I wrote a list of 10 Things We Women with Diabetes Want You to Know over at DiabetesMine.com. I was very honored to post over there. Do check it out!
I wrote about this because I had just gotten married a year before and the experience of dating culminating in a lifelong commitment inspired me to reach out to others in their dating era. One of the top search prompts that leads people over to this blog has to do with dating and diabetes and you’d be surprised how many guys pop over here trying to figure out if they should date a girl with diabetes or if they themselves having diabetes, should tell their prospective dates that they have it. This is my opinion cut from my own experience. Feel free to disagree.
Originally posted August 3rd, 2009
I feel like I’ve arrived at a pretty decent place (wasn’t always this way). It involves self appreciation and self respect. It highly influences my diabetes management and my control of that pesky depression issue…
Maybe you’ve already noticed but, I’ve got a bit of a “loner” personality. I’m not the type to bend to peer pressure and I never was a “social drinker”. Heck I can enjoy champagne all by myself. I used to love eating alone at a restaurant and even going to the movie theater alone. And I didn’t go in hiding or as if ashamed to be alone. Red lipstick and high heels came along for a fabulous night out with moi. This had nothing to do with picking up a date or anything either. It was about just getting excited to spend quality time with myself. Long ago the thought of going out alone would have killed me. Now I’ve romanticized the idea of taking care of myself and appreciating my own company. I honestly have convinced myself it’s the cool and fabulous thing to do. After all, we are all worth treating ourselves right, right?
This doesn’t mean I put others last or that I always put myself first. It just means that instead of bashing myself all day, I try to be nicer and more appreciative. The way my body looks drives me bonkers since giving birth to twins but, ahh isn’t it nice how my belly stretched to absurd greats just to accommodate two new lives-kind of magical no? Yes, it is.
People poke fun at me for being a total nerd, but on the other hand isn’t it fantastic when someone loves learning and gets excited over Albert Einstein’s quotes!?
And yes, I’m pretty bad about functioning in the morning but, maybe that just means I have more energy in the afternoon!
You need to do this for your amazing self. Even if it feels a little silly.
In many cases people hold their self-worth lower than other people. This should change.
Example: If you need to lose weight, tell yourself that you are so worth cooking healthy food for. You are gorgeous and fabulous and deserve to take a little time out of your busy day to exercise. When you want a third helping of cake, tell yourself you are worth the trouble it takes to restrain yourself. (Sometimes this means I tell my husband to take it away from me but, hey, same outcome)
Maybe one of these days you could plan a date night for you and yourself. Just go somewhere you like-the coffee shop or a bistro or theater or ball game and enjoy your own company. Treat yourself nice, get a nice meal or snack, spiff yourself up (in your own style/fashion of course), and don’t you dare think a negative thing about yourself the entire time! Think about your strengths and appreciate the parts of your body that are working properly, as opposed to thinking about your pancreas-don’t even stop there for a second.
You’d be surprised how much this will help guide your decisions regarding your diabetes management in favor of wonderful you.
6. I want you to know that Diabetes is very serious and although diabetics often seem carefree, they’re often not, whether they manage they’re diabetes well or not.
5. I want you to know that Diabetes is not nearly as common in 3rd world and Developing countries as it is in Developed ones. This means that we should pay attention to what we’re doing differently and learn what we can change to help ourselves-such as eating differently. Just because we’re “developed” doesn’t mean we’re doing all the right things. Nor does it mean the convenience of pop tarts is worth it.
4. I want you to know that Diabetes doesn’t have to stop you from reaching your dreams. Your dreams however, may have to make some small adjustments.
3. I want you to know that Diabetes isn’t as silent a killer as people think. If you don’t feel super duper great, then your health isn’t in tip top shape. Many adults don’t know they have diabetes but, they know they don’t feel too hot. We should expect to feel healthy and if we don’t we should strive to figure out what is between us and feeling great and then work towards feeling wonderful again. Maybe we’ll never feel wonderful but, most can get pretty close with a lot of hard work. Our standards for feeling healthy should rise. Don’t settle for feeling so-so.
2. I want you to know that Diabetes is the hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with. And I’ve dealt with loss of family and friends. Not to mention large kidney stones, surgery, many years of depression, and chronic childhood shyness. (And there’s much more). Diabetes has been the worst experience of all and I’m afraid the worst is yet to come.
1. I want you to know that a cure for diabetes is being significantly delayed by a greed for money. Money rules the world only because we allow it to. We have more power than we think. Angry about corn syrup being in much of our food supply? Boycott any product with corn syrup. If many of us did this I promise you corn syrup would start disappearing from ingredient labels. Upset over the lack of diabetes support groups? Start one. Stop being a victim and start being the change you want to see in the world.
