This is a blog post I have been wanting to write for ages. It might not be relevant to you now, but please read on because this can get anybody, anytime. The subject matter I want to write about is depression.
I am very lucky that so far, touch wood, depression has eluded me, and I hope and pray it stays that way. As a diabetic the chances of being affected by this illness increase quite substantially. I was told this within day one of being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. As such I have spent a lot of time researching the subject, and over the past 3 and a half years I have spoken with lots of people suffering from depression, both online and in the real world.
What Is Depression?
Depression is one of the most commonly occurring medical conditions, one which anybody can be struck with. It affects an estimated 1 in 10 adults during their lifetime. Women are more likely than men to experience it. It is important to realise that it is a real illness which affects the brain. This isn’t something you can “snap out” of. Depression is caused by changes to the chemistry inside our brains. Once depression has set in, it has a negative impact on every part of your life, as well as those who are close to you.
Depression is not just feeling upset, or down for a few days, this runs a whole lot deeper than that. This illness takes hold of every little aspect of your existence.
- Activities you once enjoyed now fill you with dread.
- The job you once loved makes you feel physically sick.
- Those friends you once cherished are now an inconvenience.
- An uninterrupted night’s sleep is a distant memory.
- Being too lethargic to get yourself involved in any physical activity becomes the norm.
- The constant feeling of loneliness, even in a room full of people.
- Sitting down and relaxing reading a book is a thing of the past, now you can’t concentrate on anything.
- Sitting down to your favourite meal, now you only eat to exist.
- The once happy relationship you was in has become like wading through treacle.
- The relaxed approachable person you once was is no more, angry and unapproachable is the new norm.
- Feeling valued and respected has been replaced with feeling worthless.
Who Gets Depression?
This is an indiscriminate illness. There is no one group of people who are exempt from this one. Teachers, doctors, nurses, politicians, scientists, policemen, firemen, paramedics – they are all as likely as each other to fall victim to the Black Dog.
There are certain predispositions which make suffering depression more likely. Grief, stress, illness, workload and certain medical conditions to name a few.
It is that last one which concerns me the most. According to NICE, people diagnosed with a chronic long-term health condition, are three times more likely to be diagnosed with depression. Please don’t read this as if you are diabetic you will get depression, that is not what this means at all.
Does Diabetes and Depression Go Hand in Hand?
When diagnosed with diabetes it seems to be an insurmountable barrier to the rest of your life. The constant effort required, to simply not die, is massive. The thousands of finger pricks, the uncountable amount of insulin injections, constantly watching your carbohydrate intake, the continual mental arithmetic needed. Now bearing in mind how much depression takes away from an individual, adding all of the diabetes life requirements into the mix and you can see where things are heading.
Diabetes requires a huge mental and physical commitment to make it work well, and depression takes those attributes away from us. Then our diabetes becomes more and more uncontrolled, making us feel terrible, then we over think things and the depression gets deeper. And so the vicious circle begins to gain momentum.
Depression will have a negative effect on our motivation to deal with our diabetes, leading to uncontrolled blood sugars. Research has proved time and time again that diabetics suffering from depression have poorer glycemic control than those without depression.
Where to Turn When Depression Strikes
The most important thing to do is to get a diagnosis until this happens things generally will not get any better, and in many cases only get worse. Get yourself to the GP, and between the two of you, a treatment plan can be arranged. As with diabetes, a pro-active approach to tackling your depression can really make all the difference.
There are a few things you can do to help yourself too.
- Get yourself active – It is a proven fact that exercise releases endorphins and helps with our mental state.
- Always take your meds, this is crucial with most medications in all honesty, even if you are feeling better carry on with the prescribed course. As with everything in life, there are apps for this nowadays! MyTherapyApp
- Eat healthily, sounds like it wouldn’t really make much difference but good nutrition gives the body and the mind the fuel it needs to work well.
- Get plenty of good quality sleep. The hours spent asleep are crucial for good mental health, I like to think of sleeping as the time we allow the brain to switch off and recharge
- As well as taking control yourself don’t be embarrassed or afraid to seek extra help. If diabetes has taught me one thing it is the value of peer support, same applies here. There will be hundreds of people just like you, go find them and get involved online with these people, you might find it really helps.
Resources Which Might Help
A few links and resources which might help if you feel that depression is lurking in you
- Diabetes and Depression
- Mind – The Depression Charity
- A Great Resource From The Royal College Of Psychiatris
- The Samaritans
I hope that this blog post at least makes you take a look at yourself and the ones you love, is depression lurking? If you think it might be, don’t try and ignore it, approach it head on and seek some help. You don’t need to fight this alone.
Take care, help is always there.