Tag Archives: diabetes and depression

Monday 2015 Diabetes Blog Week Post I CAN

Click for the I Can – Monday 5/11 Link List.
In the UK, there was a diabetes blog theme of “I can…”  that participants found wonderfully empowering.  So lets kick things off this year by looking at the positive side of our lives with diabetes.  What have you or your loved one accomplished, despite having diabetes, that you weren’t sure you could?  Or what have you done that you’ve been particularly proud of?  Or what good thing has diabetes brought into your life?  (Thank you to the anonymous person who submitted this topic suggestion.)

 

Happy to be back after two years…

 

When I was 10 years old, I felt a very strong sensation bubbling up inside of me that I can now identify as drive and motivation.  For what?  I wasn’t sure.  I just felt a seriously strong longing to do something important, something that would help people.  This intensified when my sister was diagnosed with type 1 that year.  The most memorable dream of my entire life was right after her diagnosis.  I wrote it down.  Basically I was in the Amazon rain forest, just south of where I was born, looking for a cure for cancer (interesting that cancer be the disease I was curing in my dream-I think this had to do with all the talk of curing cancer from some unknown plant in the jungle at that time).  Anyway, my memory of this dream is freakishly long and detailed.  When I woke up I thought it was a sign I was going to at least work in some way or other to help others.

Then I was diagnosed with type 1 (the same year).  I felt ok for the first 6 months.  I was driven to succeed.  Then reality set it.  Diabetes was a bitch.  And I was stuck with it until someone lived my dream (in my child’s mind) and cured it?  Oh no no no this was not ok.  I got negative about it pretty quickly.  I felt my personality changing.  With every passing year I was further and further from myself.  I couldn’t help anyone-I couldn’t help me.

In my early 20’s, after depressing times due to friends dying and other losses and major fear over my physical and mental health, I began to turn around.  I tried to come back to myself.  That really was the way I thought of it.  I would remember how I was a positive kid, with a ton of spirit and wonder, and with a yearning to act on the compassion I felt for others.

So to wrap this up what I’m saying is that I can be ME despite my diabetes and because my journey has been as I described, that feels rather victorious.  I know diabetes can pull us away from all the good parts of ourselves with constant stress and suffering.  This is something I will constantly continue to struggle with.  But, I feel very much myself these days and for that I’m quite grateful.

Note to Self: Try New Things

We moved recently and bought a small house on a small triangular shaped property with dozens of trees on it.  Most of the trees are pines and other evergreens, which are my favorite.  The unique shape of the property captivated us and we’ve been dreaming up cool garden ideas.  Even before we moved we saw a lot of work in the yard.  There are several different types of vines growing wild, choking off trees, and beginning to threaten others.  While envisioning the future, I imagined myself making Alex a sandwich while he worked hard to clear the vines and clean up the yard. 

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That’s part of the back yard, a wild and wonderful mess.

Once we moved in I realized that Alex was at work from sun-up to sun-down and the clearing of the property needed to be done and waiting until warm weather would mean watching out for snakes and dealing with pests (and I’m not confident in my ability to do either).  I thought to myself, “I’m going to absolutely hate this, I’m not the gardening type”.  But I went out there and starting pulling up vines, some half an inch thick, others thin and twirled around tree limbs and branches.  They have formed a massive thicket and run up and down many of our trees.  I used to think this look was desperately charming but I started to look up the vines to identify them.  One in particular is a terrible invasive type which takes down trees (oh no, the house!) and covers up plants (how rude!).  It grows really fast and we just so happen to have it all over the property.  I worked for 4 hours one day only to clear about a puny three ft radius of land.  Then I went inside, washed my dirt covered hands and that’s when it hit me.  This was the most fun I’d had in a really long time.  I felt so healthy!  My allergies weren’t acting up because it was late fall.  I felt peaceful and energetic.  All from pulling up vines, uncovering trees and plants, and finding artifacts left behind in the ground such as Twizzler wrappers and lots of old socks (I have questions for the man that used to live here). 

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Doesn’t look like much, but these mounds are massive in person and reflect only a tiny amount of cleared land.

