Gary McClain, PhD, is a therapist, patient advocate, and writer who specializes in helping clients—as well as their family members and professional caregivers—deal with the emotional impact of chronic and life-threatening illnesses.
"I’m newly diagnosed, and ever since my diagnosis, I’ve been depressed moody and tired. Why is this, and what can I do to fix it?" You’re newly-diagnosed, so your mind is still wrapping itself around what living with diabetes is going to mean for you. Human beings don’t do well with uncertainty and change, and that’s what a medical diagnosis like diabetes brings into our lives. “Why me?” “How am I going to deal with this?” “What does my future look like?” All those questions can leave you feeling emotionally drained, depressed, moody, and tired.
Let yourself feel how you feel
First, I want to reassure you that it is normal to have all kinds of feelings come up when you are first diagnosed. The way to fix yourself is to not fix yourself, if that makes sense. In other words, to let yourself feel how you feel—the good, the bad, the ugly. After all, they’re just feelings.
I also encourage you to have a safe place to talk about what’s going on in your life, with people who can listen without judging and, yes, without trying to fix you. Talk is healing, it helps our minds to integrate the new diagnosis and to see not only the limitations but also the possibilities. Face the road ahead with optimism. Are you getting support from friends or family members? You might also think about meeting with a counselor who can help you to gain additional perspective on this new chapter in your life and to learn some new coping skills. Support is power.
Still, your use of the word depression raised the concern with me that you may be feeling kind of helpless and hopeless right now. It’s also not uncommon for individuals with diabetes to experience depression. What you call moodiness and fatigue can be symptoms of depression that might require treatment from a mental health professional. If these symptoms persist more than a couple of weeks, or if you are having trouble functioning day to day, then this would be something to bring up with your doctor. Also keep in mind that blood sugar levels can affect emotions, as well as cause fatigue. Another reason to talk to your doctor. And remember: You are not alone! Stay in touch with your friends on Diabetic Connect!
"I’m so frustrated with my diabetes. I feel like I start to lose weight and then end up gaining some back due to stress. How do I combat the cravings I get when I’m stressed?"
Using food as a way of coping and feeling powerless leads to more stress. Food is a temporary fix for stress but, as you have experienced, the effects of overeating can lead to more stress when you feel your weight getting out of control.
So, a few questions to consider: Is there something you can do to reduce the stress in your life? Are you trying to do too much when other people could be pitching in? Do you have aspects of your life like finances that you need some advice in managing? Are there people you could be reaching out to for emotional support? In other words, are you making your health a priority, saying no when you can, and asking for help? Start by taking a close look at the stressors in your life and, one by one, see what you can do to reduce them.
One of the main causes of stress is expectations: the belief that things shouldn’t be the way they are. So while you’re at it, ask yourself what you can control and what you can’t control. Waging an internal battle with yourself just leads to more stress. Think of it this way: One of the keys to happiness is accepting life on life’s terms. Look at where you do have control, starting with: Managing your diabetic self-care. Keeping unhealthy food out of reach and, if you live with others, ask them to support you on this. If you don’t yet have a diet that works with your preferences and lifestyle, talk to a dietician or a diabetes educator and get some advice. Also, learn some new ways to manage your stress, and reduce the cravings, by distracting yourself. Take walks. Find a new hobby. Build some relaxation into the day. Talking with someone who can listen without judgment can help a lot. You’ve got wise mentors right here on Diabetic Connect, so stay connected with us.