I went into college as a non-diabetic and in the middle of my sophomore year was diagnosed at the age of 20. Talk about a change of EVERYTHING. Going out, dating and relationships are tricky when you’re in your early twenties and navigating through the world of college. The trickiness only escalates when you’re a single 20-year-old and a diabetic.
I hid my diabetes from everyone because I was ashamed and I thought they would treat me differently. I wanted secrecy and I wanted to be alone because it was easier for me. I kept myself from dating for a while because one, I didn’t want to explain diabetes and how to take care of me if I dropped low or went super high. However, that is no way to live. Through all my trials and tribulations I’ve come out with a few funny stories and many “single diabetic girl” lessons; out of my embarrassment comes wisdom.
GOING OUT: When I became brave enough to wear clothing that might show my insulin pump, I decided to go out to a bar with my friends. I was wearing a crop top and had my pump clipped to my shorts. I was having a pretty good time — despite the fact that I had been asked more than once what I had clipped to me or why I had diabetes — when a bouncer grabbed me and asked why I had a wire attached to me. A wire? Had this guy been drinking on the job? Nope, it was my insulin pump, I told him. He mistook it for a wire and thought I was undercover.
He did this in front of a ton of people, and when I had to shout it was an insulin pump, that I was diabetic, I started to cry. I was humiliated. Looking back I should have shrugged it off and not let it affect me, but I was new to the lifestyle and was still slightly ashamed. My lesson from this story: own your diabetes and make that pump a fashion statement! Those who call you out for it, aren’t people you want in your life.
DATING: While trying to stabilize my blood sugars, learn how to calculate carbs, know the signs of high/low sugar, I also had to figure out dating. I didn’t think anyone would want to date me, because I was this walking hazard.
What if I go on a date with someone and I have to check my blood sugar/give myself a shot in front of them? What if he doesn’t want to deal with a diabetic? Do I need to tell him if I pass out, I’m low and to shove sugar in my mouth? And eventually when I switched to the pump — how am I going to explain what this device is? All these thoughts were swirling around my head and it was nerve-wrecking.
People you date have thoughts swirling around their head too. I’ve been asked a thousand questions about diabetes. How did you get it? What do you have to do to manage it? Why do you wear a pump? You name it, I’ve been asked. I used to cringe and think they wouldn’t like me, but I was wrong.
SEX: Then of course, came the thoughts and questions of what I did during sex. According to non-diabetics — people with Type 1 can’t have sex like normal people. (Wrong, by the way.) Just keep in my mind (when you’re old enough to have sexual relations) that everyone and I mean everyone, will be curious. The number one question: “What the **** do you do with your pump?” That’s actually a good question, considering how it is attached to you by a tube — unless you have Omnipod. I honestly didn’t know what to do during sex, because this pump was attached to me.
So, what’s the answer? Your pump can potentially be a bit dangerous. Remember, it is on a tube so can swing around or not stay where you originally placed it. If you want to avoid any potential injury, (e.g. hitting your partner/yourself with it — it hurts!) take your pump off. But as always, make sure your blood sugar is within target range, and don’t leave it off for hours. It’s easier to move without it (I know this from personal experience). However, you might be one of the few that can leave it on and have zero problems. Just test it out both ways and see.
THE BIG TAKE AWAY: The most important lesson is DON’T HIDE YOURSELF. You have Type 1 diabetes and it’s not your fault — be proud to show how awesome and strong you are. You have a bionic pancreas whether you have the pump or give yourself shots, and that’s okay. Tell your potential boyfriend/girlfriend you are diabetic — they need to know what to do if an emergency happens. This is your life we’re talking about, so don’t be embarrassed. Those who like you, will like you even more when you show them how much of a warrior you are. Have fun and be safe and love.
Read our Drinking with Diabetes Chart.