Gandhi sure had it right.
I can sympathize with people who squirm when they see blood coming out of a wound or a needle going into someone. I am one of those sensitive people that sees blood and has to fight from going a little loopy. When I was younger I had a particularly hard time getting my blood drawn for lab tests because although I wouldn’t look at my arm and the needle and tubing, I would imagine it. I would imagine the dark red flowing through the tubing and it would just make me want to pass out or throw up. Sometimes the nurse would have to put a cotton ball soaked in ammonia under my nose because it looked like I was “going to go” (meaning pass out).
Non-diabetics out there, if this is you, there is something I plead with you NOT to do. Don’t cringe when you see your diabetic friend or family member prick their finger or give an injection. Just look away. You’re a big girl or boy, now. No need to start hollering about how you get goose bumps or all tingly when you see us do our “freaky” and oh so necessary things.
If you have a serious phobia towards blood and needles, tell your diabetic friend in private. I’m pretty sure they will be respectful of you and do their business away from you or they’ll warn you before they do so you don’t have to witness.
But, please, please know how hurtful it can be when someone does this:
I was at work a while back when I went to eat lunch with a bunch of friends/co-workers. I did my usual thing and discreetly gave my insulin shot at the table. Someone noticed and started pointing and drawing attention to him and myself. He was sliding under the table and being overly dramatic. He went on about how he couldn’t watch (yet, he never looked away) and he said (while smiling) that what I was doing was hurting him. My normal self wanted to smack him. My exposed and self-conscious, embarrassed self felt hurt. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream at him and say, “NO, the person this really hurts is me, because I do it or die, because the needle goes into ME, and because I have to do it in front of people who may react like YOU and cause an entire restaurant to stare at me.”
And at the very moment I thought I might explode into tears, a male co-worker said loudly to the guy causing the scene, “You’ve gotta be kidding me, hey buddy, I need you to man up.” The guy who was now laughing started excusing himself, “But, I ..I…” -“No excuses, I don’t want to hear them, you need to just man up”, replied my co-worker. I shot him a big “THANK YOU” look and we all went back to our lunch.
Maybe I’m saying too much when I say that I felt this guy stood up for all of us diabetics that day. It’s funny how many of us at work always found him kind of annoying because he was always so outspoken. Yet, when saying the right things, these people are treasures. They have the guts to say something loud, in front of a crowd, and deal with whatever happens as a result. I appreciate their boldness.
And about the people who are squeemish to what we diabetics have to do…people don’t mean to be disrespectful or hurtful with their actions. They just aren’t thinking. Or, they’re just thinking about themselves. So we just need to explain to them that they’re actions are hurtful and that if they truly have a hard time with what we do, we’ll respect that and do what we can to help them.
I can admit there needs to exist a mutual respect between those who “can’t handle” needles and those who survive by them.
What do you think?
I just saw an “ageless stars” feature on yahoo. It has old pictures of Hollywood stars like Jennifer Aniston and Tom Cruise paired against recent photos of them and yeah…they look pretty much the same despite 8-10 years or so passing by. Pretty amazing. (Of course they have all of the resources for this…)
Anyway, the reason I clicked on the link in the first place was because it features Halle Berry. She has had type 2 diabetes for a very long time. Yet, haven’t we all heard how diabetes is a degenerative disease meaning it ages you prematurely?
Forget about all of the accessibility this woman has to personal trainers and chefs, Botox, and plastic surgery (I’ve never heard of her using the two latter by the way). You can’t hide a healthy look. What I mean is you can’t take an overweight and unhealthy person and make them look as healthy as she does. Sure, Halle Berry has great genes. Yet, 2 decades of uncontrolled diabetes would have most certainly shown up on her by now. I can literally see that she takes care of her diabetes.
The times I’ve read interviews with her have always revealed something consistent. She is very strict with her diabetes management. She supposedly tests several times a day, exercises every day, and maintains a very strict diet low in sugar and starchy foods. She used to take insulin and gradually worked her way out of that need.
I always worry that because of being diabetic I’ll end up looking a decade older than I really am. After all, that’s what doctors used to say. And I’ve already got about 20 grey hairs (thats right, I counted them) and although going grey early simply runs in my family, I can’t help but wonder if I wasn’t a diabetic would I have any at all? Maybe it is just paranoia. The other day while buying wine a lady cards me and proclaims, “Uh uh honey, you can’t be 27! You look 18!” She has a few others look at my ID and while everyone is determining whether or not my ID is a fake I think to myself, “Maybe I am just paranoid…”
So my inspiration will continue to be people who manage to beat negative stereotypes about diabetes-like aging very quickly.
