Managing Moods

Finding a renewed interest in staying positive and living life.

RachelBy Rachel Baumgartel

Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!


October 2007 — Depression is often mentioned as a side effect of diabetes. There is no question that high blood sugar levels can make anyone sad and angry enough to be depressed. In my case, the other "d" has been with me much longer than diabetes. Specifically, I have dealt with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) since I was a teenager.

Just as I was aware of Greg's type 1 diabetes early on in our relationship, he was aware of my tendency towards depressive episodes in the winter months. Even though I am a big fan of autumn activities such as raking leaves, viewing or playing football, and watching scary movies on Halloween, the season also signals the onset of depression. The mere idea of the upcoming winter has pushed my symptoms earlier and earlier every year – currently my symptoms begin soon after Labor Day.

Lethargy, panic attacks, endless bouts of crying, lack of motivation (to exercise, to work, to live life), and carbohydrate cravings have been the key characteristics of SAD for me. As someone with type 2 diabetes, those carbohydrate cravings are what make depression most difficult. I am convinced that the cravings for sweets and bread led to considerable weight gain as I moved into adulthood. Partly because of that weight gain, I eventually developed diabetes with the help of my genetic predisposition to the condition. Carbohydrate cravings combined with less exercise lead to high blood sugar readings, which only feeds the depression further.

Last autumn, Greg convinced me it was time to see my psychiatrist again after several panic attacks and crying jags. We both knew it was not good for my mental or physical health to NOT treat a depressive episode in its early stages. Although I had been prescribed anti-depressants in the past, the doctor chose to introduce light box therapy. It was key to use the light box alongside the diet and exercise plan I had in place to control my diabetes.

Soon, a routine developed - wake up, take thyroid medication, sit (or exercise) in front of the light box, shower, test blood sugar, eat breakfast - rinse, repeat. Within a couple weeks, my fasting blood sugar readings dropped 30 points and the cravings for forbidden foods disappeared. I wouldn't say light box therapy was 100% successful in controlling depression (and therefore, diabetes) last winter, but I have a feeling I would be in much worse shape had I not experimented with it.

Recently, I brought my "friend" out of the closet for the SAD season of October through March. I had forgotten what a difference it makes in terms of both my mental (SAD) and physical (type 2 diabetes) health. Just when I thought I was sliding in my diabetes care and dipping into depression, I have a renewed interest in staying positive and living life.

Read more of Rachel's columns.

dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.

Last Modified Date: June 03, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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by Brenda Bell
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