Since then I’ve spent several more afternoons doing the same, enjoying myself so much I only stop when it’s too dark to see and my kids remind me it’s time to do my motherly job and feed them (think of all I’ll be able to accomplish when they can feed themselves!)  Each time I feel a sense of euphoria.  I did recently pull or rip a pelvic floor muscle doing this which makes sense considering I jumped into a new physical activity without any caution and without working myself up to the task.  But, I’m healing and learning not to over strain.  And I’m still loving it.  And I’ve become a nerd to my husband who just shakes his head back and forth as I call myself the “tree whisperer”.  I struggle a lot of with anxiety and depression, something I’ve blogged much about, and this activity is like strong medication for me.  I don’t quite know what it is.  Maybe it’s being out in this time of year with the smell of pine,  the crisp fresh air, birds, squirrels, and deer all around, and no pollen to make me sneeze.  All I know is I’m just going to keep it up.  It’s built in exercise, too so my blood sugars love it.

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See how much there is?  I can’t even find my husband when he’s out there.

I was so sure I would hate doing something I turned out to totally love doing!  So, this is a serious note to self: try new things!  Who knows where it will lead.  And if you have any tips for dealing with invasive vines, I’m all ears.

Thoughts on Diabetes Guilt

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I answered a few questions for a video project recently and wanted to get my thoughts out in written format.

The first question was if I had ever felt guilty about having diabetes.  Personally, I have never felt guilty about having diabetes but I have felt guilty about other things such as not eating right, not checking my blood sugars often enough, or skipping exercise.

The way I’ve dealt with this is to first recognize that I’m not perfect and second of all be brutally honest with myself about my efforts.  For me, guilt comes from not doing what I know I’m capable of.  So since I don’t make insulin, I don’t feel guilty about having diabetes, but I certainly try to be aware of what I’m doing in order to get what I want such as good health or great blood sugars.  If I feel guilty about how I’m eating, it’s usually because I know I could be doing better.  I view guilt as a sign that helps point me in the right direction.  And since I’m not a fan of guilt, I use it as a pointer and then banish it for productivity and dignity purposes.

I find that making a plan of action and setting goals is a really great way of diminishing guilt.  Once we are on a path towards our goals, we feel empowered and we know we’re working hard and then there is no room or place for guilt.

I have been treated differently in the past for having diabetes.  It’s understandable because of how most people have a certain level of ignorance about diabetes.  So I find education is key.  And when it’s not appropriate to lecture or teach someone about diabetes, I just smile and feel confident knowing that most people don’t mean to offend and those who do aren’t worth my time.  Walking around angry about the public’s ignorance about diabetes is immature.  I mean, are we saying everyone needs to know the ins and outs of our condition when we don’t know the ins and outs of hundreds of other conditions?  Yikes.

For those who don’t have diabetes, I do have a suggestion.  I’d suggest that they simply not assume when it comes to anything about anyone else and be open to learning, instead.  The great thing about this is it should work on just about anything!

The best tool I’ve found for handling misconceptions out there about diabetes is to put all my energy and focus on living my best life because I’ve found that when I do that, I look and feel better and that speaks volumes to people and sets them straight often before I open my mouth to correct them.

Many people feel that type 1 diabetes is easy and all about just taking insulin.  It’s been very empowering for me to write a blog that family and friends read because it’s allowed them to learn more about what diabetes is really like to live with, without being lectured.

So all in all I’d say that leading and teaching others by example and focusing on ourselves is a great way to fight stereotypes and misconceptions out there.  Placing much of our energy outside of ourselves is a bit of a waste, in my opinion.  And very importantly, I’d say that it’s important to decide that no one is going to make you feel bad about having diabetes.  If they get to you it may be that you have some feelings of your own to work through and if that’s the case, work through them.  My philosophy is to take responsibility for our own feelings and actions.

I like being in a place where guilt doesn’t weigh me down and other people have little power over me.  I think we all deserve that.

DSMA February, Depression in the Winter

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DSMA asked us last month (I know, I’m late!): 

What can we do to help stop depression from hitting our community during the winter months?

Well, this is a good question indeed.

I think first we need to make sure we are getting sufficient Vitamin D.  Next time you get blood work done, have your doctor test your levels.  If they are not in optimum range, get a supplement (or sunlight if that’s possible where you live).  Do not take Vitamin D2.  Take Vitamin D3.  This is really important.  Don’t count on the Vitamin D in your soy milk, almond milk, or coconut milk-it’s all D2 and this form does not raise your levels.  So be sure to get D3.  Have your levels checked again in a few months to make sure you’re not under or over supplementing.

Secondly, I find that if I am dealing with a little depression before or during the Holidays, by the time January rolls around, I kind of fall apart.  So I think being proactive is important.  Getting Vitamin D levels at optimal levels by September, exercising a little each day or at least each week through the Holiday season, and making plenty of time to slow down and rest.

