I am not diabetic, but my partner has type 1. He has been living with diabetes for around 30 years. His method of management is, I guess, minimalist: He uses non-perscription insulin (Humulin), does not have any kind of meter for monitoring blood sugar and administers shots or gobbles skittles based on how he’s feeling. This seems to work, well, OK, for him during waking hours; not so much when he’s asleep. It’s the when he’s asleep thing that terrifies me, especially because we don’t live together. We’re in schools 1500 miles apart. He doesn’t have a doctor; he has minimal insurance provided through his graduate program. He hasn’t been to a doctor of any kind in years.
I can’t speak for him; I can’t know what it’s like to live in his body, to experience a different standard of what it means to feel “normal.” I don’t have to throw money at big pharma just to stay alive. I haven’t endured the periods of life-threatening poverty that he has, when he had to ration insulin and was practically starving. I haven’t suffered the kinds of losses he’s suffered in his life, things I won’t go into here out of respect for him. But he has had kind of a rough time of it. It’s no wonder, then, that he feels anger, resentment, frustration, and fear about his condition, and about the lack of resources, support, or understanding for someone in his position. I certainly do.
It angers and depresses me that our society and our health care system can’t do more for him, and people like him. Insurance companies treat diabetics like lepers…they don’t want to have anything to do with them. Unless you already have a good salary and good insurance, it just seems like you’re s*** out of luck. I have seen good, well-meaning people cheerily inform my partner, “you need to get a monitor, you need to get a good doctor, you need to do x, y, and z.” I know it’s well-intentioned advice, but putting that advice into practice means spending money and more money, endlessly, on care the majority of the population will never need, much less think about. And that sucks. Given my partner’s past financial difficulty, just the thought of the cost of decent health care is enough to make him break out in a cold sweat.
All that said, I know there are things that he can do with the minimal resources he has to better manage his condition. If he would just eat three meals a day, that would be something. Not being a doctor, I don’t know how it works, exactly, but it seems to me that if he would eat a more regular diet, he would sleep better, and if he slept better he would maybe drink less, and if he drank less he might have more energy and feel happier…
I don’t know how to get him to take better care of himself. He’s aware, intellectually, that the way he lives isn’t healthy, and that he needs to make changes. But emotionally he’s in denial. Many times when I’ve tried to bring up the subject of his health with him, he’s brushed me off: “I’m fine. I know what I’m doing.” I think if I could get him to talk with other people who are dealing with what he’s dealing with, who have had the same kind of struggles, it might be a good first step. But I don’t know how to make him do it, or rather to get him to do it for himself. I’ve given up telling him how much it scares and upsets me; he knows that well enough by now, but it’s not motivation enough for him. Finishing his PhD and starting his career doesn’t seem to be motivation enough for him. He has dreams about the future, but he’s not dealing with the present in a way that will get him there. What can I do?