Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Mental Health’ Category

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.

Do You Hate Diabetes?

I asked some friends on Facebook if they hated diabetes, and the answers* were as varied as the folks responding:

  • “I hate it, the hassle, and the complications but I do not hate the growth amd strength I’ve achieved or the family I’ve gained because of it.”
  • “I don’t hate it as a thing but it does annoy me. At the same time I am very thankful that if I must have a problem of this type at least there are good doctors and advancing technology to help me live a normalish life.”
  • “I didn’t used to hate it when I was younger-I think because I had camp. But at this point, to be honest, I do tend to hate it.”
  • “Do I hate diabetes in general? Yes probably … I hate that it causes so much pain and suffering all over the world. I hate that people die from it and that companies exploit us living with it to make crazy profits. But do I hate living with it? Yes I dislike it very much.. and at times in rage I would say hate. But diabetes has opened so many doors for me and taught me a great appreciation for life. It’s easy for me to say that however within my environment. So who am I to judge anyone for saying that they hate it!”
  • “I don’t hate it, but it makes me tired and exasperated too often.”
  • “I don’t hate it. When I think about the ailments some of my other friends/acquaintances have, I am thankful this one isn’t a death sentence.”
  • “It’s a love/hate relationship. I wish none of us had it, or had to deal with the daily demands of it, and all the bullshit that comes with it. That’s the part I hate about it. But without it, I wouldn’t have met many of the people that make all the difference in my world, what I’m going back to school for wouldn’t be as clear, and my profession wouldn’t be as meaningful to me and (hopefully) others. I might not have as much empathy for others if I hadn’t lived my whole life with diabetes. Diabetes keeps me from being an asshole. Mostly.”
  • “I don’t hate it. Hate stirs up sadness, anger and emotions of feeling trapped. Hard to work with it if I hate it. But I wish to the depths of my core that I didn’t have to face it every day; every minute. It’s hard. It’s horrible. But it’s not hate.”
  • “I’ve always wished I didn’t have it (obviously), and I hate what it’s done to my body and how much it’s cost in both money and effort, but I’ve never hated the disease itself. It’s just part of who I am.”
  • “On some days or in certain moments, YES with a passion. However, most of the time, I’m kind of indifferent about it or it can feel like a minor annoyance or inconvenience. On rare occasions I actually feel that it gives my life more meaning.”
  • “Every damn bit of it, except for seeing how exceptional my daughter is in spite of it.”
  • “On an overall day I don’t hate it but when I stop to think about the expense or the guilt when I pig out on something or thinking about potential long term effects I hate it. I also hate it when it interrupts a full night of sleep which is does most nights but during the day I’m not walking around with hate on my mind.”
  • “No. Hating takes so much energy, emotion & attention. I already give diabetes so much of those. I don’t want to give it more.”
  • “No time for hate. To busy being SO ANNOYED.”

  • “I feel hate is too strong a word. I don’t enjoy living with it but that’s the thing… it lives with me not in place of me. It doesn’t stop me from particular events in life but it does have me consider them more. For instance I have never had an A1c lower than 8% and therefore have never been given “the go ahead to ttc ” but in saying that it won’t wholly define our choice, our timing nor the outcome.  It can be hard, tiring and frustrating but it isn’t worth hating.  I probably wouldn’t be the person I have become, without it.”
  • “Hate maybe isn’t the right word…but I certainly resent it. I get that people appreciate the community and relationships they’ve made because of diabetes, but didn’t we seek those things out as a way to cope? Just think of what we could have done if we hadn’t felt the need to find that support. I doubt I’d have a spotless medical record without diabetes, but starting with a level playing field would have been nice.”
  • “Well, I don’t hate mine, but I kind of hate other people’s. Like the fact that so many people here hate it makes me hate it. But if it were just mine, I wouldn’t be that mad about it.”
  • “I do not. I hate many things about it but, at this point, it’s all I know. If a cure were found tomorrow, I would be utterly confused.”
  • “Nope. I barely think about it. It’s just something I do. Part of my daily routine.”
  • “It is bits and pieces of the fabric of my girls. I wish terribly, fiercely, sometimes desperately that it wasn’t a part of them or anyone else. But hate … if I am honest, I can’t hate it. That emotion would tear me up. I have to focus on being strong for them. So I focus on the things that we can control and I work hard to make it as easy, ignorable and stress free as possible.”
  • “Hate is such a strong word. My feelings towards Diabetes aren’t that strong. I have stronger feelings about people who are hateful and disrespectful. Diabetes certainly takes a back burner to that. I would certainly be ‘me’ without Diabetes and it would be amazing if it were obsolete but I’m not going to put that much thought into something I cannot control.”
  • “Sometimes. But feeling constant hate would make my life a lot more stressful I think. Most of the time we co-exist with various degrees of annoyance. Sometimes I would like to punch it in the throat.”
  • “More then I could ever explain.”
  • “Nope. Met a lot of great folks in real life and online due to it. It’s something that I deal with on a low level constantly and so it doesn’t really flare up to a major pain for me. Everyone has something. I’d rather have something that is manageable, invisible to the world, and commonly understood by the general public on a basic level.”
  • “I don’t hate it. I have some semblance of control over it and at least technology and management is improving drastically all the time. I have another medical condition that is a total wild card, that while it (probably) won’t kill me, could make impossible to walk or use my hands at some point, makes me much more physically tired than diabetes, and makes me physically unable to do certain things. And has far far less chance of getting better or being cured. If I could “just” have diabetes, I’d totally do that.”
  • “Yes. I’m not going to sugarcoat that one. But I don’t hate it enough to let it cripple me/us. I don’t give anything that much power over me.”
  • “Sometimes. I hate that there are many aspects of life I can’t be spontaneous with, and that some times I plan and nothing goes to plan. I hate that I constantly think about health insurance and the role that diabetes plays in my financial stability. There’s a daily, if not hourly, fluctuation that exists when it comes to feeling positive, neutral, and negative about my diabetes.”
  • “Well, I sure as hell don’t love it!”

