Today’s Topic: May is Mental Health Month so now seems like a great time to explore the emotional side of living with, or caring for someone with, diabetes. What things can make dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for you and / or your loved one, and how do you cope?
I don’t carry a lot of emotional baggage with my diabetes. I knew very little about diabetes when I was diagnosed as a young adult in 1976 and I didn’t know that I should be sad, mad, or depressed. Both of my parents had issues with depression and for whatever reason, I have been spared that journey into darkness.
I began my diabetes life before home glucose monitoring was available and my insulin regimen was one shot a day of Lente. I followed doctor’s orders when it came to testing my urine and taking my insulin. I wasn’t perfect when it came to my exchange diet, but I followed the diet plan more often than not. Diabetes wasn’t filled with too much guilt and I had no expectation of perfect control. In some ways I was also very naive. It was never part of my mental make-up that I even had diabetes. To this day my self-conception is that I am active and healthy and that whatever the stereotypes and realities of diabetes are, that’s not me. A phrase in the songs of several artists (The Band, Casey Shea, Harlan Howard, and more) fits me perfectly: “I’m in pretty good shape for the shape I’m in.” Stupid for sure, but it helps keep mental demons at bay.
Lest you think that I am all smiley-face and Pollyanna about diabetes, I find it to be an incredibly frustrating and mind-tangling condition to live with. Most of the time my blood sugar responds in a somewhat expected fashion. Things aren’t perfect, but the tracings on my Dexcom are familiar and not totally from Mars. Then days like yesterday. My BG started climbing after my morning walk when usually it stays level or trends low. Multiple corrections and a lunch of only 18g carbs rocketed my numbers high and higher. It was the day to change my infusion set and two changes later (the first one hurt), nothing improved. Boatloads of insulin finally brought things down just in time for dinner. Stir-fried chicken and vegetables (no rice!) re-launched my BG to the stratosphere.
Most people who know me think that I am incredibly disciplined and rarely veer off the path of lowish-carb good nutrition. Ha! Not so! A “good diabetic” would have spent the evening drinking oodles of water and avoiding the snack cupboard. Unfortunately my most common reaction to unexplained and “undeserved” highs is to say “What the heck!” and start gorging on crackers, cookies, and ice cream. Add another glass of wine to the mix and moderation is banished.
Frustration with diabetes. Disappointment in my lack of willpower. Guilt for sure. A night of Dexcom squawks. A recipe for mental anguish and depression.
But morning comes. And just as I have on each of the 13,693 days since I was diagnosed with diabetes, I get up and resolve to do a better job today. Another day filled with diabetes, but a new day nonetheless.