A different kind of low – diabetes and mental health

Note: I am not a health professional. Reach out to your doctor or your local crisis line if you need help! You are not alone. Visit https://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/ to locate a crisis centre in Canada or call 1 (800) 273-8255 in the United States.

Diabetes can impact many areas of life. One area that historically has not received much attention (but has been gaining more traction in current days) is diabetes and its impacts on mental health. Diabetes depression and burn out are very common within the diabetic community. People outside the diabetic community are often surprised to hear that there are mental health professionals who specialize in treating diabetics.

Type 1 diabetes is an unrelenting, unpredictable, in-your-face, frustrating, painful, roller coaster of an illness that creates the ideal conditions for a downward spiral into depression. Trying to keep blood sugars within range is difficult even for the best of us and there are days where it seems like your levels are dependent solely on the alignment of Jupiter and Mercury. Having sugars that are out of range can cause irritability that affects relationships with people around you. Erratic blood sugars can cause you to leave events or activities early, or miss out on them altogether. The stress of testing, carb-counting, and bolusing can make you want to avoid social situations and isolate yourself. Every diabetic also has a nugget of worry planted in the back of their brain about long term complications or even waking up the next morning.  It can be easy to slip into the mindset of “well, I already have diabetes!” and picking up habits such as eating unhealthy foods, smoking, drinking excessively, or not exercising. It also takes a great amount of willpower to follow a healthy lifestyle which can be difficult when you don’t have the mental or physical energy.

The good news is that we are not alone!

There are thousands of people going through the same thing you are and it is important to try and connect with others who understand the daily struggle of living with diabetes. There are many online and offline communities for diabetics across North America and I will post links to their websites down below. Check them out and get involved, I believe it will be the best thing you could ever do for your diabetes!

Although depression and burn out are common within the diabetic community, we should be careful of characterizing this as “normal” or just part of our disease. If you need help, talk to someone. Talk to your family, your doctor, your endocrinologist, your friends, your diabuddies, a mental health professional or a crisis helpline.  Surround yourself with people who care about you and your health. Take time to practice self-care and step back from the stresses in your life. Try to fit physical activity and healthy eating into your diabetes care routine.

Remember, we are all in this together!

More resources for mental health and diabetes can be found over on Beyond Type 1: https://beyondtype1.org/mental-health/

Get involved in activities near you! Communities for diabetics:

JDRF Canada or USA

Beyond Type 1

The Fit Blog (tip: join the Facebook community! So supportive!)

Connected in Motion

Diabetes Support Group (Ottawa, Canada)

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