The Diabetic Partner Follies, Act 18: How Do You Stay Calm?

Time for another edition of the Diabetic Partner Follies, where the significant others of the PWDs (people with diabetes) are invited to share their experiences — for community building and a bit of strategizing, perhaps.

I say “strategizing” because today’s entry comes from a partner who’s very concerned. She’d like to hear how others manage. Take a read and please feel free to add your 2 cents in the comments section below this post.

[Keep in mind also that original submissions to the Follies are always welcome. Just email me your stuff HERE.]

Hi Amy,

I just came across your blog today and I LOVE it! I’ve been the partner of a “brittle” (fragile?) Type I diabetic for about three months now and have learned an awful lot in a very short time. We’ve learned to manage things together pretty well, and there really haven’t been any serious emergencies that I couldn’t handle (knock on wood), though she does sometimes drop very low very quickly.

I’ve become very attuned to her blood sugar, to the point where I can actually anticipate lows way before she does (in part because she sometimes experiences hypoglycemic unawareness, but also just because we spend so much time together).

However, the problem is that we don’t live together and, being only 3 months into a relationship, are making an effort to still spend the occasional night apart. This causes me an unbelievable amount of worry. Logically, I know it’s probably okay. She wakes up automatically when she’s low at night and manages things herself, and she lived alone for a couple years before I showed up and did just fine.

However, this does little to reassure me when I’m lying in bed alone at night in my apartment, scared to death that she might not be OK, and trying my best to resist the urge pick up my phone and check on her… Some weeks are worse, blood-sugar wise than others, and when she’s had a lot of lows I have a really hard time not insisting that I stay over.

I wondered if you or anyone might have some ideas as to how I might learn to calm my anxieties, either by suggesting work that I can do to relax, and/or strategies for her in emergencies. She keeps juice by her bed and in the bathroom, and as far as I know always sleeps next to her phone. Even as I write this, I think, “then why are you so worried?!” but I am, and I’m hoping other partners can sympathize…

Thanks in advance.

- A.C.

Dear AC, I’m betting lots of other can sympathize indeed. Guys??


11 Responses

  1. Jonathan
    Jonathan December 14, 2007 at 8:34 am | | Reply

    I’m a PWD who experienced hypoglycemic unawareness for a long time. Overnight hypos started about 12 years ago, after I was married.

    But, before I was married, when I was living alone, my parents (natural worriers) asked me to call them every morning (just let the phone ring once) just so they could know I got through the night. If they did not hear from me by 9 am, I could expect a call. Once I got married, my wife would deal with the overnight lows, which got worse over time. The overnight lows, and other frustrations with my diabetes ultimately contributed to the end of the marriage.

    AC is amazing for wanting to be involved and be so protective and helpful. And for trying to learn as much as he can.

    AC should suggest to his partner a CGM — it is not perfect, but it can help with giving his partner an alert before things get too out of hand. Overnight lows while asleep are a huge concern. The disorientation that I experienced when I woke up with them were, at best, frightening. AC’s partner should also keep glucose tablets on the nightstand, so they are right there to provide an anchor to focus on if she has a hypo in the middle of the night.

  2. mollyjade
    mollyjade December 14, 2007 at 9:13 am | | Reply

    A.C., is it possible that your partner is taking too much long-acting (basal) insulin and that it’s driving her bloodsugar down overnight? (As best as we can manage) bloodsugars should remain fairly stable when we’re not eating and after all the meal-time insulin has run it’s course. Your partner can try testing at bedtime, 3AM, and when she wakes up a few nights in a row to see if her numbers stay fairly stable at night. She may even consider testing at 3AM every night that she sleeps alone to try to catch lows before they happen. For peace of mind, your partner might also let her bloodsugars run a little higher overnight than in the daytime. If your partner pumps, she can program a different amount of basal insulin for nightime and daytime.

    We can’t stop all overnight lows, but they don’t need to be a common occurance. There are people who have uncontrollable swings in bloodsugar, but a lot of times patients are labeled “brittle” when really they just haven’t found a treatment plan that fits them.

  3. CALpumper
    CALpumper December 14, 2007 at 9:46 am | | Reply


    After a couple of serious relationships and going through the same thing, I tip my hat to you.

    Most men run scared. They have no idea what to do or think about Type 1, let alone low episodes.

    From my experience, you are doing everything you can, you are there for her and she knows it. You care and you tell her, she knows your concerns, fears and worries.

    Should you, should you not? There is no right or wrong answer. What is important is that you care.

    In the meantime, research. Look online, ask her about how she feels about of all this, what she does to calm herself, ask to go with her to the doctors.

    Again, you are doing wonderful.
    Have a brother? ;-)

  4. Kelly Kunik
    Kelly Kunik December 14, 2007 at 4:29 pm | | Reply

    A.C. -

    1st off A.C. – U sound like a great person – your partner’s a lucky lady.

    Questions: Is your partner on the insulin pump and does she know what a Continuous Glucose Monitoring System is?

    If she’s a pumper, she might want to adjust her bedtime basal rate.

    If she’s not on the pump, she might want to seriously consider getting one. Insulin Pumps keep blood sugars more even & help 2 combat lows. With the pump you can adjust your basal (hourly insulin rate) accordingly.

    Most pumpers require different basal rates during the 24 hrs that make up a day. I take less insulin when I go to bed or workout.

    Other times, like when I have a fever or want to attend an all day BBQ Cook-off with all the fixings, my body may require a higher basal rate to combat the higher b.s – blood sugars, not bull @h*t!

