We have a special treat for today's edition of The Diabetic Partner Follies, the series featuring partners and loved ones of diabetics.
Today our guest is Andreina Davila, the behind-the-scenes partner at one of our largest online diabetes communities, TuDiabetes.org. Her husband is of course founder and diabetes advocate extraordinaire, Manny Hernandez. Andreina isn't just a wife either; she is a partner and co-founder of the Diabetes Hands Foundation and also the organization's Creative Director, as Andreina is an accomplished artist. But it's as the wife of someone very famous in our D-world that I invited Andreina to share a bit about her life today. Here's what she had to say:
My husband was diagnosed with diabetes on Oct 2002. It has been almost 8 years since then but it feels longer. We have been together for 11 years. This condition is so intense that I don't clearly remember our lives before it. I remember me, being careless, never afraid... light. Less grounded, I guess. I know age and parenthood have had a deep impact on this whole thing... Talking about diabetes even if I don't have it myself, I know it has changed me deeply. It changed the way that I look at life; it stirred my north upside down, it change my career, and the things I pray for (or give thanks for) at night before I sleep.
I will never forget the day I first heard of the term "type 3 diabetic." Someone on TuDiabetes.org, back when we were starting the sites, greeted me saying that she was also a "type 3 diabetic"; her husband had diabetes too. I thought it was curious that she saw herself as a protagonist of this story, as having the condition herself. In a way a red flag came up and my logical self said: "Be careful, this is confusing... stick to your role! You don't have diabetes!" But I decided to ignore the claim, after all for years I never felt understood by anybody: not my mom, not even my always-understanding diabetic husband. It is comforting to take a firm step and reclaim your place when an unforgiving chronic condition like diabetes touches your family, and I smiled peacefully.
As a side note, I later discovered that type 3 diabetes is an actual medical condition: "Diabetes type 3 is when the brain stops or reduces the acceptance of the brain's secreted insulin within the brain's cell receptors." So I don't use the term anymore, but I wish we had a term that would define my condition. It would be great if we could come out of the first appointment with set instructions on what to do, what it is expected from us, what to say, and how to say it, or when to say it, if you ever dare to say it. I think maybe that it will give us some reassurance: if you do this and that, everything will be fine. The person you love so much will be healthy as a rock and you (in a more selfish note) will not have to feel any guilt whatsoever.
But, like many things in life, diabetes doesn't work like that. The role we take with the care of a chronic condition in our life depends on many variables. It changes with time; it differs from one personality to the next. It can be two different worlds from one family to the other, depending on who the person with diabetes is: a child, a teenager, a husband, a wife... In a sense we all have to discover and redefine our ever changing and accommodating supporting role. My place stands in the middle of support, patience and love, and I strongly believe it should go both ways. Let me explain.
Support: to be there. In my case with a grown-up man, I just have to be there for the times when he needs me, in the case of a low or to lend my shoulder when needed. Sometimes I need support too, so I go to TuDiabetes, I sometimes just read and it helps me understand my husband better, sometimes I call my mom and cry.
Patience: I am not a saint but my husband's mood swings can be especially hard for me. I have come to relate to the level of stubborn frustration he feels when his blood sugar is very high. With no one to blame, the negative energy stays in the air, making it feel very dense. We spend a lot of time together, and many times it feels like it is my fault, or I just happen to be around. It is hard, and I struggle... I dream of a cure and then I breathe.
Love: love moves mountains. What we do for love is healing, and I am very fortunate to have a job that helps me channel my need to help without being too controlling, with helping others we are helping ourselves. We strive for balance everyday, it is a work in progress, nothing is perfect on our side, but love is healing.
We are grounded now... apart from diabetes and our work at the Diabetes Hands Foundation, we have been busy building a family, migrating to a different country (from Venezuela), growing up, and finding something meaningful to do with our lives.
Amen to that, Adreina. Livin' the dream.