I'm a diabetic (insert duh! smiley here). I've already shared my health in regards to my Islets of Langerhans, the glucose uptake of my muscle cells, and my liver cells impairing my glycogen synthesis. It's because of this, I feel compelled to talk about my mental health as well. Many people are too embarrassed to talk about their mental health, with friends and family, and even with medical professionals. Your mental health is just as important as your cardiovascular health, or any other human system. In fact, your mental can have a direct impact on everything from blood-pressure to glucose levels in your body.
The bottom line is that we've created a stigma about mental health, that needs to be changed. Talking to your doctor about your mental health should be the same as talking to your doctor about your diabetes. Now, I'm not going to go all Dr. Drew on you, as I do find certain aspects of psychology to be questionable, but I have none of those questions about psychiatry.
The brain operates using an extremely complex set of chemicals and electrical signals that work as part of the nervous system. As a diabetic you already know that interruptions of chemical signals and the chemical balance in the digestive system can cause diabetes. When the signaling and chemistry of the nervous system is interrupted, it can have a negative affect on your brain.
Just as insulin can restore the chemical balance in your digestive system, mental health medications can restore that balance in the nervous system.
One of the most common psychiatric disorders is depression. There are many different types of depression caused many different things. As a diabetic you may suffer from anxiety related to your diabetes. Many of us would simply point out the diabetes itself as the stressor, however this can lead to more problems than it's worth. In many cases brain chemistry plays a key factor into how those stressors affect you. Correcting that brain chemistry may temper the anxiety you feel about diabetes, and in turn allow you to move foward.
In my case, my mental health journey began some time after leaving the military, but before I was diagnosed with diabetes. As more and more time went by, I became more and more depressed, and started doing less and less activity, even leaving the house less and less. Eventually I would get sick to my stomach and completely nervous about leaving the house at all. At this point I entered into an agreement with my parents about seeking psychiatric care. There is a history of mental illness in my family, and their concerns for my overall well being were quite justified.
As part of our agreement, my father found a psychiatrist, set up an appointment, and my mother attended that appointment with me. After speaking with the doctor for almost an hour, we came up with a plan, that included an extremely low dose of the medication Zoloft. In fact, it was much lower than most guidelines call for. The reasons were to come later. Many, many of my visits with this doctor have involved great discussion on brain physiology, what parts of the brain affect/effect what, sleep patterns and the effects of medication on these parts of the brain, how the higher doses of medication were not useful and why such a small dose was. Fast foward to today, where I'm on an extremely low dose of Depakote, and quite happy. Today going out somewhere doesn't stress me out at all, and the only thing that slows the immediacy of me heading out the door is trying to find my meter and insulin.
Much like diabetes that goes untreated and can cause further damage to digestive system, untreated psychiatric disorders can cause further damage to the nervous system. In each case it becomes harder to get the bodies chemistry and signals working properly and can cause further health problems.
Talk to your doctor about your mental health. There is nothing to be embarrassed about.
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