Dating and Intimacy While Wearing a Medical Device

Pumps. CGMs. Medical devices continuously worn by people with diabetes are often visible and sometimes in the way. As we grow closer with people the likely need to disclose and show our devices usually becomes inevitable. Here is some perspective from Peg Abernathy on wearing medical devices during dating and close encounters with the non-PWD in our lives. 

An interesting fact. A few years ago, I was working at an insulin pump startup (now one of the top companies), and one day several of us were having a lively discussion over lunch. I was the only female with type 1 diabetes and there were several men with type 1 diabetes in the lunchroom. We were discussing why, and if, someone would try to hide or conceal the fact that they wear a medical device. I casually mentioned that I place my infusion site (pod) depending on what I will be doing or wearing in the coming days. The guys were honestly shocked. They thought it was so odd that someone would plan where to place an insulin pump or CGM based on that criteria. I was equally surprised that they didn’t. I said, “Okay, maybe you don’t care if anyone sees it but what about sports? Or how about weekend vs work week? How about dating? None of that is a consideration?” They emphatically answered no and looked at each other like, “that’s ridiculous.”

It was hilarious and eye-opening at the same time. When I asked the guys, “Well, what do you consider when placing your site?” they replied without any hesitation, “Nothing. I just put it wherever.“ The others agreed, “Yeah, who cares?” and the proverbial, “It is what it is.” 

After lunch, I thought about the conversation and my own personal opinion about my insulin pump and CGM placement. Did it embarrass me? Did I purposefully hide it? Did I purposefully place it where everyone sees it? And why would I choose to do either?

So I asked some of my currently-single and dating diabetes friends when/if they tell a new person in their life about their medical devices, what determines the timing? I’ve heard every answer you can imagine from, “I tell him/her on the first date because they need to know what they’re dealing with” all the way to, “I’m keeping it a secret for as long as I can until I find out if I can trust this person.” 

Interesting. And, it got me thinking about perspective.

My Personal Perspective for Myself. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ashamed or embarrassed by my diabetes and the medical devices I wear. Not in the least. But, when meeting someone for the first time, I don’t lead with, “Hi I’m Peg, the person with type 1 diabetes” either. 

Most of the time, I truly don’t care or mind if someone sees one of my medical devices. However, if I’m being perfectly honest here, if I were single or dating, it might make a difference to me. Why? Because, for me, if it is in plain sight, I would likely have to quickly address it with the person I’m with as it would most likely prompt questions. And frankly, I’d rather get to know that person before I start sharing my personal medical condition. However, I do know that if there were to be a second date, it would definitely be addressed, if only for my own safety and peace of mind. Also, if someone were to run for the hills once they found out about it, then that tells me all I need to know about that person’s motives and character. This includes female friends too. 

Bottom line, even though what other people think about me is their business, not mine, I also highly value my own health and life experience, and will not subject myself to an uninformed, and perhaps judgmental, relationship of any kind.

Additionally, I’m so inundated with alerts, alarms, beeps, pokes, trend arrows, food, exercise, stress, hormone changes ...well you get my drift. Sometimes I simply don’t want to see it, too! Sometimes I just think, “ENOUGH!!”

Details That Might Affect Your Placement Decision

So what is your personal perspective? Have you thought about it at all? Or do you think about it a lot? If you’re like me, my placement is still based on what will be going on in my life in the coming days. And because I travel quite a bit, I want to make sure it is easily accessible and comfortable. 

Here are some thoughts about what others might consider… Can you relate?

  1. If you are in a committed relationship or dating

  2. You are an advocate or activist (you want others to ask about it)

  3. Whether you were diagnosed as a child vs adult

  4. Intimacy with your partner

  5. Age

  6. Avoid a feeling of being judged or “the odd one out”

  7. Having to explain your medical condition to strangers

  8. Interference with what you are wearing 

  9. Travel/Vacation

  10. Accessibility/Physical comfort

  11. Will the insulin be compromised by direct sun/heat/extreme cold exposure?

Decisions, decisions. With diabetes, it’s always something…

On we go…

About Peg Abernathy:

Peg Abernathy is a writer, activist and spokesperson for diabetes awareness, education and legislative reform. Her media work includes four years as a contributing diabetes columnist on The Huffington Post and three years as producer, writer and on-air talent, Sirius Radio, The Lime Network. Her diabetes sales and sales training corporate career includes early tenure at two successful insulin pump start-ups as well as various blood glucose monitoring companies. She has also served as a consultant in the diabetic retinopathy space. Ms. Abernathy is a current member of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) Community Leadership Board, Los Angeles, California and former Chair of the ADA Advocacy Committee, Los Angeles. 

Follow her on twitter: @diabetesmedia 

Posted in Blog, Guest Authors, Lifestyle

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