According to Diabetes Canada, people with diabetes are 30% more likely to have depression than those without diabetes. These numbers are rather alarming, but also quite understandable. Diabetes is a 24/7 job with no breaks or paid lunches. Rather, it makes us think about it morning, noon, and night, and it doesn’t take much for our hard work to come crumbling down. It’s easy to think “why bother?”.
I get it. I too have diabetes and depression. I have lived with diabetes for 20 years of my life, and I have never had a break from it. It’s easy to feel like it is never going to get easier and that you’ll have to struggle for the rest of your life. But look at how far you’ve come! Whether you’re newly diagnosed, or you’ve lived with diabetes for so many years that you’ve almost lost count, you are so much stronger than you were before diagnosis. You had to fight. Remember that even the strongest of warriors lose stamina and must rest for a little bit. You are a warrior. You are allowed to lose stamina. You are allowed to have to rest.
Here are a few things I do to make myself even remotely feel better about having diabetes:
Do something I enjoy
This can be difficult to do when we are sad about everything. However, doing an activity that you normally enjoy doing can release a hormone known as dopamine, which is one of the “feel good” hormones. The effects may not last long, but it could distract you for even a short amount of time
Talk to someone
You do not have to struggle alone. You have people in your corner that want you to succeed. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to friends, family, or your pet, you could always try a counsellor. Those of you who are at a post secondary institution most likely have access to this on campus, and most student health plans should cover all or some of the cost. If you’re not in school, then perhaps benefits can help cover the cost of this. Being able to articulate your feelings of frustration and sadness is sometimes all we need. Sometimes we just need someone to listen and to remind us that we are not alone.
I am bad at this one. Studies show that engaging in physical activity also releases the “feel good” hormones, which allows you to feel happy, get active, and lower your blood sugar in the process. This can be as simple as taking a walk around the block, or as complex as a fitness bootcamp. Whatever floats your boat, this can be a great tool to use.
I am also quite familiar that when you have depression, your motivation suffers. Either forcing yourself to get up, having scheduled time, or having a friend as a support system and keeping you accountable are all strategies that could work. Remember that everyone is different, and there is no right answer for how you deal with mental illness.
The bottom line
Diabetes sucks. It really does. However, there are two things we can do. We can either admit defeat and let it suck away our happiness, or we can fight tooth and nail to prove to it that it cannot beat us. You are strong, but you are also human. You’re allowed to have days.
I remember at a Children With Diabetes conference, Joe Soloweijck, a diabetes nurse educator and family therapist who has lived with Type 1 diabetes for over 50 years, told us his routine. If he is feeling bad about having diabetes, he will take the day off work, and tell his friends to call him every hour to tell him how sucky diabetes is, and how sorry they are that he has it. By noon, he is usually done feeling sorry for himself and heads into work for the rest of the day. Sometimes we just need our support system to do exactly that their name says: support us.
To learn more about diabetes and depression, you can also read Virtue Bajurny's article here or see how easy it is to practice some self-compassion below.