Everything I Know About Diabetes I Learned From Watching Steel Magnolias | Charming Diabetes

Everything I Know About Diabetes I Learned From Watching Steel Magnolias

So Steel Magnolias was on TV last week. It’s been approximately forever since I’ve seen that movie, but I couldn’t help myself. Had to watch. After all, this classic is like an old amigo to me. It taught me everything I needed to know about Diabetes back in the day.  Maybe I’m partial because I’m from Nashville (Hello, Dolly!), or maybe it’s cuz I love the 90’s (ok I think it came out in ’89 but I saw it a million times in the 90’s),  but  seriously when I was first diagnosed, EVERYTHING I knew about Diabetes came from Steel Magnolias. To this day some of the lessons I picked up way back then ring in my head. And they also HAUNTED me for years! They day my youngest child turned 2, I celebrated because I could FINALLY stop worrying I’d end up like Julia Roberts in Steel Magnolias. Milestone Reached!! steel magnolias

#1. LOW BLOOD SUGAR MAKES YOU TWITCH: First up, that scene where they’re getting their hair done and Julia Roberts starts twitching and freaking out is, I always thought, Hollywood drama at it’s best. Psssshhh, that doesn’t really happen, I’d think to myself. That was until my blood sugar got low enough to twitch. Mayyybe it’s exaggerated a bit for dramatic effect in the film, but Don’t mess around people!  Low blood sugar (really low, 30ish) totally makes me twitch.  At the very least it can cause trembling and loss of coordination. And you can bet the first time it happened my mind went straight to poor Shelby from Steel Magnolias! Well, after I drank some juice and got my mind back, that is.

photo credit: emerysboard.tumbler.com

photo credit: emerysboard.tumbler.com

#2 LOW BLOOD SUGAR CAN MAKE YOU MEAN: Same scene at the hair salon. Remember how mean Shelby (Julia Roberts’s character, aka the-one-you-identify-with-the-moment-you-get-diabetes) is to her mom (Sally Field) when she’s trying to get her to drink juice?!! She tries to smack it away, and says no, and then Truvy (my girl Dolly Parton) tries to offer a cookie. Oh my! I put this one away in my memory bank as a Hollywood myth too–until, once again, Diabetes surprised me and I got all snappy when someone told my blood sugar must be low. On a side note–pointing out that a diabetic’s blood sugar when they’re acting a certain way is much like telling a woman she must be “hormonal” or “PMS-ing” in the middle of an argument—even if it’s true you probably shouldn’t bring it up. It WILL end badly for you.  It has only been a problem for me as I’ve gotten older, and had more extreme episodes of hypoglycemia. I’ve definitely been accused of being a bit more aggressive and irritable.

#3 JUICE IS BETTER. This one’s my fave. It’s my personal motto 🙂 It still rings in my head when I’m scouring the cabinets for cookies to treat low blood sugar. Juice is Better. Shelby, Baby, Drink Your Juice!

drink your juice, shelby

couldn’t stop myself..

#4 YOUR MOM SUFFERS TOO. Poor M’Lynn can’t even be excited for her daughter trying to have a baby because of the additional strain it might put on her. Ultimately she’s just like any other mother with a sick child would be: terrified. As someone who has diabetes I spend a lot of time making decisions about food, and exercise taking care of myself, and while those decisions don’t always end well, I’m the one in the driver’s seat. I feel like I’m the only one dealing with the consequences sometimes, but parents and those who love us deserve some credit too. Mothers of diabetics in particular have such an important and difficult job, watching over us, driving us to appointments, picking up medication, teaching us, loving us, supporting us, cooking for us, crying with us. As diabetics we do not suffer alone. I’ll step of my soapbox now, but go hug your mama!

#5 PREGNANCY AND DIABETES IS A MONSTER. I never really thought about what it might be like to deal with being pregnant and diabetic, until I watched Steel Magnolias with Diabetes!! And then I realized OMG it’s going to be horrible!! The reality is, there are so so many treatment options and working closely with your doctors to monitor your blood sugars and a handful of other factors can make it totally safe for most diabetics to have happy healthy pregnancies. But it’s not easy! It’s hard work, and all those hormones swirling around don’t make it any better. From managing cravings and extra insulin, to weight gain, to that round of morning sickness that happens right after you’ve taken insulin–it’s a beast. Totally worth it, obviously! But hard work, nonetheless.

#6 DIABETES WILL RUIN YOUR KIDNEYS. Yep, Shelby taught me all about how to fear dialysis and renal failure. Fortunately there is lots of hope these days for people with Type 1 diabetes. Treatment has come a long way, and insulin pumps and sensors can do so much to help keep blood sugars under control thus stemming the tide of adverse effects that can happen to your diabetic body over time. But let’s get real–the threat of damage to eyes, kidneys, feet, nerves, etc. is very, very real.

Time out, I better go check my blood sugar… Ugh. 146 mg/dL. I was hoping I could impress you all with a glowing 91 or something, but this is my real life. For the record, one day this happened…

blood glucose check


#7 YOU NEED AN EMERGENCY PLAN. That scene when *spolier alert* Julia Roberts collapses as her baby son crawls around her on the floor, only to die later, is one of my biggest fears as a mother with type 1 diabetes and young children. Aren’t the fears that have an actual basis in reality the worst? I know, I know, someone watched way too many movies as a kid. But as someone who has in fact had a low blood sugar episode where I blacked out I can tell you, it can sneak up on you. If you struggle with low blood sugars like I do, don’t be afraid to let people know, and let them know what your symptoms might be, so that if they get a confused phone call from you, they know to follow up. That exact scenario has saved my life, but that’s a story for another day.  Especially if you happen to be diabetic and an introvert, it can be difficult to put it out there to people in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re under a microscope or socially awkward, but find a way to talk to those closest to you, and let them know the specific steps they should take if you should have a dangerous low. If I have a busy work schedule, or a change in routine or activity, I am even more diligent about checking my blood sugars. My husband knows how to use a glucagon shot, and as soon as my kids are old enough they will too. Because nobody wants to go out like that. drink your juice Drink your juice!!   xo Sara

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