This is Day 4 of the Diabetes Blog Week challenge and it’s a downer. The topic is called “What Brings Me Down,” and I’m going to use that to talk about the emotional toll diabetes can take. This isn’t a fun topic, but it’s a vitally important one.
Being Vulnerable is Hard, but Sometimes Necessary
I’m wanting to share some of my internal emotional struggle, but it’s hard to write about. Other posts about my diabetes story have been difficult because I had to admit my own period of diabetes denial, something I’m ashamed of. But this one is harder. I’m about to give you a glimpse inside my mind and sharing that makes me feel nervous and vulnerable.
However, I think it’s important to tell my story so that others know they’re not alone. I can also share the things that help here and there, and maybe one of those will also be helpful to someone else.
Tears Come Even More Easily These Days
In college, I was given the nickname “Happy,” because I always had a smile, I laughed easily, and even when things would get me down, I bounced back pretty quickly. I miss those easy-going days.
Too often in the last few years, I get overwhelmed and have a meltdown. Sometimes this is related to a sugar crash. Tears have always been close to the surface for me, a fact that has often embarrassed me. But I used to be able to handle things better, in general.
When you live daily with a chronic illness, and its complications, including chronic pain and sleeplessness, you never wake with a clean mental/emotional slate. I might be worrying about my blood sugar and wondering why it’s so high, or I might be in physical pain somewhere, or maybe I’m stressed because I’ve got so much to do and yet I’m so tired from my sleepless night, a common problem for diabetics.
Some days, all of these things are true simultaneously. When all of this is going on in the background, my tolerance for frustration is already low. It doesn’t take much, these days, to tip me over into an overloaded state.
I Don’t Know or Like This Body Anymore
I feel betrayed by my body. I used to teach yoga. Now I can’t reach behind myself to fasten or unfasten my bra due to frozen shoulders (likely a result of my diabetes). I used to dance. Now the disc slipping in my lower back makes it hard to stand for any length of time (not diabetes related, but compounds the issues).
I used to like my body and what it could do. These days, not so much. And that’s a particularly difficult thing to admit, since I also used to teach body positivity, a concept I’m now struggling with daily. Sometimes, I feel like a hypocrite.
I can’t eat what I want now that my body isn’t working properly anymore. I’m particularly sensitive to carbs, my favorite food group. Because of my diabetes, I have to maintain a low carb diet to keep my blood sugar manageable. It was so much easier to give up meat than bread, let me tell you. I still struggle with the longings, the cravings, and the temptation to cheat. These can all weigh on my psyche, too.
When I do cheat, though, I know I’ll have to deal with the consequences, both immediate and longterm. One of those consequences is a mixed up feeling of guilt and defiance. I feel guilty about giving in to the yearning, but that triggers feelings of indignance and defiance, a mental sort of F*** You to the universe. Even though it’s just me that I’m hurting. The universe doesn’t care.
Worries About My Future Lead to Dark Thoughts
Sometimes I worry about all the other complications awaiting me as I age and this disease progresses. Since I was diagnosed at such an early age, and misdiagnosed at that and was therefore uncontrolled for so long, I’m afraid that I won’t live as long as I might have otherwise. And I’m afraid that my senior years will be full of medical problems related to my diabetes. And since I don’t have any of my own children and my husband is 20 years older than me, who will be around to care for me?
Yes, these are depressing thoughts, yet they are realistic for someone in my position. Sadly, there are no easy answers. I’m doing my best to build up a business while I’m still able to, so that I can put money away for those years. I hope that my grandchildren might be willing to help if I need it. But I don’t know.
And in the darkest parts of my mind, I wonder what death is like and if there really is something beyond. I’m not suicidal, but sometimes, I am apathetic about life. Sometimes, when things are particularly bad, I have thoughts like, “I hate my body,” and “What’s the point?” I wonder what it would be like to not be alive, if it would be easier, less painful and stressful.
Thankfully, those super dark moments typically don’t last very long. I remind myself that I’m married to a wonderful man, living a fantasy life traveling the country in our RV, and finally making a living doing the thing I love the most: writing. Those reminders help me reconnect with this life and recommit to doing as well as I can for as long as I’m able, even if I’m not always happy about it.
What Helps Lift Me Out of the Darkness?
I have found several things that help me cope with the darkness. Doing something, taking action, however small – often helps dispel those feelings of hopelessness for me. For the last several months, I’ve had a ton of doctors appointments, and tests, and physical therapy sessions. It was exhausting, but at least we were doing something and we were tracking down the source of some of my pain. We were taking steps and when all was said and done, I felt relief that I finally had answers.
I still have the pain, but I have exercises to do that help alleviate it. I have a medication if it gets to be too much. And I have validation that something really is wrong with my back, which is causing the additional pains I’m experiencing. It’s not just the diabetic neuropathy. And in fact, this particular discovery has nothing to do with the diabetes, which feels good, too, in an odd sort of way. Diabetes can feel so all-encompassing that it’s good to know it hasn’t taken over my whole body. LOL!
I also take supplements and medications that help with my mood and energy levels. But first, I try to get a solid eight to nine hours of sleep a night. I make the space in my schedule, although my body doesn’t always cooperate with me. However, one of my doctors prescribed Trazodone, which does help me to get good sleep most nights. I’m nowhere near as chronically exhausted as I was a few months ago.
The supplements I find helpful include a B Complex, which elevates mood, and one called SAM-e. A friend told me about SAM-e and how much it had helped her. When she described what she’d been experiencing, it sounded like my own symptoms, so I gave it a try. It really works for me. If I miss a dose, I can tell. My mood takes a hit and I feel more tired.
NOTE: I am not prescribing anything here. I’m just sharing some things that have worked for me. If they sound intriguing, please check in with your doctor to make sure they’re okay for you.
Anyway, I am doing better in general right now, but I also know that can change at any time. Some of the other resources I know I can rely on in a time of need include:
- My yoga training and breathwork,
- An incredibly supportive husband,
- My own therapeutic training,
- A wide network of compassionate friends,
- And I know how to find therapy, if I need it.
This was a deep, dark topic and if you’ve made it this far, thank you for joining me down this rabbit hole. I can usually appreciate that life isn’t as bleak as my dark days can make it appear. I hope that you can, too.