Where T1D and Mental Health Intersect

October 18, 2017

Seryn Crawford
Co-Leader, Ball State University Chapter ‘19
To begin, I want to get a point or two across. First, individuals with type 1 diabetes (T1D) manage their chronic illness and may struggle with it in their own unique way. However, there can definitely be similarities between individuals and their management/struggles, which brings me to my next point: there are many individuals living with T1D who I have met or know of that have struggled with anxiety and depression due to life struggles, but also managing their T1D . To me, this situation seems like a common occurrence among the young adult T1D community and I myself have experience with this situation.

During my senior year of high school, I felt as though I was at an all-time low. I was juggling a heavy workload at school, a part-time job, getting ready for college, and managing fluctuating blood sugars from the stress I was under. My A1C ended up rising a little, which really disappointed me. The stress and anxiety became overwhelming to the point where I just felt numb. At this point, I began doing what would make me feel better in the moment. My tactics included blowing off homework in order to get more sleep, putting off important things that needed to be done for college (scholarship applications, tours, etc.), and taking more insulin than needed at meals in order to lower my blood sugars and A1C. This was a really unhealthy time for me. I reached my breaking point around the middle of my senior year and realized that I was making my body feel worse, I was not helping my situation, and I actually needed to ask for help.

“ Managing a chronic illness like T1D produces an enormous amount of stress.”
I spoke with a few important people in my life, and looked on various websites, such as the ones listed in the “Website Resources” section below, to find advice. Each of these individuals gave me very similar advice—set a schedule for yourself, find new stress relievers, exercise more, and get more sleep. At first, I brushed off the advice because it just didn’t seem like anything that would help me immediately; it seemed too cliché, and I was under the impression that there were better methods out there. I was expecting too much, though: utilizing the advice I was given worked out so well for me. I started with setting a schedule for myself, moved on to finding new stress relievers (watching funny videos, reading, writing, and listening to music), then getting more sleep, and finally getting more exercise whether it was going outside with my younger siblings or going on a run. I continue to use the advice today, and I feel wonderful compared to how I felt back then.

Keep in mind that while the advice I followed worked wonders for me, it may not work for others. However, there’s a general rule of thumb that I believe is essential to know when finally asking for help.

First, don’t be afraid or unmotivated to seek help. In my opinion, people often don’t want to get help because they don’t think anyone can offer any useful advice or they just feel as if they are being weak. However, it can be helpful to get advice from someone else’s experiences, especially if those experiences are similar to your own. Also, asking for help shows strength because you’re overcoming your weakness of not asking.

Second, make sure your source of advice is from someone you trust and will actually listen to. It can be easy to listen to advice from an acquaintance, but the advice will mean more when it’s from someone important to you. Finally, try to have the mindset that you deserve advice. When you’re feeling depressed, you might feel like you don’t deserve anything. Just remember that you have one body and mind for the rest of your life, and it will be beneficial to keep that duo in good health.

“Each of these individuals gave me very similar advice—set a schedule for yourself, find new stress relievers, exercise more, and get more sleep.”
The topic of mental health and T1D is important because it’s an extremely prevalent issue. Managing a chronic illness like T1D produces an enormous amount of stress. Many people may not have healthy coping methods for this stress and this often leads to mental health issues. Unfortunately, having anxiety or depression (or even both) usually worsens a person’s management of T1D. This, in turn, worsens the mental health issues and a vicious cycle is created. This cycle is one that I have experienced myself. I was lucky enough to have support from others, but some people remain stuck in this cycle, and its no place anyone should ever have to stay in. I believe that shedding light on this topic will help people realize that they are not alone and that this vicious cycle can be broken.

Website Resources:

1. https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ps/stress-tips.html

2. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-management.htm

Editor’s note: Watch our Facebook Live Mental Health panel and hear from experts and young adults discuss everything mental health and T1D, sponsored by Corporate Member Lexicon Pharmaceuticals.

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