Symptoms at your job? How do you cope?

Dr Gary
By Dr GaryCA Latest Reply 2013-10-28 12:04:42 -0500
Started 2013-10-07 17:13:27 -0500

It started out as a day like any other day. You were at work, doing your job like you always do. And then, unexpectedly, you were hit with symptoms of your chronic condition. Maybe they passed fairly quickly, or maybe you needed some help. Either way, your symptoms didn’t go unnoticed.

So. Just when you thought nobody would know about your chronic condition, your symptoms gave you away. Or maybe a few of your co-workers knew you were living with a chronic condition, but they didn’t know THAT might happen.

I recently posted an article on what to do when you experience symptoms of your chronic condition at work. Here’s a link:

I am interested to know how you have handled situations like this. Any stories to share? Advice? Need some help? Looking forward to hearing from you!

27 replies

jlcraig 2013-10-28 12:04:42 -0500 Report

I am a teacher and decided to take a proactive approach. I let my kids know at the first of the year that I have diabetes and that it is nothing to be scared or ashamed of. I explain high and low blood sugars and what I do to treat both. I then review symptoms, and give the kids a procedure to follow if my blood sugar goes low during class. It's basically goes, "do what you are doing and don't bother me while I'm dealing with it. Work on your own until I tell you I'm ready again." This gives me time to treat a low without being disruptive. It hasn't happened very often, but when it does it isn't disruptive or scary for the students and I have nothing to hide.

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2013-10-14 13:42:46 -0500 Report

Dr. Gary,

I think it takes being prepared at home, at work or on vacation. I was diagnosed while working. I had highs and lows all the time. Thankfully, a diabetic co-worker helped me put together what she called a "sugar kit" which was used for my lows. For my highs I drank water with apple cider vinegar to bring it down (we had a fully stocked kitchen so vinegar was always available).

In my kit, I had candy, glucose tablets and my meter with supplies. I had to make sure I replaced items as I used them. It also helps if a coworker is aware and knows the signs to look for. My main problem during that time was the location of my office, my bosses office and the main printer. I always had large print jobs or was in with my boss meant I had a lot of walking to do. I was always low. I had to stop taking the stairs and use the elevator because I was burning up my carbs.

It was a balancing act between my job, my community activities and being diabetic. On evenings when I had to leave work and go to a meeting, I knew dinner would be delayed. While I was winding down my day at the office, I would eat something that was loaded with protien. Halfway through the meeting, I would eat a carb. This kept me going until I could have dinner.

I think if you prepare yourself and be diligent about it, highs and lows at work wouldn't be any more of a problem then having them at home. It helped that at work we all knew who was diabetic and who had heart problems. The CEO made sure that when we had an office party, there were foods we all could eat including the one person who suddenly learned she could no longer eat wheat. We also changed items in the kitchen. We went from sugar to sugar, honey, splenda, equal and natural sweeteners and added sea salt. It pays to be prepared at all times.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2013-10-20 21:30:02 -0500 Report

Hi Joyce,

Thanks for sharing your experiences and advice here. I really appreciate it. You bring up a very good point. There is a way to approach the workplace with a proactive mindset, to cover all the bases in terms of potential emergencies, but to also do everything possible to manage the highs and lows. Nice to hear you had a CEO who was sensitive to diversity of dietary needs.


fatso200 2013-10-14 12:11:54 -0500 Report

I live in an area where people are incredibly stupid, incompetent and inefficient. They're goal is to aggravate me and waste my time. No dr or therpists' office can help me other than to give me a bevvy of meds that raise the blood sugar as a side effect. So I don't give a flying J anymore about diet and excercise. I've lived long enough and this world's gone to hell and it's pointless to stop eating cake and pizza and run on a treadmill. My brother watches his fats and carbs and runs like a maniac on a treadmill because he doesn't want to die. He has nothing to live for anyhow, no love, he doesn't even know how to take a vacation or go anywhere, he's cheap, he quibbles over piddly assed shit and he's a bore. It's like these useless women and they're cancer drama. It's so pointless to try to beat disease. Live well and die.

