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Guest Blog: Dealing with the Tough Stuff.

Mike Lawson offered to guest post, and I'm always one to encourage people to share their stories ... even when those stories hurt to share.  This afternoon, Mike shares a very tough experience with us, and one that I think anyone (diabetes notwithstanding) can relate to, on one level or another.  Thank you for sharing your story, Mike.

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This is the one where I’m super-depressing.
 
Mike and DanMy apologies to Kerri.  I was originally going to write a post for Six Until Me titled “Twitter Your Way To Better Blood Sugar,” and it was going to be awesome…but with some recent events in my life I couldn’t help but do a quick switcherroo.  So now you have the super-depressing story of how diabetes has negatively affected my love life:
 
There are a million articles on the web about how to support your loved ones living with diabetes.  You can find half a million articles on how diabetics can help their loved ones deal with this chronic illness.  I’m going out on a limb, but I think this may be the first blog post out there about how diabetes can ruin a relationship.
 
Last week I ended a relationship with my partner of three years.  And it sucks to say that my type 1 diabetes was a factor in the breakup.
 
Dan and I started dating back in 2007, and quickly hit it off.  We both have nerdy hobbies and love sitting around criticizing the television.  We both wear dorky glasses.  We frequently went out to dinner, or I’d cook for him.
 
What Dan didn’t know at the time was that I had a really nasty secret: I had absolutely no control over my blood sugars.
 
I was waiting out my health insurance’s stupid pre-existing condition penalty, and struggled to afford the basics for my diabetes management.  I wouldn’t test my blood unless I felt sick because when paying full price, those strips are more expensive than a strip of gold leaf.
 
I’d like to make villains out of the insurance companies, the government or other people…but the reality is that I dropped the ball on my own well-being.
 
During this time Dan tried to understand my Diabetes.  He has a problem-solvers brain, and hated not understanding why my glucose levels were high when all I ate was a pizza.  It’s sugar-free after all, right?  Ha!
 
About a year ago I was literally days away from the end of the pre-existing condition hold on my insurance when I started getting really sick.  I thought that I was facing a serious flu.  I had all of the normal and nasty flu-like symptoms…vomiting, aches, chills, and extreme tiredness.
 
Dan was super supportive…doing all of the things boyfriends do.  He got me crackers and medicine.  He came upstairs to refill my ice water.  And then I started having trouble breathing.  And I was hallucinating a little.  
 
Dan scooped me up and took me to the hospital.
 
“When was the last time you tested your blood sugar?” the nurse in the ICU asked me.
 
“Well it’s been a few days,” I said.
 
The nurses eyes got wide.  “You don’t test before each time you inject insulin?” she asked.
 
“Yes I do,” I said.  “That’s been a few days too.”  Actually closer to a month.
 
Ketoacidosis.  In basic terms, my body was completely deprived of all insulin.  This is potentially fatal.
 
I had to explain to the nurses and doctors about my pre-existing condition – which thankfully concluded one day before the hospital visit – and Dan sat by my side silently nodding as if he was an accomplice to all of this.
 
Dan cried in the hospital.  Scared as hell.  That problem-solver that I told you about had no control over this one.
 
Since the hospital visit a year ago, we had ups and we had downs.  I started seeing a wonderful doctor that put me on an ultra-low carb diet that made my numbers close to perfect.
 
What non-diabetics sometimes fail to understand is how persistent this illness is.  Even (God forgive the analogy please) cancer has an end date.  It gets better or it doesn’t.  And while I’m not wishing for cancer, I do think that perhaps Dan and I could have battled that one out a bit better because of the finality of it.
 
So with time, my doctor’s visits became more and more spread out.  I would cancel appointments because I hadn’t been testing and recording as regularly as I know my doctor would have wanted.  I started sneaking in more and more carbohydrates.
 
And the carbohydrates made my numbers higher, and I was afraid of what my a1c results would be.  Another canceled appointment.
 
I even lied to Dan about a canceled appointment.  “She said everything was fine,” I told him, unable to fess up to canceling another meeting with my doctor out of fear for the harsh words he might have.
 
There’s really no bad guy here.  Dan loved me and wanted me to be healthy so we could grow old together…with all four of our feet.  And I wasn’t a bad guy either.  When confronted I always told myself that I could handle this.  “Just give me one more week to start testing and recording my numbers, and then I’ll go to the doctor.”
 
