Monday, March 30, 2015

The Complication That Nobody's Talking About

Part of the job of being diabetic is being bombarded with unpleasant information.  Commercials, pamphlets, homework, ignorant strangers--they all love to chime in and pester us with the statistics of diabetes complications. Since about 4th grade I've learned to keep only one ear open. You can only hear such facts so many times before you start to really panic. But each time a new one arose, I was educated on it, talked about it, then tucked it away in a neat little box in the back of my mind.

However, there is a certain complication that I never heard about on TV.  I never was informed about it in the doctor's office. I never had an ignorant stranger tell me an incorrect fact about it (sadly). In fact, I didn't even know that it was a statistically significant, existent, real complication until my college years. Although my common sense had brought me to the conclusion quite awhile before.

People with diabetes are approximately twice as likely to develop depression or anxiety than people without. This can be said of many other chronic illnesses and disabilities. While this complication was not out in the open to me until young adulthood, the more time I spend with the knowledge, the more sense it makes. Diabetes is a constant weight on the back of your mind. No matter how well-adjusted you are, no matter how brave, you constantly have the pull of it slowing you down.  You have to think ten steps ahead: will I go to the gym today? Should I not give insulin for this snack? Do I take my pump off now? What if the gym is then closed? What if?

There is such a great deal of subconscious what-iffing in diabetes that it now seems strange to me that someone wouldn't develop depression or anxiety. "What-ifs" are such a major component of anxiety disorders in particular--so what can be expected to happen when they are so deeply ingrained in your daily life? As people with diabetes we constantly have a weight attached to us. And if we don't, we run the risk of damaging our bodies. The constant nagging thought at the back of our mind is bigger than homework, bigger than relationships, bigger than work. It is our survival.
Of course this isn't to say that people with diabetes are doomed to live a life plagued by melancholy and worry. It merely means that we are more susceptible to another complication--one that we need to start talking about. We need to start talking about it because once it is out in the open, once we deal with it, we can not only live with it but thrive. I read a snippet the other day from someone stating that depending on the way you look at it, mental illness can be seen not as a demon, but as a superpower. We can use it to our advantage. It makes us more resilient. More empathic.

But that's only if we don't ignore it.

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