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.
My 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.
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