Being the Shambles that I am, I did the sex blog before the dating blog. But we got here eventually, so here’s a few words about what it’s like to date as a young shambles with type 1.
I was diagnosed aged 13, so all of my dating has been done in the context of diabetes (let’s forget about all of the times I tried to kiss boys in the playground for a moment, I certainly try to). I’ve been ‘on the scene’ now, on and off, for about 11 years. Apart from the odd period of mental turmoil, dating is hella fun. I’ll cast a nostalgic eye over some of my experiences and see if I can impart some knowledge (and if not that, some mirth…).
My first proper relationship was in my final year at school, and feels so long ago I can barely remember anything about it. But try I shall. At the time I had been diabetic for 4 years so I was getting into the swing of it. I had just moved onto the basal bolus regime, and was finding more freedom with my eating habits. People around me at school were generally aware of my diabetes (due to the jazzy pens!) but this grey area of general awareness is a key point where people’s misconceptions can overshadow the reality. If it looks like you will be spending more time with someone, give them the 411 on what it means for you, and consequently them. It doesn’t have to be a lecture, you can usually get away with something like: ‘Sugar makes my blood sugar levels go up, insulin brings it down. I take my insulin via this injection thing, and I can measure my blood sugar using this kit, aiming for between 4 and 8. This should really suffice for the first few weeks, and if they ask more questions- BRILLIANT (JDRF have some fab resources for these sorts of things – not necessarily for handing out but definitely for looking up useful explanations!). It might be worth explaining what a hypo and a hyper is, just in case. Definitely pre-empt this by explaining about them before just having one and showing them! It could be worth involving them gently, perhaps by suggesting they have some fruit pastilles or a drink in their bag for you.
At this age, though, you can’t expect too much(!)- as a young person with diabetes you have spent time coming to terms with your condition. This will be a brand new thing for your significant other (SO), so keep that in mind. It may also be new for your SO’s family, so if you’re going to stay with their family, they will probably worry about what to expect. Either directly, or through your SO, you could pass a message to them. People always, always (and still always) worry about what I can and can’t eat (diabetes has a reputation!) and so it could be worth pre-warning people, even if that pre-warning is ‘I EAT WHAT I LIKE’ it will set minds at rest.
(Again, people around you might want to know about diabetes. A short explanation, followed by assurance that you are happy (if indeed this is the case!) to talk about it is usually enough.)
I graduated in 2009 with a boyfriend, so must have done something right along the way…
Come September 2010 I found myself single and so began several months of #datingdilemmas. I thought I’d dive in at the deep end and went speed dating with my best friend. Two minutes is certainly not long enough to bring up diabetes here, so don’t! It might come up in the post-event chatter, and that’s fine, but again, keep it light! I’ve heard these can be drunken events, but try and keep it together. Often when I’ve had a few I like to whine about diabetes (especially to strangers- nope, I don’t know why either!), but try and keep this to yourself. There is most definitely a time and a place for talking to your partner about how diabetes affects you emotionally, but the first meeting is NOT the one. People may ask to see your equipment (stop laughing at the back!), and for me, I’m not shy about it. Why not spread a little diabetes awareness? We are a misunderstood breed, after all.
Online Dating and Tinder
Online Dating and Tinder are fantastic because they allow you to really get the measure of someone before you meet them face to face. Where/when/how you meet are totally negotiable, and this is useful not just from a diabetes point of view, but also for general personal safety. I enjoy the back-and-forth leading up to a date, and this is often a great time to talk about diabetes (or at least drop it into conversation, maybe in context of interests/hobbies etc.). For a time I had ‘partially bionic human’ on my Tinder profile, which prompted many bemused questions and was a great icebreaker!
From personal experience a meal is not a great first date- I usually go for drinks instead, so you can leave without too much pressure, or waiting for the main course! I tend to have a problem with getting HANGRY and lose all of my allure whilst waiting aggressively for food. You may not have this problem, but I do!
I started on my insulin pump in December 2010 and so now (unless hidden under a dress), my diabetes is always ‘visible’. I find this a useful way to ‘bring up’ diabetes, as your date may well ask what the pump is and you can give a little explanation about it. I usually do a blood test at some point during the date, both for me, and for the person across the table.
Friends and Family
Again, if the part above goes well, you may end up meeting friends and family. If they’re going to host you, again, ask your partner to reassure them that you will not be a difficult guest! People for the most part are extremely accommodating and very happy to learn about new things. Having said this, be sensitive, and if anyone looks like they’re going green at the gills as you prick your finger, then move away. It may be commonplace for you (and your SO), but it’s not commonplace for everyone! Another quick heads up, if you feel like you want to moan about other kinds of diabetes- BE CAREFUL. Many people’s parents are in the key age group for developing T2. DO NOT PUT YOUR FOOT IN YOUR MOUTH (whilst you still have it!).
Having a great partner means they should be accommodating to your needs. If you can, try and keep spares at their place. It will be a massive load off your mind to know that you don’t have to worry about supplies when travelling between the two. Just make sure they don’t develop a taste for glucotabs! As well as this I would definitely recommend that your SO and next of kin have each others’ phone numbers so they can contact each other in an emergency or even in an everyday situation of phone battery death. My last tip, tricky though it might be, is that your SO should be confident, willing and able to do a blood test on you (either in case of sleep or loss of consciousness) and be able to give you insulin (with guidance, of course!). It feels like a lot, but could turn out to be a real help one day. A last thought on needle phobia. If you come across a potential partner who is freaked out by the whole deal, I’ll leave this one up to you. For me, it’s a massive turn off, but again, everyone’s different!
Good luck, and don’t forget your glucotabs!
Please get in touch with comments, questions, feedback, or new topic requests (@clarentina)