Type 1 diabetes is an illness which is not easy to manage and it influences practically everything in life. When someone starts dating a person with type 1 diabetes, there might be some things that are good to know. Firstly, you should know the basics of type 1 diabetes. The internet has tons of very good information available. Here is a nice fact sheet about type 1 diabetes from Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).
The symptoms of hypos and hypers differ amongst diabetics
Now that you know the cold facts, you should know that every person with type 1 diabetes is unique. Exercise raises someone’s BG levels, whereas others have to drink sugary drinks to avoid going low. Different diabetics experience low or high blood glucose levels differently. One might get angry or anxious when approaching a low BG, whereas some just go pale and shaky. It gets worse at the grocery store if one has a hypo standing in line with a chocolate bar in hand. They would just want to pay for the candy bar so they can eat it but the queue just won’t MOVE! That for e.g. is when I feel a bit aggressive but I have learned to just eat the candy bar while standing there and pay for the wrap.
Eventually you’ll probably learn to see when your significant other is acting “like in a hypo”. However, you might want to avoid suggesting a blood glucose measurement. Nothing feels as frustrating when someone invalidates a type 1 diabetic’s negative emotions by suggesting ”It’s only your diabetes doing its tricks”. I would think it is something like telling an angry woman “it’s just your hormones talking”. Tread carefully here.
At high BG levels the most common symptoms are fatigue and frequent need for urination, but there are differences here too. For the first few years since my diagnosis, I would get relaxed, more talkative and kind of upbeat when experiencing high BG levels. Having an actual “sugar high”. Nowadays I just feel tired and sleepy, I guess my body got accustomed to the highs. But back in the day when I was acting goofy, my GF often asked me if I had high BG, also bringing forth some frustration that “am I only goofy when I’m high?”.
The Zombie Hypo Mega-Munchies
Then there are the night time hypoglycemias. At night, the blood glucose levels can drop pretty low before the symptoms wake a diabetic up. When the hypo is more severe, the body signals very strongly, urging to eat as much as possible. This leads to ‘hypo munchies’ as I like to call them. It is not uncommon for one to stagger into the kitchen and look for anything fast to eat. Bread is fine, fruits too. Chocolate cookies and milk – OH YES! The morning after is horrible, the BGs are sky high, eyes feel swollen and the mouth tastes awful. I ate something my SO (Significant Other) had prepared for herself or for guests more than once and woke up with a super bad feeling and heard “WHO ATE MY SANDWICH?”. Eventually my fear of my wife’s wrath overcame the instinct level “EAT” command issued by my nightly hypo.
So nowadays while I’m on zombie eating mode (not aiming for brains though), I still have enough higher cognitive functions active to avoid eating stuff reserved for specific purposes or guests. But I’ll tell you, nothing tastes as good as chocolate chip cookies and milk when your body thinks its dying and the only cure is food. They say hunger is the best seasoning, but nah, the best seasoning is a massive hypo.
Then there are some, who don’t feel the hypos and just tumble down in the weirdest places. The loss of hypo feels is a dangerous situation and I’m glad it hasn’t happened to me yet. But my SO worries about me. Type 1 diabetes comes with its risks and complications are a reality for many of us. The complications can include changes in eye sight, problems with feeling on your feet, digestion, kidneys and circulatory system. But if you treat your diabetes well and should complications arise, treat them well too, everything should go reasonably well. Our lifespans aren’t that much shorter if living in a developed country and receiving good treatment.
Dottli provides a nice tool for couples with diabetes
The worst thing about type 1 diabetes at the moment for me is force feeding. I am trying to maintain my weight and there is nothing that frustrates me more than having to force feed. The need for force feeding occurs when I have to exercise and my BG levels are waaay too low. I need to bring it up, sometimes by a lot. I have had to eat a half jar of honey (which I strongly dislike) to get my BG levels to a safe level for exercise. Sometimes my body also suddenly reacts much more strongly to insulin and I find myself at almost hypo values with like 5 units of active insulin running through my veins. I have no choice but to eat, even if I just ate 30 minutes earlier.
These things greatly affect how people with type 1 diabetes feel about themselves. Hence it is a good idea for the SO to understand the things that are happening in the diabetics’ life. A great way to get know your diabetic’s illness is to start a joint chat channel on Dottli’s app. That way whenever a diabetic logs BG value, bolus, meal or exercise, the partner gets the information automatically on the chat channel. It’s a great way to learn to know your better half’s other life-long companion.
Where did my healthy habits go? I had a long summer holiday during which I slept in and didn’t really watch my diet. The whole spring I was able to withstand eating sugary treats, but when my holiday started, I succumbed. The daily routines like having a healthy lunch every day at 11 o’clock vanished. I could have my lunch at 14 o’clock and eat cake and candy in the evening. I suspect my weight has gone up by at least 2 kilograms during the last four weeks. This week is my first week at work and I know already it will be HARD to wean myself off of the daily sugar fix. Last time I fixed my diet in January, it took me several weeks to get past the sugar cravings.
My diabetes has been okay so far though. Even though my diet has gone awry, I have been able to exercise. The lawn needs mowing and that takes over an hour every week. I’ve gone to boxing practice at least once a week and I’ve hunted some Pokemon while walking in my brand new hiking shoes.
During holidays I sleep in late and eat poorly. That’s not too bad, one might even say it sounds like a proper holiday attitude. I have given myself permission to do all that, but I have kept in mind that it’s only temporary. Now that my work routines are coming back, it’s time to take control again. And this is how I’m going to do it:
1. I’ll go to sleep at 22 o’clock instead of midnight
2. I’ll start having steady, healthy lunches at work (I can now share pictures of my meals to my friends on Dottli’s chat channels!)
3. No candy or chocolate
4. Sweet pastries only on special occasions like birthday parties or other celebrations. It’s important to separate everyday life and times of celebration.
5. I’ll maintain my healthy exercise habits
I have a big sweet tooth, but salty treats are not a problem, so I’ll allow myself salty pastries in moderation.
I really enjoyed my summer vacation.
That’s my recipe for healthy normal life and more easily manageable type 1 diabetes. Healthy habits are an important part of type 1 diabetes care, they are not crucial only for type 2 diabetics. But a list with five items in it means that I have five balls I have to juggle with. I am bound to drop at least one of them and I am prepared for it. When I lapse, I’ll just pick up the ball right away. And if the lapse lasts a week, I won’t give up, I’ll just start again.
That’s the biggest rule of maintaining healthy habits: always start again, there is no such thing as game over.
Dottli is a digital health company based in Finland and improving life with diabetes is our first focus. As a hub for connected health apps and devices and with cloud-based intelligence, Dottli can also provide real-time support on your personal health goals.