And ultimately I failed.
 
I’m totally leaving some stuff out.  Dan didn’t break up with me because I can’t control my blood glucose levels.  That would be jerky.  And Dan is less than jerky.  But my diabetes (un)management was a contributing factor in our decision to break up.  It’s tough to worry about your own blood glucose levels … let alone your boyfriends.

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Mike Lawson is a program director for a youth-serving non-profit organization in Tempe, Arizona.  He was diagnosed with Type II diabetes in 2005, and then was re-diagnosed with Type I diabetes in 2007.  At this rate, he should be diagnosed with a working pancreas any day now.  Find Mike on Twitter: @mrmikelawson or read his blog: WhatSomeWouldCallLies.com

Comments

Man, that sucks. I am sorry things did not work out Mike.
I can totally see how Diabetes can get in the way. I wonder how I would feel if my wife was the type 1? It's hard to think but I wonder you know?

Ahh. Hugs! I have gone through a period of self-neglect before.... For me it meant there were other issues going on.

My husband thinks I am mean sometimes on purpose. Sometimes it is just the BG swings!

He also thinks I use diabetes as an excuse to do/not do things. D gets in the way somtimes... We can't just ignore it. =)

I'm impressed by your honesty. If you have the strength to write that, you have the strength to continue looking after yourself, so we can read more of your great writing! Best wishes :)

I really feel for you, Mike. Despite the best of intentions, my relatives and friends never really "get it." They think that because I'm (as far as they know!) in control, I've "beaten" the disease. Ha! It's like kudzu.

The bit about cancer also resonates. A relative of mine who has had cancer for a couple of years said at one point, "Isn't cancer just the worst thing you can have?" I didn't know what to say. I'm still trying not to resent the comment, even while being scared for him. I hope you find a nonjudgemental doctor (they do exist!nurses, not so much) and then try not to care what anyone else thinks.

That is a great post, Mike. I think your honestly about the reality of D-Care will help a lot of other folks out there

Well written and very honest account! sorry your relationship didn't work out....it simply wasn't meant to me. you will find the right one and hope you are now testing more often.....

Mike,

I am a parent of an amazing son recently diagnosed with type 1. Thank you so much for sharing your story and for being so honest. Diabetes requires so much vigilance- which I am perfectly capable of maintaining for my son. I honestly don't know that I could do it for myself. Thank you for sharing and I wish peace and love to you.

I think you are brave for posting this. Not every one posts how diabetes negatively effects our relationships. Sometimes it can be too much to handle. (((Hugs)))

Oh god, your story sounds so familliar and really brought a tear to my eye. When I was in college and uni I went through exactly the same thing - thankfully I caught mine before DKA could set in. But jeez, I know what its like.

Thank you so much for posting this. It takes a brave person to write down stories such as this

*massive hugs*

So sorry you posted this.

I have been there. The the uncontrolled diabetic whose husband only wanted her to take care of herself so that one day we may be able to safely have children. It's a constent battle... every day. As I have gotten older the reality of having children is what is pushing me to take care of myself and realizing that if there's no me what is my husband to do. Mike, keep pushing forward! Remember you can control it (to the best of your ability when taking the right steps... it's an ongoing process) but when you stop trying to control it, it controls you and does truly affect every aspect of your life. I hope you continue to take care of your self!

Hey Mike, brave post to write brother. Thank you for having the courage to talk about something that many people might be too afraid to.

I hate that money and finances play as much (or more?) of a role in our self-care as our motivation does.

I'm so sorry, Mike. A chronic condition is like a never-ending marathon. Until you've tried living it with rigor, you just don't understand. It's possible that your partner felt he had relationship issues with you in being unable to have trust in your honesty. That can happen to any couple for any reason. But you know, we learn something from every relationship and go forward. I hope love is just around the corner for you.

I'm sorry to hear it didn't work out but I'm glad that you are able to be honest. The funny part about control and dating/marriage/etc. is that when you're not controlled, you're not completely yourself. When I went on the pump to get better control as a teen, even I didn't know who I was afterwards. All of a sudden I was lively, talkative, and no longer lethargic. So it's hard to get to know someone else when you don't even know your "controlled" self.

