The Diabetic Partner Follies, Act 8: Lowest of the Lows

Welcome Folks, to the continuing Diabetic Partner Follies, our special “revue” of what life is like from the other side of the glucose meter.  Partners and loved ones are encouraged to share their experiences — good, bad, or otherwise — with the community.   (To submit your 2 cents, email me here)

This week, I received an email from Kim W, wife of a Type 1 in Ohio “aka the Blood Sugar Police.”   She writes: “After reading Anna Q’s submission, I thought I would write in and share.”  Here’s how it is in Kim’s world at the moment:

Well it’s 2 am in the morning and about an hour ago my husband’s hypoglycemic
tossing and turning woke me, and of course being me I am still awake mostly
because I want to make sure before I go to sleep that our low is corrected and
mostly because I am frustrated after this last low. I decided to come online and
find someone like me that I could talk to. My husband is 33 y/o, has had
diabetes for 23 years, and is an insulin pumper.  Since we have been on the
insulin pump (just over 4 years) we have had an increase of hypoglycemia.
Reasons for this being that my husband is 1) extremely active — plays soccer,
works out insanely, is a registered nurse and runs around at work for 12 hours a
day when he’s there, 2) is a big control freak, as he should be, however I wish
he would realize he doesn’t always have to have a blood glucose between 120 and
150 when it means that he is also taking the risk of also having a blood sugar
of 30.  I wish he could be a little less controled for safety.
 

As time has gone by in our relationship and
hypoglycemia has become ever so present lately, I feel so frustrated with him.
Tonight for instance, I woke up to him tossing and turning in our bed, so I did
the forehead test (usually hypoglycemia = sweaty forehead) and of course it was
wetter than ever.  I nicely asked him to get up and check and of course as it
usually goes he made excuses about it being hot…etc., etc. Finally I had to be
very firm and aggressive to get him up to go check and of course he was horribly
nasty about it. Of course I was right (I don’t know how I know but I just know,
I feel it in my gut) and we had a blood sugar of 30.  I asked him to eat a tube
of glucose gel, (because it works the fastest and the best), but he chose to eat a
granola bar instead, and the gave me tons of attitude when I made him stay up to
recheck. Some people might say something to the tune of “well why can’t he
manage it himself” but they don’t get that with a blood sugar of 30 he
can’t make appropriate decisions about his own care. I know the low blood sugars
affect his thinking and attitude, but sometimes he makes me so angry I just want
to wring his neck! Sometimes I want to call 911 when we are having a low, just
so I don’t have to be the bad guy and because I don’t want to be the one treated
like crap when I am taking care of him, and sometimes I want to call because I
don’t want to be the one to deal with it again all by myself. In the end he’s
always sorry and I know he has no idea what he’s like when a low blood sugar
occurs, but it’s still hard. 
Does anyone else feel this way?

Thanks,
– Kim W.

23 Responses

  1. Chrissie in Belgium
    Chrissie in Belgium November 10, 2006 at 9:11 am | | Reply

    Hi,

    Well I am speaking from the other side – the diabetic side…. I understand your frustration but, but but…… I hear that BUTand realize you must already be annoyed at me…… The thing is that your husband is in a difficult situation. I can only speak of what I know, but it could be that these hypos that come in the night can be hard to predict. Sometimes the hypos WILL follow the very busy days and sometimes they won’t so maybe your husband cannot really plan what to do! I have that problem. My pump is set so that I usually do not have hypos at night, but sometimes they do happen. I hate to tell you but I keep my bg values around 70-80, so I totally sympathise with your husband. His goals are not too low! I also want to explain why I keep my bg values so low, beyond the obvious that this helps lessen eventual “complications”. Also remeber living with the fear of blindness and amputations and loss of kidneys is a reality that all diabetios live with every minute of every day. I have had D for 45 years and am doing fine but this demands careful balancing ….. Any how to get back to the point, I must keep my bg values low at night because once they get higher they start bouncing around. It is harder to get a bg value down than to keep it in a steady good range. Once it gets high you need more insulin to get it down again, and then sometimes it will fall too quickly and you get a hypo and the roller-coaster-ride begins……. It is easier to balance at lower levels. At least it is for me, and maybe for your husband too.

