Diabetes and Depression– Worry

March 23rd, 2010 by Amy Gonsalves Leave a reply »

Again: I am not a medical provider. If you think you or someone you love is clinically depressed or needs professional help, seek out that help immediately. Now. You have everything to lose.

Diabetes and depression appear to go hand in hand in recent studies. While I don’t think there is necessarily a genetic link—I think depression in people and in kids living with diabetes is more situational than chemical. If there is a link between diabetes and depression, how can we avoid negative consequences of depression while we take care of our diabetes, or support someone living with the disease?

With each medical visit comes the obligatory “how are your numbers running” or the antiquated “how are your sugars” or “is your diabetes well controlled” questions. (I always fantasize about actually responding to that question with a real answer, just to watch their face!) People who do not live with diabetes miss a lot when they ask me those questions; if they understood the worry involved I doubt they’d ask so routinely. They apparently do not comprehend the amount of worry involved in living with diabetes.

The most difficult part of having diabetes, for me, is that there is a goal. There is a magic number. There is a test result that will get your doctor to say “good job”. There is a number that will make your parents relax when they see it. Problem is, that number is so difficult to achieve regularly it can feel like a fluke when you do reach it.

Even bigger problem? Each of those reactions from others who do not live with the disease tells you that they have attached a value judgment to your test result. You check your blood multiple times a day, and instinctively with each number that shows up on your meter screen you attach that value judgment and corresponding emotional reaction.

Over 170 = bad? 227 = really bad? 121 = relaxed? 372 = really really bad? 104 = happy?

How exhausting.

(If you are a parent of a kid with diabetes, check out their most recent log. Write out the numbers from any given day, and write down corresponding one-word emotions next to it. Look at that list of words to see what I mean.)

So what to do?? Diabetes involves a load of extra work in daily living. We know that. But relieving as much of the emotional contingent as possible really does lighten the load. Yes, the goal is to regularly keep your blood glucose levels as close to nondiabetic levels as possible. Yes, you should look at trends and see if you need to work with your medical team to adjust your insulin amounts or delivery methods. Yes, you need to check your blood glucose often so that you can correct for the highs and catch the lows. But accept that living with diabetes needs to be LIVING first, DIABETES next.

Your blood glucose levels will not be “between 80 and 110” all the time. (If they were, I suggest you wouldn’t have diabetes.) Your diabetes is a major player in your life. Don’t give it any more power than it needs.

When you get a number on your meter, practice saying to yourself “okay” or “alright” or even “I thought so”. Try to see if you weren’t holding your breath, even a little bit, while the meter counted down. If so, next time leave the room when the meter starts its countdown. Next time you get a 300+, smile first, and then do your insulin calculations. Think of a compliment before you check next and say it aloud before your meter displays a result.

There are a lot of ways to lighten the emotional load of living with diabetes; you just need to find some that work for you!

If you have some methods or some mantras that have worked for you, I invite you to share them here. We are in this together!

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