I’m not signed up as a participant to the DBlogWeek, as I’m unlikely to write about all the topics that are listed, so instead, I’m picking and choosing those which I find interesting to look at and raise some questions for me. I think I’ve posted on many of them in the past anyway. Today’s topic is an interesting, and sometimes controversial one. But what is it?
We think a lot about the physical component of diabetes, but the mental component is just as significant. How does diabetes affect you or your loved one mentally or emotionally? How have you learned to deal with the mental aspect of the condition? Any tips, positive phrases, mantras, or ideas to share on getting out of a diabetes funk? (If you are a caregiver to a person with diabetes, write about yourself or your loved one or both!)
I’ve posted before about my relationship with Diabetes. It’s particularly noticeable in this post. The crux of it is:
““I” am a compound of all of the things that have happened to me, the experiences I’ve had, the genes of my parents and ancestors and the world I live in. Diabetes is simply one of those things. It’s a part of me and it’s part of what makes me how I am. I’m not concerned that it is something that gets in the way of my life and that I have to think about constantly. It simply isn’t. It’s just something that I deal with when it’s necessary to deal with it.”
What does that say about me? As someone who, from the age of 13, grew up with diabetes, I don’t really remember life before it. The reality is, unlike many later onset T1Ds, my becoming an adult was coincident with my growing in to my Type 1. They were part and parcel of the same process. My parents were of the opinion that I needed to just get on with it, as they couldn’t be around me all the time, and I did.
I remember the day I was diagnosed, as a 13 year old, having a big old cry about it, and I remember when agreeing to be fully transparent about it with my girlfriend, a similar reaction, but in the meantime, it’s something I’ve just got on with. It’s part of me, but it doesn’t define me. And that’s something that my partner also mentions. Due to me growing up with it, there was a huge amount of life going on that I was part of and enjoying. My other passions in life were starting to show and I was doing them as well. I was encouraged to and as a result, I did them, with D coming along for the ride.
I also think I was fairly lucky. Between diagnosis and being 21, I was never diagnosed with DKA and didn’t have the type of severe hypos that set anxiety off amongst many T1Ds. I’d say I was well managed, but the reality was I took my insulin and didn’t test as much as I should have. In the past 27 years I’ve been assisted twice as a result of hypos, and been taken into hospital just that once with DKA, as a result of drinking far too much after finishing finals.
What is the emotional or mental impact on me? Well it’s a shrug of the shoulders and a JFDI approach. I suspect this approach to life comes about from being given the responsibility as a youngster and also from just me, but it may also be part of the feedback cycle that is tied to T1D. Something doesn’t work, then look and try something else. I’ve done a fair amount of testing in the past and Keirsey and Myers Briggs have thrown up some interesting things. I can’t say whether that’s due to T1D or a combination of T1D and me. I strongly suspect the latter.
I think part of this was the acceptance of mortality. I’ve pondered this on many occasions. I can’t say when it happened, but there was a point in time when I realised that I was mortal. That I held my life in my hands and that fundamentally I will die. It is just a matter of when and how. I’d like to say that everything changed at that point, but it didn’t really.
I wrote about some of the psychological challenges of a T1D diagnosis in the past, here. I mentioned that entering into a relationship was what caused me to take a different approach to care of myself. Do I think I had mental issues before? No, not particularly. But when there’s only really you to be responsible for, you often apply a different standard.
But what’s my point? What do all these ramblings mean? For me I think I’ve avoided mental health issues due to a number of factors:
- The luck of the draw. I may be less susceptible than some people are. I’ve also got a bit of a hard headed approach to life. Some might call that an issue in and of itself!
- Accepting mortality. Like I said, I don’t know when I did, but I never wanted to not take insulin as I knew it kept me alive. The idea of abusing it has never been something that I’ve faced because I’d rather be the person who keeps me alive than kills me.
- Life. There’s so much to see and do. There’s so much to live.
- I’m not defined by my diabetes. It’s just part of me. It’s not the first topic in a discussion. It’s often never a topic in discussion. It has no need to be, and often only comes up when someone spots my pump. We have a quick chat and I get to talk about being a bit of a nerd.
It's great that you've been able to fit diabetes into your life and not the other way around. And that you have supportive people around you. Thanks for sharing.
Accepting that point that diabetes is just part of us I feel is important, especially in order to not feel utterly overwhelmed by it.