How Caretaking for My Diabetic Partner Almost Ruined Us

Most Type 1 diabetics are diagnosed at a young age; my boyfriend was diagnosed at the age of 29. He didn’t “get” diabetes because he was overweight or unhealthy. It was a freak situation; he was genetically predisposed to diabetes. It was triggered later in life after the antibodies protecting him from a cold fit like a jigsaw piece into his body’s autoimmune system to shut down his pancreas.

He experienced a seizure from lethal high blood sugar levels and was admitted to the ICU unit for three days. He was given very basic information about his disease and was discharged with not much more than some elementary pamphlets on carb counting and an insulin pen. Like many hospitals across the country, our local hospital was understaffed and specialists were hard to find. We were terrified to be sent off into the world with his life depending on a liquid-filled, spring loaded insulin pen that he had to stab into his belly five times a day.

When he was first diagnosed with an incurable autoimmune disease, we went into it pragmatically, we took it day by day with little thought about what our future looked like. We showed up to numerous different doctor appointments where we were given more pamphlets and asked so many questions that seemingly had no answers. It felt like diabetes filled every moment of our lives. We talked about it at every meal; scheduling appointments with specialists filled our lunch breaks at work, and it became a weekly task to fight with insurance companies, a group that is not well known for protecting the most vulnerable members of society.

We entered into the rigorous learning process together and saw many different areas of our life change, virtually overnight. It changed our diet, our social habits and our exercise routines. For my partner and myself, it also radically changed our previously adventurous traveling lifestyle. So many aspects of our relationship have changed in a short amount of time. However difficult it felt at times, I was committed to working through it.

It is difficult to be a caregiver to your significant other when they are afflicted with an incurable disease or illness. In the diabetic community, the significant others of diabetic patients are called “Type 3 diabetics” because they are also affected by the disease. As his partner, it is frustrating to be his nurse, his chef, his therapist and still be his fun and sexy girlfriend. It takes a lot of planning to make sure that he is healthy and has everything he needs to maintain stable blood sugar levels. I felt that a lot of that responsibility somehow fell on me whether he asked me to help or not. As his partner, I naturally wanted to take care of him and help him through this hard time. It put a strain on our relationship that he sensed before I ever felt it become a problem.

He took it upon himself create a support network. To take the pressure off of our relationship, he began find help from other sources to alleviate the stress caused by the diagnosis. He went to see a dietician to learn more about how food would affect him, and he took it upon himself to cook more of his own meals. The biggest game changer was when he began to see a counselor. Having an outlet eased a lot of the anxiety he felt as a result of his recent diagnosis and the unsettling realization of of his own mortality. As much as I wanted to be his everything, it saved our relationship when he sought out help from others than just myself.

Life began to start to feel normal again. We went back to enjoying being in our late twenties and having fun. Mortality was very much off our radar while climbing mountains together, adventuring and getting back to exploring the places we love. The only catch was that we had to be a little more prepared. Our backpacks were a little heavier with ice packs stuffed into hydro flasks that hold and chill his insulin, as well as a large number of snacks to choose from if his blood sugar gets too low.

He still leans on me when he is feeling emotionally low, as well as when he is feeling like garbage because his blood sugar is low. Now that he has created a circle of support, I get to support him as a loved one, rather than like his nurse. It can be difficult to be a caretaker to my boyfriend at times, but in some ways I feel it has made our partnership stronger. His ability to establish his independence while managing an incurable autoimmune disease only highlighted why I chose him as my life partner to begin with.

W.M. Chandler is a Colorado native and works best with her head in the clouds. She is an avid researcher and enjoys writing about unfamiliar subjects. She writes passionately about nature and theoutdoors, human connections and relationships, nutrition and politics. Follow her on Twitter: @wmchandler1212.

90 comments

Rebecca C

I know this only too well, have an auto immune condition - were struggling :(

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Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa17 days ago

Thank you

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Christy J
Christy J18 days ago

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Joemar K
Joemar Karvelis22 days ago

Thanks

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RICKY SLOAN
RICKY S22 days ago

WOW

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Jerome S
Jerome Sabout a month ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome Sabout a month ago

thanks

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Maojie S
Maojie Sabout a month ago

I was committed to working through it
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Carl R
Carl Rabout a month ago

Thanks!!!

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Ruth S
Ruth Sabout a month ago

Thanks for the touching story. Any major health problems can have a major effect on the spouse!

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