The other night, I was scanning some of my favorite diabetes blogs. There are so many, and it is simply amazing at how many people are online writing about their lives with diabetes.
One of them was a site called DiabetesMine, and the post that caught my eye was a Dear Abby styled advice column focused on diabetes. It’s called “Ask D’Mine.” Written by a guy named William Lee Dubois who has type 1, and seems to know quite a bit from the medical side since he works in it and has written some diabetes books.
Anyhow, the featured question of the day at this “Ask D’Mine” column was from the wife of a type 1 diabetic in Australia, who says her hubby was having issues in the bedroom. Here’s her question as I read it there:
Lani, type 3 from Australia, writes: My partner is a type 1 diabetic and we have two kids. He is 24, a healthy weight, doesn’t exercise much but his diet is good. And we have “cuddled” twice this year. This morning we tried but he couldn’t… Keep up? So long-term loss of libido and ED (erectile dysfunction) makes me worried that there’s something foul afoot. His sugars were checked and they were fine, but he ate something anyway and we were really into it, but it just didn’t happen. He got a semi and then nothin’. He’s very reluctant to speak to a doctor, he is mortified, and doesn’t like discussing this stuff anyways (I don’t get it, it’s just anatomy) but I’m really concerned that he may have permanent damage somehow, or something he needs to fix but won’t. All Dr. Google can give me is stress, or possible nerve damage. TMI?
Reading on, you can see that Mr. Dubois asked additional questions and got this out of Lani —
Lani’s T1 was Dx’d at age 8, with typical control until the “screw-it” teen years when he had 2-3 bad episodes that landed him in the hospital. At age 19 his main squeeze Lani, our Down Under correspondent in this case, “fell pregnant.”
At this point, as a 19-year-old father, he cleaned up his diabetes management act. Lani tells me in the five years they’ve been together, he’s not had one trip to the hospital. She also reports—because I asked—that the sex “was fine” pre-baby, but “died off pretty significantly after our first.” They now have a second child, as well. She says that sex over the last two years has been “very rare,” but that when it happens he’s never had any issues with getting and holding an erection. And lastly, she does concede that “stress management is not his talent.”
From there, Mr. Dubois goes into great detail about what he thinks is the culprit. There is a glaring disclaimer at the bottom of the column that says what he’s said is NOT medical device, which I found interesting… but, still, what Mr. Dubois writes seems pretty spot on as to what Lani’s husband might be experiencing.
What raised my eyebrow on this whole Q&A was the last part of Lani’s question to Mr. Dubois — a note that boils down to what I think is a big part of why these issues are so often not talked about and it’s so difficult to find other men with diabetes sharing their stories online.
“He’s very reluctant to speak to a doctor, he is mortified, and doesn’t like discussing this stuff anyways (I don’t get it, it’s just anatomy)…”
That’s huuuuge (no pun intended there, for the most part). Of course, he’s reluctant to speak about!!!! Men will be mortified about these things, especially in those early to mid-20s when we’re supposed to be at our prime. These aren’t issues any guy wants to face, let alone admit if and when they might start happening. And her comment “I don’t get it” strikes me in the gut…
Maybe, part of the reason Lani’s husband doesn’t want to talk about this with her, aside from the fact that it’s embarrassing and also scary in that it’s probably tapping into deeply rooted fears about diabetes complications and life-altering affects that he’s heard since being diagnosed at age 8, is that he understands she doesn’t get it.
For his part in the “Ask D’Mine” column, Mr. Dubois advises that some marriage counseling is needed to improve communication. I happen to agree. But also, I think it goes beyond just the “sex after 2 kids” issue and possibly inadequate stress management… I tend to think it also hits on how we, as a D-Community, need to raise these issues up as more of a conversation point whenever complications are mentioned.
For me, those issues did start surfacing about the same time. Not noticeably or very often at first, but then as the years progressed, it was more regular and clear that something wasn’t functioning correctly — often when my blood sugars were high. In my world, though, I didn’t have kids earlier in life and so by the time I got to where I am now, we’re dealing with this issue at a more critical time in the family-starting process. And it’s limiting.
Talking about this with my wife was a problem for years. I tried to hide it, ignore it, play it off as much as possible. Until it started hurting our marriage, and it became even more important to talk about these things, recognizing what this all means and how we might need some professional guidance from reproductive endos and fertility experts.
I am glad we are sharing and communicating more openly about this now, and I am also glad that Lani reached out to Mr. Dubois for guidance. I also hope that Lani’s husband finds the courage to talk more with his wife, and that Lani herself can take an understanding approach to seeing this from her husband’s POV, no matter how much she may just think it’s an anatomy issue and nothing else.
Sorry, Lani, it’s a lot more sensitive than that… Hope you can see that as your family moves forward.