Monday, June 30, 2008

Diabetic parents of diabetic children

I think this must be my week of questions. That, or things are starting to solidify in my brain and more questions are popping up.

I'm going to write a scenario here and change the names to protect the "innocent"! LOL!

Let's say you have a non-compliant diabetic father - let's call him Howard. And he has an adult son who is age 30 who is also a non-compliant diabetic. We'll call him Greg. Now, Greg has an 8 year old son who is not a diabetic (yet). We'll call him Tim.

Both Howard and Greg both have extreme highs and lows in their sugar levels. When they go low, they get angry and yell and scream at anyone around them. But they don't remember yelling or screaming at all.

Greg grew up this way. Being verbally abused as a child when his father had lows.

Tim is being raised this way, verbally abused by a dad who yells at him all the time.

Neither Greg or Howard comprehend that they are verbal abusers - simply because they do not remember the things that they said or the things that they did during their lows.

Greg does not think his father has ever done anything wrong with him - based on the presumption that whenever his dad was low and yelling at him, he was low at the same time and did not remember the things his father said to him.

Tim, not diabetic, no lows, good memory, will come to understand that he is being abused because his teachers at school are noticing changes in his behavior and are talking to him about what's going on at home. Tim will grow up knowing that he is a verbally abused child and he will know why. He will know that his father was completely unaware of what was being said, of what was going on because he was in a low at the time he was angry.

But how many children of diabetic adults grew up being abused, understand they were abused, but do not know that their parents have absolutely no recollection of this because they were in a low (or high) when the event occurred?

I met a 30 something woman not too long ago who told me she was horribly verbally abused as a child. Later in the conversation she told me that her dad was a diabetic who just refused to take care of himself. Something totally clicked in me and I started asking her questions. She realized that her dad probably had been in a low with each outburst and probably had no idea what he had said or done to her over the years. Now, how sad is that?

And where are the studies on the relationship between parents who are diabetics and children who are abused? I'll just bet that ratio is pretty high!


Caromora13 said...


Is this the dilemma you mentioned you would be posting? I'm not sure how to talk about this.

See, I'm a type 2 diabetic, currently totally controlled with no meds and by following a low-carb diet. I have 3 adult kids with type 1 diabetes...son 1 became diabetic at age 18 when still living at home; son 2 at about age 30; and daughter 1 at about age 35.

None of us with diabetes has ever had problems with being mean and yelling and screaming with either highs or lows with our diabetes.

Son 1, when he starts going low, starts becoming lethargic and his speech becomes erratic. The lower he goes, the less he is able to speak and it even effects his being able to walk. If he is sitting next to someone, he will begin touching them as in an attempt to communicate something that he is not able to verbalize. Once, in a bar with some friends (he was drinking diet soda), he began having a low and tried touching a guy next to him who promptly turned around and started to beat the crap out of him because he thought he was gay and coming on to him, before his friends intervened. The way his lows work is that his body and voice become almost paralyzed and he cannot communicate. He is very compliant with his diabetes and tries to follow a somewhat lower carb diet, but his low blood sugar reactions scare him, so he is apt to let his sugars run a little bit high, +/- 200.

Son 2 has a similar reaction with the inability to speak or move when his blood sugar goes low and then he goes into seizures. He is much less compliant in that he is an alcoholic and will not give up the booze. However, he is not a mean drunk, but one who gets maudlin and weepy. However, the non-compliance is showing up in nerve damage to his feet and legs and stomach issues pertinent to diabetics.

My daughter is totally non-compliant to the point that just 10 years after being diagnosed, she is now on kidney dialysis. She also has the problem with being unable to verbalize properly with low blood sugars.

As for me, when I would have low blood sugars, I would start feeling ill and shaky. Since I was hypoglycemic for many years before I became diabetic, I knew what that was and to go immediately to eat protein.

So, our experiences with diabetes are nothing like the ones you and other have described. We have not seen the yelling and screaming from lows, although the lack of memory of what happened while low is similar.

I would have trouble dealing with someone as abusive as your husband. I'm sorry to sound harsh, but I simply would not put up with it.

If it was me, the first thing I would do is buy a tape recorder and hide it somewhere to be turned on when he would start his meanness...and I would play it back to him when he's past that. I would do it every time so that he would not be able to deny his behavior or say that he does not do that. If that would not cause him to alter his eating behavior and take better care of himself, I would leave him.

When I first started reading your blog, I thought you must be a woman who is with a man you've been married to for most of your life and you have that lifetime of togetherness, so are staying with him through better and worse. I was almost shocked recently to read that you will soon be celebrating only a 6th or 7th anniversary. It's difficult for me to understand why you stay. That means he has been abusive to you for nearly your entire married life! Why is he worth it? Where is your own self-esteem that you would not put up with this from a man you've spent such little time with?

