Control/stress support ideas for a spouse of a type I

By Cope-land Latest Reply 2011-11-17 15:20:45 -0600
Started 2011-11-15 13:26:22 -0600

Hello. My name is Cheri. My husband has been a type I diabetic for over 40 years. We have been married 25 years, mostly good. However, in the last few years (like many people) we have experienced much financial pain. Now, whenever my husband starts to have a reaction, I react with some low level abuse; yes, hitting. I don't know what to do. I can no longer just watch him flame himself into a dangerously low blood sugar level; I try constantly to catch him and ask him to test himself, etc. and take some juice, etc. but many times he is too far gone. And I am very angry. Can anyone give me some helpful suggestions as to how I can better cope and respond?

Tags: stress

9 replies

Caroltoo 2011-11-17 15:20:45 -0600 Report

Hi, Cheri,

It sounds like you two have gotten into a contest for control that is spiralling ever upward. It happens because you care very deeply about him and that is admirable! You love the guy!! It will be very hard for you to do, but for both of your sakes you need to step out of the conflict. Walk into another room, take cold shower (sounds dumb, but they do sometimes work), listen to music, call a friend, take a walk, play with the dog, pet the cat, or do something else away from him that will help you calm down.

It sounds like when your husband gets frustrated over the finances, you want to help him but are basically impetent to do so (no magic wand to make the finances get better), this validates his concern over the issue and you both get more frustrated because you want to protect each other, but neither of you have a solution for the problem. So, it continues to escalate.

One theory of how families work says that: (1) if you make a change in what you do, it will cause the other person to make a change in what he does and (2) things will get worse before they get better. The "things get worse before they get better" statement comes into play here, because when you change your behavi,r he will do more of what he has been doing to try to make you revert to what you were doing. This is the principle of stasis…he wants reactions to stay the same because they are familiar. It's when you keep on with whatever change you have make in your behaviors, that you will begin to see a positive change in his.

What that change in his behavior will be is rather unpredictable, but can be shaped by adjusting your behaviors. This doesn't mean you caused the problem, it just means you do have the power to make change that could improve the situation.

You will have a hard time turning you back on this because rushin in to help is a habit and you do it because you love him and want him to be safe. For a safety backup plan, you can keep an eye him from afar and call the EMTs, if you think he is causing himself serious harm. Safety comes first, but it doesn't always have to be safety you provide personally.

You are in a tough situation. I hope you give this a try. Good luck.


P.S. this works with my husband who has Alzheimer's and not too much memory. My secret bullet is to make sure he is safe and just walk away for a while. Since I want to "solve it," that was a hard one for me to learn also. If you want any other resources, this method is from an approach called Family Systems Theory.

Mickey/CCHT 2011-11-16 10:49:27 -0600 Report

I'm so glad you have reached out for help. I know it cannot be easy.
I'm not married and not in your situation, but i just wanted you to know that there are people here who care.

The advice RebC gave is wonderful. That she could share her story with you is amazing to me. I pray that you can take this advice and make it work in your life. Know that you are not alone. We are here anytime you have a ? or just need to vent. Good luck and God Bless you and your husband. Mickey

Cope-land 2011-11-17 14:32:50 -0600 Report

Hi Mickey;
Thanks so much for your response. I feel better about my situation when I'm able to speak with others who may have had similar experiences.
I would love to talk to other couples who are in this situation and can offer some words of advice.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

RebC 2011-11-15 14:57:39 -0600 Report

This is hard to respond to. I would feel so-o-o hurt if I knew I was making my husband angry enough to hit me with something that sometimes I just can't control. I know many people, some of whom are family, who have low blood sugar episodes several times a week, like you are describing, and it's hard to imagine any level of abuse as a good repercussion for it. The best way that I know how to help you better cope is to help you better understand what is going on. It is not intentional. It may be negligent, but a low blood sugar episode is not intentional.

My uncle is one of those people mentioned above. He has been type 1 diabetic for over 50 years, and has lost most of his sensitivity to low blood sugars from being low so often. He will work and work on something, unaware that his blood sugars are dropping dangerously low until he is at the point where no common sense, no talking, no yelling will even get through to him. My aunt, his wife, is a nurse, so knows what to look for, and often pops big marshmallows into his cheeks before he gets too low. She never asks him to eat a marshmallow. She just sticks it in there. No room for debate.

I have only been type 1 diabetic for 4 years, but I have definitely experienced some less-than-desirable low blood sugar behaviors. When I get low, I get snappy and impatient (when I'm awake) and often my husband will recognize and tell me to eat something or check my sugar, which makes me angry, so I will often refuse. There is something in my brain that switches, making me super unreasonable and catty. It's not a pretty picture I paint, but it's truthful…good thing it doesn't happen very often.

Other times I have been asleep, which is worse. My husband, again, realizes when he wakes up before I do, and usually gets me something to eat and checks my sugar for me. I never remember these occurrences. One time, my husband had to go to work and so he dragged me downstairs (kicking and screaming) and started shoving graham crackers into my mouth, after which I stomped back upstairs and climbed back into bed. When I actually came to, I got dressed, went downstairs, ate breakfast, and wondered why it was already 9:30, why my blood sugar was 200, and why my husband hadn't woke me up to say goodbye. I called him, and he told me.

The point I'm trying to make, is that your husband may not even feel he is getting low, and when he is "too far gone", he probably isn't even coherent enough to listen to you, let alone get up and get some juice. My advice is to do as my aunt does. Pop a couple marshmallows in his cheeks, try to get him to chew. If you feel excessively angry, leave him and his marshmallows where they are and leave the room. Come back when you feel under control and pop a couple more in there. He's not doing this to spite you, or to make you angry. He simply can't feel it.

Caroltoo 2011-11-16 11:00:30 -0600 Report

Thank you, Mickey, for adding these comments. I soooo agree. I was impressed yesterday when I read Rebecca's posting, but the system wouldn't let me use the "reply" button and I could only say I liked it.

One more thought though, Reb and anyone in this situation, no matter how frustrated a caregiver gets, they always have the option of walking away (and calling 911, if its an emergency) and cooling off. Frustration or fear is never a reason for intrafamilial violence. I am saying that as a caregiver (of an Alzheimer's patient—my husband—who has definitely tried my self control at times) as well as from the perspective of a mental health practioner. The person in the hold of a disease process like Rebecca or my husband, can not be always in control their response, but those of us who care for them, have an ethical obligation to control ours!!!!!

Mickey/CCHT 2011-11-16 10:50:15 -0600 Report

This is wonderful advice. I think it is awesome you were able to share this too help someone else. God Bless you and your family.

Cope-land 2011-11-15 16:37:24 -0600 Report

Dear Rebc;

Thank you more than I can say in words. Your story and experience
is helping right now to get a grip. I love your idea about the marshmallows. I will definitely try that approach. Thank you for taking the time to reach out. I have been so hesitant to discuss this topic, so it only makes sense to speak to others who are in the same boat. I know first hand how this disease can affect the tone of a marriage; it is not easy. Your husband sounds like a wonderful person. I wish you happy holidays, good health and I am here for you too.
Sincerely, Cheri

RebC 2011-11-16 14:51:22 -0600 Report

I am happy to share my less-than-beautiful side if it can help someone else LOL. I know it was probably hard to post on here, and I commend you for doing so. It takes a courageous person to admit they need help and to seek it. Best wishes to you, as well!

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