We continue to highlight the link between diabetes and mental health (in observance of Mental Health Awareness Month) by featuring the personal stories of people in our community. Earlier this month we published a group video on the topic – if you missed it, check it out here.
If you’d like to write a guest post about how living with diabetes impacts your mental health, please send us an email.
Today we’re proud to share this post from Ciwi.
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I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1996, when I was eight years old. I remember crying in my doctor’s office when he said I needed to go to hospital, because I was sure I needed surgery and would probably die. Fortunately, I found out that that was not the case.
During my high school years I struggled a lot with my mental and emotional well-being. I struggled just being around people, my self-esteem was non-existent, and my schoolwork suffered a lot. My glycemic control suffered even worse – I felt useless, so why should I care about my health? I felt I would just fail at it, like everything else, yet again.
I felt so helpless and like I couldn’t find support or tell anyone what I was struggling with, so I somehow never thought finding help would be an option. I never sought out a counselor or a doctor, or even a friend.
What I didn’t know in those years is that health is so much more than just your physical state, and that it is a dynamic state between your body, mind and spirit. Sure, there were many other factors that contributed to that feeling of uselessness, but what I didn’t know then is that my diabetes was a major contributor to my mental health.
A review conducted in 2000 concluded* that diabetes as much as DOUBLES the odds of depression. As many as ONE OUT OF THREE of the individuals participating in the studies had depression at a level that impaired their functioning and quality of life, including their ability to stick with whatever medical treatment prescribed to them by their doctor (insulin, oral medicine, carb counting, exercise) to better their glycemic control, and therefore increasing the risk of diabetes complications.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve become stronger. I’ve traveled the world, I found a passion for life and what I can do with it, I’ve met the love of my life, and we’ve started our own family. But I still have days when I feel like that helpless teen, and there are days that are really difficult to even just get through. Luckily, I now know that the feeling of not being as mentally strong as most people isn’t something that is abnormal, as diabetics we’re coping with a lot more than the average person!
I also realized that it is not something that needs to hold me back.
Let that sink in.
It does not need to hold us back.
We need to stop comparing ourselves to other non-diabetic individuals, because we are a whole lot more! We need to be a community that lifts each other up, that lend a hand to our fellow diabetics when burnout strikes and we’re just done with diabetes.
We also need to dare to love ourselves, through our feelings of failure.
We need to speak more of mental health and diabetes, and normalize the normality of it. While the same studies as above showed that successfully treating depression was associated with better with great improvements in glycemic control, two of every three cases of depression are left untreated by primary care physicians!
We need to be advocating for ourselves. To our physicians, to our diabetes educators, to our communities, to our families. We need to dare to find our voices, to let the world know that while we “don’t look sick at all” on the outside or may look “just fine”, there’s a vast range of risk factors on our inside just prowling and waiting to attack.
And while struggling with your mental health is normal, my friend, it’s not something you have to struggle with alone. Help is out there. Your doctor, a nurse, a diabetic educator, a friend you trust, a counselor at your school or church. We are all here for you.
You can do this.
Ciwi was born and raised in Norway, and is now living in beautiful Australia with her husband and three-year-old son. She is a full time stay at home mama and a nursing student, both which she loves doing. Ciwi shares her life with diabetes on her blog, The Honey Siphon.
*Source citation: Anderson, R. J., Freedland, K. E., Clouse, R. E., Lustman, P. J. (2001) The prevalence of comorbid depression in adults with diabetes: A meta-analysis. Diabetes Care, 24, 1069-1078. doi: 10.2337/diacare.24.6.1069