It’s Friday night and everyone in town is out at Karaoke. Springdale UT is a small town, and most everyone in town knows me as the stick in the mud that can’t be convinced to go out and party. I’m not really worried about being seen as a curmudgeon right now though–I am staring at my Dexcom which has been showing a downward arrow for the last half hour.

110.

98.

87.

74.

We are still southbound and this pain train doesn’t want to slow down. After 14 years I have seen some low numbers. But the feeling of rapidly falling blood glucose levels is unmistakeable. It’s comparable to that feeling you get a split second after you see the cop and realize that you were driving 20 over the limit. Impending doom–only worse because you’re not thinking about money, you’re thinking about the fact that all your friends are out getting s—t-faced and they might come back to find you unconscious. Or worse.

My blood sugar is plummeting and I only took two units of insulin. I wasn’t super active and I didn’t forget to eat. I’m grilling myself trying to think what I did wrong. What did I do to make this happen. I am supposed to be a role model. I should be able to do better.

I begin to think about what I have heard or what I have told people in the past. I try to maintain my grip on panic and avoid gorging. I am determined to take it down to the wire and correct perfectly. I have eaten some “correction carbs” and now I just have to wait for them to hit my bloodstream so my sugar will start to rise. This waiting period is the great divide, the dark before the dawn, the leap of faith. You have eaten what you know you need to correct, but those minutes before it hits your bloodstream and makes you “feel” it–those are the hardest moments for me in relation to my diabetes.

What if I didn’t eat enough? What if my sugar doesn’t come up? What if I’m falling too fast? What if I go unconscious? There are several minutes during the mental grappling match that ensues while you wait–during which you are forced to confront the realization that if you don’t treat this low correctly, you could die. There is the ultimate realization that for all the support that exists in the diabetes community, or from my friends or spouse– I face this battle entirely alone in this moment.

It seems like hours, but the clock on my phone confirms about 10 minutes have passed by the time I begin to feel the “crash” subsiding. I am starting to emerge on the other side of this low, and sharing my experience on Instagram makes me feel better, makes me feel more connected. Knowing that other people are out there with me going through the same thing makes me feel stronger and more confident. I passed through the test, and I am reconnected with the world.

I feel like I have been reborn. I am not a victim of diabetes, and I do not suffer from it. I have just climbed a horrendous runout, and taken the whip. I have faced the fear, and while it felt awful in the moment, confronting that risk has given me more skills to overcome that fear on my next attempt. Diabetes is my training ground for the mountains. It is a privilege to struggle, not a burden.

Many people don’t see the connection between climbing and diabetes. Both are misunderstood. Both are constant risk management. Both have physical and mental implications based on the effectiveness of said risk management. Both force you to confront fear and manage it in moments of serious crisis. Both involve stacking the odds in your favor by leveraging constants against variables.

Hmmm…come to think of it, they don’t have that much in common…