I hope everything works out soon. Hang in there and take care of yourself!

Mike, Thank you for being so honest. Believe me, you are not alone.

Mike, thank you for being honest and brave enough to share your story--I think you'll help a lot of people by talking about this side of the D. Keep taking good care of yourself. The right partner will come in time.

So sad when the expenses of the necessities like test strips and insulin are a factor in not being able to control the D. :(

Sorry to hear of your struggles Mike.

Mike:
I love you - and I love Dan. I'm so very sorry. But I think you are pretty courageous to put this out there. But I am so glad you are admitting this and getting back up on that wagon to take care of yourself. I think we all go through this. I denied for 10 years in my 30s, and the more I didn't take insulin, the more weight I lost! :-) Thanks for sharing! And thank you for being you!

Mike--

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your statement about cancer. At a recent visit to my diabetes care center, a CDE told me that she thought having diabetes wasn't too bad compared to other stuff our there (needless to say-- she does not have diabetes). I really wanted to tell her exactly what you said, that "even cancer has an end date," but I just didn't have the guts to do it-- because who hates on cancer? I wasn't going to be the first to do it. Thank you for saying what I think, and thank you for revealing some of your diabetes ugly- I've been there, too.

I am so proud to count you as a friend. You are one of the strongest and bravest people I know.

Love you always. Jeff

Thank you for posting this. Take care of yourself to the best of your ability. That's all someone can ask of you. I know how it is - I'm a veteran of eighteen years. God Bless.

You're an amazing person Mike. Thank you for sharing this and giving those of us who are completely clueless a little insight into your world.

Thank you so much for your honesty, Mike, and your willingness to say some really difficult stuff. Also, I love your blog and always look forward to getting your posts in my inbox! Keep writing - about the good AND the bad! :)

Sorry to hear that, Mike. That does suck, totally and completely. But like you said, it's not like you can blame Dan - he sounds like a great guy. My wife has promised to leave me if my Type 1 ever got to the point of being uncontrolled and I wasn't doing it for the both of us... She's called me selfish and in the past it's led to arguments - long before I was in the much-better control now. But, diabetes does put a strain on things no matter what. Thank you for sharing this, as tough as it must be. Wishes your way, my online friend. Hope the sunshine finds you soon.

Am I really the only one to balk at the notion that diabetes could possibly be as tough or tougher to deal with than cancer? I am a type 1 diabetic and yes, it most certainly has its challenges but at least management is reasonably within the control of the diabetic. Cancer is indiscriminate and devastating. Try telling a cancer sufferer that it's a plus for their disease to have the certainty of an 'end date' when one of the possible ends is the finality of death.

Mike,
I appreciate your candid and vulnerable post. What you wrote, along with some of the comments, makes me think of several things. First and probably most important is the fact that you need carbs!! Carbohydrate is the most important energy source for the human body (and having to "sneak" them in is outrageous)! Because you have type 1 diabetes, you need carbs *and* insulin!
Moving on...the word "control" comes up often in these comments. What is control anyway? Can we really control anything? I prefer to use the term, "manage".
As a nurse, I was so deeply saddened to see the comment that nurses are judgmental. I hope you find a non-judgmental nurse - they do exist!
Best of luck, Mike. You deserve to be healthy and feel good for a long, long time.

I read this last night and still can't shake it. I've had a few of my own moments of "what I am doing with him?!?" when things are rough and I hate to admit it.

Thank you for your honesty, Mike. May life bring you more joy in the future.

Jen,

The reason I brought up cancer was not to say that one illness is easier or harder than the other. My point was that perhaps having an ending date - for better or worse - would have been easier on our relationship. That's all.

I have been a type 1 diabetic for 28 years. The whole time I have been totally responsible for the management of my disease. I work very hard to stay in contol. The last thing I want is to make my co workers, friends, and family worry about me. I have always put them first. I know how hard it is sometimes, but the best advice I can give you in relationships is PPF (put your partner first). Also, taking care of yourself means you will feel well, and then life is easier. If I can do it ... so can you. Best of Luck in the future.

I loved this post. However, as a T1 for 30+ years *and* a cancer survivor, I have to say, as far as scary/shitty goes, cancer wins hands down.

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