Lakeland 2013-10-11 21:42:36 -0500 Report

forgive me, maybe my diabetes isn't as bad as you folks, but for me diabetes is easy. it wasn't at first, I went blurry & it did scare me, I didn't realize it was diabetes & I went to an eye doctor who tried to sell me expensive glasses & I'm glad I didn't purchase them because once getting the diet & walking & testing controlled my eyesight is back to normal. At least diabetes is something I can test, whenever I have concerns, I test to know where my numbers are at.

my brother in law has bladder cancer & he had to have his bladder removed & they are worried about it coming back, so out of everything in this world, I'll take the diabetes. So test, take your meds, cut carbs, eat high fiber carbs, add a couple of walks a day ( even the last 3 days of pouring rain I still did my walks). I've seen the horrors of diabetes, my dad had kidney problems & needed dialysis, but he didn't try to take care of it. He ate all kinds of candy & then just gave more insulin to drop his numbers, I'm not going to play that game. I just think a diabetic has more tools at their disposal to try to control it, more so than many other diseases.

There are hard times & strange times when my numbers don't react like they should but try things & write notes down. I do experiment with different foods to see what spikes my sugars. recently I had an infection & had to work with my doctor to get my numbers back, but for me it took a few days but it worked. Best wishes to all diabetics. So far diabetes hasn't stopped me from a normal life.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2013-10-12 20:38:36 -0500 Report

Hi Lakeland,

Thanks for checking in and sharing your experiences. It sounds like you have a really empowered attitude toward diabetes, that you are doing everything you can to stay ahead of the curve. As you said so well, it's a process, with some stops and starts along the way. And you have seen how not taking care of oneself can lead to serious complications.


silvie mae
silvie mae 2013-10-11 06:35:23 -0500 Report

I quit my job because I could not cope with being uncontrolled and the demands of my job. I have considered trying to go back to work but honestly I don't think I can commit to a job. I feel so physically poor so often and the anxiety attacks are so unpredictable. I've been on the pump for 3 months and I was doing great with it. Now suddenly my BG's are out of control for the past 2 weeks. So I feel horrible physically. It's times like this that make me think twice about a job. I don't think I could function effectively feeling this way.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2013-10-11 21:45:41 -0500 Report

Hey silvie mae,

Thanks for checking in and letting us know what's going on in your life right now. Really sorry to hear you are struggling with anxiety and now out of control BGs.

I hope you are working closely with your doctor to see what you need to do to get your blood sugar levels back in control. Are you getting some help with your anxiety? This might be another topic to bring up with your doctor.

I hope you will stay in touch with us. Let us know how you are doing. This is a time to reach out for support. Don't go through this alone.


silvie mae
silvie mae 2013-10-14 15:41:44 -0500 Report

I have a fantastic health care team and I am working on methods to control the anxiety. I after this post I was diagnosed with strep. I now know That was the reason why my sugars went out of control. Since taking antibiotics things are leveling out again. I have been working on ways to make money from home.

Sweetness77 2013-10-10 15:03:27 -0500 Report

This is actually nana_anna, I am on a new page, but I am wondering to, as I might be returning to work soon. I quit working because of how it made me feel while work. Now I need to manage both work and diabetes. It will be interesting.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2013-10-10 22:47:38 -0500 Report


Great to see you again!!! I hope things go well with your return to work. Stay in touch with us and let us know how you are doing. One day at a time! Thanks for checking in!


fatso200 2013-10-10 14:20:24 -0500 Report

Diabetes is a curse and it means living in hell for a lifetime just to avoid dying. Is it really worth it? NO so, says me. I will eat to my hearts content as I've tried to restrictions and can't do it. I don't want to go blind but a good deadly heart attack or stroke would be welcome as I only feel bad. GThe only good thing about being diabetic is it's easier to hasten death when you are sick of living. I will eat high levels of sugar and corn syrup and pasta and cheese. I welcome the chest pain, the nausea and the death. I welcome dying.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2013-10-10 22:44:27 -0500 Report


I am sorry to hear you are so frustrated right now. It sounds like you are just fed up right now. I understand your frustration. But I am hoping you will reconsider, and get back on the path and take care of yourself.

From what you said in your post, I can't help but wonder if you are feeling depressed. That down, hopeless view of life is something that diabetics sometimes experience. It is treatable. So I really encourage you to talk to your doctor about this, and see what he/she recommends.

