Diabetes and Mental Health: Shannon’s Guest Post

Living with diabetes affects our mental health in a number of ways – but instead of us trying to tell you that, we’d prefer to let some members of our community do the talking. Earlier this month we published a group video on this topic – if you missed it, check it out here.

For the remainder of Mental Health Awareness Month we’re honored to host some personal stories from people who balance diabetes management alongside mental health management. (And we’d be glad to share your guest post, too – send us an email.)

Today, we hear from Shannon.

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I was dx’d with T1D in 1992, one month before my 18th birthday. I was technically too old for my mom for to manage it FOR me, yet too “young” to properly know how to manage it myself. But somehow I did manage, because here I am almost 22 years later, still doing well.

I delivered twins via c-section in April 2013 (I also have a 6 yr old son) and a few months after having the twins … I started to notice something was off. I was sad. I worried. A LOT. I would tuck my 6 yr old into bed at night and lay in his bed and cry. I always felt like I was telling him goodbye instead of goodnight. I would hold my new babies and be sad. Just sure that I would not be here to watch them grow up. I was sad for myself and for them, thinking why did I wait so long to have children? (even though I’m not THAT old… but you’ll see where this is going … )

My mind would frequently go to places like “you’ve been diabetic for over 20 years. Remember all those times you didn’t take care of yourself, or those 3 times you’ve been in DKA, or those times you forgot to take your blood pressure meds? It’s just a matter of time before you have a heart attack.” Bam. Those words right there kept echoing over and over. I had convinced myself I was going to have a heart attack, due to living with this disease for so long. And I was just sure it was going to happen while my husband was traveling, then my mind of course went to even worse places, worrying about what would happen to my boys if it happened when I was home alone? I started showing my 6 yr old how to call my husband and my mom. Even changed their names in my contacts to be what he called them, and also added “ICE” to their contact names.

It got so bad that I started missing out on special moments with my boys, because all I could think about was me dying.

When the twins were about 6 mos old, I was talking to my close friends about what I was going through (at this point, I hadn’t even mentioned it to my husband, because I felt like if I said it out LOUD then it was sure to come true…) and they made me realize it was likely hormones and suggested I talk to my OB. I made an appt and when I broke down just telling her about it, she confirmed that it was likely hormones and stress and lack of sleep (see: twins). She said that the fact I have lived with a chronic disease for most of my life is what was triggering my fears, but that there was no physical reason for me to be worried.

She suggested I start taking an anti-anxiety medicine, on a very low dose, and said I could probably start weaning off of it around the boys’ 1st birthday.

It got worse before it got better, but once it got better, man was it better. I’m happy to say that I’m almost weaned off the meds completely, and I am in such a better place than before. Yes, I still have some fears in the back of my mind that this disease will keep me from watching my boys grow up, and I imagine those will always be there to some extent. But instead of worrying about something I cannot control, I’m choosing to enjoy what I CAN control. And that is my quality time with family and friends, and I’m choosing to live with JOY over FEAR. 🙂

Shannon

Shannon was dx’d with T1D October of 1992, at the age of 17. She is a stay at home mom of 3 boys – twin 1 year olds, and a 6 year old. She wears a Medtronic insulin pump and CGM and lives a very busy life, but takes her diabetes management day by day.