Mental Health Month
Examining the relationship between diabetes and depression.
February 2012 — May is Mental Health Month, which, according to Mental Health America, started in 1949 to raise awareness of mental health conditions and mental wellness for all.
One of the most common forms of trouble with mental health, as it relates to diabetes, is depression. Depression is a big deal for anyone. But for those of us who live with diabetes, it's even more common, and more important to get the right help.
Why are we more likely to suffer from depression? Nobody has officially figured it out. But when I think about the constant demands of life with diabetes, it's no surprise that many of us deal with mental health issues.
What does it mean to be depressed? How do I know if it's serious? Isn't it normal to feel a little down sometimes?
Depression has a sneaky way of creeping up on you, making you not take care of yourself, not care about not taking care of yourself, and not care about not caring! It's a downward spiral pulling towards real trouble. Think about what happens when you don't care about your diabetes management. Lots of highs and lots of lows, some dangerous, with very little time in the goal range. It's a recipe for disaster.
Yet many people don't even recognize that they may be depressed. In my case, it took a nasty emotional explosion with my wife (over unopened mail, of all things) for me to see that something wasn't right.
After that episode I started researching depression. I matched many of the telltale signs. I also learned that depression is more common for us with diabetes, which made me angry. Maybe I would have noticed some of the symptoms earlier if I had only received a little education beforehand?
It took a lot of help, time, and energy to get through the worst of it. Once I was on the other side, I couldn't believe how I had been feeling. It was like I had been looking at life through a filthy window, and now it had been cleaned. What a difference!
I encourage you to do a little homework in this area before you need it. Start building the safety net before you fall off of the high wire. It's a lot harder and much scarier to think about needing it while you're on your way down. Have it ready and be confident that you can rely on it if you should ever need it.
You may not be able to change the fact that diabetes and depression seem to have a relationship. But you can know that it is possible to live healthy and happy with both of them.
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.
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Many people say that depression is a side effect or complication of diabetes. Without discounting the association of the psychological condition with the physical one, I'm not convinced that our high and/or unstable glucose levels are directly responsible for that change in our mental state. My belief is that the unrelenting need for self-care, for following the sort of care schedules that can drive licensed, professional caregivers crazy, is what overwhelms us...