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?
Depression, anxiety, burnout, panic attacks, eating disorders. These are just some of the mental health issues that a person with diabetes can deal with at some point.
I’ve watched my uncle, my brothers and my daughter struggle with multiple mental health issues over the years. I watched my uncle struggle with depression that he treated with alcohol for years. My uncle died from complications of his diabetes in 1999.
One of my brothers is so burned out with his diabetes that he doesn’t always check his blood sugars or take his insulin regularly. He’s been hospitalized many times for DKA. He calls me and asks me for help with his diabetes a lot. He already has complications from his diabetes. Watching him not take proper care of himself and his diabetes scares me. A lot. It has for years. But like they say you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. It has to be his choice. I do hope that one day he truly takes things seriously and gets better control of his diabetes.
My other brother also struggled with depression and turned to alcohol. He didn’t do such a stellar job taking care of himself either for a while and also has some complications from his diabetes. He’s doing a lot better taking care of himself and his diabetes now. He tries to keep tight control of his numbers.
My daughter has gone through episodes of depression, anxiety, and burnout many times. She often gets upset about having diabetes, counting carbohydrates, checking her blood sugar, doing pump site changes (or insulin injections), or cgm changes. She often gets upset, cries and questions why it had to be her that “got diabetes”. During this time, the only thing I can do as her parent is listen and console her. My daughter sees a therapist to help her deal with her feelings. She’s learning of ways to cope with her anxiety and depression. I hope that she learns the right methods now so she doesn’t rely on alcohol or drugs later in life. She also loves going to diabetes camp. Her home away from home. The place where she feels normal because everyone is like her. She’s made a ton of friends that she can talk with about different problems.
I often find myself feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, exhausted and burned out from dealing with diabetes. Watching those I know and love deal with this chronic illness each and everyday can take its toll. The alarms from pumps and cgms haunt my thoughts and even my dreams. Some days and nights are better than others. Many nights I’ve dreamed of diabetes and its complications. After one of these dreams, I wake in panic mode and often have a bad day dealing with anxiety.
I have some amazing friends that I’ve met through the DOC that are around to listen when I’ve hit a rough patch. People that have either been there as a PWD or as a parent of a child with diabetes. A few of these online DOC’ers I’ve met in person and I’ve become great friends with and I know that they’ve got my back if I need them, just like I’ve got theirs. My family and friends outside of the DOC are also there to listen when problems arise. I know that I’m never truly alone, even though sometimes I feel like I am. So thank you for sticking by my side, through it all. <3