This was originally posted to my blog, Diabetes Odyssey.
Over the past few weeks I’ve posted about my struggles with depression and anxiety and how they both recently got bad enough that I needed to get professional help. I’ve had many, many supportive comments. I’ve gotten zero malicious comments. I’ve also gotten some questions I would like to answer/address here.
“What does depression and anxiety have to do with type 1 diabetes?”
Type 1 diabetes isn’t as simple as your pancreas just no longer produces insulin. No, no, it’s that and a whole lot more. In as simple terms as I can to explain it, type 1 infiltrates your entire body, it literally has an effect on every single function, tissue, cell, hormone, chemical…EVERYTHING. This is why it is so important to take as good care of yourself as you can, to keep everything in line, in balance.
It can, and often does, throw your hormones and chemical balances all out of whack, and this can cause clinical depression and anxiety. Most of the time the diabetic can bring themselves back into balance through natural means such as diet, exercise, BG control, engaging in happy activities, etc… But sometimes it can get bad enough that professional help may be in order.
From another viewpoint, Diabetes (all types) is a never ending job. You get zero breaks from the constant balancing act, zero respite from calculations, BG checks, medications, diet, exercise, doctor visits… literally everything you do in life must have diabetes considered in the mix. Just going to bed at night is a preparation, “Is my BG OK for sleep?”, “Do I need a snack or insulin?”, “Did I take my pills?”, “Do I need to set an alarm to wake me in the middle of the night to check on things?”, etc.
As you can see, this constant, unrelenting work can cause a lot of exhaustion, anxiety, frustration (when things don’t go as planned, etc.), depression.
There’s a lot more to it (I could write a book) but I think (hope) I hit the point.
“Have you always struggled with depression and anxiety?”
Yes and no. If I think back to my earliest memories I can remember anxiety as young as five years old. Depression? I don’t think that started until I was somewhere between 9 and 11 years old (I was diagnosed with type 1 at 8).
My depression and anxiety were never so bad that I couldn’t function in life. They didn’t interfere much. But there were times I did struggle more than others, like in school I can say my grades were low on occasion, probably because of depression and anxiety. Also, from 8th grade through to high school graduation, I ditched, a lot. Why? Because of social anxiety, I hated being around people, it made me profoundly uncomfortable. I just wanted to stay home.
There was one time that the depression and anxiety exploded into a nervous breakdown and made me seriously consider suicide. I can’t tell you all of the details, but I can give you the rundown. It was 2006, my husband and I had been living in pretty bad living arrangements for about five years. The original plan had been to put up with the stressful arrangements for a couple years until we were able to get our own, nice, place. Well, that hadn’t happened and things were spiraling out of control for me. My anxiety was through the roof on a daily basis and finally one day I just erupted. I went into a fit of rage, destroying everything in my bedroom, then I sunk into a chair, crying and hyperventilating. I noticed one of my husbands swords and I sat there, seriously wondering if I was strong enough to fall on it, thrust it through my heart, because I just couldn’t live like this anymore. (I still feel anxiety symptoms just remembering this day).
Then I came to my senses, I knew I had to get out of there, I had to separate myself from the problem. So I did, and things got better. My husband and I got a place within a month and all was fine, not perfect, but back to a manageable level of stress for me.
In 2013 I had open heart surgery. this seems to be the beginning of a new chapter in my life. This was when, health wise, everything just began to fall apart. I had the heart surgery, which went very well, then I began a journey of four eye surgeries for retinopathy. At this time my peripheral neuropathy became unbearably painful. Soon after I began to suffer more symptoms of gastroparesis. In 2015 I was diagnosed with PCOS. I gained a lot of weight and no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t lose any. I lost my driver license, I quit my job…
All of this just fed my anxiety and depression. I became a hermit, never leaving my house unless I had no choice. I fell into a deep depression, not taking care of my house or diabetes, not showering, sleeping 15 hours a day…it was bad.
I realized I needed help. I got it. Now things are getting better.
Symptoms of anxiety:
There are many types of anxiety and depression. They can manifest differently in each individual person. If you suspect you may have a problem with anxiety and/or depression, consult your doctor.
Sudden overwhelming fear/panic
palpitations, fast heartbeat
shortness of breath
sense of choking, throat tightening
Chest pain, chest tightening
Sense of being detached from the world (de-realization)
fear of dying
unrealistic/exaggerated view of problems
frequent use of the restroom
Trouble falling or staying asleep
avoidance (of things that trigger your anxiety)
Symptoms of depression:
difficulty concentrating/remembering/making decisions
feelings of guilt/worthlessness/hopelessness
insomnia or excessive sleeping
loss of interest in activities once enjoyable
overeating or loss of appetite
persistent aches, pains, GI troubles, cramps, that do not respond to treatment
sad, anxious, or empty feelings
thoughts of suicide/suicide attempts
Being depressed or anxious does not make you weak, crazy, or any stereotypical (and very wrong)assumptions people have made throughout time. Anyone can become depressed or suffer anxiety, these are chemical imbalances, medical conditions.
Do not be ashamed or embarrassed if you have depression and/or anxiety. Do not avoid seeking help.
It can and will get better.