I fell in real love for the first time when I was 23. He was a tall, dark, and handsome Southern boy who called me babe. No one had ever called me babe before. I started dating him right around the time that I started working on getting my blood sugars tighter. The results of the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DDCT)—a major clinical study conducted from 1983 to 1993, funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which showed how keeping blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible slowed the onset and progression of the eye, kidney, and nerve damage caused by diabetes—had just been released, and my endocrinologist was one of the doctors involved in the study. A recent college graduate, my endocrinologist encouraged me to test more and get my blood sugars tighter. It was the first time, since I was diagnosed, that I began to work hard to improve my health. I kept my blood sugar records and recorded my results on a daily basis and then brought my records to my endocrinologist to make adjustments. It was during this time that I met Jason.

I told Jason about my diabetes shortly after we met and I remember that he was kind and curious and that it was such a relief. It was the first time I was taking my health somewhat seriously and I was thrilled that he was there to support me. We’d been dating for about a month before we slept together. I remember that we spent the night at his apartment, but I don’t remember waking up beside him. What I do remember is hearing the voices of his roommates—a girl and a guy—telling me that Jason would be back soon and everything would be okay. I remember thinking, “Please no, please no,” and wanting to fall back asleep and return to the moment before my blood sugar dropped. Jason told me later that he’d woken up and I was lying next to him covered in sweat and unresponsive. My parents lived just a few blocks away and he’d run to their house to ask for help, but no one was home. He then ran to my sister’s apartment, and she told him to get me orange juice. He returned to the apartment with juice, picked me up, and poured the juice down my throat. As I began my slow return to the real world, I’d been ashamed and embarrassed, and knew that I’d said things I shouldn’t have said. But Jason was smiling and holding me close, and putting his strong arms around me, he told me I was cute and that he liked taking care of me.

Everything changed from that day on. I realized that he’d seen the worst of me (or so I thought) and that he could handle it. He wasn’t afraid and he even seemed to think that the worst of me was acceptable, loveable even. But it didn’t last. I became obsessive about my blood sugars, keeping them tighter and tighter and having more and more lows. We were in love and it was really powerful, and it was really heartbreaking when it was over. I’m not sure how much of it had to do with diabetes; I realized eventually that we were not meant to be, but I always wondered how much my frequent lows had to do with his leaving. Looking back, I think that diabetes was just a part of the end of our relationship and that real love means someone who loves all of you, but it was a difficult life lesson and a bitter pill to swallow at 23 years old.

As women with diabetes, we can’t walk away when things get rough. We are in this relationship with our bodies for the rest of our lives, and just like any other relationship, we have to nurture our physical selves. Having someone there beside you, to support you when things are good and when things are bad, makes this journey so much better. Having a partner who understands the physical and emotional demands of living with diabetes is a reward, and supportive relationships have been proven to result in improved diabetes management. But these relationships don’t fall out of the sky, it takes work and communication to survive.