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A Journey of Embracing Diabetes and Emotional Wellbeing on World Mental Health Day

This year's World Mental Health Day theme is, "Mental Health is a Universal Human Right," and hits close to home for me, especially as I reflect on my 32-year journey with diabetes. Today, I want to take you on a journey through my experiences and how managing my mental health became an integral part of my diabetes story.

Preventing diabetes burnount and supporting my mental health
Supporting my emotional wellbeing

At age 10 I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and I had no idea what lay ahead. Little did I know then, the impact it would have on my journey. I was scared, naive, and my parents grappled with their own feelings of helplessness and guilt. Diabetes felt like an uninvited guest to my pre-teen party, ready to alter my life in ways I couldn't imagine.

"Diabetes felt like an uninvted guest."

Looking back on my 32-year journey with diabetes, I've come to understand how crucial mental health support would have been at the outset. The theme of this year's World Mental Health Day, "Mental Health is a Universal Human Right," reminds us of the importance of acknowledging and addressing the emotional aspects of managing chronic conditions like diabetes.

The Hidden Struggle

As I grew older, I realised that my diabetes wasn't something I readily shared with the world. In fact, I often went to great lengths to keep it hidden. I remember traveling in Australia at 22, taking off my insulin pump to avoid revealing any trace of diabetes while at the beach or going out with friends. Even after meeting my husband in Australia, we dated for a whole year before I finally opened up to him about my diabetes. Why? Fear. I was terrified of people treating me differently or rejecting me because of my condition.

Opening Up and Breaking Stigma

However, I gradually learned that opening up about my diabetes was liberating. Sharing my condition allowed me to build deeper connections with people who now understood my journey. Breaking the stigma surrounding diabetes became a personal mission. Educating others about what diabetes is and isn't helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin.

"I found that actually opening up to others about my diabetes did me much more help."

The Confidence Struggle

Confidence was another battle. I often convinced myself that I couldn't do certain things because of diabetes. I vividly recall a moment when I watched my friends run the Chicago marathon and cried, "I wish I could, but I can't because of diabetes." It was my husband who helped changed my perspective. He looked me in the eye and said, "Yes, you can." From that moment, I decided to prove my inner doubts wrong. I went from mini-runs to half marathons and, eventually, completed a full marathon. Diabetes didn't define my limits anymore. It showed me that I was capable of achieving anything with proper training and diabetes management. Now, I continue to set small goals and nurture ambitions to help reshape my mindset about diabetes, rather than feeling a sense of defeat.

Taking on Diabetes Burnout

Then there's the relentless stress of managing diabetes – those days when it feels like you're trying everything, but your glucose levels are playing hard to get. That's when diabetes burnout can sneak in. It's like a dark cloud that affects not only your numbers but also rains on your mental state.

For me, taking time to rest my mind and shift my focus became good mental therapy. I discovered mindfulness through activities like cycling, yoga, and meditation. Dancing at sunrise, swimming in the wild Atlantic, and keeping a gratitude journal at night became my go-to activities against burnout. Taking breaks from the constant monitoring can be anything at all - as long as it redirects your energy and brings a sense of peace to your mind.

Your Mental Health Matters

Now, more than ever, I want to emphasise that mental health is a right, and it's crucial to share your experiences. Speak up about your diabetes journey, seek the help you need, and advocate for the support that makes life with diabetes more manageable. Whether it's access to diabetes technology or therapy services, your mental health deserves attention.

Let your mental health be heard, acknowledged, and celebrated.

So, as we celebrate World Mental Health Day 2023, remember that my journey with diabetes is just one example of how embracing emotional wellbeing can change your life. Acceptance, breaking stigma, building confidence, overcoming diabetes burnout, and sharing your experiences are all part of this journey. Managing your mental health isn't just a side note; it's a vital part of thriving with diabetes. Let's make sure our voices are heard, our mental health is acknowledged, and it's celebrated as the universal human right it truly is. 🌟

Speaking out about mental health and diabetes and access to diabetes technology
Speaking out about diabetes


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