For people with diabetes, we tend to go, go, go during December and eat the goodies we want, resulting in higher blood sugars.  Higher blood sugars for a few weeks predisposes us to depression because it really alters our moods.  If you feel sick for a few weeks, it’s naturally going to take a toll and this isn’t limited to your body as your mind also gets affected.  So I think that trying to sustain blood sugar management during this time of year is crucial.

By January, I am tired of working out when it’s cold and then I run into problems with my blood sugars.  I think that finding creative ways to work out indoors is also important because the reality is that I’m not the only one who doesn’t make it out due to the weather.

Being focused on gratitude and possibilities is helpful, too.  Keeping perspective.

Lastly, putting off feelings of depression often makes them worse.  Get help.  See a therapist or counselor, tackle the issues mostly fueling depression, and if needed take something to help you get out of the cycle of lowly feelings.

I’ve struggled with depression in the Winter since I can remember.  This year is the first year I’ve taken Vitamin D year round and I feel much better.  I’m also taking something for anxiety and depression and that has helped immensely as well.  If you’re struggling, tackle the problem and work on healthy lifestyle habits.  You can feel better.

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Confronting My Anxiety

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So we’re continuing the “Sysy Freak Show”!  (I’m trying to laugh as much as I can, forgive me)

My doctor prescribed me something for my anxiety, just to get me back on my feet while I continue to treat my anxiety via healthy lifestyle habits.  Why after so many years of au naturel treatments have I succumbed to medication?  Because right now I think I need a little boost.  I don’t necessarily love sharing this info but I feel like I need to be honest with you all, all the time.  I don’t know most of you out there but I know you’re out there…

My whole life I’ve needed a chill pill.  Only now it’s really affecting my health.  Lately, I get really anxious when I have to go out in public.  Even when I’m excited and happy about something I feel too overwhelmed, like my heart is going to beat out of my chest and I have trouble taking a deep breathe.  I can sleep 10 hours a day if you let me and I have a really hard time getting out of bed.  And my thoughts go to dark places.  For example, I will randomly imagine the worst case scenario for everything imaginable and my thoughts will keep unfolding worse and worse events.  I did that 10 years ago when I was at my lowest.  I conquered those thoughts before and I am working on doing it again.

I think my current place in life is sort of fueling these feelings.

Alex is gone 12 hours a day, 6 days a week for work.  Besides my natural inclination to anxiety, having twin two year olds is pretty stressful.  I have to take them out by myself a few times a week and it’s hard to keep my insides from turning because they like to run into the road and in separate directions and so I physically task myself holding them so they don’t go running out in front of a car.  And in those moments I’m not without worry because I fear a low blood sugar.  I know I shouldn’t worry that one of them will get hit by a car or choke to death on something but the reality is that Henri has scared me by getting away from me in the parking lot and hello? People don’t drive slowly in parking lots near kids anymore and he has run right in front of a car, almost giving me a heart attack.  Henri (why is it always him?) has also choked on a glucose tablet that I accidentally dropped while low and I had to totally pound his little back with my hand to pop it out as he turned blue.  Aurora has peanut and egg allergies and the peanut one is classified as severe.  So everywhere we go I’m obsessing over what she is touching and wiping her tiny hands clean because even though it’s annoying to live this way, I WILL NOT let anything happen to her.  Or her brother.  But these moments of life and death or medical strife are driving me nuts.  This tough time won’t last forever but while it’s here, I’m really on edge.

Something that has made a great negative impact on me is I’ve started reading the news again.  I had stopped completely because let’s face it, I’m not really going to do anything about all those small crimes out there and when it comes to the big news, friends and family will be talking about it, so there is no need to feed my very sensitive self all the cruel and sad news of the world each day.  I can stay properly informed without reading everything.

You know what?  As soon as I started the medicine my mysterious nausea and body aches disappeared and now I’m wondering if that was all related to anxiety/depression.  I thought that was interesting to note.

So anyway here’s the plan: (because I don’t want the side effects of this anxiety medicine, forever, though it is excellent birth control)

-Daily exercise

-Positive affirmations

-Healthy diet

-Media fast

-Give back and be grateful

Anything else I should do that might help?  Suggestions are welcome!

