The Diabetic Partner Follies, Act 2: Night Visitor

Welcome to the second edition of the Diabetic Partner Follies, a new series here at DiabetesMine.com in which we (meaning myself and the good man behind me) invite the “significant others” of diabetics everywhere to speak out.

The idea is that partners of PWDs should have a forum to exchange experiences, ideas, frustrations, and even some occassional smiles, we hope.

Today, we hear from Anna Q, author of Life with a Spouse, one of only two known partner blogs. (The other being Wife of a Diabetic, written anonymously, a window into a much darker world where the PWD in question is not taking care of himself and both partners suffer the consequences.)

Anna Q, on the other hand, describes her life this way:
I’m 38 years old, married 13 years to a Type 1 diabetic hunk. I have a very “spirited” toddler son and a very sweet baby daughter. On my quest for answers and education on things Diabetic, I didn’t find any online support for spouses/ partners… so she started her blog, and later jumped right in here at “The Follies,” including creating this lovely Wedding Photo.

Wedding2

Anna writes eloquently about how life with her beloved PWD, Jack, has shaped her own sense of self. Read on.

* Night Visitor *

SCHRRR…BUMP BUMP…CRRR…CRASH…

I startle awake, my most paranoid senses on alert. The bedroom is pitched in moonless black, but I clearly hear intruder noises from the living room. And he (she?) is not being subtle about rampaging my apartment. My heart pounds as I shake my husband awake (thank the stars for 6’1″ husbands who will charge out with male-ego blazing!). But Jack does not respond. Instead, he is slick with sweat, so hot, and starting to shake. He is in the middle of a hypoglycemia.

It is 6 months into our brand-new marriage, in a brand-new apartment, and (stupidly) I haven’t learned yet to keep a glucose source in the bedroom. I also still carry faith in my girlish dreams of an invincible prince/husband (oh yeah, all that Cinderella/helpless princess crap persists despite my best intentions).

As Jack slips further into his low, my choice is clear: I need to confront the intruder to get Jack his glucose fix. So with some effort, I grow instant balls, silence the cringing princess, and grab the only available weapon – a plastic curtain rod from the floor. Of course, unless I directly jab the intruder in the eye with deadly precision, the rod is just sturdy enough to disable a bunny.

I inch towards the noise, responsibility for my husband’s well-being pushing me out, fear almost keeping me back. As I reach the living room, I quickly flick the lamp on and the light reflects off a pair of slit eyes. We stare at each other, both in frozen surprise, then the cat turns and bounds out the window into the night.

What I learned that night was:
1) To always, always, keep glucose in the bedroom.
2) To close the windows at night.
3) That there would be times in my marriage when I would be utterly alone to face fears, make decisions, and take action.
4) That there would be times when my husband’s health rests in my hands.

Those would seem to be quite basic and obvious, but a splash of cold reality for a cossetted and lazy 25-year-old.

Throughout the next 14 years, diabetes has been a constant and petty intruder into our relationship. It has, at different times, robbed my love for Jack, my respect for him, and my kindness towards him. It is an ever-present threat to peaceful days, health, and adds another burden to marriage (which, even under the best of circumstances, is more work than I could have ever predicted).

And yet, every time it does damage, it also does good. It reminds me to love him, and respect his personal burden, and how well he’s dealt with this beast slung about his neck for so many years. It’s fostered patience and understanding where I was sorely lacking. It’s turned me from coddled girl to reluctant warrior princess (able to brandish a curtain rod at errant alley cats!). It reminds me that I chose him when I decided to marry him. And that I continue to choose him for reasons beyond my comprehension (heh heh)…for reasons beyond his diabetes.

– A.Q.

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16 Responses

  1. Scott K. Johnson
    Scott K. Johnson July 13, 2006 at 8:56 am | | Reply

    This is great. Thank you Amy & Thank you Anna Q!

