Of the total population of people living with Diabetes Mellitus, only 5% are living with Type 1 Diabetes which means that there are tons of misconceptions and myths that surround it.
As a person living with Diabetes, we have to do the work of an organ manually, day in and day out, 365 days a year. It is natural to feel overburdened, anxious, stressed out and even burnt out!
People with Type 1 Diabetes are at a heightened risk for mental health conditions, including diabetes distress, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.
Why are people living with Diabetes at an increased risk of developing mental health issues?
This is because Type 1 Diabetes isn’t just about carb counting, measuring insulin levels and administering insulin. It is a condition that definitely takes an emotional and psychological toll on a person as well.
Since Type 1 Diabetes is a self-managed condition, it means that we have to take the decision of administering insulin depending on a number of factors on a daily basis. This can take a toll on a person because it involves making very frequent life or death decisions, and sometimes under very stressful situations.
Something that is a very common mental health issue when it comes to people living with Type 1 Diabetes, at the time of diagnosis and for all the days of the future as well, is the anxiety of suffering from a sudden hypoglycemic episode or a hyperglycemic episode. Due to how severe and sudden an episode can get and the feeling of losing control of your own body, many people living with diabetes have “hypo anxiety”: the fear of getting low blood sugar, especially when they are first diagnosed. It takes a while for people to be able to identify if they are just sleepy or tired or if they are actually having a hypoglycemic episode. The anxiety is heightened if a person has been hospitalized earlier due to a hypoglycemic episode.
Hyper anxiety, on the other hand, sets in when a person is diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, and all the long-term side effects are laid out to “scare” them into not getting a high BG and staying in the stipulated range. These fears can wreak havoc on a person’s mental health because they are led to believe that they must always be in range at all times, if not they are a “bad diabetic”, which is certainly not the case.
Yes, a hypo is scary, and yes going into DKA is scary as well, but there is no such thing as a “good” or a “bad” diabetic. It is okay to have days when you are running a little high, and it is ok to have days when you feel like you are chasing good numbers. Don’t let that make you feel like you are not doing a good job, everybody has off days and everybody makes mistakes just like we do with everything about life. As we do with our physical health, equal importance MUST be paid to our mental health as well.
The online Type 1 Diabetes community is growing rapidly as the days go by. Which is a great thing because it helps us to connect with so many people from around the world and learn from them too! However, with this comes the fact that like with everything else on social media, comparisons are bound to happen.
The perfect BG readings and graph lines, their time in range, their eating habits, their exercise routine, the list goes on. This has adverse effects on our mental health too! We start comparing ourselves with what they do and how they lead their lives and their ranges. Don’t compare yourself to someone else’s BG levels, insulin doses, lifestyle, eating habits etc. as this is only going to stress you and have a detrimental effect on your mental health.
We must always remember that in managing Type 1 Diabetes, there is no one size fits all! Your mental health comes first, don’t let anyone let you feel like you are a “bad diabetic”. There should be no such term in your vocabulary. We are all trying and doing the best we can.
When you feel like you are suffering from diabetes-related anxiety, depression, burn-out due to any other issues that trigger mental health conditions, it is important to reach out to your community. There are plenty of resources available online and on The Diabetes App as well, or if need be a mental health professional as well. We are all learning as we grow and I’m happy and proud to be a part of such a tight-knit and supportive community. The empathy, understanding and support that we all need are best given by someone who has walked the talk and is able to completely relate with what you are going through as in all probability, they have walked that path before you.
Take each day as it comes, with positivity, confidence and faith… in yourself and in your ability to manage yourself. Remember that you are always greater than your highs and lows, in Type 1 Diabetes and in life!
*limited time only
Karishma is a Certified Diabetes Educator and an advocate for mental health. She has been living with Type 1 Diabetes since she was 7 years old, in 2001. She believes that living with Type 1 Diabetes sure has its highs and lows (pun intended!) but it has made her more resilient and stronger.Instagram handle:@livinwithwithtype1d