    I totally understand your point of view, and my husband will slwo agree with you, that we can be quite difficult during hypos, to put it nicely!

    Your husband probably wanted to eat a granola bar b/c he was very, very hungry. This happens with bad hypos. The hunger is so strong that it is hard to fight. My solution to this is to NEVER take anything other than sugary coke, for ALL hypos. This gets to be a pattern. It becomes what you do for all hypos, and it doesn’t require any thinking. Coke works very fast, it has a higher GI index than orange juice. Also, I think you husband will see that since it works so quickly he will not be hungry for long so this will make him happy, maybe. But the routine thing is important, because we do not think logically in a hypo. I know you know this! In a hypo, I do not think. I follow set routine patterns. Sometimes I will even be so stupid as to give myself my insulin befor I eat b/c my pattern is test, take insulin, and then eat. That is the pattern before each meal!

    My husband and I have talked about how to handle hypos SO MANY TIMES! He always wants me to eat too much b/c he loves me and just want this to go away. I then have to live with the following high bg levels and the terrible feelings of the low followed by highs…. The best is just to hand your husband the correct amount of coke. With the glass in his hand he will probably drink it. Don’t talk to him, b/c then he will argue! I usually do. So no talk!

    I am sorry this is so tough on you, and i do understand! Maybe i helped a teeny bit.

  2. Kim W
    Kim W November 10, 2006 at 10:22 am | | Reply

    Chrissie,
    While I can appreciate where you are coming from you also have to understand that you don’t know all of the facts about my situation. I know that there will always be lows at any time of the day or night. The problem is that my husbands blood sugars are either in range or they are low. I encourage him to test his basals often to make sure that they are appropriate, but it never seems to happen. Having been with him as long as I have I know how hard it is to find a happy medium and not flip flop. I also understand the complications of diabetes and I fear my husband could one day have kidney failure, diabetic ulcers, blindness, etc…etc.. We will take things as they come and be careful to prevent those things as best we can. However if he dies from a low blood sugar where does that leave me in present day life right now?
    The night I wrote my initial post I left out the fact that my husband was low before he went to bed, after he ate his snack, he didn’t recheck to make sure he had come up before he came to bed, and that was a big reason he had his low that night. As far as the coke or juice idea, believe me I have tried to encourage it, he won’t do it, he’d rather eat this or that. He is very stuck in his ways. Even though your husband probably never says anything I guarantee you he probably gets frustrated and probably feels the same way I do. If I could talk to my husband about the way I feel without hurting his feelings or making him feel the need to be defensive about it I wouldn’t be here for support. The fact is there are just things I couldn’t say to his face and he will never see this because I couldn’t bare for him to. Being in my shoes can be a very frightening, isolating, and lonely place to be. But if I had to do things all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing because my husband is my everything and the good in our life out weighs the bad by far.

  3. Chrissie in Belgium
    Chrissie in Belgium November 10, 2006 at 10:49 am | | Reply

    Gosh i wish i could help more. I am not saying one side iright and the other wrong. My husband and I do talk about this stuff all the time, and I do know he is frustrated and has a hard time too. One has to keep talking, it is the only way to survive this. Both sides are difficult and both sides have to really understand the other’s legitimate fears, worries and concerns. The concerns are caused by love!

  4. Kelsey
    Kelsey November 10, 2006 at 12:13 pm | | Reply

    Hi Kim,

    I’m trying to come up with something helpful and comforting to say, but nothing is coming to me!

    Sounds like you two need to have a heart to heart about how much his hypos upset and worry you. Maybe he’ll look into some ways to avoid the lows if he understood the stress it puts you under?

    Or, maybe his doctor could impress upon him the need to use fast acting carbs to treat lows. Chrissie is right that once you get into a pattern of treating a low the same way, it becomes automatic. Orange Juice works well for me, but I don’t have lows that are severe enough that I can’t walk to the kitchen!

    Good luck with everything!