I know this makes me sound even harsher, but there is a part of me that does not believe that the yelling and screaming and being abusive is a natural part of being a non-compliant diabetic.

I tend to believe that they have these reactions because that is who they really are...abusive men (and abusive women, too, although this seems to be more prevalent with men). Perhaps that whole thing goes together...the tendency to be abusive first... becoming non-compliant diabetics because of their abusive personalities... which allows them to be abusive without having to admit or be responsible for it.

You are not doing your husband or anyone else a favor by letting him get away with this behavior. Someone needs to step up and be a heroine or hero, to stop the abuse from going on for more generations.

I tend to believe that what you are suffering is an aberration in diabetics. That could be why there is not all this literature or all this help out there that you are looking for. But I still feel you are dealing with a plain old addict and he needs to be dealt with as an addict.

Having been very honest with you and said all that, I still feel compassion for you in this situation. However, I would still urge you to work to find a solution to change it... or leave if you can't. There comes a point when your own health -- mental health and physical health -- must come first to you.

Best wishes,

Diabeteswife said...

Wow Carol, what a heartfelt post! I can't imagine being diabetic and watching 3 children with this disease. You must be one strong woman for certain!

I will say it again, I stay because I love him. When is is in normal range. Whether I stay or not will depend on how normal he can get himself. I deal with the verbal abuse because I understand where it comes from. If it were physical - I would walk away on the spot.

I do feel like we have been together forever - we ae pretty compatible outside of diabetes. Very comfy if you know what I mean. We have lived together 10 years, so I had several good ones in there before his body started to fall apart.

Maybe it is my high self esteem that allows me to stay. That I know he is not aware of what he says - at least that's what I believe. I know that it's not a reflection on me, nor does it really have anything to do with me. I'm just the obstacle that's in front of him when he has a low.

And the knowledge that I can leave at any time. That helps. Not having young children to support - and I do have plenty of places I can move, so there is security in that.

I might have to give the tape recorder a try. That's a pretty good idea! Things are going very smooth this week - he's on vacation, so no work stress.

I might agree this is an abberation - yet how many does it take to move beyond that? Only because I receive quite a few comments and more private emails from other women who seem to be in like or similar situations. The really sad thing is that most of them have young children still at home.

Thanks for your comments and thoughts.


Anonymous said...


I am so sorry to say but I have been reading your posts, I can't help but think you are blaming things on DH's diabetes that has nothing at all to do with it. Lows don't typically cause the type of reaction you talk about (hatefulness) As a wife of a diabetic for 15 years (he is type I and he was non compliant until recently) I have never expirienced this. He reacts by severe sweating, becoming lethargic and slurring his words. I will say that when he is high he is more moody, but never "forgets". The fact that your husband doesn't check his blood sugar is a further indication that you don't know that low blood sugar levels are to blame. I hate to see you stand by a man because you believe a disease is causing his hatefulness when in fact, it could be that he is just hateful. I don't pretend to know it all and his levels could be causing it, but I personally don't believe so. If it is due to his diabetes, it would most likely be due to a high.

Diabeteswife said...


Well, I don't think you've read enough of my posts! Yes, we do know for a fact that these are lows - from past testing. I do believe that each person reacts differently, probably based on a combination of all what drugs they are on, what other issues are going on in their body, etc. My husband has never had sweats or slurred his words, but he will become lethargic and he will pass out from low sugar. He usually knows when he gets below 60.

His doctors have told me that he does suffer memory loss during both a high and a low. And there is much written about that very issue. I truly do not doubt him when he says he doesn't remember. I've been with him long enough that I can tell when it's a low, a high, and I can tell the difference. They pretty much also all happen at the same time of the day. Not every day, not even every week, but almost always the same time of day when they occur.


Plumber wife said...

I am a wife of a diabetic, we have been married for two years. He's a plumber and allows himself to get too busy to check as often as he should.

I really need help. He's on various meds besides the diabetic side effects that are beginning to make me feel that I am just a roommate, housekeeper, nursemaid. I have been giving 100% in the relationship but due to his fatigue, I grow more and more empty.

Last night for instance, my son had a football practice, DH had a side plumbing job and if I hadn't called at 7pm, he wouldn't have made it home due to a diabetic low - he was at 43. He doesn't know anymore that it is going low. He has reached the thresh-hold.

I am at wits end. I want to love him "wide open" but the feeling of insecurity lately has been overwhelming. I don't know from one day to another if God will bring him home.