Diabetes, Depression, and Strange Psychology


Over the years, I’ve written a fair amount about the depression I fight with (example). It’s a gray shadow that follows me through life, and when I was diagnosed with diabetes in May I thought that the darkness would really set in very hard. In fact, the American Diabetes Association reports that those with diabetes have a greater chance of fighting through depression, so I was right in the crosshairs.

Except, in the four months since I was diagnosed, that has not happened at all. I’ve been somehow a happier person.

The Reality of the Diagnosis

Sure, getting diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes is a real kick in the face. I was not happy about that part of it, naturally that hit me pretty hard. It would be unfair to call it a death sentence, with so many people out there fighting diseases that are far worse. But, speaking at a truthful level, there’s the highest probability that I will eventually die from something related to my diabetes.

logo-mayoThe Mayo Clinic lists a number of complications for diabetics, and any one of them could lead to my doom:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Nerve damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Of course, I might just get hit by a car tomorrow instead. Then again, maybe I get hit by the car because the diabetes damaged my eyes to the point that I didn’t see it coming. With all of this, my emotions should have just tanked.

An Emotional Fall That Did Not Happen

From the moment I left that initial appointment with the doctor, I was on-mission. It was, and remains, a mission that I can’t fail to fight for. That mission is working with all of my abilities to fight the disease, if not to come out on top than at least to live as well as I can with it. Instead of depression, I started with determination.

My opinion on the matter is that the determination that I felt to win this fight, and not turn out like others that I know who essentially gave in to the disease, I needed to always look forward. In a way, having to detail every moment for exercise and nutrition forced me to be right here, right now.

There are naturally always long term ideas in my mind, but being in the now is important to making sure my diabetic life stays on track. I think being concerned with this very moment has made me more cognizant of those moments, to make them count more. I have lived with an eye on the past for most of my life, dwelling on things that I should have let go.

No More Dwelling On Things

But I don’t have the time to dwell on things now, I have time to learn from them. For example, I had dark chocolate in my hot cereal a couple of weeks ago. The darker chocolate gets, the less sugar it has, so typically I’m safe with that from a carbs standpoint. But I had to learn that through experimentation, and the first time with it I put way too much chocolate in it. Not only was it was too sweet, my glucose pushed up an extra 20 points the next morning.

That rise in glucose wasn’t something I dwelled on though. Unlike my past, now I simply learn from it and adapt my life around it. I don’t think about that mistake, or beat myself up about the issue. I just remember it the next time I’m making hot cereal and use just a half a square of chocolate instead, if I use any at all.

The effect of not beating myself up or dwelling on things has affected all of my life, not just how I approach my disease, and it has made me a happier person. I might still get angered about the truly awful bosses I’ve had in the past, but now I don’t get bothered by it. I realized that I learned from those experiences, and with a new position in sight I’m moving to better things anyway.

Fighting the Darkness of Depression

I have seen the better things give way to the darkness anyway, which wasn’t unexpected. As with diabetes, depression is a lifelong fight, it’s something I’ll always deal with. But the last few times the shadows fell, including last week, the depression didn’t hit as hard. I was able to work my way out of it, without falling down the rabbit hole yet again.

There are many reasons that could be applicable as to why I didn’t fall. I have a better diet than I used to, with more fruits and vegetables than probably ever before. I walk most days, and I’m moved from one mile a day in May to over four per day here in September. That raises my level of endorphins, which certainly would help my mood.

My mood would also be enhanced just by the better things in my life right now. I am about to start a new job. Finishing my long-gestating Bachelor’s degree was definitely important to my new year. I was able to see old friends recently, and meet new ones in person (finally), not to mention spending good time with family watching the eclipse. So there are many reasons why my mood would have improved.

Mood Improvement Through Conflict

But I think my mood improved for the very simple reason that I now have a static thing to fight. I know what the exact problem is now, I can see the monster before me and I can strategically and tactically think around it. Diabetes is a solid, known form that I can fight, with tools I understand.

That fight is radically different from my battle with depression. Depression is a ghost, around you but never corporeal enough to get a hold of. It comes out of nowhere, regardless of current emotions or events. I can be smiling, even laughing, and still have depression at that same moment. Depression is a whisper that turns life to gray, pushing the fight away almost before it begins.

Diabetes gives me what depression won’t, a fight that I can make an impact with. My strict diet and watchful eye on carbs and calories has helped me lower the impact that diabetes has. In turn, that diet has lowered my cholesterol and evened out my other health indications, and despite my diagnosis I may be healthier than I have been in decades.

I am happier because I now fight something where I can see actual progress, something else that hasn’t happened in decades. I can now see that I am heading in a good direction, and it helps me see the same path in other areas of my life. The battle for my health has become the lantern in the dark, seemingly now leading me out of the dark tunnel and into a future of light.


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