Awhile back, I read an article by Kerri on the Six Until Me diabetes blog about how her disease affects her marriage. It inspired me to reflect on the intersection of diabetes with my own marriage.
Diabetes Was Present From the Beginning of Our Relationship
My diabetes was one of the first topics of conversation when I met the man who would become my husband. I had just been prescribed insulin for the first time about a month before we met and the nurse had not bothered to properly demonstrate how to inject myself. I was struggling to use a syringe and vial because I didn’t have insurance and couldn’t afford an insulin pen. Between my mother (a nurse), and my now-husband, who was a Navy Corpsman (medic), I finally learned more effective and less painful ways to inject my medicine.
One of the funniest moments regarding diabetes and my relationship came about a week after the first weekend we spent together. He went in for some routine bloodwork and discovered that his blood sugars were high enough to warrant his own diagnosis of diabetes. He had been tested many times in the past and had never had a problem. So now we like to joke, “I am so sweet, I gave him the sugar diabeetus!”
In those first few weeks and months after Steve’s diagnosis, I helped him understand how to change his diet and how to interpret his blood sugar numbers. I taught him about the Dawn Effect when he was getting frustrated with persistent high BG numbers in the morning. We figured out together the substitutions we needed to make when we ate out at restaurants.
Diabetes Impacted Our Wedding Night
We had a whirlwind nine month romance, and then we got married. The timing of our first ceremony (there were two, in different parts of the country) was due to the fact that I needed health insurance. I had signed up for an ACA plan that was charging me around $400 a month, and I was needing quite a bit of care for my diabetes and complications. This wasn’t sustainable on my income at the time. I am eternally grateful for the insurance I now have through Steve, which I believe has saved my butt in a number of ways.
I wrote about how diabetes impacted my wedding night in an article I wrote during Diabetes Blog Week 2017, “The Wedding Day Diabetes Blooper.”
Diabetes is a Constant Companion In My Marriage
In day-to-day life and diabetes management, the disease is a frequent topic of conversation for us or it indirectly affects other conversations and activities. We both test our sugars every morning and share our numbers with each other. We talk about when we might need to be better with our dietary choices when we see our numbers creeping up. I check Steve’s feet for him regularly, to make sure he doesn’t have any wounds where he can’t see them. And we both attend each other’s doctor’s appointments, to make sure we don’t forget anything and so we can both take in the doctor’s advice.
I have to inject insulin at least once a day and that often interrupts whatever else I was doing at the moment. Sometimes I forget my daily injection, if I can’t stop what I’m doing the moment my insulin alarm goes off, and so my husband will often help remind me to take it as soon as it’s feasible.
When I have lows, especially in the middle of the night, my husband will fetch my testing kit for me, along with a juice box and a protein bar. He’ll turn the fan on full blast to help me cope with the sugar crash hot flash. He is very attentive and ready to step in to help with the testing kit, if necessary.
He vividly remembers the time he woke up to see me with my testing kit open on my lap in the middle of the night. I was just staring at it, not able to figure out what to do next. My sugars had plummeted to the point that I couldn’t think clearly. That was scary enough for both of us that he insisted I wake him whenever I woke up feeling “weird.” I’m to use the word “Help” even if I don’t actually need it, because that word triggers the Navy medic in him to come to full wakefulness immediately. He then checks in to see where I’m at and stays alert until the danger has passed and my sugars are coming back up.
I also have diabetic macular edema, which requires medications to be injected directly into my eyeballs every few weeks. I need my husband with me during those traumatic procedures. They don’t actually hurt much (usually), but I have never gotten completely over the fear that I or the doctor might move at the wrong moment or that he didn’t use enough numbing drops before the needle or whatever.
So I insist on holding my husband’s hand during each injection. Thankfully, that doesn’t bother him too much. I know some people who would not be able to be in the room with me during those injections, so I’m so incredibly grateful to have him!
Diabetes is a Part of Our Lives & Marriage
Diabetes affects our lives in so many ways, but it is simply a part of our marriage. We both have it, we both have to manage it, albeit in different ways, and we support each other through the process.
It’s vital, if you’re in a relationship, that your partner understand the dangers of having diabetes. Just as important is having someone be emotionally supportive. This disease affects every aspect of our lives and can be overwhelming, draining, depressing. Having a loving, supportive partner can ease the stress associated with trying to manage all the logistical aspects as well as the emotional toll of diabetes or any other chronic condition.
If you don’t have a partner, I urge you to find some other kind of support system. Good friends and family members can form part of this network. Attend in-person diabetes support group meetings in your area. And plug into the diabetes online community (#DOC); it’s full of helpful and inspiring people who can quickly become sources of moral support and accountability partners. Don’t suffer alone.
How has diabetes affected your relationships? Please share your story in the comments!
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