We think a lot about the physical component of diabetes, but the mental component is just as significant. How does diabetes affect you or your loved one mentally or emotionally? How have you learned to deal with the mental aspect of the condition? Any tips, positive phrases, mantras, or ideas to share on getting out of a diabetes funk?
If you’ve been following my blog for a while / know me in person, you’ll already know my opinion on this topic. Let me just get on my soapbox, give me one second…
DIABETES FUCKS UP YOUR MENTAL HEALTH.
Just think about it – there has to be a reason that 50% of us are diagnosed with depression at some point. There’s a definite reason that one in three women with Type 1 are diagnosed with an eating disorder. Having any chronic illness is hard on your mental health, there’s no doubt about that. However, having an illness where you are constantly monitoring yourself, where your entire day revolves around numbers, and where you can be berated for things entirely out of your control means that keeping your mental health in check can sometimes feel like running through mud whilst having objects thrown at you from every direction.
Diabetes has a huge impact on my mental health. I try to not let it get in the way, but the fact remains that combined with other aspects that are uniquely me, my diabetes blows everything up and makes it harder for me to keep in a healthy mindset.
I’m not saying that having good mental health is impossible with diabetes – I know many people with diabetes whose emotional wellbeing is so incredibly healthy it would make anyone jealous. I just wish I knew how to get there, as my own mental health mimics my diabetes i.e. it is an unpredictable rollercoaster. Some days, I’m happy as anyone could possibly be, and drive to work with the windows down and music blaring. Other days, I withdraw, don’t want to talk to anyone, and end up crying at the supermarket for no apparent reason.
What came first, the mood or the BGLs? Is it my high sugars that are making me sad, or am I sad because I can’t seem to control my sugars? There may be aspects I may not have investigated yet – maybe I haven’t fully accepted my diabetes, and I’m still struggling with it (let’s NOT open that door, just imagine the sheer amount of tissues and comfort food I’ll get through). Maybe it’s that pesky thing called genetics, and the best hope I have is to just continuously try to keep on top of it and blame my family for blessing me with screwed-up neural pathways.
My mental health always seems to improve when I’m around my friends with diabetes. I gave one of my friends with diabetes a call when I got my latest hba1c – I was walking through the Alfred Hospital in tears, and intermittently sobbing “I don’t understand…I try so hard…why am I such a shit person”. After yelling through the phone “YOU’RE NOT SHIT YOU STUPID IDIOT”, this friend and I caught up for dinner where she not only listened to my fears, but gave me perspective and assured me that we all feel like this sometimes. Having someone else tell you that diabetes is fucking difficult at times and that trying your hardest is all you can do is incredibly comforting. There’s something uniquely reassuring about this coming from another person with a lazy pancreas, as opposed to a psychologist who takes a lunch break without a finger prick or insulin injection. Psychologists know their shit, but so do my friends with diabetes.
I guess that brings me to my one tip for getting out of a diabetes funk – even though taking advice from me about diabetes mental health is like taking advice from Donald Trump about international policy (ooooo snap). Dealing with the mental aspect of this condition is made so much easier through talking about it, and talking about it with people who ‘get it’. This seems to already be a theme running throughout my DBlogWeek posts, but that’s probably because it’s so important to me. At this current stage in my life, I don’t have the mental energy to campaign and advocate to a world that seems hell bent on throwing me into a box. I’m spending my energy on trying to keep myself healthy and happy, and to do that I need my diabetes friends. To keep yourself happy, you surround yourself with people who love you – so why should keeping my diabetes half happy be any different? Don’t stay silent and suffer in silence – because I guarantee you that there is someone else out there who is feeling exactly the same as you.