    My wife is great. Very supportive, very patient, very tolerant, and just a beautiful person, inside & out.

    But I think that at time my diabetes scares her, and she does not like to communicate about it. It is helpful for me to read the experiences of partners, to get some exposure to their perspectives. It will help me understand the feelings that my wife expresses.

    Thank you!

  2. Judy
    Judy July 13, 2006 at 11:15 am | | Reply

    Thanks Amy and thanks Anna Q. You two have inspired me more than you can know. Being the wife of a diabetic is scary yet beautiful thing. His diabetes really has made us better people and that’s what I need to focus on. I am working on a story to have you post. I think this is just what the doctor ordered for me.
    ~A millions thanks.

  3. Rachel
    Rachel July 13, 2006 at 6:11 pm | | Reply

    Anna Q, I definitely hear you on these things after my husband’s hypoglycemic seizure in 11/04…

    3) That there would be times in my marriage when I would be utterly alone to face fears, make decisions, and take action.
    4) That there would be times when my husband’s health rests in my hands.

    It was certainly a direction-changing experience for me.

  4. melissa
    melissa July 14, 2006 at 8:07 am | | Reply

    Thank you for the wonderful insight into what those who live with us that have diabetes go through. I am trying to get my hubby to write something about how he feels about my diabtes but it probably won’t happen :) He says he has already told me that if he could he would take it all away and that he could never do the shots. Thank you both!

  5. d
    d July 18, 2006 at 5:37 pm | | Reply

    But what about Scared to Health?

  6. The hardened wife
    The hardened wife August 7, 2006 at 9:37 pm | | Reply

    I have been married to a type one diabetic man for 17, almost 18 years. We dated for 4 years prior to marrage. He was diagnosed with diabetes at age 8 years. I feel like people see me as a cold hearted monster as I write this. . . but. . . I have had enough!! I need a billboard, not this note to make any sense of it but that is the way I feel. He has a pump and seems fairly well controlled with few complications so, what am I crying about you say? I feel so alone with him. Living with him has been like living with an aloholic at times. We have a lot of baggage, but for me diabetes is the one more case that will knock me down. I am tired of not being able to trust him. “It is not me, it’s my diabetes” he will say. Well it is all the same to me. Most of the time his sugars are in control but when they are not, he is not! I have three girls. At times I have had to protect them from him as he can be like a drunk who acts and says things he does not mean. He does not like it when I ask for an apology after his sugar runs low and he is difficult to deal with. I have had panic attacks before which I think are related to all the uncertainty. I know life is uncertain but, this is different. It is a known uncertainty that is always there. I can never escape from it. I have expressed this over and over to him. He says, “what can I do”. I think to myself, nothing. Everyday for several years now I experience divorce dreams. I realize divorce would be extremly hard on everyone including myself. But what I truely fear the most are complications from diabetes and my angry reaction. That would be so ugly I could not stand myself. I would not wish complications on anyone especially him. He would be the one suffering everyone would say but he is never the only one. He would just be the obvious one. I know this sounds like junior high but I often wonder if I am keeping him from someone who would care for him better. He is a beautiful man, very attractive in that way. I know if I were not there he could start over with someone who would be in if for the long haul. You don’t know how much I wish that could be me, but it is not. By the way please don’t recommend therapy. I have been down that road with him. If he were not diabetic would I want to hang in there. Yes, I think things would still be difficult due to our baggage but we could get a cart and push it together. Now we are just trying to each carry it alone.

  7. AmyT
    AmyT August 9, 2006 at 9:16 am | | Reply

    Hi d,
    I’m terribly sorry to hear about your situation. Far be it from me to recommend any specific course of action.

    All I can say is that if your husband truly does have his diabetes in check “most of the time,” then it most likely isn’t the disease that’s wrecking the relationship. There are likely other forces at work. The diabetes can just make tough situations harder, for sure!

