Monday, July 17, 2006

Counseling for partners

My whole blog first started because I'm in counseling because my husband has diabetes.

My counselor told me that I needed to get a "life of my own" and I posted about that. I guess I assumed that when someone posted a comment to a single blog, they had read all my previous blogs. Not so, I guess! LOL! So, today, I'm going to respond to a comment that was made to my last blog. Just because it brought up some good issues to think about.

I'm going to assume that the poster is someone who has type 1 diabetes. My husband has type 2, but has progressed to where he needs 2 shots in the morning and 2 shots in the evening. Oh, and don't forget, I have a complete, total needle phobia! :o)

I am over 50 years old and have had a very full life. I've also had a lot of grief and have received counseling over the years in how to deal with it. I know that each time there is a loss in our life, you must go through each step of the grief process. If we become stuck in any one step of the process....that is when the problems set in and your life cannot move forward.

What I do not understand is why some diabetics do not understand that this disease presents a serious of "losses" to them. They lose the ability to do certain things, to have control over what they eat, they need to take insulin, they need to regulate their lives. Each step of the disease, each progression, is a loss that needs to be dealt with.

If anger is a natural step in the grief process (and we know it is) then it is only normal to go through a phase of anger at each loss brought on by this disease. It is natural to go through a period of denial. A period of confusion. A period of tyring to put it all back together again. And then it is natural to go through acceptance...and the goal is to get to where you can help others who are suffering with this disease.

If you do not get past denial and get stuck in that phase....or any phase of the grief process....that's where the problems set in.

My husband is obviously still stuck in denial....and on so many levels...with so many areas of loss in his life.

Diabetics and counselors do not seem to fully understand that each time my partner has a loss in bodily function, the ability to do a shared activity that we used to enjoy, the non-diabetic partner (me/you) has to go through the grief process as well. And they have to go through each step of that process. So it's perfectly normal that I should have my own anger, my own resentment, my own denial. Over each and every loss. And when either of us get's stuck in any single phase....on any single loss, let's face it, we are going to have problems.

Now what loss could I possibly have since this is not my disease? eating and cooking habits have been forced to change against my will simply because my partner will not eat properly if I don't. We sold our Wave Runner and have not been back to the lake. We used to go almost every weekend. We don't go now because a) the temperature there is 107 degrees and has an impact on insulin, 2) his hands can no longer grip the clutches on the waverunner, 3) he doesn't "feel" like going any more and 4) he is in too much pain to go. This was an activity that I/we used to absolutely love to do together and looked forward to doing all summer long. Just one of scores of things that have changed in our lives as this disease has progressed. And yes, probably because he does not have any desire to control the progression of his disease.

The counselor said that "you need to create a life of your own". Well, trust me, I do have a life of my own. I travel quite a bit and although I am a freelance person, I still have deadlines with more projects than I will get done this summer! But I would argue that "this" is my life. "HE" is my life. Now, I do understand that I cannot make him make the correct decisions. And I do have activities of my own and things that I do without him. I'm not sitting home, in fact, I'm rarely home! Note my 3 month absence from blogging....just not here.

Another example. I'm pretty sure he is suffering right now from diabetic diahrrea. I'm home. He wants me to do the laundry for him. I suggested that he strip the bed this morning. He pulled the top sheet up and is laying on top of the bedspread. Has he stripped the bed yet? No....he doesn't feel like it. Is he waiting for me to go do it? Of course! Am I going to do it? Not likely. This is HIS disease, not mine....and the last thing I want to do is this type of laundry!!! But will he do it? I doubt it. He will lay there working from his laptop all day long and he will sleep on top of the bedspread tonight tossing a throw over himself.

Will he call the doctor? no. Will he do anything other than take imodium for the diarhhea? I doubt it. Yes, this is his disease, it is not mine. HOWEVER.....the consequences of "his" disease have a severe impact on my life! If you didn't get a graphic enough picture with the diahrrea example...just consider the smell!

A comment was made that this disease presents the same issues as cancer. I totally disagree. The word "cancer" and the word "diabetes" do NOT get the same reaction when spoken to someone else. Although, sadly, they should, they just do not. My husband's own children do not understand that their father is going to die from this disease as he is not taking care of himself. They serve him birthday cake. They serve him fried hamburgers and french fries. They do not have a clue. If he had cancer....I think they would be treating him a whole lot differently.

Counseling for a partner is a very good, necessary thing. The "concept" behind moving ahead with your life is a good one. But counselors need to grasp that this is MY life and I am married to HIM! So we are still a partnership and each of us must grieve our losses that are brought on by this disease. Neither one of us can move forward together or separately if we do not do this. Because I so clearly understand the grief process....I can do this....on a good day....when I'm thinking clearly.....and he is not yelling and screaming at me!!!

If I could say just one single thing to a diabetic out there, it would be that this is not just YOUR disease. Every single aspect of it has a profound impact on your partner!!! I did not ask for this disease. I do not have this disease. But it has changed my life more than anything else. I hate it more than anything else. And my husband, the diabetic, just does not get that.

oh, and do your own sheets! :o)

We did have a good weekend. He laid in bed most of the time or sat in his chair watching movies. I rearranged furniture and did a bit of organizing, something I enjoy doing. We went to a show, out to dinner and got groceries. He started getting sick about noon yesterday and it's pretty much been downhill since then. He has an infection in his right wrist and the area the size of a baseball is swollen and beet red. He can barely move it. The diarrhea started about 6 pm last night and kept him awake most of the night. He can barely move this morning. I asked him if he would please call his doctor and he said no.'s his disease, not mine....and I'm the one in counseling!