Oh and if YOU are dealing with anything similar, do try and get help, there is no shame in it.  Just work your way back, you, um, we can do it :)

Wednesday Revisit: The Biggest Threat to your Diabetes Control

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This post outlines the toughest thing I’ve ever dealt with aside from the diabetes itself.  I know I’m not alone and I am happy to report I’ve discovered that it’s possible to treat this and feel better.  I’m talking about depression and I’m sure I’m not alone in my experience…

Originally posted on October 12, 2009

The Biggest Threat to your Diabetes Control

Life Gets in the Way

This would stop me but maybe not you.   Photo courtesy of Tom Curtis.

This would stop me but maybe not you. Photo courtesy of Tom Curtis.

 

Something I’ve always struggled to understand is how some people manage to be so productive.  Life gets in everyone’s way so how do some people charge through that better than others? 

I made really good grades in school up until my last two years of High School when I struggled more with my diabetes or perhaps with myself.  Then I barely made it!  I graduated because my kind Advanced Government teacher gave me a test with one question on the last day of school that went like this, “How does one be a good citizen?”  I answered it on a blank sheet of paper laid up against the wall of the school office and I scribbled my long answer with a dying pen while standing, propping one foot up on a stool.  She looked at me with genuine concern and said, “You’re a smart girl, you just need a break and some time to figure out what you want.”  Wow she was psychic!  Anyway, she knew I wouldn’t have a hard time answering the question on my “test” which I “aced” and she pretty much swooped me up and carried me to my graduation with her charity.  I felt that I could have made straight A’s if I wasn’t so depressed about my diabetes.  I love learning, dang it!  I wondered for a long time.  What went wrong?  I did other things despite diabetes, why couldn’t I just do my homework?  Well, I guess life just got in the way.

About 8 years later my type 1 diabetic sister, Ana, graduated High School a valedictorian leaving me absolutely dumbfounded.  How did she do it?  I mean, I felt it was impossible at the time and I thought it had to do with my diabetes, so how did she do it and make it look so easy?  Part of me was worried people would compare she and I and then look at me as if to say, “So the diabetes ISN’T an excuse, eh?”

Years later I began to realize that life gets in everyone’s way only this manifests itself differently for everyone.  Some people struggle with their weight, others struggle with grades, some can’t keep their house clean, others are crabby people, some abuse alcohol, etc, etc. 

What I’ve come to learn about my own diabetes is that it doesn’t prevent me from doing things.  It simply aggravates any task I want to accomplish.  Depending on how motivated I am to complete that task, I either push through despite my diabetes or I don’t. 

When I look back and try to imagine my life without diabetes, I feel like I would have had many of the same struggles.  Because fundamentally I’m the same person.  I would have still been messy, complicated, sensitive, and into learning about health.  When my sister was diagnosed with diabetes before me, I read for hours in the library about diabetes and found it was easy.  And at that time you couldn’t get me to read a book about math or history if you paid me to do it.

It helps me psychologically speaking, to remember that the hardship I endure is largely life getting in the way, or something rather natural.  Because if some diabetics are doing marathons, flying planes, bravely studying their passion of studio art in college, and getting doctorates, this means diabetes doesn’t stop us from anything.  I think diabetes helps blur the line for us.  The line between what we don’t really want to do and what we think diabetes isn’t allowing us to do.  In other words, diabetes may just be the greatest excuse of our lives.

This was hard for me to deal with at first but now it’s liberating.  I didn’t want to just take responsibility for my own downfalls.  Now I can think, “Oh thank goodness, so I was depressed and completely unmotivated for school during the last two years of High School.  It wasn’t my diabetes.”  Well…not 100% anyway.  Now I just think “life gets in the way” because we’re all meant to fine tune our interests and desires until we get where we’re supposed to be.  The path of uncertainty surely doesn’t make this easy and yes, diabetes adds a major dramatic flair and struggle to one’s story. 

But, isn’t it comforting to know that having diabetes doesn’t dictate whether we’re straight A students or not?

The Irony of Diabetes

 

Sometimes I like to look at diabetes with humorous shades on.  It kind of numbs the pain.

Did you ever think that diabetes was overly ironic?  I often do.

I can’t help but think about how many times I was prepared for a low blood sugar only to have a low during the one or two rare times I didn’t carry something. 

What about the time I got the insulin pump?  I was 16 years old.  I was so sure it would make diabetes easier and doctors assured me my blood sugars would be much easier to control.  Yet, two years after I got on the pump, I sat dumbfounded, wondering how I had managed to gain 20 pounds, have worse blood sugar management, and still feel that diabetes was impossible to control. 

