Tuesday’s prompt is “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?”
Diabetes and mental health greatly affect each other in reciprocal ways. I know firsthand because I have depression and anxiety. I was diagnosed with depression my freshman year of high school, about a year after being diagnosed with diabetes. I have always had anxiety issues but wasn’t diagnosed until this past November, when my anxiety levels had reached a peak and began affecting me physically.
Fluctuations in my blood sugar bring about some of my symptoms of depression and anxiety. Yet at the same time depression and anxiety affect my blood sugar. It is a complicated, twisted thing that sometimes I can’t even tell which is influencing the other.
I have noticed that when my blood sugar is high, I tend to be more depressed. On the emotional side, I become very agitated, angry, and grumpy when my blood sugar is high. I think some of these emotional components also feed into the depression. During blood sugar roller coaster days (low to high blood sugar or the opposite in 24 hours), I also tend to be depressed. These days are exhausting and frustrating because it feels like I have no control. Days where my blood sugar is constantly low (I have had basically a whole week of these days due to a medication change), also bring exhaustion and depression, especially when I have to cancel plans because of my out of range blood sugars and sheer exhaustion.
Then there is the anxiety. I have anxiety about my diabetes (and many other things but I’ll just stick to discussing diabetes): 1) I am almost constantly thinking about what my blood sugar is and where it is going 2) if I am out by myself or even with friends and my blood sugar drops too low, will there be anybody who knows what to do? 3) will I wake up the next morning or from a nap or will my blood sugar drop too low?
When I get extremely anxious, it negatively affects my blood sugar, usually causing it to spike. There have been many times when I had a speech or exam for school that I had a lot of anxiety about and it caused high blood sugar. I remember my doctor pointing out certain high blood sugars in my log book and asking what caused it, and I could easily attribute it to these anxiety-inducing events.
I would say that I have more anxiety during low blood sugar episodes because they can be scary. At times, I have hypoglycemia unawareness, meaning that I can’t feel my blood sugar go low. This is definitely scary–I am feeling okay, yet a blood sugar of 50-something or lower is showing on my meter. Having symptoms of low blood sugar–shakiness, dizziness, the room spinning–can also be scary and provoke anxiety sometimes.
Dealing with type 1 diabetes (and all the highs and lows), anxiety, and depression is a lot. It is a lot on my parents, particularly my mom. Because I live with them, my mom gets the brunt of my frustrations, my anger, and my mood swings. Some days I am so exhausted physically, emotionally, and mentally that it is a struggle to get out of bed. There are some days that I literally just stay in bed. I hate how this affects not only me but especially my mother. It is said though that when one person is diagnosed with diabetes, the whole family is diagnosed. This is true at least for my mom and I, but she is there with compassion and support through it all.
I am still learning to deal with the mental aspects of diabetes. One of my favorite sayings is the one on my T-shirt: “We don’t know how strong we really are until being strong is the only choice.” I remind myself that I have been given these challenges for a reason. I am strong enough to overcome them, and I become even stronger by overcoming them.