I had the letter printed out. I wasn’t mad anymore—once you’ve made the decision, peace follows.
I’d written the letter after a nuclear argument about the door to the garage being left open. My husband has a thing about doors being left open the same way I have a thing about dirty socks on the floor. Fine. But it was a cool April day, not one that would have cost money in electric bills from the AC dribbling out the door. His mother had probably (accidentally) left it open a crack after taking out the trash. He was yelling at both her and me, furious and stomping, nostrils flaring as he slammed cabinets. “Don’t argue with me!” he yelled as if we were children. “Just keep the damn door closed!”
I accused him of being insane.
That argument was a culmination of many similar arguments — arguments after which I would have to “wait for him to cool down” so we could talk rationally. Every time, after cooling down, he would admit that he had overreacted.
“You have an anger problem,” I kept telling him. “This isn’t normal.”
“I don’t have an anger problem,” he’d say. “I’m happy. I’m not angry.”
Back and forth, round and round, for months, years. It worried me to leave him alone with the kids. I could read when he was getting too hot, and knew when to let it go, when the best thing to do was wait for him to cool down. The kids didn’t. What if he snapped? He hadn’t yet, but I dreaded that someday he might.
How had I managed to marry such an angry, volatile person? How had I chosen this man to be the father of my children? I felt stupid for not seeing these traits before marrying him, for allowing that kind of rage into my life, into my children’s lives.
The day he yelled about the garage door was the day I decided I was done—the day I wrote the letter. In it was an ultimatum: Either admit you have an anger problem and get help, or I will leave you.
The day I planned to give him the letter, in the morning, he sent me a text. He’d recently been to the doctor for the first time in years, and had gotten bloodwork done. The text said: “I have diabetes.”
My letter sat on the desk next to my phone, each item containing a different kind of devastating information. I couldn’t give him the letter, not now.
My husband didn’t fit the profile I had in my mind about people with diabetes—he was only 39, physically fit, not overweight. Except… just about everyone on his mom’s side of the family has type II diabetes.
I Googled the symptoms. My husband had many of them, symptoms that had been right under our noses and yet had crept up on us so gradually, we hadn’t seen them.
Excessive thirst: he would drive me absolutely bonkers on road trips with his drink consumption. We’d have to stop every twenty minutes so he could use the restroom, adding hours to already long trips to visit family in another state. At restaurants, he would drink five full soft drinks over the course of the meal. I’d joke that one of his legs must be hollow, but I was privately disgusted by what I deemed to be his gluttony.
Increased hunger: For my husband this was less constant hunger and more like… ferocious, immediate hunger. He wasn’t hungry all the time, but when he did get hungry, it was a code red situation. The joke in our family was that Daddy needed to hurry up and eat because he was getting “hangry.” Again, I privately thought his lack of self-control was pathetic.
Weight loss: I’d wondered how he managed to lose weight even though he exercised less than I did and consumed massive quantities of food. Not fair, I thought. Not fair that men lose weight so much easier than women! I brushed it off.
Fatigue: He could fall asleep anytime, anywhere, instantly. But… can’t all parents of young children? Especially those who get up at six in the morning every day? I didn’t think anything of it.
I committed to supporting him, but honestly, I was angry at him for being sick. On top of all of your other ragey bullshit, I have to deal with this now, too? But I plastered on a sympathetic smile and hugged him, cried with him. It could be worse. It wasn’t cancer. I researched diabetes diets, bought books on Amazon. Purged our pantry of pasta, white rice, cake mixes. Increased our vegetable consumption.
He began taking meds, eating better, and exercising more, and after a few weeks, something wild happened:
The man I married began to reappear.
I hadn’t even noticed he’d been taken from me, because diabetes had stolen him so gradually.
My husband, my true husband, is not short-tempered. He is temperate and diplomatic and kind and generous and hardworking. He is a critical thinker who is also silly and playful, with a propensity for blurting out hilariously inappropriate things. He is a storyteller, an unconditional lover, a handyman. This is the man I married, and yet somehow, I’d missed his disappearance.
I’m telling our story because I know others out there are experiencing this exact same thing. “Volatile changes in mood” is not listed as one of the symptoms of diabetes II, but it should be. For my husband, it was the dominant symptom, the one that wreaked the most havoc on our lives and nearly broke apart our family.
And it’s not only diabetes. Other disorders and illnesses can bring about dramatic mood and behavior changes, like multiple sclerosis and brain tumors. The human system is mind-bogglingly intricate, and every chemical change that happens in the body affects the mind. Many of us know about “hanger,” the angry/hungry feeling we get when our blood sugar drops and we need to eat. This is our brain telling us it needs fuel in order to function properly. For my husband, because the sugars from the food he ate were trapped in his blood stream and not reaching his brain, his brain was literally starving—he was “hangry” for three years straight. Diabetes had changed him from a calm, rational person into someone who was tired, irritable, and angry.
So, if your spouse is acting in a way that causes you to question how you could ever have married them, send them to the doctor. They might just be sick, and you might just be about to get your loved one back.
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