  5. Christine H
    Christine H November 10, 2006 at 2:09 pm | | Reply

    Hi Kim, I can relate to you for sure. It all sounds too familiar to me. Do you have kids? It’s tough with kids. I have a 9 and 7 year old. If I’m not home and my husband is low, they know the drill how to help him. It’s a very traumatic thing to have to deal with.

    Christine

  6. Michael Park
    Michael Park November 10, 2006 at 2:30 pm | | Reply

    I always feel terrible about how grumpy and unpleasant I get when my sugars are low. At the same time, as bad as he makes you feel, the feeling is just as bad, if not worse for the person experiencing the low. And it’s good that you already are aware of that!
    I think that the degree of diabetes care is one of the biggest psychological issues of the condition. Fundamentally it comes down to living either for the present or for the future(and it’s oh so hard to stay in the middle).Do you shave a few years off the end of your life in order to enjoy the present, or are you extra rigourous even with the risk of running your sugars fatally low.
    On behalf of all diabetics, I thank you and all people who are able to keep us safe even when we can’t think straight.

  7. Judy
    Judy November 10, 2006 at 5:37 pm | | Reply

    Hi Kim

    I am the wife of a type 1 diabetic (on the pump for 8 years) We’ve been married 17 years and we have one daughter, 13. I completely understand what you are going through. I have been searching for support groups for spouses of diabetics in my area, but they don’t exist – yet. I have found much help in reading and chatting on this and other sites. My husband’s diabetes is the reason we’re together (He was signed up for the army when he was diagnosed, but the army changed its mind) but it sometimes feels like the reason that we will break up. We have seen a counselor and it is beginning to help. Feel free to email me anytime. I think that chatting with others is helpful. It puts your own life in perspective and gives you a sense that you are not actually alone with this situation.

    Sincerely,

    Judy

  8. Kris
    Kris November 10, 2006 at 5:56 pm | | Reply

    Hello All,
    In my house I’m called the type 3 diabetic – my life is strongly influenced by diabetes even though I don’t have it. Kim -I laughed out loud and almost wet my pants. I have thought almost all those things. It’s so hard to be the one awoken by the bed shaking from a hypoglycemic seizure. My type 1 gets so low she can’t even drink from a straw, I take the gel and massage it into her gums. She has bolted from the car while I’m trying to drive. She has tried to hit me, swore at me, said mean things. very mean. It sucks. Luckily she’s not too coordinated when she’s in that state – she misses. She feels horrible afterwards. She makes almost all the decisions about programming her pump and giving boluses. I get to clean up the errors. We do talk, a lot. We are collaborating more. We have rules – every time I ask, she will test or drink. She follows the rules. It is lonely being the one awake in night. I mark the time I start to treat the low until she comes back all the way and is cognizant. It’s hard, stressful to make decisions for a grown adult, but you have to. We are doing well. Sometime things are just hard. Other times they are smooth. But it’s always there – Diabetes. Diabetics – please don’t come back with explanations and defenses – just let us have our feelings – ok?

  9. Kim W
    Kim W November 10, 2006 at 7:09 pm | | Reply

    Thank you all for your comments. It’s nice to hear from other spouses of diabetics. I thought that maybe I was the only one out here feeling sometimes the way I do. Christine- My husband and I don’t have children at present but hope to travel that path in the next couple of years. At this point we are trying to get our careers together and actually we have some traveling and exploring that we still need to do before we are tied down to one place. I do worry about having children but not for reasons related to diabetes. Mostly I worry about the world we live in today and how they would do here.

  10. Brian Leair
    Brian Leair November 11, 2006 at 3:27 pm | | Reply

    I’ll try to have my better half comment here as well…

    When I go that low I end thinking and reasoning with just the most bizarre logic and rationalizations. When I’m low, for whatever reason, I am doubly defensive that everything is going to end up self correcting or that it isn’t that serious. It is a very strange form of denial.
    My girlfriend has learned that simple logic and reasoning just won’t penetrate my conscience and I know she ends up both worried and frustrated because I’m not correcting the very real low, I’m not helping her, and most of all I’m ignoring her real distress.

