Woman Describes What It's Like to Date With an 'Invisible Illness'

August 30th 2016

Almie Rose

Most would agree that dating is hard enough, but dating with an invisible illness? That can add another layer of difficulty.

An "invisible illness" is an illness that you can't tell someone has just from looking at them — like colitis, or a mental health condition, or in this case, diabetes. Christina Bartson's essay in Women's Health, "This Is What It’s Like to Date When You Have an 'Invisible' Disease," shines some light on what it's like to date with diabetes.

"Here’s the thing: You wouldn’t know I was 'sick' by looking at me."

Bartson explains that there's nothing that gives off any indication that she has Type 1 diabetes. "So when it comes to dating," she continues, "I like to tell potential BFs about my diabetes early to minimize their surprise (and my anxiety over it, too)."

This comes in handy in the cases where she has to "whip out a lancet (a tiny device [she] use[s] to prick my finger for blood sugar tests)" during a dinner date.

When describing a sexual encounter a new partner, Bartson was upfront. "I showed him my insulin pump, stuck on my left hip, and let him explore this sensitive, strange part of my body," she writes.

His response? "So, you’re kind of like a cyborg, right?"

But in the beginning, she sort of hid her disease.

Bartson describes how her first date knew she had diabetes, but she "didn’t check [her] blood sugar or take any insulin because [she] was too embarrassed to do it in front of him" resulting in a massive blood sugar high which left her feeling "really tired, headache-y, and just ... totally out of it."


A photo posted by Wendy-Anne (@herdeadpancreas) on

But now, she speaks up: for instance, she was sleeping over at a guy's place, and her blood sugar got "dangerously low" and she needed some help. "I hesitated to wake him, though," she says. "I’ve always wanted to tackle my diabetes alone because I don’t want to be a burden to anyone else."

Ultimately, she realized that she needed assistance, woke him, and together they figured it out. "Within 15 minutes, I was back to normal," she says.

Sadly, her reasoning makes sense.

A 2016 report from Accu-Chek Connect (a company that makes diabetes management products and software), which was posted on Diabetes Daily, shows that 42 percent of people believe having diabetes makes someone "less desirable."

That's not the only disappointing stat:

  • 41 percent of people think it's a "bad idea" to let their date know they have diabetes on their first date.
  • 42 percent of people not in a relationship "try to hide some aspect of their diabetes" from those they're dating.
  • 55 percent of people say that diabetes has "negatively impacted" their sex life in some way.

A photo posted by Scott and Emily (@pumppeelz) on

That's why it's so important to talk about invisible illnesses.

By talking about them openly, invisible illnesses become more visible. The stigma is lessened. But, as ATTN: previously reported in a story about gastrointestinal diseases, if we don't talk about these illnesses then we'll be less understanding of what it's like to have them, and we could also be less inclined to seek medical attention.

[h/t Women's Health]