I’ve always been a pretty stressed and highly strung sort of person. When I was diagnosed with diabetes at 19 years old, my immediate reaction was to work super hard at getting it “perfect” (classic overachiever!). I’ve never been able to afford an insulin pump, so managing with injections has obviously NOT been “perfect”. There are times when I get so frustrated because I’m doing everything “right” but my BGLs aren’t reflecting that. I’ve really had to let go of the idea of managing it perfectly, and focus on celebrating small wins – like an entire night within my target range!
When I got pregnant last year. I was working with the Diabetes in Pregnancy care team at Monash Health to get my diabetes management extremely tight to create a good environment for my baby to develop in. It. Was. So. Bloody. Hard. I’d be waking up every few hours overnight to take insulin or eat something to get me back in that “perfect” range. Now that my baby is 6 months old I’m still waking every few hours overnight (because he wakes me up!) and my blood glucose levels are always in the back of my mind too, so I have to check them lots.
I’ve been to see lots of psychologists over my life to deal with my stress and anxiety, and diabetes definitely always adds an extra element to my mental health struggles. It’s not like I see a psychologist specifically to discuss diabetes, but diabetes on top of the other stresses in life often tips me over the edge so I need to get some help. Anxiety is like a snowball – it builds up and builds up, and diabetes in that mix makes it escalate pretty quickly.
I actually recently saw a psychologist again to deal with some postpartum anxiety and depression. I think that mental health challenges sort of come and go throughout your life and you have to work at it.
My advice to others managing diabetes and feeling stressed, anxious or depressed is:
Be kind to yourself – learn to forgive yourself when your blood glucose levels aren't perfect, and learn to take a step back and have a break when you’re overwhelmed.
Talk to someone – if you know someone else living with diabetes, support each other! I have a great friend who messages me when she’s having a hard time, and I do the same to her. We send each other CGM screenshots and have a good vent about why it’s being crazy. If you don’t know someone else who can sympathise with you, a psychologist can help you.
Look for encouragement – I can’t tell you how important it is to hear something as simple as, “you’re doing great!”. Find a good endo who will encourage you rather than make you feel like you’re never meeting your targets. Find a support group who can encourage you too. (Massive shout-out to the Facebook group Type 1 Diabetes and Pregnancy – Bump, Baby and Beyond (Australian women) – I couldn’t have survived my pregnancy without these amazing and supportive women!)
Don’t go it alone – having to live with diabetes is unfair. It can make you feel really crap. Don’t try and manage it all on your own. Be brave and seek support for the mental health side of things – especially if you have a family and there are other people relying on you to be feeling good.