  8. Terry
    Terry September 24, 2006 at 7:02 pm | | Reply

    I loved reading your follies. I have been married to my diabetic husband for 1 year and 10 months and we date for about 3/4 years. He was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 1 and is now 33 years old. He is on the insulin pump and pretty much has his sugar under control. We are trying to have a baby and are very happy most of the time. I am 27 years old and love him so much. At times I struggle with his lows and highs and the way they affect his moods. Today, we had a bad day…his sugar was messed up for most of the day so he was very to himself and irritable. He was very tired and went to bed at 8:00pm. I am working on my masters degree so had some work to do on the computer and had to leave bed because he was so tired. I started looking online to find a support group for wives of diabetics and finally found this site. Your right about the diabetes doing damage and also good. But I am also scared…because we are trying to have a baby and I dont want to have to apoligize to our children for his bad moods due to highs and lows. How have you handled this?
    Thanks for your posting…it reminded me of the reasons I love my husband so much!
    Thanks – Terry

  9. ruth kamnitzer
    ruth kamnitzer December 3, 2006 at 7:22 am | | Reply

    its good to hear other people have the same problems. For me, the birth of my first child two years ago really changed the way my husbands diabetes impacts on my/our lives. How do you chose when both your child and your partner need you? How do you protect your child from the hurtful things a diabetic says during a low? How do you explain to a two year old why his dad has collapsed on the bed, why he is screaming at mom, or throwing furniture around? and why, when you try to explain to the diabetic that he shouldn’t be playing with his son during a hypo because he might hurt him, does he not get it?

  10. Mary
    Mary January 2, 2007 at 11:17 am | | Reply

    Hi. I am reading your emails and feeling much better. I have been married 22 years to a diabetic who is usually the most wonderful person. We have had some extremely scary experiences that are a nightmare. Yesterday’s was one of the worst. I usually am successful at keeping the scary scenes with hime away from my 2 teenage daughters, but yesterday my 16 year old was in the room to witness a “low scene”. I was trying to get him to drink some juice. He is yelling at the top of his lungs at me, throwing a chair, and finally came at me with a scary look on his face…he is very strong. He grabbed by arms and began squeezing with all his strength. To make a long story short. I of course an fine..got him to drink the juice etc. My daughter ran out of the room saying “I hate you”. He never remembers all of these scenes and thinks I exaggerate when I tell him he needs to talk to her! This disease has definitely chipped away at my love for him. It is scary and I resent his lack of remorse for these episodes. Partly of course because he says he can’t help it. I have been looking for a site where I can speak to other women who deal with this. I also, have had thoughts of divorce. I am not ready to end our life together, but definitely wonder if I can deal with this “forever”. We are happy people for the most part, work together and have 2 wonderful children. It is very stressful for me to keep this part of him under control.

  11. victoria
    victoria June 15, 2007 at 12:40 pm | | Reply

    Well said!!!

    The only thing I could add is that being in a significant relationship with someone who deals with Type 1 diabetes, even with extreme care, is under the best of circumstances a challenging path.

    It’s not just about being ready for diabetic first aid.

    When the “demon” of discomfort comes out in a hypo or hyper-glycmemic event, it can be really difficult to discern what is coming from the prickliness of unbalanced chemistry vs. what is a real issue of our loved one’s subconscious wanting to lash out at us.

  12. Shelly
    Shelly September 15, 2007 at 10:58 pm | | Reply

    My husband was diagnosed at 21 with Type 1 diabetes and has been living with this life sentence for the last 14 years. We met 4 years later after his diagnosis and have been married for 9 years. I remember my parents cautioning me about how challenging it would be to live with diabetes but I really had no idea just what kind of a battle would ensue.

    My husband lives a really active life — he’s in great shape, avoids sweets, and treats, has a physically active job as an auto mechancic, and really in so many ways is healthier than most guys his age because he is so conscious of making healthy lifestyle choices.

    We have two active boys who are 7 and 5. Our 7 year old dreams of becoming a doctor and finding a cure to diabetes, along with a way to “bring dead things back to life” and building a time machine. He knows all to well the effects of diabetes– how to pick up on the lows and has been on the other end of nasty low rants of rage. For his 7th birthday party he asked his friends to make donations to diabetes research instead of bringing him gifts. He’s such a wise old soul!

    My husband started using a Medtronic pump with Real Time Blood Glucose Monitoring 1 year ago and it has increased the quality of our lives significantly; however, we still encounter more highs and lows than I’d like to admit. The Continuous Blood Glucose monitor gives a fair number of false readings and is far from perfect.

    One night my husband forgot to check his blood before leaving work and must have been going low before he left. He couldn’t find the exit to get home and got lost. He knew that he should pull over and call for help but his body just wouldn’t listen to his brain. Ecentually he found his way home but it was just by the grace of god that he made it home without hurting himself or someone else. He was so upset and does make a conscious effort to check his bloid before getting behind the wheel when he’s not already going low. It’s all those times when he’s already on his way low that worry me!

    He gets very oppositional when low and high and I’m finding it is taking more and more of a toll on me. I find it hard to trust him — not because he is deceitful — but because he cannot make good choices when he is in a low or high state. He gets irrational and argumentative and I find him a challenge to deal with — I worry about what will happen to all of my boys when I am not home. When he is high and argumentative, I finally have learned not to engage him and to go to bed which is best for my own peace of mind but that makes him all the more upset which elevates his blood sugar all the more. So, it feels like we loose no matter which action I take.

    Most days I feel like I have three children to worry about and I’m starting to feel like more of a caregiver to my husband than a spouse. Our children have been coached and know to call for help if I’m not around but I worry that my husband will prevent them from taking the action they need to in order to help him. They recognize the signs and alert me to when Daddy is not acting normal if I am busy or pre-occupied with something else.

    I already see our quality of life slipping away from us and worry about our ‘golden years’…. I am so relieved to have found a common voice and a place to read about others’ experiences living with a diabetic spouse. It’s nice to find kindred spirits!

  13. Lynn V
    Lynn V September 26, 2007 at 12:09 pm | | Reply

    Does anyone deal with a diabetic husband that goes on drinking binges? It can get ugly.

  14. Holly
    Holly September 27, 2007 at 9:20 am | | Reply

    I am so thankful to find this site. I have been praying for some information to pass on to my future daughter-in-law as she marries my son who has Type 1.

  15. Lynda
    Lynda February 5, 2012 at 10:15 am | | Reply

    My husband has been batteling diabetes for about 3 yrs now and i have to say we are having a really hard time with it, he has become totally irrational and a “grump” everyone walks on eggshells around him and its really affecting out lives. Is there any type of support group for the people around diabetics to learn how to cope? thank you for any information you have on this.
    Lynda

  16. mica
    mica May 4, 2013 at 4:44 pm | | Reply

    oh my golly when I read Amy ts comment
    I wanted to burst into tears.
    I often feel someone stronger cld do better for telling myself he is actually a kind person but my failure to deal with my frustrations and his diabetes the route of our problems.
    I met him as a type 1diabetic. We quickly had 3children togethr. other stressors death of only surviving parent friends redundancy. But the unpredictabiliy of his diabetes and his failure to either apologies for abuse giving during lows to myself and children. Even the lack of support if I were ever ill seemed he felt he coped with more. I find hardest
    our children find him unpredictable lazy uncaring. I have moved out of the bedroom so he keeps bags of chocolate with him and eats lots of sugar laden food. he very rarely monitors as he complains about sores being problematic for his job as a mechanic. i am not entitled to knowing his sugar levels but obliged to deal with its effects.
    when he is in agood place he is very kind compassionate but those times are few and less and less.
    I guess relevant to diabetes is as a partner there seems like no support it’s an unusual place. if only s ranked high in my thoughts.

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