    A Continuous Glucose Monitoring System monitors BS 24X7 and alerts the body when sugars get to high or to low.
    Your girlfriend needs to talk with her Diabetes Educator or Endo about trying one out. Through my diabetes educator I was able to try Dexcoms monitor for a week free of charge. It really helped me to figure out my danger zones. Her Diabetes Educator might know of a similar offer. If she likes it, she could work with her insurance company to get one.
    Several insulin pump companies now have continuous glucose monitors that work with their pumps. I’ve listed 2 examples.

    CozMore’s Insulin Pump has a Cozmonitor that attaches to the pump to continually monitor blood sugar.
    Minimeds Paradigm 522 & 722 insulin pumps also have a REALTIME Continuous Glucose monitoring component.

    For your peace of mind, might I suggest having a few cocktails b4 bed – JUST KIDDING

    Knowledge is power & arming yourself w/education and technology really helps when it comes to managing Diabetes – for all parties involved. GOOD LUCK TO U BOTH!

  5. Liz
    Liz December 15, 2007 at 4:51 am | | Reply

    Hi AC,
    My husband has type 1 diabetes and I can fully sympathise with how worried you get over night time hypos. James knows that I worry and so puts up with some things I ask him to do when I am at work (I do eveningshifts and nightshifts). We have a rule that James messages me his level when he is going to have a sleep. He sleeps with the phone and is ok with me ringing when I feel I need too.

    However, if your partner has things organised with respect to catching and treating night time hypos, it is more important that you find ways to cope yourself. I’d suggest that you talk to her about maybe telling you her level when she goes to bed (if she is happy with this). James will also tell me what he has eaten or what insulin he has had if I am concerned. Also the suggestion of ringing you in the morning may also help. I find it easier to cope with my worries if I know what is happening.

    I know how hard it is to stop worrying but there has to be something that helps you relax and sleep easier.

    Hope this helps,

  6. anonymous
    anonymous December 16, 2007 at 8:04 am | | Reply

    You’ll find lots of info on how to avoid night time hypos on the web. Some of those tips include avoiding activity and especially exercise after dinner. That can draw down the blood sugars for a good 8 hrs afterward. Also make sure there is Glucagon at the ready as well as glucose tabs and glucose gel since sometimes it can be hard to chew the tabs if really low. I like the text messaging tips from others, too for your peace of mind. I think there are some new diabetes devices for sending those text messages, too. Anyone?

  7. S. June
    S. June December 16, 2007 at 1:05 pm | | Reply

    I’m VERY impressed by your concern for your partner. It’s incredible. I’ve had Type I diabetes for 35 years, and have had guys break up with me because they felt the disease was too much of a chore (even though I was doing all the work myself, and did not have any lows that I was unable to treat on my own!)
    I thoroughly agree with others that a pump with a continuous blood glucose monitor might be your partner’s (and your) best solution. I wear the OmniPod (as does Amy of diabetesmine) and though I love it, I would opt for a pump like the MiniMed Paradigm (I forget which model) that has an integrated Continous Blood Glucose Monitor.
    Oh – another thought concerning overnight lows is this – your partner might want to eat a lower-carbohydrate dinner so that she would require less quick-acting insulin at dinnertime (which might then be peaking later on and causing a hypoglycemic reaction.)

  8. whimsy2
    whimsy2 December 16, 2007 at 7:50 pm | | Reply

    I second the comments that your friend’s basal might be too high and that’s what’s causing so many nighttime lows. A continuous glucose monitor could be very helpful here.

    I’ve also read that dogs are excellent at detecting hypos and have been known to wake up their diabetic people when they have middle of the night lows. I don’t think they need special training, either; it’s just something they do. You might want to investigate this.

  9. Dan Fahey
    Dan Fahey December 17, 2007 at 11:25 am | | Reply

    Two thoughts that come to mind:

    - Don’t get blase about the possibility of a brittle diabetic inadvertently getting in trouble. Assuming they are really trying to be in good control, she is vulnerable.
    - On the other hand, if you are now only occasionally away from her at night, I’d suggest you and she discuss her managing more loosely on those nights you ARE away. In other words, she would let her blood sugar be somewhat higher than would be her norm for that night, reducing the odds of a dangerously low blood sugar.

    In my family, I am the brittle diabetic, and my wife worries just like you when she occasionally goes away overnight. And that is how I both manage the problem, and her anxiety.

    Hope that helps.

  10. Cara
    Cara December 17, 2007 at 4:05 pm | | Reply

    A.C. you are a caring person! It’s wonderful that you are taking an active role in the diabetes care.
    I am a Type 1 diabetic, and similarly keep juice by my bed, along with my phone. I also have people with whom I work who know to check on my if I am late to work and friends who also periodically check on my in the mornings.
    It’s okay to worry, but don’t let it get the best of you. If it makes you feel better, set up some sort of check system with her. Maybe calling her in the morning to be sure she’s okay, or having her call you by a certain time. Or, if there are days when her blood sugars are crazy, doing a midnight and 2 a.m. check and calling you to let you know at those times.
    You will get more used to it as time goes by. Just as we PWD’s have gotten used to it over the years, so will you.

  11. JSH
    JSH June 25, 2008 at 10:08 pm | | Reply

    my girlfriend is a type 1 diabetic. i worry about her all the time. we pretty much live together and i wake her up if she is sweating during her sleep! haha! on our 1st date she injected her insulin infront of me, which was good, it was out there. she is a bit ashamed of it, and we have had a few drunken discussions about how much she hates it. we deal with it, i try to be supportive when she gets upset and make sure i have jelly beans in my car all the time! i love her very much and sometimes i think i worry more about her diabetes than she does!! i was lucky in a way my best mate thru high school had type1 as well, so i atleast knew what diabetes was and that they do inject insulin!
    nice forum

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