D-Blog Week 2017: Avoiding the Emotional Riptide

Quick note: This week (May 15-19, 2017), GraceMark Musings is participating in Diabetes Blog Week, adding our voice to the chorus of diabetes bloggers, caregivers, and friends of the DOC (diabetes online community) who are uniting to share their unique reflections on certain topics prevalent in life with diabetes. Thank you to Karen Graffeo at Bitter-Sweet for creating this opportunity--congratulations on the 8th year of D-Blog Week!


Today's Diabetes Blog Week prompt, in a nod to May being Mental Health Month, asks bloggers to explore the emotional side of dealing with diabetes and the coping mechanisms that get you through it all. 

A major goal, when dealing with the mental health aspect of diabetes, is to prevent the emotional riptide from pulling you under. The best way to set protection against that happening is to manage, as best you can, in the clinical tasks while putting effort into proactively working against the things that can emotionally destroy a person in such a situation. Diabetes is every bit a mental game as it is an invisible physical condition. The amount of careful planning, timed precision, and putting out fires that are part of living with T1D require an inordinate amount of attention to personal care, on top of all other personal and professional thoughts, actions, and commitments.  Human beings are resilient and we build strength from adversity through the ways we cope with our challenges. There are two types of coping mechanisms: the kind we employ on a regular basis to keep the darkness at bay, and the kind we call upon once everything has gone off the rails and we need a rescue. What I have found is that, generally, the things we do on a regular basis can be kicked into overdrive to help cope when things go off the rails...and that typically, things are far more likely to go off the rails when I am unable to make a point of keeping up with that routine. 

Some days, you can cruise on autopilot with your dialed-in ratios and basal rates, purse packed full of supplies, making it look effortless even when it is not. Other days, it is not so pretty. It really depends. Sometimes, I see the significant diabetes stress coming from afar with time to dodge it, but sometimes it hits me out of nowhere like a ton of bricks. Depending on what is specifically causing the distress, or what else I may have going on in my life, I cope differently. I try to keep a variety of strategies open and available for dealing with it when it comes up. I can admit that some of the strategies are healthier and more productive than others. When I have more on my plate (and I forgo my usual self-care habits), the likelihood of falling into bad habits, like rumination, is much higher.  

What do I make a point of doing on a regular basis to "keep the darkness at bay"? Well, I try to be organized about having my supplies, keeping my medical bills paid on time, and staying on top of my labs, for starters. Of course, I find that the more attention I pay to consistent self-management (checking blood sugar, pre-bolusing, etc,) the more solid foundation I have for overall well-being. I am really passionate about exercise, which is a great way to knock out two important aspects of diabetes care: clearing the mind and regulating blood glucose. There is a big difference in my emotional state and my blood sugars/insulin needs when I am not able to make time for even a short workout over a period of time. 

I could definitely expand upon this topic further (and I promise that I will, in the future) because it is so important that it cannot be overstated. As a community, we need to talk about mental health and diabetes so that we can remind each other that we are not alone, brainstorm and share solutions, and open a window to show others on the outside of diabetes to see a more encompassing view of what life with diabetes looks and feels like. We are more than a chronic illness, a collection of blood glucose numbers, or hit to an insurance company's bottom line; we are human beings, unique individuals playing the cards we were dealt in as positive and productive a way as possible. 


Thanks for joining me for Diabetes Blog Week 2017! Again, a huge thank you to Karen Graffeo at Bittersweet Diabetes for opening up the opportunity for our diverse community to share our collective and individual voices with the world. Hope to see you back at GraceMark Musings again soon!

Have questions or feedback? Please feel free to comment below!