    She’s learned that if she brings me 2 or 3 sweet/forbidden food-stuffs and tells “here, you’ll like one of these” that I will usually eat without the whole debate and fight. The foods that I will accept however seem to change . I can’t explain why, other than it may be something like dreaming where memories of the day’s food temptations emerge as foods that I can/can’t eat.

  11. Heidi
    Heidi November 12, 2006 at 7:36 am | | Reply

    Hi Kim

    Although I too am commenting on this from the diabetic point of view, do know that I fully understand your frustration in these situations!

    I sometimes think that despite we, as diabetics, do a lot of hard work each day to make everything work bg-wise in order to avoid acute as well as long-term complications, the real everyday-Heroes are our significant others, who help us when we are too low to take care of ourselves! I know that I am not always easy to work with during a low, especially not if it occurs during the night. When I am asleep, I am very hard to wake up if low, and even when I start to come out of it, I am usually very reluctant to fully wake up and to the damn test. I must say that I admire the patience of my boyfriend during these episodes! As he says, “I prefer that you are “all out”, because then you don’t fight me so much when I try to load glucose into your system!” He is right about that. I don’t know what it is with the sleepy, hypoglycemic brain, but it is absolutely unable to be sensible (even more than when you are awake during a hypoglycemic reaction!). I am usually in a mode of “no, I am not low, leave me alone and just let me sleep!” It can be so hard for my boyfriend to get me to take the glucose offered by him when I am in this mode. Because of that it usually takes even longer to treat, and there have been times, when he got worried about the treatment not seeming to take effect soon enough, thus calling 112. I hate this as much as I appreciate his concern, because usually by the time the paramedics arrive, I am aware of what is going on, and I do not want to involve them in anything, least of all take me to the ER!

    Fortunately, I do not have too many lows in the middle of the night. More often, the during-sleep-lows occur in the morning where I just not register the alarm clock. Though I would prefer these lows not to occur at all, I am glad that the episodes during the night only occurs a couple of times a year, because I feel sorry for my boyfriend having to be awake for hours in the middle of the night to take care of me. The episodes in the mornings occur more frequently, but are usually resolved rather quick compared to the night time ones, because I need to get up after all so I have to wake up and test – and hurry up because I am already late ;-)

    All the best for you and your husband!

  12. Pete
    Pete November 12, 2006 at 11:46 am | | Reply

    If he is Type 1, why not have him look into going on Symlin to try and avoid them altogether and get better control of the hypoglycemia. If he is Type 2, look into Byetta.

  13. Christine H
    Christine H November 12, 2006 at 5:26 pm | | Reply

    Hi Kim,

    It is a scary place to be in…dealing with a diabetic, but we do it because we love our husbands. Having kids adds a bit a stress to the house of a diabetic. My kids are wonderful and are fully educated on diabetes and know the drill if their father is low and needs help. Sometimes, though, even for the child that knows what to do, the 911 call has to be made. Just last week when I was at work, my kids had to call 911. It’s a sad place to be for kids…the sometimes think he’s dying. But truthfully, my biggest fear is for one of my kids to be diagnosed with diabetes. I know that the percentage is low (6%), but it’s always in the back of my mind. Especially, when they ask for drink after drink!

    I liked the comment by Kris calling herself a type 3 diabetic! …perfectly stated! Take care all. It’s nice to chat.

  14. Dennis
    Dennis November 14, 2006 at 7:45 pm | | Reply

    From the other side of the coin Kim?

    1. I realize a womans mind is to always want to help…But

    1. Your Delaying the Inevitable–meaning keeping him from realizing he isn’t a machine that he can totaly control. I deal with Dozens of Diabetic men ( Both Types) and the ones that have come to terms with it, are those who have been allowed to ” Fall Down, pick themselves up” and the worse ones?

    Are the one’s who have their Spouses helping them and bailing them out all the time.

    I have had several low 40′s and some 30′s and I was more than able to control things, make decisions and do the right things to take care of myself..

    By allowing him to Take care of himself, it force him to focus more, learn from his mistakes and then finally, come to reliaze he has to make adjustments..but as long as he has You there to bail him out, why should he change?

    Be a Wife and not a Mother and wait until He Ask’s you for help next time..

