Its common knowledge that type 1 diabetics are likely to suffer with depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses. Yet, despite the successful campaigning of charities such as MIND, the stigma still exists.
Mental health is no joke!
This is a very personal topic for me. I have seen and been a part of both my family and close friends suffering from the effects of mental illness, whether diabetes induced or not.
Type 1 diabetes is a complete whirlwind. It’s a physical and emotional rollercoaster that can seriously take its toll on your body and mind. Therefore, it’s not surprising that so many type 1’s struggle with their mental health.
In my opinion, there are two reasons that this is the case.
Firstly, non-acceptance of diagnosis. For anyone that has lived a life without glucose monitoring and insulin injections, it can be extremely difficult to receive and process the news. In the space of a few minutes, you go from being “normal” to having an incurable auto-immune disease that you will have to closely manage every day for the rest of your life. It can quite literally turn your world upside down and for some people that’s just too much to deal with.
Secondly, not being able to cope with the day-to day management. Living with type 1 is tough and I’m not going to play it down. You have to constantly monitor your glucose levels, administer insulin multiple times a day, be aware of exactly what you are eating and complete numerous mathematical calculations without a margin for error. All of that is the bare minimum when things are going well. Our bodies are however magnificent and it is often hard to keep track of what is going on. So, when things aren’t going so well, there’s a million and one other things to think about on top of the normal stuff. That too can sometimes be just too much for people.
The most important thing to remember is that it is ok to not be ok!
We, you and I, have this wonderful illness that so many people struggle to understand. But we’ve been thrown in at the deep end with no choice but to try and get it. If we don’t, we will die. And that is such a tromendous amount of pressure to carry.
Altough sometimes you may feel completely alone, deep in dark thoughts and awful feelings, please remember that you are not. There is always someone that is willing to listen and to try and understand. I understand. I know exactly what you have to go through each day and I know just how horrible and scary it can be.
Find a quiet, happy place. Find somewhere that helps you to forget everything and allows you to be at peace with yourself. Take a few deep breaths, sit an listen to the calm and remind yourself of all the good things you have to be grateful for. When things get me down and life feels like it’s getting a little too tough, I like to go for a long walk to clear my head, I like to sit by the seaside and listen to the sound of the sea or, I engross myself in writing and express my feelings that way. I tell myself how lucky I am to be where I am today and, although it isn’t always obvious, how much I mean to a great number of people. The place I felt most at peace with the world was Iceland, when I visited back in December. Despite the freezing temperatures, the scenery was absolutely breath-taking and being out in the open let me feel so free. I so hope I will be lucky enough to visit there again one day! It’s important that you find your special place and spend some time there every so often to escape from the harsh reality that is our lives.
However, if you feel like you cannot deal with it by yourself, please reach out. There are fellow diabetics who are always willing to be a shoulder to cry on, charities that so desperately want to help and therapists that can be recommended by your health care professional. Most diabetes clinics offer their patients the chance to speak with a psychologist. If you are struggling, even just a little bit, please please make use of this service.