What I really want to achieve with this blog is to get across as many people’s experiences and journey’s with diabetes (whether directly or indirectly) so that others can relate to and understand that whatever they’re going through, they’re probably not alone.
Living with diabetes isn’t easy. But being the partner of a diabetic isn’t exactly a walk in the park sometimes! So, I thought I’d ask my own girlfriend some questions about what it’s like dating a diabetic!
Firstly, tell everyone reading this a little bit about you!
I’m 23 years old and currently working in London as an office manager/PA/marketing & PR assistant so a bit of an all-rounder. I moved to London in 2014 after graduating university where I studied History and absolutely loved it (definitely a geek at heart). I actually moved in with Dan recently and overall made his life infinitely better (Editor: yeah, sure…!) although I’m sure he will disagree at times! I’m still enjoying exploring London for all that it has to offer, most especially the various cocktail bars. I still love anything to do with History and enjoy travelling to various places to see the sights (and again sample the various cocktail bars…).
Before you started dating a diabetic, what was your knowledge of diabetes beforehand?
My knowledge beforehand was really not that in-depth. I have a couple of family members and a friend who have diabetes (both Type 1 and 2) but I have never really been exposed to it in its entirety. I knew about the various things that people with diabetes had to carry out such as taking insulin and testing blood levels but as far as dietary needs this wasn’t something I had first-hand experience of.
How has your knowledge grown?
Yes – significantly. I have been exposed to both the ups and downs of living with diabetes and have seen my partner suffer some lows but also some great highs with regards to his general health. Upon ending his ‘honeymoon period’ towards the end of 2014 and having to re-introduce taking insulin on a daily basis into his life, his general health was not good at all (severe weight-loss and lack of energy), but I have witnessed him completely turn this around.
It seems his body is now fully getting used to having to have insulin on a daily basis but most of all I have seen how a good diet and the right amount of exercise can completely alter the lifestyle of a diabetic. The generic stigma’s that surround diabetes have been brought to my attention and dismissed due to actually living with someone who has diabetes.
I myself can see the huge gap in the market for help when it comes to the dietary needs of a diabetic and just the general knowledge of how a diabetic’s health can be improved upon speaking to those I know who have the condition. Some have said they do not get the help needed with regards to actually living with diabetes concerning diet and exercise.
What are the key things you look out for with your partner with regards to his health?
Just to keep an eye out for when they may be slightly low or high – usually this is obvious due to a dip in energy levels or if they are overly excitable (which with the latter can sometimes be hard to tell with Dan…!)
He is very clued up on his dietary requirements and knows how much exercise he should be doing so this isn’t something I would ever need to monitor, he is very sensible with never going overboard with certain foods and is extremely active. I would however suggest for someone dating a diabetic who maybe does not look after themselves as well just to take into account what they are eating and whether this is excessive in any way or may cause them their levels to increase unnecessarily.
How do you try to help?
I think basically by living a healthy lifestyle yourself you can be of help to your partner, exercising regularly and eating well yourself – doing active things together like taking long walks. Don’t keep too many naughty treats in the house to tempt them! I can imagine it’s not very nice to sit across from someone scoffing their face knowing you cannot.
Another point is making sure you do have things placed in the house for when their levels may dip and they need something quickly, we have recently purchased lots of energy tablets which are small and effective – easy enough to place in a bag when out of the house too. Also making sure they have their insulin when out!
However I think most importantly on this topic is to support them, especially through low times as these will occur. Just being there can be the greatest help of all I think.
From your perspective, what’s a hypo (low blood sugar) like?
It can be fairly worrying – especially on the occasion of being woken up in the night when I’m not much use for anything let alone offering help! But as long as you are clear on what you need to do, make sure something is always to hand for them to eat in order to get their levels back up as quickly and effectively as possible but also get your partner to show you how to use their kit so you are able to take their reading if they are too weak to do this themselves.
It is never a nice moment to see your partner like this – especially when you are not used to seeing them this weak – but the more effectively you act the quicker they can get back to a ‘normal’ state. Sometimes I feel if it’s not at a stage bad enough I need to intervene and help then they would just rather be left to themselves to get some food and sit/lie-down whilst it takes effect. Maybe just open a couple of windows if indoors, or if you are out and about then find them somewhere cool to sit.
What advice can you give to others in your situation?
Just really to get over the initial stigma’s surrounding diabetes – it doesn’t mean they do not live a ‘normal’ life! If anything they can be healthier and fitter than most people you know when carrying out a healthy lifestyle, which is the case with me.
I would also recommend letting your partner talk through diabetes with you so you completely understand it from their perspective, understand all their fears but also find out what it may have done to change their life. In our situation, I actually tell Dan a lot how much positivity being diagnosed has brought to his life – how it has made him so much more aware of general health and how to incorporate this with his diabetes, allowing for him to help others (both diabetics and non-diabetics).
Have you implemented anything you’ve learnt form your diabetic partner in your own life?
Yes a lot actually – most definitely eating healthier and not following ‘fad diets’ that do nothing for you in the long-term. We cook a lot together and he has introduced me to some brilliant recipes that have so much goodness!
Also getting me to eat more greens and lots of good smoothies. I would also say, away from the topic of diet, I have learnt a lot from him with regards to mind-set and positivity. Having the determination to overcome certain seemingly negative things that are likely to happen in life and how to make them a positive.