Diabetes Affects Both of Us!

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Last night I was having a conversation with a good friend who inquired about referring someone to my educational and therapeutic services. She was telling me about a situation that happened to the person’s husband. As she talked and I listened, my analytical mind couldn’t ignore the obvious issue in front of me. 

I would not only need to work with the person’s husband on self-care and self-protection but I would also need to see them as couple as well.

This is what was obvious: It is not just the husband who is struggling with diabetes… They are both struggling with it. 

The wife has her own issues about the diabetic conditions affecting their relationship and safety, just as the husband has his own self-care management issues. 

The husband was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes in his teens and he is in his 40’s now. He is struggling with controlling his diabetes. This is a fairly common scenario for my clients.  

In my clinical opinion, they are both struggling. He is having his own challenges with accepting his diabetes and getting it under better control. She is struggling with accepting that he has a chronic illness that requires 24/7 monitoring. It is obvious that she loves him and cares about him but she is at a loss for what to do to effectively support him. 

Most diabetics reading this would say accepting diabetes is a tough thing in itself, no matter how long you’ve lived with it. It is even harder to live with if you are in denial or afraid of change. 

The fact is: diabetes requires a constant changing of plans and lifestyle, sometimes from day to day or even moment to moment.

Diabetes also affects more than just the person with it. It affects everyone around the diabetic.

In this particular case, the diabetic husband had a severe low blood sugar reaction that led to a diabetic seizure and him needing an emergency hospitalization. I listened further to the wife’s reaction and the husband’s subsequent feelings about going into the hospital. 

She was frustrated with him because, for him, once he came home the episode appeared to be over for him. For her, the diabetic episode had left a massive wake of worry, panic and disruption of the lives of those around him. His struggle with controlling his diabetes disrupted and affected everyone in their family. 

Unfortunately the elephant in the room is in full effect here because it is never over for the diabetic after a severe reaction. Most diabetics sit in silent shame and guilt feeling as if they should have prevented the reaction. They feel deep sorrow for those they impact. It’s unfortunate and often difficult to verbalize to the ones a diabetic loves. 

Now, because she cares so much and she is also understandably frightened by this recent incident, it has now gotten to the point where the wife wakes up the husband in the middle of the night to test his blood sugar levels to make sure he’s okay. 

This, unfortunately, is not that uncommon between significant others who share their relationship with diabetes. 

In most relationships, husbands and wives care deeply about the health and safety of one another. After all, don’t you watch your husband or wife every time they take a shower to make sure they don’t fall?  Maybe not every time, but if you hear a weird noise, don’t you go running to see if he or she is okay? 

When a diabetic is involved in a relationship, the focus can become the diabetes. It affects the diabetic partner’s behavior and mood and, at times, things can get very intense between the couple. This same behavior can also affect the entire family, close friends and even co-workers. 

Low, fluctuating and high blood sugars are not intentional. They are more akin to stubbing your toe on the corner of a table. An accident! They are the result of an uncontrollable variable that the person/diabetic didn’t see, causing sugars to be at one level or another and out of control. 

Every day, every moment, every second is different than the last. The diabetic never knows when it may happen, just like stubbing your toe. You do your best to control it, but it still happens.

Low, fluctuating and high blood sugars are part of even a very stable and well-controlled diabetic’s daily life. They are part of the package and come with the person you love. 

If they could, you, your husband, wife, best friend or co-worker would make the diabetes, feeling ill often, sudden visits to the hospitals, turning around because they forgot to bring the shot/meter/Glucophage injection, the depression from the highs, the distracted moments of the lows, and a lot more BS than you could ever imagine – all just go away. 

So you have a choice: You can let the diabetes destroy a perfectly good and loving relationship or you can get help. 

You can accept the diabetes with patience or fight the reality that your husband or wife or best friend or co-worker is a diabetic and that plans will always be subject to change. This fight will cause continued frustration and anger. If you fight the reality, diabetes will become the elephant in the room and you both will lose. 

For right now, let me offer a pointer and a simple change that may be very hard for many people. It takes a lot of practice to do but it can make a world of difference.  

When something happens with a diabetic that changes your plans, whether it is a sudden trip to the hospital or just taking a few moments to sit on a bench while your diabetic friend or significant other tests his/her blood sugar and then rests while recovering from low blood sugar, don’t get frustrated. Be patient.

This stuff happens all the time.  No matter how in control of your blood sugar you are or your significant other is, these things will happen and they’ll continue to happen. 

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My advice is to learn to go with the flow, accept change, enjoy life and each other, and live in the here and now. 

If you’re having challenges with this advice or if you’re thinking to yourself, “Easier said than done, Eliot,” go get help if you’re struggling with your diabetes or struggling with relationships where diabetes is the elephant in the room.

If you are having a diabetic seizure every month or if you are struggling quietly with the management of your own diabetes, please go see someone who can help you figure it out – someone like me who is a psychotherapist specializing in diabetes, a Certified Diabetic Educator or your endocrinologist.

I’m proud to offer my services to diabetics and those who love them so they can lead better and healthier lives. 

I greatly appreciate you!

Thank You!

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