To dig into my story of life as a wife of a Type 1 Diabetic, I have to take a look back.
IN THE BEGINNING:
I met a handsome, bald stud in the gym when we were both getting our summer bodies ready in 2010. I was working on losing the rest of the 60 pounds I’d gained from previous years and he was in there lifting weights all day, like it was no one’s business. After glares at one another without speaking and then some very sophisticated chatter … on Facebook … we set up a first date on May 5. We quickly became fit friends, becoming attached at the hop from the very beginning.
During our dating years, we opened up about a lot to one another. I shared all of my struggles with G, as I was in the middle of a a mess of a life including financial troubles. G opened up to me about his own struggles as well, but I always saw that there was something off. Any time we would eat, he would run to the restroom or to his car “to check on something” without telling me exactly what that was. I became suspicious and finally confronted him about it. Reluctantly, G told me that he was diabetic and was leaving to check his blood sugar and take his shot. I grew up with my father being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, so I wasn’t 100% sure what G meant since he said he was a Type 1 Diabetic. I did a little bit of research [VERY little] to learn that G had the type of diabetes where he had to test his blood sugar and where his body no longer produced insulin. He [my now husband] was diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic when he was 23 years old; a little over 10 years before be met me. I figured since he’d had it for so long, that it was something I didn’t have to know a whole lot about. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
In the beginning, I was a bit naive. I didn’t understand that sometimes G would have high or low blood sugars for no apparent reason. I thought that he was in control of it all. I was habitual with nagging him to check his sugars as well as to watch what he ate. Let’s just say that I was not the nicest partner; I’m sure that he wished he hadn’t told me he was diabetic after all! We would get into many arguments whenever her had an extreme high or low because I felt that he was ‘his fault’ it happened. I would cause arguments to become worse versus better when I would antagonize him while his sugar was high which is never a good combination. I would sense that his demeanor was pointed at me and take it personally, which is never a good idea.
One of our biggest fights came early into our dating life. G used to work overtime while we shared a vehicle since we were both trying to pay off our debts as quickly as we could. He would work long shifts and then leave to come back an finish off a few more hours for extra money. I came to pick him up one day and noticed that he seemed lethargic and was slurring his speech a bit. I immediately became upset, thinking that he hadn’t eaten while being focused on work and so his blood sugar was tanking. My attitude only spurred him to become defensive and we got into a shouting match; one that didn’t help his current physical state. We made it home only to sit there upset with one another. G took care of his low with quick sugars, and ended up sick for the rest of the day from the low and then the recovery. It was one of the first times that we were so mad at each other that we didn’t speak until the next day.
My husband’s diabetes became an area of contention for us; we didn’t even argue about anything substantial. I was the culprit who would elevate a tough situation into a bad one.
It only took me 5+ years to get my sh** together.
Looking back on that argument I mentioned before, I could’ve been the one to handle that situation completely differently. I could have asked him if he was hungry or needed something to eat and have simply driven to go get it taken care of. I had no need to get loud and upset at my [boyfriend at the time] because he was working hard to earn extra money and time got away from him when he came to having a snack while at work.
I realized that I couldn’t depend on Google to solve all of my problems or to teach me anything about what it was like to be a Type 1 Diabetic. I had to learn about my husband’s chronic illness to be a better partner and be supportive rather than antagonistic. I decided to take my experience as a fitness trainer and instructor to the next level and become certified in Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes through a continued education course. There, I learned about his medication and its side effects. I understood how his body operated and that sometimes his highs or lows were to no fault of his own.
I realized that I was berating my husband instead of being there with him as his biggest support, standing shoulder-to-shoulder.
I was able to make sense of being proactive versus reactive when any sort of issues came up and how to prevent them in the first place if possible. I also looked into joining the local JDRF chapter as a volunteer as well as joining online groups for those with Type 1 and 2 diabetes and their partners. I made friends who were Type 1 who gave me insight I hadn’t had before.
LIFE AS A TYPE 1 WIFE NOW:
Looking back, I can’t regret anything that we’ve been through together in relation to my husband and Type 1 Diabetes. Anything we’ve been through has taught us valuable life lessons and has made us into the people we are today. I am pretty hard-headed and learn through experience, so there’s no wonder it took me so long! My goal now is to empower other partners who have someone in their life who they love who has diabetes. It’s natural to want to do for someone rather than with someone, but we can’t feel we need to take on someone else’s life as our own to control. My biggest lessons learned came from truly understanding how diabetes impacts my husband, that he’s had it since before he met me and was okay then, and that I can only control one person and that’s me.
HOW TO BE A SUPPORTIVE PARTNER OF A DIABETIC:
- Stop trying to FIX everything – we can only control ourselves
- Be open and communicate – ask your partner what they need in the event of a high or low from you before acting so that you are their biggest support and not stepping on any toes.
- Don’t take it personal or overreact- when someone has a low or high blood sugar is can impact their mood, it’s not you it’s about. You may see that they step away to check on their blood sugar, so know they’ve got this. Stay calm and helpful.
- It’s not their fault – you may see another side of their mood or see their sugar rise or fall suddenly, but assume the best in them and know it’s out of their control
- Be encouraging – even if a high or low happens because of a missed meal or over- or under-correction, be encouraging and offer support
- Have their back – I now carry quick sugars and snacks with me wherever we go. If I even sense that his sugar is erring on the side of low, I just offer a snack to him in a kind way so he knows I’m just looking out for him.
Every relationship has its highs and lows, no pun intended. In order to be a positive partner of someone with diabetes, we just have to remember that love entails giving the benefit of the doubt and always seeing the best in our other half no matter what.
Katrina is a Type 1 Wife, Girl Mom, NASM Certified Personal Trainer, AFAA + ACE Group Fitness Instructor, Beachbody LIVE Master Trainer, AADE Diabetes Paraprofessional & Fitness Coach I focus on living life with BALANCE! Her goal is to help others turn their trials into triumph to live life to the fullest. Her husband was diagnosed in 1998, and health and fitness are a priority in their lives so that they can set an example for their daughter and inspire others to do the same!
@KatrinaElleP on Twitter, instagram, snapchat