A Check In on Diabetes and Mental Health

Today is Day 18 of the #TrueDiabeticChallenge that I’ve been posting about on Instagram all month long! I’m using the prompt to inspire the topic of today’s blog post: mental health. Read on to learn how I’ve been juggling my diabetes and mental health lately…

When I think of “diabetes and mental health”, a lot of things cross my mind: Burnout, self-care, and a whole slew of emotions, to name a few of them.

So as I pondered what I’d write about when it comes to this topic – and be totally transparent as to how my mental health is lately as it pertains to my diabetes – I knew that one emotion in particular would be the focus.

Loneliness.

I’m actually a bit envious of this cartoon girl because at least she has a furry friend to keep her company.

For the first time in my life, I’m living alone (mostly by choice). While this new chapter is certainly exciting, it’s also downright petrifying at times, especially when I’m contending with literal highs and lows of my blood sugar.

I struggle the most with being alone and managing my diabetes when I go low. This probably isn’t uncommon among other people with T1D who also live alone and I knew to expect to feel this way to a certain extent before making this transition. But I didn’t realize exactly how much comfort I take in the presence of others when my blood sugar is low.

I don’t know what it is, exactly…it’s not like I suddenly forget how to treat low blood sugars. It’s not that I ever relied on someone else to bring low blood sugar treatments to me (though I’ve always appreciated that on the occasions it’s happened). And I benefit from having a Dexcom CGM to monitor my blood sugars 24/7 and alert me to sudden changes. So…what gives?

As I search for that answer, I’m going to try to remember to be patient with myself as I navigate my new circumstances. It takes time to acclimate to a new environment and diabetes can make that more challenging. I mentioned self-care at the start of this post…maybe it’s time I start practicing it more deliberately to help make this transition smoother!

I Said Something Very Messed Up About My Diabetes…

You’re looking at the title of this blog post and thinking…”ugh, clickbait!”

I assure you that I’m not trying to present this as clickbait; in reality, I did recently say something extremely messed up about my diabetes.

I didn’t 100% mean what I said…

In a dramatic outburst spurred by three days of frustratingly high blood sugars, I said to my parents, “I’m going to die of diabetes.

Look…we all say things that we don’t mean sometimes. But when I said this, there was a teensy-weensy piece of me that really believed there was an ounce of truth in that statement. That’s how fed-up I was with my diabetes.

It’s because I was going through insulin like crazy in the first half of that week. I couldn’t figure out why my numbers were running so high and tried what seemed like everything to cope with it: eating low carb, running temp basal increases, doubling my mealtime insulin, staying as hydrated as possible, checking ketones…and I was still contending with high numbers. The longer I stayed above my high threshold on my CGM, the more I convinced myself I was doing damage to my body, and that was an incredibly awful feeling. So I made that horrid exclamation out of sheer exasperation and fear.

I was letting my diabetes win that day.

I was letting my diabetes control the narrative.

I was letting my diabetes make me think that I was doing everything wrong, when in reality I was trying like hell to do everything right.

And…I was letting myself down. That defeatist attitude is not how I approach life with diabetes.

But I said what I said, and I can’t take it back…but I absolutely can change my thinking so that when something like this happens again, and I’m just feeling incredibly burnt out from it all, I have a new thing to say that is far from messed up:

I’m going to LIVE WITH diabetes.

Not just live…I’m going to live well with diabetes.

Memory Monday: Attending my First CDN Meeting

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much my diabetes thoughts, feelings, and experiences have unfolded over the years. Today, I remember…

…attending my very first CDN meeting as a college freshman who had no idea what to expect.

I remember wandering into one of the dilapidated buildings on campus, my stomach twisting in knots out of anticipation. I had no clue what to expect. I’d decided to go to the meeting partly to find out what it was like to interact with other T1Ds who were my age, and partly to placate my mother, who encouraged me to give it a shot (pun definitely intended).

When I walked into the room, I was greeted by the then-president of the UMass Amherst chapter, a couple of members, and the chapter’s adviser. I remember smiling nervously at them, introducing myself, and sitting down to join in on the animated conversation.

That would be the first and only CDN meeting in which I didn’t have much to say, only because I was too fixated on the novelty of the whole thing. Growing up, my mom and my aunt were the only two T1Ds I had in my life, and I was very okay with that. They were (and still are) excellent resources for my diabetes-related questions, so much so that my young/naive mind couldn’t see what I’d possibly have to gain by befriending other people my own age with diabetes.

If I’d known then what I know now…!

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CDN became such a big part of my life that I even wound up on the cover of their Advocacy and Awareness Guide!                    Who woulda thunk?

To make a long story short, that meeting marked the start of something wonderful for me. A journey, of sorts, to feeling empowered with diabetes. The beginning of many treasured friendships. An introduction to leadership in the diabetes community. A foray into feeling less afraid to rely on others for emotional support when I struggle with my diabetes.

That first meeting showed me what it was like to be around peers who I don’t have to constantly explain things to because they already know the ins and outs of diabetes just as well as I do. And that is invaluable.

I like reflecting on my involvement with CDN because so many positive things are associated with it, and it’s especially fitting on this Memory Monday in question, because Diabetes Awareness Month is right around the corner! My upcoming posts will reflect that, and they’ll also address prompts provided by the CDN to celebrate College Diabetes Week. Even though I’m not in college anymore, I’m looking forward to writing posts that respond to those prompts, because they’ll serve as a great way to reflect and reminisce some more. Be on the lookout for those posts in the next two weeks!

The Emotional Roller Coaster (Otherwise Known as High Blood Sugar)

I tested three times in the span 60 seconds the other night.

Why?

High blood sugar.

That was the culprit. For five hours, I was high – over 300 mg/dL, to be exact. I still can’t quite explain how it happened. I didn’t eat more than my usual amount of carbohydrates at dinner. I didn’t deviate at all from my mealtime routine; the only thing that maybe affected this was the fact that I had to change my pod that night.

But still. It was maddening, sitting there and watching my blood sugar climb and stick to the 300s. I did everything I should do to correct it: increase my temp basal, take corrective boluses, drink water, refrain from eating. And yet, the high persisted. All I wanted to do was go to sleep, but I was afraid to. Yes, afraid to get the rest that my body needed! That’s what diabetes does sometimes – it instills fear that you can’t shake until those numbers change the way that you need for them to. It’s paralyzing; it’s helplessness in its purest form.

It’s why I ended up stacking my boluses that night, even though I knew it might not be a smart call. But I was so stuck in the high 200s and low 300s. What else was I supposed to do? I even tested THREE times in 60 seconds because I thought that my meter was wrong. I desperately wanted it to show that I was coming down, and felt tears sting my eyes when I realized it wasn’t. I had no choice but to wait some more, so I made myself comfortable in bed and watched the Gilmore Girls (because a nonstop dialogue and excellently obscure pop culture references are good for the soul). I could only get semi-absorbed in Lorelai and Rory’s back-and-forth banter though, because my mind was otherwise occupied by the nagging high blood sugars.

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I couldn’t help testing over and over again, hoping for any sort of positive change.

Finally, I saw that I was coming down to the mid-200s shortly before 11:30 P.M. I decided it was safe to close my eyes. But I didn’t dare do so until I set an alarm for about an hour from then, just so I could continue to monitor my blood sugar. I woke up when it blared, and let out a massive sigh of relief when my CGM showed I was floating down to 150 mg/dL.

I fell back asleep only to wake up again, two hours later: This time, it was because of a low blood sugar. I tested, saw that I was 67, and corrected it. But falling asleep wasn’t as easy this time around. Again, I felt fear – what if I continued to drop down? What if I corrected too much? I was so emotionally exhausted and consumed by the feeling that it took me well over an hour to drift back to sleep.

When I woke for work the next morning, I was 148. The evening’s episode was over. But my head was spinning as I did my best to analyze what I could and should have done better.

And this is when I told myself to stop. I had to stop beating myself up and going over every choice I made. I had to remind myself I did the best I could in that moment, and that should be enough. It is enough.

I pick myself up, dust myself off, and move on.