Here are links to a couple of articles you might find helpful:

Depression is treatable. The first step is to reach out adn ask for help. Get some support. Talk to someone who can listen and not judge you. You also want to talk to your doctor or a diabetes educator about your regimen, and see if there are any changes you could make to help you stay compliant.

I am concerned about you, my friend. I hope you will stay in touch. Don't go through this alone.


tracyMCS 2013-10-08 20:37:39 -0500 Report

i had an episode at work one time and had never hd one before so i wasnt sure it it was sugar high or low..but i worked at a call center and started talking about waffles and pancakes..i dont remember doing this my supervisor at the time saw it and took me outside for some air and laughed at me along with my co workers laughing at me..i just let it go but it made the rest f the time i worked there miserable

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2013-10-09 17:51:58 -0500 Report

Hi tracy,

Thanks for sharing your story. It's an example of how coworkers can be insensitive, and cruel, toward someone who had no control over their behavior. This comes from lack of understanding.

Sometimes coworkers are able to step up to the plate and be supportive, and sometimes not.

Good to see you!


Silicone eyes
Silicone eyes 2013-10-08 13:07:26 -0500 Report

2 of the 3 jobs I've had as an adult there has been at least one trusted coworker with a brain in their heads. I currently work in a research field and have an emergency glucagon kit and a few people that know how and more importantly when to use it. At my old job, there was a guy that was calm as hell and had 911 on the way as he tried to get M&M's and a mountain dew down my throat. I hit 16 that morning and it took 2 coworkers, 2 paramedics, and 1 police officer to hold me down for the shot. I was after all, an adult and completely within my rights to refuse treatment, while asking the female paramedic for her phone number. When I came around, I was extremely embarassed, apologetic, and thankful for a quick thinking, calm coworker. PS, I never did get the phone number.

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2013-10-21 13:49:54 -0500 Report

Silicone it is great that not only did you share the fact that you are diabetic but you had one person in your office to count on. My doctor prescribed a medication that I had to take in the morning. I took it and went to work. By 9am I was so dizzy I could hardly walk. I called the doctor who said he couldn't see me until three days later. That went over like a lead balloon. His office was on the corner where I worked and I made my way down the street. I waited until he was between patients and told him you gave me something that is making me sick and you ARE going to see me right now or I will sue you. He saw me but told me not to take the medication. I went back to work where my best friend told me not to leave my office because people didn't liike seeing me hold on to the wall just to walk down the hall. Another coworker came to my office and called her to come in. She closed the door and proceeded to chew my friend a new butt. It seems several people heard what she said to me and didn't like it. She sent an email to everyone who heard her and apologized. She thought she was doing me a favor. A nurse whom I worked for after the grant ran out for that job heard about me being sick and asked me if I had a zyrtec. I did and she told me to take it and wait a few hours. My symptoms cleared up but I was exhausted.

I was embarrassed when my friend said what she said I couldn't face my co-workers. I didn't know I really looked as bad as I felt. Her idea of thinking she was helping me backfired. I was really angry with her for saying what she said. We have been best friends for over 30 years and still are to this day. I learned to never feel embarrassed about your behavior when you are ill. We can't control what we do and say when we are in a condition where we cannot think or act clearly. So sorry that you didn't get the phone number. As a former EMT, I can say we were trained not to develop a personal relationship with people we treat professionally. Her main focus was getting you back on your feet. Glad they did their job.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2013-10-09 17:48:49 -0500 Report

Hey Silicone eyes,

Great to meet you. Thanks for sharing an excellent story. You had a coworker with what I would call presence of mind, and he was your guardian angel that day. That must have been quite a scene.

A saved life, though a missed opportunity. In balance, you still came out ahead of the curve.


Stuart1966 2013-10-08 10:56:39 -0500 Report

Their "experience" (with my dragon) bought my grim forbearance…

Worked for one company over twenty years. A small company, privately owned. Every day around lunch time I would get 3-4 phone calls EVERY SINGLE DAY…




Not how was I doing with my project, not could I make deposits, if I had a second (ie leave the office and while out _ _T ), and then their true purpose… nope straight for the throat…

Only their intrusive, single question.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2013-10-09 17:44:26 -0500 Report

Hi Stuart,

What you are describing here sounds like being micromanaged and treated like a "diabetes" instead of like a person. That's what can happen when people don't know how to hit the reset button after what sounds like an incident in which you needed help. Sometimes caring can feel like control.