We should all strive to keep our insides looking good. The outside will fall in line. So remember, focus on keeping those glucose numbers in check! Even Halle Berry has to do it.
Look him in the eyes sort of like this…
This is a must when you are in a serious relationship. You are not diabetes but, you are a diabetic so do remember how important it is your loved ones understand exactly what you are dealing with.
First of all, they need all of the basic technical information. You know, what is diabetes, hypoglycemia, insulin, etc. Then a bridge must be made between all of that information and the knowledge that although insulin keeps you alive and kicking, diabetes is very serious and for a diabetic, maintaining health is often a delicate balance and a never ending struggle.
No need to get dramatic here, BUT, it helps both of you if your partner is clued into the facts. When your blood sugar is up or down it helps to explain to him what it is you are feeling. A good guy will think about how amazing you are. You feel like that and yet you carry on all fabulous like.
He will also begin to anticipate little ways to help you. When my husband and I dated he eventually stocked bottles of juice in his truck for me-just as back up. We often went hiking or climbing and he quickly figured out how exercise would really push my sugars down.
And no, he didn’t know my diabetes was serious at the beginning. That took some time. Don’t expect your guy to remember everything you tell him and don’t give him all the info at once. It took you sometime to know all you do about your diabetes and the same goes for him.
Something you do want to do: observe how he reacts to your diabetes. You don’t want him to start panicking when you test and your sugar is low but, you do want to see concern and a willingness from him to quickly help in any way he can. After all, a good guy is like this whether you’re a diabetic or not, right?
A big thanks to all of the great guys out there who support us diabetic women, we know it isn’t easy and we love ya!
I’ve heard people say the hardest thing about dating and being a diabetic is the shame one might feel about all the “medical stuff” they have going on in their lives. Others mention that they feel they bring a ton of baggage to a relationship. Women have mentioned they feel scared that a man will see her as unable to bear children and thus run in the opposite direction. Women have also said they have a hard time feeling “sexy” as they look at their pump and the tubing attached to it and them.
I agree and If I had to say what the hardest thing about dating and being a diabetic was, I’d say it was the psychological effects that diabetes has on the mind. Wouldn’t that include all of the above?
Time and time again I notice that the major beef women have about being diabetic and dating is something they perceive or fear someone else will perceive about them.
I remember worrying about how my pump looked with my outfit and eventually discovering from my guy that he never even gave it a thought. He said he just knew it had to be there and understood the role it played in keeping me healthy. He just looked past it.
I also used to feel that because I had diabetes for so many years (now 15) I wouldn’t be able to have children. After all, I do have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) a disorder which my doctor says was probably caused by the diabetes and which makes women unfertile. I made sure my husband was aware of the possibility before we got married and what do you know he was the first person at the church that day…
Anyway now I’ve got 8 month old twins! And believe me, I was the most surprised of all!
Another thing- I used to feel that a guy would literally run away from me when he found out I had a serious disease. This never happened (and I don’t look like a model, mind you).
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. This fear of being a diabetic and dating is 90-some percent in our heads, ladies. What has worked for me is I have faked confidence in myself. Yep, you heard me. I have had all the doubts and crippling worries and yet to the outsider I seemed completely sure of myself and this has lead men to see me and maybe think, “hey, she looks happy and she doesn’t seem sick”.
Of course, I still struggle with the relationship thing and how it is affected by my diabetes. Despite being married (no, it doesn’t stop there!) I still have to tell those negative thoughts to go away or else I find them hurting my relationship.
So I guess my point with this post is just to place a reminder in all of our worrisome minds that we create most of the dating and diabetes drama ourselves and we should just relax, take care of ourselves, and be confident. Those three things will be something our guys will really cherish and appreciate.
My husband Alex is going to answer my questions about what it has been like to date and be married to me (a type 1 diabetic for 15 years).
Maybe men dating diabetic women can get a heads up and diabetic women can gain insight into what our non-diabetic partners may be thinking.
So we begin…
S: Alex, we dated for about 2 years but, have been friends for longer. While we were friends, what was your impression about my diabetes?
A: Well when we were friends I really didn’t know much about your diabetes. I knew you had it but, didn’t really know what it was about. I knew you had to check your blood sugar and I knew sometimes you had to get sugar if you were low or give insulin if you were high.
S: Did it freak you out to see me check my blood sugar or give insulin?
A: I never remember seeing you check your blood or give insulin in front of me. I saw you use your insulin pump but, that was it.
S: That’s right! I never let you see me check my blood sugar. I did it in the bathroom or in the car before we hung out.
A: So maybe it is good that guys read this. I would encourage a guy out there dating a diabetic girl to let her know that you are aware she needs to check her blood sugar and if she needs to do it in front of you then to go right ahead.
