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!

Dealing with Loneliness and Diabetes During a Global Pandemic

If I was an old-timey sailor keeping a log on my voyage across the ocean right now, I imagine that my entry for today would look a little something like this:

Quarantine, Day #55: It’s been almost two full months since I’ve set foot outside of the confines of my home. I’m so appreciative of the little things, like good weather days and food to sustain me, but I never realized how much I would miss face-to-face interaction with human beings. I miss everyone: my extended family, my friends, my coworkers. I miss people who are physically close by and far away from me. I miss strangers. No wonder all the rum is gone, me hearties!

Okay, so that last line is a bit of a stretch, but you get the gist of it.

The times and the circumstances are making me (and many others) feel a unique sense of loneliness.

Yes, I’m lucky enough to be quarantined with people and a dog who love me. I don’t take that granted for a second, nor do I want to forget how fortunate I am to have so many things that others do not (ample food, clothing, Internet access, entertainment options, etc.).

Still, I’ve felt deep, dark pangs of loneliness and sadness a handful of times since my quarantine began.

Dealing with Loneliness and Diabetes During a Global Pandemic
This whole situation has made me rather introspective.

I’ve felt profound sadness for others: My heart aches for anyone who has lost a loved one due to this wretched thing. I constantly worry about the physical and mental health of those on the front lines of it all and wish there was more I could do.

I’ve felt isolated from my loved ones: Sure, I have video chat and texting and those are excellent ways of keeping in touch with people. But it doesn’t compare to the in-person connection that I have with my extended family, friends, coworkers, and others in general.

In my most melancholy moments, I’ve cried ugly tears that I couldn’t control because I can’t find the words and I can’t even fully understand my own feelings in those fleeting periods.

Is it disgust at myself for crying in the first place when I don’t really have anything to cry over because I am a gainfully employed individual who has access to her medication and other living essentials?

Is it frustration at myself for allowing myself to be dragged down by my conflicting emotions?

Is it anger over taking the little things for granted or for this whole situation, in general?

Is it grief over the many life changes I’ve faced in the last year? A longing for the way things were before?

I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I do know that the waves of loneliness I’ve ridden in the last six weeks (and are bound to continue to ride occasionally) have directly impacted my diabetes.

I’m going to be real with myself (and you) for a hot second here: I haven’t taken particularly excellent care of myself in all this. My eating habits have changed. I’ve spent more time knocking down my body and its appearance than appreciating it for what it is. And I’ve berated myself over and over again, asking myself why I can’t just get my shit together and produce better blood sugars, dammit.

So…how exactly am I going to change this? How can I make my thoughts and feelings about myself and my diabetes healthier when I’m already struggling with loneliness during a global pandemic?

I think the answer, for now, is simple but effective: I’m going to work harder at keeping a routine that incorporates setting and achieving small but meaningful goals each week. I’m going to follow the tried-and-true SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based) goal-setting formula and more importantly, I’ll take the time to actually write them down. I may share them here sometimes, but I think I should also be consistent and capture them in some sort of journal that is only for my eyes. Writing in a journal may seem silly to some, but after seeing some posts on Instagram about the benefits of doing so and talking with a few friends who actively maintain journals…I think it’s just what I need right now, in tandem with leaning a little harder into my various support networks during those particularly blue moments.

Plus, gentle reminders to myself that even though I may feel on my own when it comes to my diabetes and other roller coaster emotions during this global pandemic, I’m never truly alone. And neither are you.