Health — November 1, 2019 at 1:54 pm

Keeping Life Sweet: A Series on Getting Healthy with Diabetes, Part 4

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This is the 3rd installment in a 6-part series by Staff Writer, Maegan Carrasquillo, on living with diabetes.

Whenever I hear the words “mental health” I can’t help but imagine someone at their wit’s end, ready to rip their hair out. This may be in part due to the stigma often associated with many mental health issues, but for me it’s also because I tend to be a very stressed out individual. Since starting this healthier lifestyle journey, my goal was to not only work on bettering my mental health, but also my attitude towards it.

So, how does poor diabetes management effect one’s mental health? I remember describing symptoms related to depression to my endocrinologist, like constantly feeling tired, not enjoying things I used to, and feeling isolated. She explained that diabetes and depression often go together. This surprised me at the time, but after doing a bit of research it made sense. Diabetes management is difficult and stressful, which can lead to depression-like symptoms, to which you then lose the ability to concentrate on completing tasks, including maintaining your diabetes. It’s a vicious cycle really.

I’ve been diligently managing my diet and exercise, and I’ve seen an improvement in my blood sugar readings and energy level. To work on my mental health however, I had to look within to try and figure out what needed adjusting so I could start coming up with ideas and solutions. I’ve always straddled the line between realist and cynic (with a dash of sarcasm), but is that an issue? I decided to speak with a psychologist to see if she could help me better understand if I was depressed or just cynical.

We met at her office in a beautiful mill building on the second floor. It was a small space with a comfortable couch for me and a chair for her. I mentally questioned if I should lie down to speak with her (hey, they do that in movies!) but quickly thought better of it and sat in the center of the couch. It was nerve racking just being in the office at all. Was I really going to tell this near stranger my innermost thoughts? She calmed me simply by asking what brought me in. I was so thankful for her lead-in question, which gave me the opportunity I needed to speak freely about my concerns and made me feel like she truly wanted to know. After speaking for little over an hour, she asked if we could meet again in a week or two. I liked talking to her and figured she would explain what was wrong with me at the next visit.

We met again the following week, and this time it was more of a conversation and less of me going on and on about myself. I again enjoyed our session and wanted so badly to ask what she thought at the end of the visit. She simply asked if we could meet again in another week, so I scheduled the appointment. In between sessions I kept up with my diet and exercise and tested my blood sugar regularly. I felt slightly better and a little less frazzled than I usually do, so I decided to call up a friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while. We talked for two hours and set a date for breakfast.

When my appointment came up again, even though I was very interested in what my psychologist had to say, I wasn’t feeling as stressed anymore and wondered if I needed to go at all. I went in anyway, and again we sat and spoke for an hour. This time felt far less clinical and guided, and at the end she didn’t ask if I wanted to schedule another visit. I inquired if I needed to and she smiled and asked me what I thought. I said I felt pretty good, but I was still curious to know whether something might be wrong with me. She smiled again and said that I was currently going through a lot and though I did present some symptoms of depression, I also presented healthy coping mechanisms. She didn’t believe I needed anything further but wanted me to let her know if I did. I agreed with her assessment.

Since my sessions I feel uplifted. Without even realizing it, things I wouldn’t say aloud were weighing me down. I’d also reached out to a few different friends I hadn’t spoken to in a while. After seeing them and spending time doing different things from apple picking to cooking breakfast together, I felt better than I have in a long time.

Only a few small changes like making time for connecting and trying something new made a great difference for me mentally. I’m sleeping a little better now, and with an improved mood and more energy, I’ve found that I’m not only more able to manage my diabetes but I’m also more willing. You could say, I’m no longer at my wit’s end.

The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by Health Canada or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. None of the information presented is intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. This is a personal account and individual experiences may vary. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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