S: Yes! That would have been so nice to hear back then. At that time I was scared to let guys see me manage my diabetes. A little encouragement would have gone a long way and improved my glucose numbers.
Next question. Once we began dating, was there ever a moment when you realized my diabetes was more serious than you had previously thought?
A: It wasn’t so much one instance as much as a slow realization. Every time your blood sugar was low and you didn’t have some sugar with you (although you usually did) we had to stop whatever we were doing and get you some. If we were going somewhere or at a movie or at a club, we had to quickly deal with it. It wasn’t so much an issue of should we, instead we HAD to. So after a few months dating I began to realize how serious diabetes is.
S: Did you ever feel I was an inconvenience to you?
A: No I didn’t. I guess it helped that we still went out to all kinds of places and did different activities. I also saw you put a lot of effort into managing your diabetes. It would have been frustrating to see you not try and then us both have to deal with extra scary situations and maybe not go out much anywhere because you didn’t take care of yourself. It also helps that I love you.
S: I love you, too! Anyway, I didn’t expect your answer. It’s interesting that something important for you is the fact that I try my best to take care of myself and still get out and do things. Like when we go hiking, I just take extra sugar and supplies with me. Same goes for you ya know. I want you to take care of yourself, too.
A: Of course there was that one time you woke me up and told me I had to rush you to the ER the time you accidentally overdosed on insulin. We were there for about 8 hours. (that complete dramatic story here)
S: But, wasn’t it nice being the hero?
A: Sure, but don’t ever let that happen again. (joking)
S: No problem! So…on a more serious note, did you ever wish I didn’t have diabetes?
A: Of course. You asked me once what I would change about you if I could change one thing and I said I would make you a non-diabetic. Reason being because I see how much suffering is involved. I know it would make your life so much easier not to have diabetes.
S: A lot of emotional turmoil is involved, too…
A: Yeah, It took years of dating but, eventually you let me see you when you occasionally broke down about it.
S: It was a relief to finally allow you to help me when those moments happened. I hid them from you for a while because I was scared you would feel I came with too much baggage.
A: Have you noticed you breakdown less and less?
S: Yes, It helps to manage blood sugars and maintain discipline. Honestly, your support and understanding has helped me get to where I am now.
A: Glad I could help.
You may have really understanding parents, siblings, husband, children, and friends. Nevertheless, from time to time your diabetes will leak it’s stress onto them.
Sometimes we get tired of dealing with our diabetes and let our control slip. Maybe we have a hard week or month and the emotional turmoil spills onto others. We are human and no matter how great we handle our diabetes, we are not as consistent as the disease itself.
Our loved ones should be understanding-that is for sure. We should also be understanding.
Let me tell you a story of realization. I always thought my husband had it real easy. He has no health issues-in fact has never even had a headache and I just assumed he breezed through life.
Then he had a skin biopsy. A benign cyst was removed from his back which had been caused by some blow to the area (probably from sports years back). It was rather large because he had procrastinated in getting it removed (its true, men don’t like going to the doctor). His stitches had to be pulled out because the hole which remained was too large to heal that way. So I had to maintain his wound by packing it each night with sterile paper like strips about 5-6 inches long which freaked me out. The strips would just fall into the bloody abyss that was his wound and the only way I could handle it was by joking to him about being a stuffed animal.
Because of this he had to take it easy on the heavy lifting. Mind you we have twin 6 month infants weighing about 16-18 pounds each. I completely understood why he couldn’t pick up our babies but, the stress of the situation got to me. I even brought up the fact more than once that he could have had the cyst removed years ago had he just not procrastinated. I was frustrated with having to do double lifting. My frustration was aimed at the situation and yet he felt a little personally attacked.
Then I thought about all of the times he was the one doing double duty with the babies because “mommy’s blood sugar is low” or because “mommy needs to check her blood sugar”. There are also the times where I’m extra moody because of the diabetes and he also must deal with that. And what about all of the worry he felt during my pregnancy as I shared with him all that could go wrong because of my diabetes? What about the time I gave the wrong insulin by accident and he had to rush me to the hospital? The list goes on and on. He has a lot on his shoulders with me sometimes and yet he never makes me feel bad. The point is…frustration from loved ones is inevitable and in fact, it happens because they love us and choose to be near us! Thank goodness for that.
What does need to happen? We and they need to come to an understanding and decision that we may get frustrated but will not attack or belittle or guilt trip each other. Things need to be kept within loving and respectful boundaries.
Life is not easy and the key is to handle difficult times with grace. I don’t pray as often as I’d like but, when I do I ask for grace in handling my diabetes and for my family’s understanding and patience. Then I go back to doing my best at controlling my disease because that is truly the best way to help myself and everyone who loves me.