As I began brainstorming about the links between diabetes and other conditions such as celiac disease, depression, dementia, heart disease, and countless others, I couldn’t help but wonder how Peter Dinklage fits into all of this. He doesn’t really, but ever since my jackwagon brother-in-law started maliciously and purposefully singing Peter DINKlage, Peter DINKlage over and over to the tune of the Game of Thrones theme song, I can’t get it out of my head (click here if you’d like it stuck in your head too https://youtu.be/idVozGXbn2Y). So, here I sit, trying to clear my head so I can write this blog, and there is Peter Dinklage. So clearly, he’s the reason I have type 1 diabetes.
I kid, but there are countless links between T1D and other very serious diseases and complications such as eye disease, kidney disease, heart disease, amputations, nerve damage, circulatory issues, depression, and so many others. Taking meticulous care of yourself significantly lowers the risk for developing some of these diseases, but the catch 22 here is that while you have to take meticulous care, that is often the very thing that leads to depression. Today, I am going to focus specifically on depression as research has shown that having T1D more than doubles your risk of developing it. It is easy to get in a rut, especially in young people living with diabetes and going through adolescence. It’s the time you want to fit in, test your independence, and you just don’t want the responsibility of a disease that takes so much time and attention, day in and day out. Roller coaster blood sugars not only wreak havoc on your body, but also on your emotional health, so depression in type one diabetes is very common, especially among teenagers trying to navigate life as an adolescent. That’s hard enough without diabetes.
The only time you get a break from diabetes is, well, never. It’s like the commercial that says “Moms don’t get to take a sick day,” but, they can ask for help so they can take a break every once in a while. T1D doesn’t provide such luxuries, so it’s a full-time job with no pay, no vacation, and certainly no health benefits. That’s cause enough for depression right there. Who would want hired for that job? Not this gal, but I was hired nonetheless and can’t ever quit or take a day off, but what I can do is not bury my head in the sand and learn all I can about new developments, how my body reacts to different foods, understand how my basal/bolus scale is working throughout the day, keep my emotional health strong so I can take care of my physical health, and keep my T1D controlled enough so that one day when there is cure, I will be ready!
So what is the link between TID and depression? Well, it’s many things. In any given day, you need to have the knowledge of an endocrinologist, a nutritionist, a psychologist, a certified diabetes educator, and an exercise physiologist. You basically have to think just like a pancreas would, all while trying to just live a normal life. You no longer have the luxury of looking at a plate of food and marveling at how delicious it looks, you look at it and immediately start adding up all the carbs. A typical conversation you may have in your mind before you dig in goes something like this, “Ok, my plate has a mixture of high glycemic index foods and low glycemic index foods. Darn, I should have anticipated the high glycemic foods and bolused 25 minutes ago. But wait, my sugar is higher than my target range, so I should have bolused 40 minutes ago so I would be back in range before starting to eat. Oh, hold on, I forgot that we’re going for a run later on, so I don’t want to bolus so much that I’ll drop low when I exercise. Ok, hold the phone, my sugars have been running very high after dinner for the past three days, so maybe I should change by basal rate before I do anything. Hmmm, but I’ve been really stressed lately and not feeling very well so maybe that’s why my sugar has been high. Or maybe it’s because of the foods I’ve been eating, or maybe it’s because…” blah blah blah!
See what I mean? Not too easy to think like a pancreas, so it’s not difficult to see how having to think this way every. single. day. could cause emotional stress, anxiety, and an overall feeling of I just can’t do this anymore. Even after having diabetes for 30 years, I still have days when things are perfect and I’m totally killing it, then I look at my glucose monitor to see a blood sugar of 300 for no reason at all. That’s when things get frustrating. I’ll have people say, “Well, did you take enough insulin, did you eat too much,” well slap me sideways and call me Betsy, why didn’t I think of those things (insert sarcasm here). If I did those things, then I’D KNOW WHY MY SUGAR IS 300!
I’ve said it before, but if you are a T1D or you have a loved one with T1D and you see signs of what I like to call diabetes shutdown, please do not hesitate in reaching out for help. I find that online support communities are a great resource for knowing there are so, so many others going through the same daily struggles and I would highly recommend joining one if you haven’t already. Please feel free to contact me if you need support or just another diabetic’s perspective. After 30 years, there’s not too much I haven’t seen with this disease, so I am happy to help if I can. Have a wonderful week, everyone, and thank you for reading and your continued support!