Tell Me About It: I have just been diagnosed with adult-onset Type 1 diabetes and I am adapting to a new way of living, new diet and medication
My husband was admitted to a psychiatric hospital at the beginning of the year and was an inpatient for several months. The brief illness that he suffered almost came out of the blue. He was experiencing some stress at work but it did not appear to be anything extraordinary. He started to act in a way that was most uncharacteristic; he became loud and argumentative and started to talk about some very unusual things. After he made a suicide attempt, he was certified and admitted to hospital.
We do not have any children and our extended family do not live locally. I had some support but, essentially, I felt very frightened and alone. He is now home, and while his recovery is slow, he has returned to work in a lower-grade job part-time, which he plans to sustain and seems happy with this plan. There are still some minor signs of illness, but anyone who did not know him would not notice anything unusual.
I love him very much and could not imagine a life without him. A few months ago, I was feeling very tired and unwell and found work very difficult. I initially thought this was related to my husband’s illness, but I eventually went to the doctor and have just been diagnosed with adult-onset Type 1 diabetes. I am now adapting to a new way of living, and find that it is very hard to manage my new diet, my medication, hospital appointments, my work and my caring role at home. I cannot change my job or reduce my hours because it is my salary that is now paying the mortgage and most of the bills. I cannot also bring myself to tell my husband about this new situation, as I fear it could lead to a relapse of his symptoms. I also know that he would want to return to his previous position at work.
This time last year we had taken an extended break and were travelling around the world, living our best life. Now, it is a nightmare, and I am so alone.
There is no doubt that you need (both of you) more support, as managing two intense crises is too much to carry alone. Your husband should have a mental health team as part of his outreach programme, and you could contact them to see if they have any supports for you as a couple.
At the very least, you might find out what supports they have in place for him so that you are not alone in supporting him when you tell him of your diagnosis. Both of you need independent supports while your lives find a more stable footing in the light of recent events. This would allow you as a couple to be less afraid of triggering each other’s vulnerabilities. It will take some time to figure out what might work best for the future, and it can be frightening to look at it from the current crisis situation, so take a bite-sized approach to decision making and get professional support as soon as you can.
There are a number of options open to you: as both you and your husband are working, your organisations may have an employee assistance programme (EAP) available to you (this is confidential, free counselling that many companies supply to their employees). You could use these sessions (sometimes up to six or eight) to lay out the issues and make a plan of action. In addition, there are wonderful organisations that support those with mental health difficulties and their families. You can look these up online, but Aware (aware.ie), Grow (grow.ie) and a Health Service Executive local list (hse.ie) are just a few with excellent reputations.
It can be a huge relief to share your experience with those who are knowledgeable and empathetic, and they can guide you through the process of recovery and readjustment. There are also many organisations that support those with diabetes (diabetes.ie), and you will find help with the process of telling your husband, managing the condition and informing your workplace of your new needs and requirements. The chances are that you will need a professional to assist you and your husband during the next period of your lives while you adapt to new circumstances. Your sense of isolation is such that you might fall into despair should this support not be available to you. If this is a financial burden that is too much for you, there are low-cost options that can be looked into, and your EAP professional may be able to assist you with his search.
Your GP will also be able to help you source appropriate help and will have options regarding psychological support locally and will probably have the advantage of knowing both you and your husband’s medical history so that you do not have to explain too much. As you are feeling so low at the moment, getting the energy to engage with a professional may feel like a leap, but that one phone call or email will start the ball rolling so that a support system can be put in place and you don’t have to carry this burden alone.