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Diabetes Month: The One About Anxiety

I’ve had some anxiety flare ups in the past.

Like in college, when I’d break out in hives across my abdomen, tied directly to the more stressful moments – when exams were up, when I was working the early am breakfast shift five days a week and then going to class, when my parents split.

Like after my son was born and I pictured birds pecking out his eyes when we’d be on a seemingly innocuous walk around the bright and sunny neighborhood.

Like for the last year or so, due to the political unrest and a news cycle that ramps up feelings of instability.

For the last few weeks, I’ve had a lot of trouble going to sleep at night.  Not because I’m not tired.  I’m exhausted, honestly.  But my brain won’t shut off at night.  I worry about my kids and their health.  About my marriage and family.  About things that need to be tended to in the house – what needs to be cleaned, what needs to be replenished, what paperwork needs filing, etc to the etc of all et ceteras.  About everything I can control and the shit I can’t.  Everything all at once.

Once rolling, this worry spins out of control and then I start to worry about my body and its health. The autonomic actions of my body – breathing, heartbeat – become questionable.  Is my breathing too rapid?  Is my heart beating too quickly?  Does my arm hurt now?  Am I having a heart attack?  I feel nauseas; is that a heart attack sign?  Do I wake up my husband and tell him I’m having a panic attack and a heart attack?  I try to mentally force my heart to stop racing, force my brain to stop racing, but they’re off like greyhounds chasing a rabbit.

Sleep is awful lately.

Last night, I had a nightmare that a faceless woman died in my arms due to a low blood sugar.  She cried before she died and I woke up crying, immersed in fight-or-flight mode and had to reason myself back into a moderate mindset.  I could not fall back asleep.  My own blood sugar was 90 mg/dL and stable but I felt compelled to have a snack just in case (despite wearing a CGM, despite my husband beside me, despite, despite, despite but because, because, because).

I know it’s the news cycle that’s bringing me back into the anxious cycle of my early 20’s.  My emotional centers are permeable in that way.  I know myself well enough to see the cycle starting up and know I’m pinned against the wall of my spinning mind.  I’m on the Gravitron at the county fair.

What I don’t know is how to stop it entirely.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I am panicky a lot of the time these days.  It doesn’t feel comfortable to feel these feelings and it feels even less comfortable to write them down, but it’s how diabetes is these days.  The reality of the possibility of an issue while I’m asleep is a thing.  And that possibility has rooted in my brain like a spider plant, growing and latching onto the next patch of fertile synapses that should be used for writing or parenting but is now infested with spidery panic.  The reality of life with chronic illness is that it makes you acknowledge the forever of it, which makes me question my forever with it.

This will pass.  I know it will.  It has passed in the past.  Asking for help is hard.  Waiting for it to work is hard.  Pretending that diabetes isn’t something I worry deeply about at times is hard.   Not every day is hard, but the few that are become a full stop.  Spending Diabetes Month trying to show a strong, capable version of life with diabetes is hard when some nights are spent worrying instead of warrioring.

Sharing it is hard but not sharing it is oddly harder.

This is diabetes.  Or at least it’s my diabetes at the moment.

25 Comments Post a comment
  1. “Spending Diabetes Month trying to show a strong, capable version of life with diabetes is hard when some nights are spent worrying instead of warrioring.”

    Please don’t do anything that is not authentic. Your readers know you for being you, and you should write honestly and raw. If it’s anxiety and insecurity-write it.

    You got this. I am in the same boat (coming out the other side after a few tough years). Also Ativan got this 😉

    11/2/17; 10:18 am
    • I share a lot of the ups and downs of diabetes, but there’s some irony to getting an emails from Dexcom folks about “warrior up!” when I’m like, “didn’t sleep!” 😉

      11/2/17; 10:20 am
  2. I am pretty sure I had a 3-day panic attack after last year’s election. Then insomnia through March or so. Anxiety sucks. I get avoidant with mine. I can get up in front of a room of a hundred strangers and tell almost any story, but I wig out about tidying up some chaotic bit of clutter in my house. Anxiety feels like a garbage emotion and yet I can’t toss it–like the bag of clothes I’ve avoided taking to the Goodwill.

    11/2/17; 12:05 pm
  3. Laurel #

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve been dealing with anxiety recently (complete with hives), and it is reassuring to remember that I am not the only person who has the panic attack/heart attack/does my arm hurt? feelings.

    Thank you for all that you share. Sending you strength and hoping that the Gravitron gives you a break soon.

    11/2/17; 12:08 pm
  4. My husband has taught me something really helpful. You don’t really have to watch the news.

