This post is about how to try to change your mindset so that diabetes doesn’t make you depressed. If you are already depressed, please look for help — take care of your mental health. It’s important. Mental health goes hand in hand with diabetes health — You are one person, and must take care of the whole person, mind and body.
Don’t “test” your blood glucose, “check” it.
The words we use affect how we feel. Using the word “test” implies that you will either pass or fail the test.
If your glucose is high or low, it’s not a failing grade. It’s information to respond to so that you can take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself is “passing.”
Check your blood glucose and take care of yourself. If you frequently get high or low blood glucose readings, reach out to your doctor.
Compare yourself to yourself, not to others
How are you doing compared to last month? Last year?
Sometimes I will read about people with low A1C or I will see graphs of perfect blood glucose numbers and I will compare myself to them. This comparison is not helpful. I am not them.
Remember that perfect numbers are the exception. Most of us don’t have straight lines on our CGMs.
Don’t punish yourself with a strict diet
When I first was diagnosed with diabetes, I was prescribed Metformin, and I tried to cure my diabetes through changing my diet. It was clear that carbohydrates made my blood glucose rise. I remember ordering an omelet and not eating the biscuit that came with it because I knew that would cause my blood sugar to raise… For several weeks, I tried to avoid all carbohydrates.
This did not help my mood. Instead of trying to follow extreme no-carb diets, I recommend a low carb diet. A low carb diet allows you to still have some carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates made of whole grains are better than simple ones, generally, and still help with mood.
I guess this could generalize into, “avoid extreme diets.” If you feel happy with no carbs, then that’s fine. But if you are feeling depressed and trying to follow a strict diet, I’d ask if maybe you should reconsider. If your blood glucose goes high after eating a small amount of carbohydrates, then ask your doctor about mealtime insulin. This disorder shouldn’t require you to starve yourself — while cutting back on carbohydrates can make a big difference, don’t punish yourself — instead, seek treatment.
Back before the discovery of insulin, a starvation diet was the “treatment” for diabetes. The starvation diet didn’t work that well and people died. We have insulin these days. You can count carbs and inject insulin or use an insulin pump. Insulin is a really effective treatment. Speak with your doctor about it. (Side note: Many people with LADA diabetes are misdiagnosed as having type II diabetes and are not prescribed insulin. Seek a second opinion if you need to.)
A walk outdoors, a swim, or other exercise
Getting outside makes me feel better. Exercise also helps with diabetes, so this is a win-win. Exercise is like the one thing that helps with both diabetes and depression.
Sometimes when you’re depressed, it’s hard to get motivated to exercise. Try keeping it simple. Start with something that seems achievable. Maybe a walk around the block? Even 15 minutes of walking is better than no exercise.
Feed your mind well too
There is a saying “We are what we eat.” With diabetes, this is so in your face. At least for me, it has made the impact of my food choices very apparent.
This expression can be expanded to apply to our mental health as well. What you feed your mind has a big impact on your mood.
One example is that learning about diabetes can be very empowering, but it can also be overwhelming. Reading first hand accounts of scary hypoglycemic episodes and other scary medical stories is not the kind of stuff that’s going to make me feel happy.
Become knowledgable, but know when it’s time to read about something else.