Scully wrote last week about the challenges of dating someone new, about their lack of diabetes knowledge and about being honest with how well (or not so well) we are managing everything.
Kelly at Diabetesaliciousness wrote about the impact diabetes had on a past relationship.
Finally, Abby wrote a guest post at Six Until Me that talked about her fears re diabetes disclosure and how hard it is to 'come out' about diabetes.
Reading everyone's story got me thinking about my own relationship journey.
Just to give you a bit of background: I have been in three long term relationships in my life. I was diagnosed with diabetes while I was in the first relationship. The second one started off while I was on multiple daily injections and then I switched to the insulin pump. In my current relationship with Doug I have been on the insulin pump the entire time.
From my perspective, as the pancreatically-challenged half of the relationship, I never put much thought into what impact diabetes would have. Perhaps I'm naive or perhaps I only pick really understanding people but I just never figured it would be a huge issue. Doug and I started out as friends and he knew I had diabetes and wore a pump. But he didn't know much about it beyond that. I figured I'd have to show him how the pump was attached to me, reassure him that, if he accidentally pulled it out, I'd be ok and tell him what the numbers on the glucometer meant. Of course there would be a learning curve but I never felt it would have any real impact on our relationship, on what he thought of me or on whether or not he'd stay with me for the long haul.
All the blogs last week really got me thinking - what about the other half of the relationship? Doug seemed to take it all in stride but I never really asked him how he felt about my diabetes before.
So I interviewed him. He was puttering around the kitchen making lunch after his run and I peppered him with questions. Being a good sport, he answered them all.
"When you and I were starting out, did you spend a lot of time thinking or worrying about what it meant to have a girlfriend with diabetes?"
No. Everyone brings baggage to a relationship. You and I both had stuff we had to overcome. You didn't seem to worry too much about my stuff, and I didn't worry about yours. I knew you had diabetes and I had seen you pricking your finger before races. I didn't know much about it but it didn't seem to slow you down.
"What about the fact that I can't always do what I want, when I want? Or the fact that I might have complications later in life? Did you worry about that?"
No. Sometimes you have to stop what you're doing to deal with a low blood sugar. I've learned to offer help when you need it and then sit back as you say "I can do it myself" (For the record - I can be a wee bit stubborn). And yes, there could be complications down the road but I could also develop health issues. There's no guarantee with anything in life so why worry about it? Let's just take care of ourselves the best we can and deal with things as they arise.
"What about the insulin pump? Do you find it annoying that I have to be hooked up to something all the time?"
No. When we went to that diabetes seminar in Toronto last year I couldn't believe how worried people seemed to be about the pump and whether it would affect their sex life. I don't even notice it. I've never gotten tangled up in it in the middle of the night and it's never in the way. It's just part of who you are.
"What about understanding all the ups and downs of diabetes? Did you find that hard?"
No. You're really independent and you take care of 99% of it by yourself. I'm constantly offering to help and occasionally you actually let me. Otherwise, I just hang out and let you know I'm there if you need anything. I'll hug you when you need to cry and get you juice when you ask for it.
"Do you have any words of wisdom for people who are starting a relationship with someone who has diabetes?"
Don't worry about it. If you find someone attractive, if you find them sexy, if you like how they think and if they make you happy - you won't even notice the diabetes. It's just part of the package.
It's nice to know you always have fruit chews in your purse and I can always count on you to give me the purple ones.
end of interview
Perhaps I'm have Pollyanna syndrome but I really think people worry too much about what others are going to think. We can make diabetes a big deal and it will become a big deal. We can make it part of our daily routine and, while it won't always behave, it doesn't have to limit you.
My advice for d-folks entering a new relationship?
- teach the person the basics (1.8 = need sugar and 23 = need insulin) but don't get mad when they don't remember or don't get something. We live with diabetes 100% of the time - they don't and hopefully never will. They can't possibly understand all the things we need to think about before we head out the door for a run.
- let them help you but always be prepared to help yourself
- keep them posted on how you're doing (mentally and physically) but keep diabetes at the periphery. If it becomes 90% of your relationship, you'll both go crazy.
- bring more candy than you need so you can share. Get stuff they like too.
- don't make the pump a big deal. You can have a very happy sex life while remaining 100% tethered.
I think we worry way too much about how people are going to respond. Sure some people won't be able or willing to handle life with a diabetic but I'm willing to bet that for every one of those there are 100 fabulous folks out there who won't bat an eye.
You are more than your diabetes.