Friday, August 28, 2015

Depression and Diabetes

I thought I'd take a different tack on what many have addressed in the recent past.
I'm not talking about Diabetes Burnout, though that is a very real thing and I have experienced that as well over my last 40+ years with type 1 diabetes.

No, what I want to discuss/ponder about is having chronic depression alongside
diabetes.  This is something I've never really talked about "publicly" until very
recently (the Diabetes Unconference 2015), so please bear with me...

I have had symptoms of depression as long as I can remember. It wasn't too bad
when I was a child (I think) though some centered around being the "different kid".
Four-eyed, pigeon-toed teacher's pet - is kind of a label and a half to grow up with,

          Four-eyed - glasses since age three-ish.
          Pigeon-toed - yep - toes pointed in all my life - years of ballet couldn't fix it.
                 Thought it was less noticeable until a past boyfriend mentioned that he
                 thought it was "undyingly cute" that my toes pointed in - really??!!!??
          Teacher's pet - because what else do you call a kid who gets special snacks
                 in the middle of the day, or "gets to" be carried to the nurses office in
                 a hurry when she's passing out? Lucky kid! How dare she?!

Yeah - so I wasn't the happiest kid, but the depression really kicked in around college. I took off - left New York State and landed in Boston - not knowing anyone, and determined to make it work. I recreated myself - made myself look people in the eye, talked boldly to people (while quaking in my sneakers), and even got a job in a very busy convenience store to facilitate that type of interaction.

Know what? It didn't stop my depression. I still felt all alone. I had met one other Type 1 there - in the city of Boston - yes - one other diabetic - and his treatment method was insulin and getting drunk every night on beer. We didn't talk much. I had roommates and didn't really have any friends I felt open enough to share my alone-ness with so I'd find corners - The cement quad by the co-op buildings at midnight - a short walk from the dorm at the time  -it was a great place to break down and cry until I felt I could get a grip on it.

When my roomie was out I'd sit on the windowsill and look down ten floors at the cement walkway and think thoughts, but I'd talk myself out of them every time. "How would Mom feel" was my go to mantra.

My Diabetes wasn't under the best care - three week-long visits to University Hospital - now renamed and grouped elsewhere - for DKA and Pyelo-nephritis and I finally got myself an endocrinologist. I liked him, but I'm not sure he knew what to do with me. I was ALWAYS the youngest patient in his office and I think the longest term T1D he'd seen. He left a lot of things to me that probably shouldn't have been.  Until a couple years ago I still had never heard of Joslin, just a few miles away from my college.

Depression was never a discussion. I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Why isn't depression one of the topics our Endos bring up with us? No - not everyone with Diabetes suffers it, but I'm thinking with all we juggle every day, we experience on average a higher amount of stress and have more depression triggers than some others, so why not?

Why have none of the many therapists I've seen in the past ten years (yeah it took me a while to get on board) ever brought up Diabetes as a trigger?

I have a lot more I could say on this topic but this was all pretty overwhelming so I'll leave it at this:

                  Maybe the burning desire to do more about Diabetes in the world
                  is leading me to this - to recognition that Diabetes and Depression
                            are something that needs to be discussed and treated.

                                                       And maybe I will...


  1. Susan, way to go on sharing this! It's huge that you found the courage to write this, and share it with the world. I've been there on the clinical depression side and recognizing it and admitting it to myself was the toughest part. Sharing my struggles also helped me embrace what I needed to do in my own life. For me, the diabetes actually wasn't the trigger, but other life happenings. The D just compounded it. Know that anytime you need to talk "offline," please don't hesitate to reach out. Thank you for writing this and I'm sending you all the best vibes and virtual hugs.

    1. Thank you Mike. For me I don't know what the trigger was - no one ever even mentioned "hey - you sure have to balance a lot - maybe that could be contributing" so I never even thought until earlier this year that it could be one more straw.

  2. I've written over the years about depression ... but never really gotten into full depth like some of the ones I've been reading today (today is my research day on depression ... cause that straight jacket is looking more and more like it would fit me to a T ). When I've spoken to my doctors about being depressed, and not necessarily that it was due to diabetes, they just would look at me, with zilch interest, and say you look fine. I guess like many of us, we hide how we are feeling right? I am hoping that with the enmass of blogs being written by many within the #DOC that finally maybe for those of us seeking help, we won't be shrugged off. So, you will be proud to know, your #dblog link will be incorporated into the one I'll be writing about ... along with a few others ... and I'll be sharing it with some of the CDE's I know of ... so they can maybe understand us better!!!

    1. I hear ya buddy!! With my Dad at home and suffering from Colon cancer and some other issues, my own depression I keep trying to push to the background and it keeps smacking me in the face and making me totally useless, so I have to pay it some attention. Please feel free to share! I'm just not ready to share with my family and Non-D friends yet - at least today.

  3. Thank you for your courage Susan. Yes, depression and diabetes are definitely linked and need to be talked about, but we have to find the people to listen. When I openly fought depression as a college student in the 60's, I was sent back home to be "cured" with electric shock therapy. I learned to keep my mouth shut and not talk about make it go away. Now I share your desire to do more as a PWD to advocate for patient centered healthcare. Now is the time to speak up!

    1. Thanks Janis! How scary! I have read many books like I never Promised you a Rose Garden, and always thought I would lie my butt off to get out of many of those "solutions". I'm learning that I do have to speak up, but I'm careful about who I speak up to. I finally have a therapist I trust, - not sure yet about the med doc but I'm hopeful. My therapist makes me work on stuff - but I haven't even touched on Diabetes at all. Maybe one of these visits.

  4. Maybe you heard me talk about my depression at the UnCon last year. So alone and so life-altering and so soul-taking. No one even thought of treating me, because my sister was acting out, sometimes violently, and I was just huddling in the corner. Depression robs you of all that you need the most from life, and I hope that you and all the rest of us can recoup and regain during our future years.

    1. Love you lady! Hugs!!! Big squeezy ones!

  5. Dear Susan, as a T1 Diabetic for over 15 years (I am 35), I strongly recommend and encourage you to invest in a swimsuit, running shoes + gear and a road bike + gear and start involving your self in the world of sports. Guaranty, it will improve you life style, clear your mind, keep you busy and your health, talking diabetes management wise, will be at the best level possible. The rest, will fit automatically.
    I said this to you by experience. I' ve done 2 IRONMANS and since I started on this path, my life and health is at the top.

  6. Hi Susan:

    I am Rick Phillips and I have been a person with diabetes for 41 years and a few months. I have also suffered from depression for a good part of my life and of course it got worse after I was DX'd 1974. I really enjoyed your blog and I am thrilled to meet you, (even if only online).

    I believe in a strange way that the time we were dx'd has had an impact on not only on how we cared for our diabetes but also how we came to deal with depression. I felt I was depressed before I was Dx'd and I know it got worse post diagnosis.

    I also know that my life sped up after diagnosis. I was Dx'd when I was 17 and by 19 I was married. At 21 we had our first son. Well, it took a lot, but with time I was able to get things semi under control. I was in my 40's when things started to resolve.

    My wife and I have been married 38 years and today we have three grandchildren. Something I never thought would happen when I was 17 and just diagnosed.

    I love your blog, take care.


    1. Thank you Rick! I really appreciate your comments. Unfortunately I do not remember life before diagnosis, but I do feel that diabetes does change how depression should be handled. Do I feel psychologists need to be experts in Diabetes to treat? No, but I think it needs to be acknowledged somewhere - either in the Endo office, or family practitioner (I know most of them don't know how to spell type 1 - or type 2 for that matter). If we don't tech them though, how will they know?

      Keep in touch!