A few weeks ago, my friend Bec over at Sweet and Sour Diabetes wrote this post about starting the conversation around mental health. To quote Bec’s words:
“Mental health is a touchy subject. Despite increased awareness we still whisper about it. We still pretend it doesn’t exist. We hide it, and treat it like it’s something wrong to discuss. Fact is, you or someone you love have likely experienced some form of mental illness/disorder. The word sounds scary doesn’t it? Like it means you’re crazy, or unstable in some way. Interesting when you consider that earlier fact. If everyone has been touched by mental illness, why are we so touchy about it?”
I’ve been mulling over how to best put this into words in the context of myself. While I may not have a mental health condition, having diabetes certainly does have a big impact on my mental health and wellbeing.
Sometimes, I can be a real micro manager.
There, I said it.
Carefully weighing and precisely calculating every gram of carbohydrate in my coffee and slice of toast. Carefully adding up every gram of protein in that milky coffee, slice of toast, ham and hard boiled egg. On days like these, I really strive for perfection. Yet my blood sugar level doesn’t always translate to perfection in the hours that follow. I get frustrated. I scrutinise over what I did and where I went wrong. So much so that I can’t concentrate on the TV show I’m watching in the evening. Sometimes this is enough of an excuse to throw in the towel for the rest of the day.
In the complete opposite of situations, I can still be a real micro manager.
Yesterday, for instance, was just one of those days where I couldn’t be bothered bringing my lunch from home. I ended up buying a Pizza from Bakers Delight and a slice of Apple Strudel from Miss Maud next door. I swag bolused, and of course became obsessed with the graph on my Libre as I watched my blood sugar levels climb. The higher they rose, the more compulsive I became. Checking every 5 or 10 minutes. Compulsively shovelling in insulin doses of 5 or 10 units every hour because my blood sugar level simply wouldn’t come down. When they finally did begin falling at dinnertime, I had a very scary 20-something units of insulin on board that sent me into a panic.
It’s easy to feel different, alone or isolated when I’m living with an often invisible condition that nobody else around me has. There are days where I feel like an absolute basket case, or a roller coaster of emotions. It’s easy to tell myself that those around me won’t care or understand.
So, how does one deal with all of this?
Try to lean on the people around you. This won’t automatically happen overnight, but I’ve slowly learned to lean on my family where my diabetes is concerned. I feel like I can occasionally say that I’ve had a shit night or that my blood sugars are really high, and sometimes that just makes all the difference. I find that this has given me a great deal more confidence when dealing with diabetes around others. I no longer hesitate to pull out my pump or check my blood sugar for fear of diabetes questions. I have found my voice, which helps me to get what I want for my diabetes each and every day.
Thinking about how I can relieve the frustration and anxiety. For me, taking breaks from the technology has been invaluable. Taking time out for myself. Getting some rest, going for walks, watching a good tv show, and simply taking the time to breathe. It’s easy to forget the simple things.
Trying not to sound too cliche here, but trying not to think of an unfavourable outcome as a failure. Think about what I can do differently next time. Remembering that I don’t want to eat my way out of 20 units of insulin next time my blood sugar is frustratingly high. Remembering that a string of other things could have affected my post meal blood sugar, rather than my carb counting skills.
I’m not sure if any of this is serious enough to qualify as mental health, or if any of it makes any sense. But all of the above has been in my head at some point or another in the past six years of life with diabetes. I’m hoping that by sharing some of my deepest thoughts, someone else reading this won’t feel so alone or afraid.
It’s okay to talk about mental health.