Today is the fourth day of Diabetes Blog week. Each day we have a prompt and are called to post a response. You can read all responses at my friend Karen’s site Bitter~Sweet. Also, please remember RABlog week will occur in September. I hope you join the fun then as well.
Throwback Thursday: What Brings Me Down – Thursday 5/18
Today let’s revisit a prompt from 2014 – May is Mental Health Month so now seems like a great time to explore the emotional side of living with, or caring for someone with, diabetes. What things can make dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for you and / or your loved one, and how do you cope?
Mental health Matters
The emotional side of living with a chronic condition is sometimes the most difficult. During my lifetime with diabetes, I have done it well, and I have done it poorly. I also have thought of things that I believe could have made life better had they occurred at diagnosis. So let’s dial back a bit and discuss 1974.
As I am fond of telling people I was diagnosed while at Disney World (shout out to Disney you owe me a vacation, because #DisneyGaveMeDiabetes). I was not surprised; I was expecting it at some point because in those days if your parent had T1 diabetes you were told the odds were high that you would have it as well (of course we now know that is not true but remember this is 1974).
After driving from Florida to Indiana, I was given a fasting glucose test and hospitalized. As I recall, my blood sugar was in the 500’s when I got to the hospital on June 16, 1974, and I was feeling bad.
Observation can be false
Still, I was not visibility upset; my mind was on getting out of the hospital, going backpacking and starting my senior year of high school, and of course young ladies. I was successful at being a teenager with diabetes. I got a job, got a car and started my semi-adult life on my way to college.
What I did not do, was stop and take care of the emotional side of having diabetes. From most outside observers I was doing ok. I was functioning and moving along, but inside I was self-destructing. My self-destruction would lead to years of depression and some poor life choices.
What I have always wondered about is what might have been if during that first year I had seen a therapist. No not really for treatment, though I think I would have been open to it at some level. Rather I wonder if seeing a therapist might have given me a lifeline to get help sooner as the years rolled along. I may be suggesting something that would never have worked. If it worked, it might have only worked for me and no one else. Or, maybe others feel the same way?
Experience as a teacher
Based on my experience, I suggest that parents throw an emotional lifeline to their teenagers who have a chronic condition. I know children are doing well but doing well as a teenager can sometimes mask issues. I do not think a teen needs to enter intensive therapy; rather I suggest two to three visits where they get used to the process. Not because they are on the verge of collapsing, in fact, quite the opposite. I suggest kids need to know that as they age feelings of depression and lack of self-worth can destroy a person unless they get help. Most of us (even without a chronic condition) face these issues sometimes, but if a person with a chronic condition finds themselves in such a situation, it can be devastating. I prefer to think of it as a lifeline. It may never be used, but if it is there, it can provide a way back.
It was 1974 and people did not see therapists. However, given my life experience, I wish my parents had given me that lifeline. It would have made a big difference in my life later on.