    And he may even need a few trips to the ER before he will finally give in and make changes…

  15. Kim W.
    Kim W. November 17, 2006 at 10:19 pm | | Reply

    Dennis,
    In response to your reply.. I am a wife not a mother. But if I am a mother in your eyes, then oh well, because I’d rather be a mother than a widow. If it means I have to bail him out of low blood sugars then I will, sometimes when he is 30 and 40 he does know what he is doing, and sometimes he really doesn’t. I am not going to abandon him in a low blood sugar either way just to teach him a lesson or prove a point. My real point on this blog was to just share with others in my shoes the frustration I sometimes feel. I wasn’t looking for diabetics who wanted to give there two cents worth. I just wanted the understanding from people who are in the same shoes I am in, after all this is the “Diabetic Partner Follies” Why can’t we just state our feelings as spouses and significant others and not have to defend ourselves because we have those feelings. We are not experts or doctors, we are just people doing the best we can.

  16. AmyT
    AmyT November 18, 2006 at 2:36 pm | | Reply

    Bravo, Kim, you are very right.

    But in order to keep an open forum here, I have to welcome ALL comments — even if people sometimes say things we’d rather not hear.

    Anyway, I for one think it’s wonderful how devoted you are to your partner. I’m learning from The Follies how hard it can be to live with this disease from the “other side”…

  17. Tina
    Tina November 22, 2006 at 3:34 am | | Reply

    Friends, family, and aquaintances of diabetics everywhere,

    I am a diabetic of 6 years now. Though I live in Canada, I can still understand the numbers used in your descriptions of low blood sugars. In Canada, good management is keeping your levels between 5.0 and 7.0. I myself, have experienced many lows. I have had to call the ambulance myself at least once a year since I was diagnosed. Though I do get flustered and sweaty, irritable and shaky, I deal with it myself. I have a husband, but we don’t sleep in the same bed because I can’t sleep if I know I might wake him up. He worries when I go low, but if it happens when he is awake, he quietly watches me and tries to keep my kids from distracting me from what I have to do. I have also dealt with depression for the better part of my life and sometimes wonder “what if I don’t want to fix the low one time?” But I always do. So though you are afraid and maybe feel like its your duty to make your husband deal with his lows, its not. And he will do it if you don’t. Trust in his desire to live. Most of us don’t really want to die, even if we act like we could care less. Maybe one night when he goes low, don’t leave him. But say something like, ” Oh I can’t do this anymore”, and walk off somewhere where you can still see what he is doing. I will guarantee he will get up. If you are very familiar with the patterns of his lows, then you know you do have some time from the time you discover the low, to the time when it becomes critically low. I once went down to 1.2, while my husband watched me drop stuff and fumble through the cupboards and/or fridge and ate and drank everything I could get my hands on untill I felt better. I realize this is not the best way, but it worked. And believe me, I was disoriented. I couldn’t answer questions or anything. I just knew keep eating sugar. Eventually, my sugar came back, but what a scare. After that incident, I make sure that I am never without glucose tablets, which also work very fast. Please don’t feel like I am criticizing you by telling you to try something different. Just remove yourself for 30 seconds to a minute when he goes low and see what happens. Obviously, if he does nothing, then help. But if you can get him to worry about what to do, he might. Be strong. It’s hard to live with us and more people should realize how you all worry. The trick is to get the diabetic to worry.
    Tina

  18. Lisa Cat
    Lisa Cat January 7, 2007 at 12:39 pm | | Reply

    I am crying right now after finding this sight. My partner uses an insulin pump to control his diabetis and for too long his blood sugar lows have been controlling US. I have been looking for a support group for partners and this is the first one I’ve found. I would love to have an e-mail pal going through similar experiences. Is anyone interested?

