
I am meditating, exercising, and praying each day. These actions reduce stress enormously, especially the diet and meditation.
Remember, stress is the number one aggravating factor in having low blood-sugar episodes if you are hypoglycemic or diabetic, and in worsening every other disease, whether it is cancer, low-grade digestion, or the common cold!
And having control over your thoughts, actions, and diet, naturally makes stress management human and more within one’s control, while leaving your health to drugs means you give the responsibility away, to strangers, and chemicals that lie to you.
Thank you for reading.
Love, Peace, and Joy, to You and Yours,