In Sickness and In... Case of Violent, Irrational Lows

 {Editor's Note: This post is not meant to make light of domestic violence, which is an issue that needs to be taken seriously. Rather, this post is just a guy relying on his sense of humor to help him cope with some of the worst effects of diabetes.}

So, I beat my wife.

Seriously. I've resorted to spousal abuse twice in the past few years and I can't guarantee it won't happen again. OK, hold on. Before I end up being the subject of police raids or adult protective services calls, maybe I should back up and explain.

Don't worry: there've been good reasons.

1. I thought my wife was an alien trying to poison me with apple cider. If I didn't fight back, she might take over my body and clone me for nefarious alien invasion purposes.

2. She was a secret Communist spy trying to crush my patriotic views of the United States, evidenced by her trying to pin me down to confiscate my American-flag-skin-wearing insulin pump. Both situations led me to slugging her, and once she even came down with an infection after I decided to claw at her in self-defense. I think that was the alien response.

OK, OK.... Maybe I should back up even more. Context might be relevant here. (It might also come in handy if I ever find myself in front of a judge...)

You see, I'm one of those people living with type 1 diabetes who sometimes has violent, irrational hypoglycemic reactions. They take away all sense of reality and toss me into what seems like a sci-fi movie script. Or a political thriller.

Take the aliens or spy scenarios as key examples. There have also been times when I'm convinced the dog is trying to eat my head... but that's not the point here.

This happened even when I was young (diagnosed at age 5). Back then, the lows would hit me suddenly overnight, and I was suddenly sure the robots and aliens in my room were after me, or some other weird scenario... My mom used to sit on top of me to hold me down and force juice or sugar down my throat. But when I got older, that became more difficult — especially when my dad wasn't home to help control me.

Fast forward to my current married life. My wife and I are still dealing with the same. The reactions usually happen overnight, when I drop suddenly (typically in the early morning hours). I'll be fine into the 50s and 40s, but if I go below 36 mg/dL? All bets are off and it can get a little crazy.

I'm bigger than she is, so when I go low and fight, it can get dangerous for her. We have our plan, embracing "cautious treatment": She'll try getting me to inject juice or frosting, or maybe even try poking me with a glucagon shot if things are really looking dire. This has worked most times in the past. But if I start swinging, the deal is to step aside and call the paramedics. We're fortunate to live in a part of the world where we don't pay extra for summoning these reliable city servants, since our tax dollars are at work.

This may not be a system everyone uses, but we think it's best for us. Better to be safe than bruised and battered thanks to a violent low from your D-spouse.

Still, the craziness sometimes ensues no matter what you try -- before the paramedics arrive or the sugar starts kicking in. 

The Cider & Spy Backstories

It was a few years ago in the apple cider weather of fall, when a low hit and convinced me that it wasn't my wife, but rather an alien using her skin as a disguise. All my loving and supporting spouse was trying to do was get some apple cider goodness down my yapper, and I was struggling violently and clamping my jaw shut. There was no way that poison was going to get down into my throat. I slugged her in the shoulder, and kept threatening to punch her in the cheek if "you invaders" didn't back off. That punch didn't happen, and she later thanked me, but promised she would have punched back had it occurred.

My wife also tried to put honey on a straw to get it inside my mouth, but I thought this was some radioactive substance and continued my struggle. Luckily, she somehow managed to get glucose tabs in me. I guess I thought they were alien-antibodies or something. After a few minutes, the sugar started working and brought me back to my senses. How surprised I was to see my lovely wife standing there, and not some crazy alien invader!

Then there was that spy encounter, in early January. A hypo reaction sucker-punched me somewhere around 4 a.m. I'd been watching an episode of the political comedy show The Colbert Report the night before, as the host bantered about Congress and how there was some joke about Communism and Congressional work near the holidays. That's what stuck in my head when the hypo-scenario began a few hours later.

I woke up thinking my wife was a spy, sent to silence me. We were in the bedroom, and I was sitting on the bedside trying to defend myself from her. Every time I tried to say "U.S.A.," she grabbed at me and tried to push me down. I wear an American flag skin on my insulin pump, and so of course this all translated into me thinking that she was trying to confiscate my patriotic pump. I recall through a cloudy haze that my arms were waiving (my wife later confirmed). I could have swore her motives were evil!

Losing the battle, I decided to take an extra measure.

I squeezed my wife's arm, digging my nails into her forearm as I tried to wiggle away. Apparently, I also bit her and scratched her neck.

Her thought at that moment, as explained to me much later: "Great. Now, he's going to think he's a vampire and try to bite my neck." Of course I eventually came out of it and made my way back to reality. But the damage was done. Apparently, my vicious arm-squeezing led to a nasty staph infection on my wife's arm that turned into medicine-resistant MRSA. Yeah, she was on antibiotics for three weeks or so. #truestory #sosorry

Total guilt trip for this guy.... I still get a little choked up thinking about the hurt I have caused. I feel so bad, so guilty about allowing this to happen... This is scary crap, for anyone. Us PWDs. Those living with us. Those reading or just thinking about it. 

The CGM Solution?

Back when these incidents happened I wasn't using a continuous glucose monitor system and fortunately, I've since made that change. My CGM has helped stave off these mind-alerting lows. Unfortunately, you just never know. Sometimes you do everything you're supposed to do, and work hard to prevent lows, but just can't manage to sidestep them anyway. It can't be easy being a spouse of someone living with diabetes. You fabulous people (type 3s) have a lot to deal with, and I've read that some couples even do "hypo-drills" to prepare for the worst lows.

Fortunately, the Behavioral Diabetes Institute is exploring how to better address the unique concerns that spouses and partners have when living with diabetes. Whatever comes from that, I hope that every spouse or partner knows that we PWDs do our best... even when the aliens and Communists come after us.


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