For me, after 31 years of type 1 diabetes, I don’t carry around a lot of anger or shame about diabetes, but I don’t harbor warm, fuzzy feelings.  I don’t hate it. I don’t like it and would get rid of it in a heartbeat if given the chance, but I don’t spend the day loathing it. (Some days, yep.  I can’t pretend to be happy about this condition.  Especially now that I’m getting older and Things are Happening that make me wonder, “Hey, is this diabetes?” or “Hey, is this just the aging process?”)

But I think that’s because it’s mine and mine alone. If one of my children had diabetes, I’d hate it seventeen different ways.

The responses from people on Facebook were so diverse, just like our community.  And I think responses could also change depending on what’s going on in the world, in their lives that day, or what result might have just stared back at them from a glucose meter. No “right way” to feel. Whatever way you feel is right.  Diabetes is part of every day, and the emotional influence is has on our lives is rarely discussed but nonetheless pervasive and constant.

But I’m glad we’re starting to talk about it.  No matter how we feel about diabetes on any given day, the community that’s bloomed around this disease continues to inform, inspire, and redefine living with diabetes.  That’s something worth loving.

 

 

 

(* All of the following bullet points are from comments on th FB thread.)

Guest Post: Mindy Bartleson on Chronic Illness, Mental Heath, and Removing the Rose Colored Glasses

Mindy is self-publishing an honest book about growing up with chronic illness and mental health. She wrote the content before rose colored glasses impacted her experiences too much.  Today, she’s sharing the why behind her efforts on SixUntilMe.

And if you’d like to help this book get published, you can visit the crowdfunding page to learn more, back her project, and help spread the word.  The Kickstarter ends a week from tomorrow.

  *    *   *

Usually, there are multiple things going on. It might be visible. It may be shared. It could be a secret- only shared with your inner circle. Even without a mental health diagnosis, mental health is an important thing to keep in mind with chronic illness, like diabetes. Hell- even without a chronic illness- mental health is important. Sadly though, it’s something that isn’t often talked about or taken seriously. It’s taboo. It’s not important. It’s hard to understand. You name it- we’ve heard it. Social norms also play a role. We’re supposed to be productive members of society and not acknowledge anything negative.

Over the years, I’ve adjusted my blog.. I wanted to talk about it all together- the type 1 diabetes, PCOS, endometriosis, anxiety, OCD, ADHD, (other diagnoses), loss, and more- because like the title of my blog says- “There’s More to the Story”. I wanted to talk about it honestly- the good and the bad. I didn’t used to do this. It wasn’t until diabetes burnout hit me with full force when I was in college. That’s when I realized something. Up until that point I wouldn’t acknowledge the negative parts of diabetes- of chronic illness. I thought I had to pick a viewpoint and couldn’t move. I had to either be positive or negative so I found myself not only lying to the world around me, but also to myself. That’s when I switched how I approached my blog and life.

About two years ago, I realized that I was applying rose-colored glasses to a lot of things in my life already at the age of 22. I was starting to say that all the bad things were worth it or completely ignoring them. I firmly believe that yes I can do it. That I (and others) can get through things. But I want to acknowledge that it can suck. That it’s hard. That maybe there are systematic things that play a part too. That I should still check my privilege. That’s what life is. It’s what I needed to do.

We need to talk about and share those moments- not just for ourselves but for other people who need that honesty to know that they are not alone. We need to share the moments where we sit crying on the bathroom floor because diabetes wouldn’t cooperate all day and someone made a hurtful comment. Then we can share how we got back up to change that pumpsite and maybe to tell that person who made the hurtful comment how we feel. The how is so important. The fact that we get back up is so important. But- maybe someone needs to hear how we felt when the tears hit – how we felt when you just had enough – how it felt to let it out. We need to do that.

About two years ago, I made the decision to start a project. I decided to write a book about chronic illness and mental health. Everything I’ve talked about so far is what I applied to writing this book.

I’m aiming to balance the positive and the negative together on growing up in general but also with chronic illness and mental health along for the ride. I talk about moments of why I sat on the bathroom floor crying and how I got up. Of course I talk about more- and it wasn’t always a bathroom floor.

Over the past two years, writing this book has pushed me to process a lot of my past. All of it. I’ve seen how far I’ve come and realized the importance of so many situations.

I’m pursuing self-publishing. Because I recently graduated college (and put myself through it so I have loans) and have a social work degree, I’m utilizing crowdfunding to make this happen.

  *   *   *

I’ve put my money where my blog post mouth is and backed Mindy’s campaign, as I think this resource would be a powerful one for our community as a whole.  Mental health is health and I agree it needs to be talked about, shared, and cared for as openly as diabetes.  

For more from Mindy, you can follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and her blog “There’s More to the Story.”  

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers