The diabetes community goes way beyond people with diabetes. Many of you out there are parents, caregivers, partners, siblings, supporters…
Some of you may already follow our Podder™ Sophie (@thefaultypancreas) and will know she gets married this year to her partner, Andrew.
Andrew took some time out to answers some questions from Sophie and give his perspective on life with T1D and an inside look at how diabetes can affect a romantic relationship, from common challenges to ways that dealing with diabetes together can make a relationship even stronger.
Sophie: How does the possibility of serious health complications affect you/the relationship?
Andrew: Serious health complications are something that you have been quite open about since the start of our relationship. I see my role being to support you in thinking through and discussing the numerous issues which may lead to serious health conditions as a result of type 1, specifically things like planning a family, knowing and being prepared for what to do in emergency situations and understanding the importance of regular eye and foot check-ups.
Sophie: How does daily diabetes care affect you/the relationship?
Andrew: I met you when you were one year into your diagnosis, therefore I have never known you not have diabetes. It’s just normal to me and being the partner of a type 1, I obviously have the easy job – it’s you that does all the work. You’re the one with all the needles, numbers and constant reminders of a faulty pancreas. I just try and support you in any way that I can, either physically by helping to apply and remove the Pods or emotionally by being there for you when the highs and lows are really grinding you down.
Sophie: What has worked best for helping you understand my diabetes?
Andrew: I’ll admit, before I met you I had no idea what type 1 diabetes involved – like a lot of people, I assumed it was just a few injections, I didn’t appreciate all the other ‘hidden’ factors that go into managing the lifelong condition. Over the years, I’ve asked a lot of questions, trying to understand your condition more. I’ve done my own research and I’ve attended carb counting courses with you, so I can support you in every aspect of your life. It’s cliché but I’m still learning every day.
Sophie: What has worked best for communicating frustration or pain that you experience because of my diabetes?
Andrew: Making light of all the situations we get into as a result of diabetes… This allows me to say what I think when I’m frustrated without upsetting you, such as when we are out and have to walk miles to a shop to get you some sugar! Or the times when we would be out for the day and fancied some lunch but couldn’t because you forgot your insulin pens (thankfully this hasn’t happened since you moved to the Omnipod DASH® System!)
The most pain I’ve experienced because of your diabetes is that one time you offered to demonstrate the finger prick on me…
Sophie: What forms of support have helped you the most in dealing with my diabetes?
Andrew: I’ve got enough experience now to know when you’re having a bad diabetes day, when you have had a sleepless night, highs, lows, I can see the times where you just want a hug. And sometimes it’s just that simple, a hug and for you to be able to talk about it with someone willing to listen. Even indirectly, going out for a coffee and not talking about it, can sometimes be as useful as talking about it, it’s all about getting a feel for your mood and, for example, how you’ve coped over the last 24 hours.
There is a huge support network online for people with diabetes and their partners, I see how much that helps families in feeling like they’re not alone and there are other people out there dealing with the exact same issues.
Sophie: How have you found opportunities for spontaneity, fun and romance while dating someone with diabetes?
Andrew: I don’t think diabetes really changes any of that. Yes of course there is a bit more planning and forward thinking involved at times but generally we are always making the most of opportunities for spontaneity, fun and romance.
Sophie: How do you balance supporting me with my diabetes while also not micromanaging me?
Andrew: I never have micromanaged you because I don’t feel like I would have the knowledge to do so compared to you. The extent of my role in directly managing your diabetes would be in things like calculating carbs in meals I’ve prepared so you know what to bolus for.
Sophie: What advice do you have on dealing with emotional challenges that may result from dating someone with diabetes?
Andrew: Talk to your partner – they’re the expert, and the more that you can understand their condition and how it affects them, the more you can offer support and then the more able they are to cope with the condition.
Also be patient and empathetic, there are situations and instances which are normal to someone without diabetes, but to a type 1, can be causing a lot of worry and anxiety. I know that certain social situations for you are harder to deal with when you are managing diabetes- such as going out drinking with friends. To me and our friends it’s just a hangover but to you it’s a sleepless night because of how alcohol affects your levels and the following day of highs, lows and frustration from your levels going haywire.