There is a bit of humor in that after all!!! :o)


Adam Becker said...


Thanks for putting this testimony up there. I'm a type 2, in pretty good control (a1c of 5.2.) I have friends and relatives in almost as deep denial as your husband. It's hard to know how to be a friend. Your blog helps me to understand, maybe will help me in finding the right thing to say.

And even in good control, my disease makes demands on my wife. Thanks for helping me see through her eyes.

AnnaQ said...

Thanks for another so-honest post. Your description of the loss and grieving that accompanies diabetes explains a lot about my husband's own behavior.

I've also ended up in counseling when the person who most needed it was him (IMO). But the good thing was that the counseling gave me enough strength and clarity to get him started with some therapy as well. Best of luck with convincing your husband to join you.

It's so hard to keep loving someone whose behavior you hate.

And talk about needle phobias - I once had to give my husband a glucagon injection because he was out cold from a severe hypoglycemia. The only way I could bear to do it was to stick the needle through his jeans!

Take care.

Anonymous said...

There are a ton of really great blogs out there written by people who have diabetes and are functioning, healthy, happy people who also have horrible days where their diabetes goes whack but they still survive. Everyone, not just diabetics, slips up sometimes. Maybe your spouse could learn to forgive himself and choose life? Maybe seeing that life DOES go on could help him? My comments (earlier) were meant to encourage you to choose life over misery. I know you can't force your husband to do the same, but at some point, perhaps already, you have to choose whether to drown with him, or save yourself. It sure sounds to me as if that is the issue here. Do you fish or cut bait?

By the way, my now 11 year old son has type 1 and was diagnosed when he was 8. Life as a parent isn't easy either. We have many, many days where my son sneaks a snack and doesn't bolus (he is on a pump, worth considering for your husband - fewer needles!) and we have many days when my son feels sick because he didn't manage his diabetes well. But we try to live each day with the intention that tomorrow will be better and my son (thank goodness) has a very sunny and upbeat character. Yes, we are blessed that he is that way and I'm sure your life is truly difficult, and I never meant to make you feel that I was belittling your efforts or your life. I really only meant to reach out and let you know that you aren't alone and that others have gone through what you are feeling.

At some point it isn't about what other people think - it is about the process, and your husband has chosen a process/made a decision about his life and didn't consult you even though his decision directly affects you and your life together.

I think that totally sucks and isn't fair and what about your dreams and goals and future? You are getting the short end of the stick and he doesn't seem to care. I wish your life didn't take this turn.

Diabeteswife said...

Oh my gosh....I never ever thought by blogging I might help someone else....I started this to help me! But if I can help you....then I am blessed! Thanks so much for posting, Adam!

Annaq...if nothing else, I will always be honest to a fault! I don't think I could ever give my husband an injection. Fortunately, when I dial 911, they are here in 3 minutes flat!!!

Anoymous, your post is so right on. My husband has not chosen life, even though he has a millions reasons why he should. Thank you so much for reaching out.

As an aside, I do know what it's like to raise sick children. My oldest son nearly died at the age of 10 from asthma, and my youngest son was having 7 grand mal seizures a the same time. It's nothing short of a miracle that I'm still here today. I know there is a reason....maybe it's to help others by blogging all my experiences. Perhaps one day soon I will write about parenting children with diseases and disabilities.

Somehow....having a husband with diabetes seems more difficult than having raised 2 sick children! LOL!!!

Impatient Patient said...

Living myself with a chronic spouse I can relate, though I hate counselling. I have friends my blog and good books because I have heard that line before and it negates the fact that people are enmeshed for good and bad and that is life. We are built that way.

Counsellors are far to glib in their assessements and a lot of them are complete life virgins- they just have no real life experience in anything real so they make shit up as they go along- again personal experience and yet an indictment of the profession.

Your counsellor SHOULD be telling you that this is normal that you are right to feel these things and you are right to care and eventually you both will figure out how to manage things. And there will be crappy days. And there will be days you want to throw him over the bridge. And divorce him and rat him out to whoever you can. And then you will eventually find that there is a normal in there somewhere that isnt ideal but it it what it is.

Your hubby is depressed and anxious and rebelling against his circumstance- again normal when this is happening. One day he will figure it out too. Remember that his screaming at you is his brain lacking glucose NOT you. And if your family needs an apology- well too bad. Explain, laugh and move on.

Marinate for five minutes at a time- then write and read and keep in touch with friends who get it. Tell the others to go away. You do not need their judgement.

And when bossy internet people tell you what to do take it all with a grain of salt----

I so get this......

Diabeteswife said...

I just love the expression "complete life virgin!!!" I will definitely be using that one! Thanks!!!

Judy said...

My husband (Type 1 diabetic) and I are seeing a counselor this week. He specializes in this kind of relationship problem and he is a diabetic also! I'm very hopeful that this will help. I've been searching for a counselor for us for a long time. I met with one and decided she wasn't right for us because she knew nothing about diabetes and that wouldn't be fair to him. Here's hoping...