    11/2/17; 12:51 pm
  5. You guys all “Warrior Up” just by getting through the day (whether with a smile, a confused look or a pissed off attitude). I hope you find some help through this. I had to talk to my doctor about a year ago (obviously not diabetes related) and sometimes medication really can help. I think mine is more menopause related (ahem.. I’m close but not there), but I’m surprised how much it helped. Happy to talk more offline. Important, huge topic. Thanks for putting it out there.

    11/2/17; 2:35 pm
  6. Gloria Dowling #

    Kerri , thanks for posting about this difficult often hidden emotion. I have suffered on and off with anxiety since my late teens. One of the things that helped me most of all was dealing with the acute symptoms. I’d start ‘listening in’ to my physical reactions which then quickly ramped up the anxiety ten fold. I am now able to recognise the warning signs and with a few techniques offered by a very well renowned psychiatrist, I can bring it down before it takes over. The doctors name is Dr Claire Weeks and she has written many books on the subject, with helpful case studies. She is no longer alive, but I really recommend having a look through her books. Her first book had an unfortunate title which led to me having difficulty bringing it out on the tube, or anywhere in public, not so much an issue now with digital books – called Self Help for your nerves’

    11/2/17; 8:30 pm
  7. carolyn sansevere #

    Deep breathing works amazingly especially in the middle of the night. Breathing in for 5 seconds, holding in the breathe for 6 seconds and breathing out for 7 seconds. Repeat until you fall back asleep . It works great! hope it helps you .
    Being the parent of a type 1 diabetic and the recent tragedies in our country are very disturbing.
    You can try to limit news watching to 1/2 hour 1x/day.
    Thank you for all of your insight regarding a young mom living with type 1 diabetes.

    11/2/17; 8:34 pm
  8. The TIMING of this is amazing. I am 81, but they
    tell me a “young” 81–a laugh. I have been
    under treatment for anxiety, with the help of
    minimal meds, but can’t seem to get it right. I
    developed allergy symptoms with the last one.
    I am at the age where the future seems
    frightening. I always looked forward to exciting
    things out ahead–but not this time. Many days
    I feel that I won’t make it, but I need to
    get my “old” life back and celebrate joy again.

    Now I’m concentrating on a sign that reads
    “FAITH IS STRONGER THAN FEAR.”
    I love rainbows. I picture myself holding a
    rainbow. It’s tough to get the mind under control,
    BUT I know that when I have tried and tried, I
    NEED TO TRY ONE MORE TIME.

    God bless you, dear Kerri. Yes, I DO UNDERSTAND
    exactly what you’re saying.

    11/2/17; 9:06 pm
  9. Had a panic attack after Harvey here in Houston and since it happened at 2am, I immediately tested. When it wasn’t easily tied to BG I had a snack anyway. I nearly fainted on the way back to bed and laid there analyzing every sensation and measuring it against past low blood sugars. It was as if I simply couldn’t have a reaction to a massive traumatic event – I had to have a diabetes-related reason or it wasn’t “justified”. Had anxiety issues before but never really had anyone listen – all I could do was let time press on and hope it all shook out. Hang in there, and thanks for bringing this subject into the mix.

    11/2/17; 9:34 pm
  10. Vera #

    Been there, done that… really similar to your description: Lying in bed at night, hearing your heart race and when you try to calm it down hearing it even louder… worrying about most unrealistic things and being on the rim of depression.
    I really feel your pain remembering all of that.

    What helped me: Give yourself a break from all of the black thoughts. Avoid the news. Don’t watch horror movies. Most importantly: Learn to recognize the thoughts when they come, then turn them away. Think of something beautiful, soothing or just what you will do tomorrow or remember how good you looked in that dress last summer. This feels weird and you have to do it over and over again until you can really let the dark thoughts go, because they come back again immediatly at first, but it will get better over time. Don’t write about your dark thoughts if that means to go over them again. Try being positive – fake it, till you make it. 😉 Try to do everything that makes you happy and that distracts yourself. Do sports, go outside, meet friends or whatever. Do something new.
    I also took a mild homeopathic remedy (neurexan) or valerian based tablets.

    All the best to you, keep your head up and get better soon!!

    11/3/17; 6:41 am
    • Vera #

      Oh, and something more comes to mind. For me it also seemed to be the season. I had anxietes mostly starting in September and holding for the dark half of the year. If that’s the same for you, you could get a daylight lamp and have your vitamin D levels checked.

      If you have any questions on what I wrote, please don’t hesitate to drop me an email!

      11/3/17; 8:45 am
  11. Brenda Burciaga #

    Thank you for sharing it takes a lot of courage and strength to face our Deamons, thank you for letting us know we are not alone in our thoughts and always keep the faith and enjoy the here and now.