  19. Lisa Cat
    Lisa Cat January 7, 2007 at 12:51 pm | | Reply

    Oh yeah-my e-mail is lisamecat@aol.com

  20. Lori Hochlerin
    Lori Hochlerin March 20, 2007 at 6:34 am | | Reply

    Hey,

    I would love to have someone to share stuff with. Right now I’m too raw from my husband’s low blood sugar last night to even write about what happened. I’m tired of crying, at work, and tired of always being the employee who’s “going through a rough time”. My whole life has become a “rough time”.
    Lori
    okclub@aol.com

  21. Victoria
    Victoria June 15, 2007 at 12:31 am | | Reply

    Indeed, when I married my husband ten years ago I didn’t realize that there would be anything beyond basic first aid diabetic care to understand. For better or worse, over the years it has become obvious that there are real tolls to hyper and hypo glycemic events which can turn a mild mannered fellow into a very scary person complete with over tones of a serial killer.

    Luckily, my husband (type 1 for 23 years) does all the “right” things, he works out regularly, eats like a monk, takes vitamins/minerals and works really hard to keep diabetes from being an excuse for anything abnormal.

    He is so good with his control that A1C runs around 5.0.

    Unfortunately, for all his efforts over the past year his awareness of going hypo is diminishing. You know things like more cases of bringing groceries in and stopping at front of the door unable to figure out how to open it, sitting down for dinner at a restaurant and by the time the waiter arrives he’s staring around the place with a very scary and disoriented look, and more cases of the initial hit of glucose making him act and say very hurtful things. I know its not him, but the diabetic demon talking, but it hurts, is embarrassing and puts a real damper on dinner with friends.
    (He’s been so rude to some of my friends lately that most are politely distancing themselves.)

    Then, if that’s not crazy enough to comprehend, On an unpredictable time interval of about once a week his blood sugar levels start going high, even though he is eating and exercising the same as the previous days. No amount of insulin will bring it down… until whammo things start behaving “normally” in oh, say, 12 to 36 hours later, when he is exceptionally prone to going low. Needless to say it has all the docs and my dear husband who works so hard to do everything right, very frustrated.

    [Note: this appears to be related to the liver dumping sugar which no one we have come across is able to offer much help with understanding. Fortunately, hubby is very analytical and is gaining a little headway with understanding this on his own, but there appear to be unknown factors play]

    Finally, a few weeks ago, we discovered that at the ripe old age of 45 he has significant osteoporosis in the spine and his hips are not far behind. One of the contributing factors to the bone issue is low free testosterone. His total testosterone levels are actually high on every test that had been done previously so noone knew to look further. Found out about that on my birthday.

    Maybe something in my story will be of help to someone else out there.

    Thank you so much for this forum to speak in and be heard by some with understanding in their hearts.

    Blessings to All…

  22. paul
    paul October 21, 2007 at 4:20 pm | | Reply

    Hello,

    I’m posting this one for Kim and anyone else who suffers the nightmare of treating a diabetic with hypos / low sugars.

    I’m diabetic and my girlfriend now wife has had these problems also. I turn into an asshole for the duration of the hypo and then can’t remeber exactly what happened. I see her screaming and crying as if from the standpoint of a third person and feel awkward knowing that something is definitely amiss. It’s a confusing and bewildering place. A place that I do not like to be.

    Next I hear her voice in anger and torment. I know it is a voice I can trust and do what I am told to do (although the asshole inside me tells me not to).

    That is the best way I can clarify what it is like for a diabetic in hypo. I wish I didn’t have this condition. I also wish that the people closest to me didn’t share this burden.

    But this much I do know. I wouldn’t want anyone else beside me.

  23. steph
    steph November 13, 2007 at 5:35 pm | | Reply

    Wow Kim,

    I unfortunately know exactly what you are going through. My husband(type 1 diabetic)also seems to be able to be in control except for when I am present. Sleepless nights, verbal abuse(not that they are aware) I realize that it is harder on them because they truely live with the affliction. However, the fear the helpless position and the hardships we face in this whole situation is so understated. I have spent years of sleepless nights. I have had many ruined outings with friends. He has been in major danger a few times from a hypoglycemic event. He can be so mean, yet I save his life and he just doesn’t remember. I love him like crazy, (24 years and counting) however it does make me crazy!!! I feel like I have Post Tramatic Stress Syndrome. Yet nobody gets me. Thank you for posting.

    I needed it.

    Sincerely,
    Stephi S

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