DBlog Week 2016: The Other Half of Diabetes
Day Two “The Other Half of Diabetes: 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?”
I’ve talked about mental health and diabetes before, so to be short and sweet: I find T1 latches on to my anxiety and depression, which makes sense when it’s a big part of my life. It definitely didn’t cause them, but it all intertwines.
So how do I deal with that? Lots and lots of support! I really didn’t want that support when I was younger because I thought I was completely okay. But once I learnt how to deal with those things, life got a lot better. The best bit of advice I’ve heard came from my mum. She likes to remind me that I have more than one chronic illness. I tend to invest all of my care into my diabetes, but sometimes (ok very often) neglect my anxiety. When I neglect the anxiety for too long it builds and builds. Then the depression flares and the diabetes management gets much harder. It’s pretty frustrating when your mind is racing but you have absolutely no motivation to get up and going to do something about it. So I spend time caring about my mental health too. What do I do? Here are three of the big things:
(Little disclaimer, I’m not a professional. As usual, never take my word as law. I am very, very unqualified)
- Talk about it with someone. This is the really hard one and I still feel a bit sick and guilty sometimes for talking about it. But it works. Whether that’s a psychologist, parent, friend, GP, whoever- just talk. Don’t want to burden a friend? Psychologists get paid to listen to you so you don’t have to feel guilty! There are even psychologists who know about t1 so you don’t have to explain it over and over again.
- Get a non-diabetes hobby. Seriously. This is the reason I won’t work as a diabetes educator/didn’t study medicine or psychology. For me it would be diabetes overload. I already think about it all the time and having something outside diabetes and work/uni helps. I was lucky in that I had music as a hobby before I got t1. That’s really nice because it’s a little piece of me that is untouched by my diabetes.
- Challenge your thinking. Well actually, more like observe your thinking. I know that with my diabetes, and everything really, sometimes I don’t quite keep up with what I’m thinking. There can be some really nasty chatter back there if you don’t pay attention to it.
For instance, do you find yourself thinking sugar levels are good or bad? Over time this can over generalise to your HbA1c (3 month average sugar level). Then it moves to being a good diabetic, or a bad diabetic.
Then are you a good person, or a bad one?
That’s not the nicest way to treat yourself. So something that helps me is to try and pay attention to what I’m thinking about myself. Then imagine saying that to your best friends, or your partner.
Not so nice hey? You wouldn’t say it to them, or even think that about them. So don’t say it to yourself. (Yes okay, pot, meet kettle.)
Those are just a few things that help me out. They aren’t magic and they don’t take away the anxiety and depression over night or completely. But they help, and I think they apply to anyone, not just people with diabetes. What works for you?