Waltzing the Dragon

Two moms talking about our families' lives with type 1 diabetes

Living with Diabetes: What Dragon Tamers Have to Say in the Most Depressing Month of the Year

The results of last month’s Blue Monday survey are in… and the fact that most D-families (families living with diabetes) experience “blue” moods is not a surprise. After all, anyone who lives with this dragon knows that it can get you down sometimes. What is surprising is the degree of “blueness” that many of us experience: the majority of respondent (60%) feel “blue” one or more days of most weeks, and fully 100% feel blue a few days (or more) in a typical month. Further, the majority felt blue the day they filled out the survey (in and around Blue Monday). Seems there’s a lot of blueness going around the D-community.

But is all this blueness reserved just for those living with diabetes? Although most of our respondents either have diabetes themselves or have a direct family member with diabetes, we did have respondents who are not directly affected by diabetes who still reported some blue days in their lives. But what stood out is that 100% of those directly affected by diabetes felt that they have more blue days because of diabetes than they would if they didn’t live with this dragon. So whether or not that’s true (and we have no way of testing this without surveying the exact same families living  without diabetes in some alternate and parallel universe), the point is that they still feel that diabetes affects their lives negatively. And perhaps that’s more important than any objective truth on the subject.

We, as a community (as reported in this survey’s comment sections), feel lonely because of diabetes, separated from normal life and normal activities, separated from support.

We feel tired and worn down by the relentlessness of diabetes; as one parent shared, “there is no beating this thing. I want to quit but can’t of course.”

We feel frustrated by the unpredictability of it all: though we try (or not), whether blood sugars are in range (or not) doesn’t always seem to be related to what we’ve done (or not). Over time, it feels like, “why bother trying?”; we may feel helpless and hopeless.

We, as a community of dragon tamers, feel anxiety about what “could happen” if BG goes too low, or if a high isn’t treated soon enough or aggressively enough. We worry about the risk of future complications, and often our anxiety spills over into what might have been healthy interactions with our kids without diabetes in the picture, but which have instead become riddled with nagging and blaming.

We feel sad around occasions that remind us of that day of diagnosis when everything changed (and not for the better). Christmas can be hard to take if your child was diagnosed in December. Birthdays may bring sadness instead of celebration, because they remind us of THAT birthday, the one that happened right after diagnosis.

But the story doesn’t have to end there. There are things we can do to turn a blue mood around , with or without diabetes in the mix. Those who participated in this survey had some great suggestions:

Listen to some music; do some art.

Get out of the sweat pants and get into the “brightest colour in your closet to wear…. it is superficial but it gets the ball rolling.”

Get outside, get fresh air and exercise: take the dog for a walk; play ball with the kids; go skating; sit and just breathe. (Worried about the lows that come with exercise? Instead learn how to adjust carbs or insulin to account for physical activity. Yes, it’s one more thing to do – but the investment is worth it when you experience the success of experimenting with a tried-and-true approach and tweaking based on your individual needs.)

Encourage your loved one who has diabetes to talk about what’s worrying her. Allow your child or spouse or friend to vent, to get his feelings out about the most frustrating parts of diabetes. As much as you can, be positive and encouraging. And if you don’t have enough positivity to share, then you may need to see a professional to deal with your own feelings about diabetes.

Take things one day at a time. Today, just deal with today’s problems; you’ll get worn out if you’re consistently borrowing trouble from future days. Ask yourself,  “What can I do TODAY to reduce the chance of future problems?” Then do that, and let go of the outcome.

Cultivate coping skills, especially if you’re living with the demands of a chronic disease like diabetes. Find out what concrete, practical things you can do to get beyond the anger, anxiety, fear, and frustration.

Finally, if your blue moods are affecting your life, your relationships or your quality of life, you may want to consider talking to your doctor or a mental health professional. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) offers information to help us learn about  depression, answering questions like: What is depression? Could I have depression? What can I do about it?  If you or someone you love could benefit from this information, we encourage you to explore their website and the suggested resources for follow-up. (This page is from the British Columbia Division of CMHA, but similar services are available across Canada, and around the world.)

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