Not many can say that they are married to a part-robot, part-warrior that skillfully keeps herself alive due to the absence of a functioning organ (the pancreas), that is both vital & necessary for one to live. This is my wife, a Type 1 diabetic, who is just days away from celebrating her 4 year mark as a T1D. Back in 2012, right around the time we started dating, Marci she said wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t get out of bed, which was very unusual. Over the next few months, her conditions progressively worsened. What should have been a blissful first few months living in Malibu, quickly turned into months of suffering and unbeknownst to us, Marci was moving through life with a chronic illness that was debilitating her each day that she was going undetected. After seeing consistent days of seeing her lying in bed lifeless and unable to move, I told her it was time to go to the hospital, just days before Christmas. Her numbers were above the meter’s ability to read which they think was 800+. She was soon diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes on December 21, 2012. I had ZERO idea about diabetes but I did know that because of the fact I loved her so much, I was going to do all that I could to learn about Type 1 diabetes. All I wanted was to see her get back to her normal, fun-loving, energetic, active, smile-about-everything self.
I quickly studied all the books that I could and spent endless hours of research. After learning about diabetes and what diabetics could do to get back to their normal active lifestyle, it quickly dawned on me. This is something that all spouses of diabetics need to hear: It’s NOT about what can I do to help her, It’s about how can I change MY life to help us.
It is our combination of diet, exercise and lifestyle that has led to a very smooth transition in adjusting to her diabetes. I realize that she did not have to do this alone. I don’t live my life a certain way and support her from a distance to the best of my ability. I have changed my life in such a way where we do life together, almost as if my brain operates like a T1D. When you make the change together, it just becomes life. Not life with diabetes. Here are some simple and practical ways I have helped make living with T1D less burdensome for Marci, or what I call, How to make a diabetic spouse HAPPY:
H- Help your spouse through the highs and lows, even with the mood swings.
- Know the warning signs of a high and a low.
- Be prepared to help them get whatever they need to combat the high or low.
- Stay updated on the latest T1D technologies that can help simplify T1D management. For example, I love tracking Marci’s BGs on the Dexcom Follow App.
A- Appreciate that diabetes takes dedication and is hard work.
It requires 24/7 attention & endless decision making. Your spouse is a fighter and needs to be reminded of that.
- Be there for them in times of hardship. They don’t want pity from you. They just want to know that you are there.
- When my wife is having a hard day, I encourage her by speaking positivity into her life. Always speak victory and never defeat.
- Laughter is key. In all things there is room for humor and if you were to ask my wife, humor is unbelievably helpful during those hard times.
P- Pursue new and fun activities.
- Most notably, CrossFit. We love the competitiveness of this sport. We’re even competing this coming January. This is a great way to push yourself and keep your numbers under control. Find an exercise routine that works for you!
- Outdoor activities are always GREAT. Surfing, hiking, even taking a morning walk.
- We love scoping out new healthy restaurants and make weekend dates out of them. Become a T1D foodie expert!
P- Participate in the lifestyle change. Educate yourself.
- Make the change in YOUR life to make the biggest impact on your loved one and your relationship.
- Get involved in the T1D Community. My wife has a blog that has all types of helpful tips and articles. She also draws a lot of encouragement from community support through the Beyond Type 1 App as well as other T1Ds through Instagram.
- Stick to a routine that works for both of you & give yourself grace when you fall off track.
Y- Yield to the suggestions of your spouse. They know best! They are their own health advocate.
- Your loved one wants your support. They don’t need you to be the diabetic police for them.
- Always listen to your loved one intently. They know how they are feeling and know their body best.
- Always be loving no matter the circumstance. You are their biggest fan and their #1 supporter. They need to feel that.
Although our love story is considered charming and unique by others, it didn’t start out ideal, given Marci’s health circumstances. However, I fell in love with her when she was at her lowest (or I should say, “highest”). I’ve walked alongside her T1D journey from the very beginning and I’ve seen the fight in her grow stronger over the course of our relationship. I admire her strength and courage, something that many people in the T1D community share. Making the necessary changes has not only helped her but also helped me tremendously. Making the lifestyle changes that are necessary for diabetics is a healthy lifestyle change for everybody, diabetes or not. As a spouse of a diabetic, if you remember that then you can have a huge impact on your loved one. You see? I don’t have a diabetic wife, I have a diabetic buddy. We are in this together.