Thanks for sharing this.


Stuart1966 2013-10-25 21:35:41 -0500 Report


The ancient "ghosts of diabetes past"… the others were slain (crushed) by their actions rekindling, reliving it/them whether consciously or not.

They were voyeurs… I was stuck in time-loop, a diabetic ground hog day by their well intended -throat clearing sound- actions.

TaraZinyk 2013-10-07 19:46:31 -0500 Report

I have had lows at work- scary ones. All my coworkers know I have diabetes, know to help me with getting sugar and if the off chance I pass out happens to call 911. I am lucky I work in disability so people have a good understanding of diseases and no one judges :)

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2013-10-09 17:41:29 -0500 Report

Hey Tara,

Nice to see you! Good to know you have supportive coworkers and an emergency strategy in place. If anybody gets what you are dealing with, it's people who work in disability.

Thanks for checking in.


Young1s 2013-10-07 18:04:32 -0500 Report

Nice article Dr. Gary. As I am a stay at home mom (for the moment) I have never had to experience this. But I did have a particularly interesting day today.

My mid-morning check was at 55. Yes, you read that correctly. I immediately call my husband because I wanted him to know what was going on with me. Here's the thing though, I wasn't having any symptoms of a low at all. No jitters or anything. But considering I live in the low 100's I knew this is not where I wanted to be. I got some food in me right away to work on getting it back to normal. Eventually I was but man what a ride.

What if I decided to skip that particular reading? Scary to think about. My hubby called every hour on the hour til he knew I was at a better range. I literally had to beg him to stay at work because I knew what needed to be done. But. hmm, what if I couldn't? That's something to think about too. Especially seeing that I spend the majority of my day (well til about 3pm) alone. Something to think about.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2013-10-09 17:39:14 -0500 Report

Hi Young1s,

I am glad the article was helpful to you.

Wow, that is quite a story. You caught yourself in a risky place with your blood sugar, alerted your husband, and did what you needed to do to bring it back to normal. Sounds like this was a wake up call for you, a reminder to make sure you stay on top of your readings, but also to have a plan in place to handle situations in which you may be in need of help. This might be something for you and your husband to have a conversation about. You might strategize on a backup/emergency plan, which might give you both some peace of mind.

Thanks for sharing this!


kittiebittie 2013-10-07 17:55:59 -0500 Report

This has happened quite a bit recently (working on this, ;) ) with going to the ER for being high, vomiting or being close to passing out. I work retail with a lot of women. It got around quickly after leaving, crying, that I was incredibly high and needed to go to the ER. It was embarassing, but ever since then- I get asked if I am okay a lot and if I need to sit/eat. The bosses are careful that I eat when I am supposed to. That part is nice. They excuse me when it is obvious I am ill. No questions are really asked. I told everyone I was diabetic at work by saying "I need to go shoot up in the bathroom because I need my drugs to live." Can't say I didn't enjoy everyone's horrified reactions. I of course explain why I said that, explain insulin dependancy and so on. I don't want to be embarassed for something other people have too. The embarassment of the ER trip is never going to happen again.

I have some pretty supportive people at work and I am really thankful for that. People try to give meaningful advice and try to be supportive. they ask questions like "Does insulin hurt? How big is the needle? Can you cause it if you like candy too much? How many times do you use that needle? What happens when you have little sugar? What is the difference between 1 and 2? OMG There is more than those kinds?!" Customers have said mean things to me before and a boss stood up for me. "Actually, it's not her weight. . .she is probably type 1. Diabetes runs in her family. It doesn't need to be a weight issue." Diabetes 1 Customer 0. I think I am lucky i have a good group to be around. It most certainly helps. <3

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2013-10-09 17:29:13 -0500 Report

Hey kittiebittie,

Nice to meet you. And thanks a lot for checking in here.

I like that you are able to handle this with a sense of humor, to bring your diabetes out in the open, and to make it okay for others to talk with you about it. And it sounds like you are working in an environment in which it is okay to be open about your diabetes, that you have supportive people who are able to have these conversations with you and are standing by for you, as well as standing up for you. That's teamwork. I am sure you are an inspiration for them, and showing them that there are a lot of ways to be "normal," including to live with a chronic condition.

Stay in touch!


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