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Ask a Spouse: Balancing Privacy with Safety

October 15, 2010

QUESTION:

My husband was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 17. He’s open with me regarding his diabetes, but is a very private person overall, so he doesn’t like to tell anyone else about it. Even his friends and coworkers don’t know, which deeply concerns me about his safety. I genuinely respect his privacy, but I feel like we have to keep this “secret,” and it’s very stressful for me to constantly worry about him. We have discussed this, and he says he’ll work on being more open with people. I don’t think he really understands how much pressure and anxiety this secrecy puts on me and his loved ones. I’m open to counseling that addresses marriage and diabetes. Any suggestions?

ANSWER:

I’m a 28-year-old with type 1 diabetes, diagnosed when I was five. I’m sorry to hear that you’re having such a hard time with your husband and his diabetes.

As for finding counseling, I would reach out to your husband’s endocrinologist to see if he or she can recommend a counselor whom he or she is familiar with and trust.

When talking with your husband, try to keep in mind that bringing people into the loop about diabetes can be more difficult than it seems. At my office, I do tell my bosses about my diabetes, but only so that they understand my medical needs if I have to leave or miss work for a doctor’s appointment, or if I need help in the event of an emergency. You are completely right to tell your husband that he should confide in at least one person at the office, for safety reasons if nothing else. Be honest with him that you’re worried about his health and safety since others don’t know about his condition. It might help to reassure him that diabetes is no longer a “shocking” disease to have, and that many people will understand and think nothing more of it. It is difficult at first but does get easier. My fiancé likes to ask a lot of questions about diabetes management, blood sugar, and insulin levels, and it actually helps me to open up in general about my diabetes.

If you haven’t already, you may want to contact your local JDRF chapter. You and your husband will be able to find a local support network. My JDRF chapter has definitely been a source of support and information for me.

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Reprinted with permission from JDRF International

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