    11/3/17; 1:14 pm
  12. I am with you in so many ways in your shared transparency. Thank you for sharing, and I hope you can find simplicity in your life right now and the time to invest in your relationships.

    11/3/17; 1:17 pm
  13. This is probably going to sound a little crazy but I have been reading a lot lately about CBD oil for anxiety and sleep. It’s available 100% THC-free, so not to be confused with actual pot. 🙂

    I have one friend who has battled with anxiety for many years, to a greater or lesser degree depending on life, who says it it transformative. She feels great, she sleeps soundly and her mind is more at ease. Her kids noticed the first time she tried it (and didn’t know).

    There are a few companies out there that seem reputable, it’s legal in all 50 states, just seems to be still a little fringe. I am not PWD so I don’t know if it affects blood sugar, but maybe worth looking into?

    xox,
    Dori

    11/3/17; 1:45 pm
  14. Hi Kerri, anxiety and panic attacks are definitely caused by my diabetes ups and downs. But thankfully my insulin pump with CGM keep at a somewhat normal range for now. BTW, I love your site! Kenny 🙂

    11/4/17; 9:20 am
  15. Kenny #

    Sorry Kerri, please change “know” to “now” in my previous comment, where I wrote (normal range for know.)

    Kenny

    11/4/17; 9:26 am
    • Did it! 🙂 And thanks for your comments!

      11/4/17; 5:01 pm
  16. Lisa #

    Thank you for sharing. Anxiety and stress can make it so hard to manage BG. I have found mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) to be very helpful. Until earlier this year, I was in a high stress work situation. My BG was unmanageable and my A1C was at its highest level after 30 years with T1D. MBSR was a life saver. Some immediate tactics are breathing slower, as previously mentioned in the comments, as well as S.T.O.P. and R.A.I.N. techniques. Google those as they are very easy to find. All my best!

    11/4/17; 8:27 pm
  17. LHR #

    Me too. Struggling. Thank you for this post. Hang in there.

    11/4/17; 11:47 pm
  18. My husband found this site I am feeling I have a new brain. I am a whisltleblower in medicine who nearly died from my onset of DM. I had to fight far to long for a CGM. As a surgeon things like DM were not important…knowing how to use a blade saved lives. An arrogrant surgeon. Only such a female would fight the medical system and not give up. Anything you want from me I will assist in. I believe this DM needs to be gone. If I lose weight I will get better. I have many pyschological issues. First of all CGM needs to be for all DM. And we need to have pyschological training on how to use this CGM to change our behavior. I may not die now from low bs. I have come close several times. I think at times its all the plastic we use in food preperation and containers that are destroying our lipase system. Its this feeling. Why …it is obvious we have many causes and we need to see what is the etiology in each one .I am a public figure so I do not need to hide . Dr. Vikki Hufnagel MD. I am using gladwrap to shower . I buy big bandages at the 99 cent store and put 3 on to cover the sensor. This site is very helpful. Thank you for your time and effort. I am into the law and corruption in medicine that prevents need progress.
    Hormones are key to our health I have a current smart DM md. He never heard of sex binding hormone. He never looks at female hormones or TSH in DM patients …We have work to do the get rid of DM . I am here to help since this dragon needs to be slayed

    11/5/17; 2:41 pm
  19. Jen #

    Oh Kerri – thank you so much for sharing this! My Type I son is 17, diagnosed 11 years ago. he’s really struggling with Anxiety these days. Hoping it’s the stress of being a High school senior, but the diabetes certainly doesn’t help.

    I’ll be eagerly reading other’s tips.

    Thanks as always for your wonderful blog – avid follower for years and have learned so much.

    11/5/17; 7:13 pm
  20. Beth K. #

    Anxiety and depression used to hit me hard every year about this time (shorter days, longer nights, holidays, cold weather, etc.), and for years I just thought I had to live through it until the next spring. Then one day I finally talked to my endo about it. It took a little trial and error to find the right meds, but now I’m able to start with a low dose of Wellbutrin as soon as I experience the first twinges of darkness….and it really does help! It allows me to focus and concentrate on the things I need to, and not lay awake every night worrying about things I can’t change. I’m not saying that you should rush right out and go get a script for Wellbutrin, but please be open to the potential benefits of pharmaceuticals – and don’t think you’ve got to figure this out by yourself, or suffer in silence until it goes away…..Now go call your doctor!

    11/6/17; 10:05 am
  21. Ria #

    Did you know that our insulin has a component that once injected causes anxiety ?
    I’ve heard if you eat a lot of cinnamon it goes away
    ( there’s always a smart ass in the bunch right?)
    Thank you for sharing, Kerri
    Life is hard enough and then add type 1 to the mix
    To be type 1 is to worry , at times
    We love you

    11/12/17; 7:33 pm

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