May is Mental Health Month so now seems like a great time to explore the emotional side of living with, or caring for someone with, diabetes. What things can make dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for you and / or your loved one, and how do you cope? (Thanks go out to Scott of Strangely Diabetic for coordinating this topic.)
I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colors anymore, I want them to turn black
I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes
Red, my favorite color, is the color of life. But I occasionally want to paint it all completely black.
Most people see me either as a happy-go-lucky person or a very serious and often cranky professional when I’m in the middle of work. I am either of those two personas most of the time. What people don’t know about and what my husband has to deal with are my dark, sometimes very dark, moods that wash over me from time to time. When these moods come, the sun and everything around me dim.
I see a line of cars and they’re all painted black
With flowers and my love both never to come back
I see people turn their heads and quickly look away
Like a newborn baby, it just happens everyday
I’ve been on this roller coaster ride for as long as I can remember, although the manifestations of darkness changed over the years: rage, indifference and apathy. On rare occasions, probably once a year or every two years, my moods would turn so dark I’d lose interest in almost everything including life – although these episodes were fleeting, never lasting longer than a day.
I look inside myself and see my heart is black
I see my red door and I must have it painted black
Maybe then I’ll fade away and not have to face the facts
It’s not easy facing up when your whole world is black
Work became my shield. To a small degree, it still is. But over the years, work has largely been replaced by other more important things – my husband, family, friends, running, singing, and the list goes on. I was doing quite well in keeping my melancholic moods at bay when my GP told me that I have Type 2 diabetes. After his announcement, my moods turned even blacker and at a much quicker pace.
Did diabetes cause a surge in my depression? It’s tempting to think so. I’ve read cautionary articles about the link between diabetes and depression. But did diabetes worsen my depressive spells?
I want to see it painted, painted black, black as night, black as coal
I want to see the sun blotted out from the sky
I want to see it painted, painted, painted, painted black, yea
I guess it did, though indirectly. Sure I was depressed after being told I have a disorder that will not go away. I went through depression, guilt, fear, anger, frustration and a myriad of other emotions. Will I be hooked up to a dialysis machine? Will I lose my legs someday? Did I bring diabetes unto myself? Could I have prevented it? Will my brothers also get it? How do I save others from getting it? Why can’t the medical establishment understand the need for self-testing? I so want a plate of fried rice! Who wouldn’t be depressed thinking about and dealing with these things, on top of the other worries life throws your way? My own worries are not even that bad. When I read about what other diabetics have to go through, I consider myself lucky. These factors, however, do not explain my frequent plunges into the dark side.
Two other possible causes could be the culprits – medication and diet. One, medication. My GP wanted to get my BG down quickly while I was dealing with dietary changes. The meds we agreed on, together with carb reduction and marathon training, brought on BG lows which in turn hastened my mood swings. Two, dietary changes. Not only did I reduce carbs, but I also went low carb and at some point tried very low carb. Unfortunately, this sojourn into low carb territory did not suit me. I was utterly miserable. Eventually after a lot of experimentations, I found my current combination of meds (metformin only) and suitable dietary regime that lifted me out of those rapid cycles of funk.
No more will my green sea go turn a deeper blue
I could not foresee this thing happening to you
If I look hard enough into the setting sun
My love will laugh with me before the morning comes
I still go through my melancholic phases but they are no longer as bad or as frequent as my post-diagnosis bouts of despondency. The despair is no longer as deep, my world no longer becomes so bleak, and the tunnel no longer seems unending. It’s back to where I was before my diagnosis, if not better. Nowadays, I’m mostly happy.
But I have to work at it. Keeping a lid on my BG is crucial. So is exercise. I cannot imagine anyone going through life without being actively involved in some form of physical exertion. Maintaining a positive disposition is equally important. I cannot understate the importance of forcing a smile. Yes, you heard me, force a smile. No matter how foul your mood, the other person’s mood or the situation is, a smile will literally brighten up the atmosphere.
I do not doubt that diabetes raises my risk of depression. Various researches and the experiences of many diabetics cannot be ignored. I’m not immune to depression and diabetes will most likely make me more prone to it. I’m used to it but I will never be resigned to it.
One day, with enough smiles, laughter, hugs and kisses, and a lot of determination, depression will get the message and stop pestering me.
NOTE: The italicized stanzas are from Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones.