The mental side of diabetes

Today’s Diabetes Blog Week prompt is:

We think a lot about the physical component of diabetes, but the mental component is just as significant. How does diabetes affect you or your loved one mentally or emotionally? How have you learned to deal with the mental aspect of the condition? Any tips, positive phrases, mantras, or ideas to share on getting out of a diabetes funk?

When people see my life with type 1 diabetes, the then to fixate on the food, the needles, the gadgets and overall physical aspects of my life with diabetes and assume that is all there is. “Just do X and you’ll be fine, right?” I’ve been asked.

I can do everything that I need to do the be physically “fine” but that doesn’t necessarily make me fine. I’m approaching my 5th year with diabetes (my diabetes is younger that #DBlogWeek!) and I can tell you that there’s a whole lot more to being fine with this disease than meets the eye.

Mentally, diabetes is always with me. It’s always in my head, vying for attention and brain space. I’m always figuring out something, whether it’s a carb count for food I’m about to eat, a carb recount for food I didn’t expect to impact me the way it did, determining if my next activity will have a significant impact on my blood sugar, trying to remember if I have enough supplies with me, timing how long it’s been since I last checked, wondering how a new acquaintance will react to seeing my pump and so on. There’s always a thought spared for diabetes. And that can be taxing. One way to really feel like you’ve got a chronic illness is to not be able to forget it for awhile.

Emotionally, diabetes drudges up all kinds of stuff. Guilt is a common companion, guilt over eating something that will spike me, over turning down a graciously offered treat because at the moment I just can’t, that I’ll be home late because my blood sugar isn’t safe to drive, that I had to put the brakes on an amorous moment with Brad because diabetes needs tended to… Beyond feeling guilty, I feel anxious, frustrated, sad and utterly exhausted by this disease sometimes. And then sometimes the feelings wheel finally turns and I get to be happy or proud because I made diabetes behave or had a good test result.

So, how do you deal with the mental stress and emotional mess that comes with diabetes?

Just like with giving myself shots or poking my fingers, I just do it… because I have to. A support system makes it easier, Brad has been an incredible partner in this life with diabetes. He’s there for me wherever, whenever and however I need him to be. Our medical crap can be taxing to our partners and they sometimes don’t get the credit that they deserve. The DiabetesMine team explored the mental and emotional impact of diabetes on our significant others in today’s post, don’t forget to check it out.

It’s also helpful to have a community of people around me who just get it. The “me too” element is more valuable than most people realize. If you haven’t connected with anyone else who deals with what you do day in and day out, you really should.

Finally, you have to approach life with chronic illness with the right attitude. It can be easy to pout, wallow and feel really sorry for myself. But my attitude can’t stay there for long. My dad taught me an important lesson when he was battling cancer, don’t waste your days. Here’s the story behind that lesson.


4 thoughts on “The mental side of diabetes

  1. You’re spot on with attitude, Rachel. It makes all the difference, with diabetes, with everything. Controlling your attitude helps you keep your power when you’re feeling powerless. Great post.

  2. Wow. “One way to really feel like you’ve got a chronic illness is to not be able to forget it for awhile.” I LOVE this line (and your whole post). #beautiful Thank you!

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