When I was a teenager, I thought, “exercise is always good” and took that literally.  So when I had high blood sugars, I wouldn’t skip the soccer match or basketball game.  I’d play.  I later realized that might have caused me some nerve damage and who knows what else.  (Slowly shaking head)

I remember a few years ago, when I discovered the possible dangers of aspartame and splenda, how betrayed I felt.  When I was diagnosed, I was so happy to have diet coke, sugar free jello, and crystal light, any time I wanted.  So to find out that some damage to my health may have been caused by what had long been my sweet tooth savior-well, you can bet I threw my hands in the air and much like Tarzan, yelled “Whyyyyyyy?!”

Diabetes is ironic.  Your effort level can be at 100% and your health might simultaneously be at 80%.  Someone else’s effort level might be at 50% and their health be at 85%.  That’s right.  Diabetes can be a silly slap in the face.  What will we learn next that will be contrary to what we know now?  I mean, I try to keep my blood sugars around 100.  Will there soon be a news flash to kindly let me know that has been the wrong thing to do all along?  We’re sort of aiming in the dark, folks.  I think this is where our faith steps in.  Me personally…I try to have faith that I just do what seems to be right based on info I have today and when that changes, I change, and hopefully, my body will hold out and I’ll get some kind of reward in the end.  When I don’t see a reward right away, I’ll have to try to assume there is one on the way.

Here is something interesting:  Supposedly…my chances for developing PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) rose by A LOT when diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (then it rose more with my high blood sugars).  This led to my ovaries dropping more eggs at a time than the normal one per month.  According to doctors I have spoken with, this syndrome I have might have very well been the reason for my twin pregnancy.  So there is a good chance diabetes gave me my wonderful twin babies.  A crazy way to look at it?  Maybe…but I’ll take all the positive I can get out of diabetes. (Big cheesy smile)

Do you think diabetes is ironic?

You Can’t Know Without Experiencing

 

As much as we would like others to really understand how we feel as diabetics, we must remember they can’t possibly understand what it’s like.  At least I don’t think so.

I used to imagine what it was like to lose a loved one in order to try to relate to friends and relatives who had lost loved ones.  I imagined it being really difficult and painful.  But no.  When I finally lost someone I knew well and cared for, I realized the experience was nothing compared to imagining it.  I had imagined it being like a sorrowful pain creeping inside, making me cry for a while and then leaving me quiet for a few days and then voila, I’d be healed.  In reality it was more like a being hit by a train that exploded and lit flames in my head that wouldn’t be put out with any number of tears for a very, very long time.  And I didn’t even lose a spouse, a parent, or a child. 

Years ago I was 100% positive I knew what it felt like to be a parent.  I was 15 and present in the delivery room when my youngest brother was born.  I was the first person he saw when he opened his eyes.  I was his babysitter when my mom had to run an errand.  Before he was born I didn’t know I wanted children.  Our age difference helped me grow up feeling like I had an idea of what it was like to be a parent.  Wrong, again.  I had twins a year and a half ago and have realized there are things you experience and feel which can only come with being a parent.  Which can only come with being left behind by a loved one.  Which can only come from being a diabetic.

We can’t get others to ever really know what we go through.  We can spend a lot of time and energy on it.  I’ve done this before and in the end, only received disappointment.

Let’s not ask the impossible of each other.  Instead, let’s listen and let’s face the person who is talking to us and look them in the eyes.  They’ll appreciate it so much they may do it back.  And getting that kind of attention back is the next best thing to them really knowing.  Besides, if one must experience to know, do we really want everyone to know?  I don’t. 

I think pinpointing what we want is important.  Only then can we ask for it and also do it as an example.

I get the sense that all most of us want is patience, forgiveness, and unconditional love.  What about you?  What do you want?

10 Thoughts That Run Through Our Heads Way Too Often

 

10.  “Ugh, my blood sugar is high”

9.  “Ugh, my blood sugar is low”

8.  “Where is my meter?”

7.  “Why!?” (referring to number on meter screen)

6.  “I need a diabetes vacation.”

5.  “If only I wasn’t a diabetic…”

4.  “How will my health be in 20 years?”

3.  “Where’s our cure already?”

2.  “They don’t understand”

1.  “Is this <random symptom> caused by my diabetes?”

 

Goshhh, I’d love to have all of this out of my brain :)

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