This hasn't exactly been the coldest, darkest winter on record, but neverthless, it can be a difficult time of year to stay upbeat — especially when your blood sugar levels seem to be unresponsive to all your daily efforts. Ugh. This month, the DSMA (Diabetes Social Media Advocacy) Blog Carnival is focusing on Diabetes in the Winter:
What can we do to help stop depression from hitting our community during the winter months?
I'm not sure that Allison and I have any concrete answers, but we are glad to share our personal perspectives on the subject:
Amy's Take -
We all deal with depression and frustration differently. I love this month's DSMA topic, because it forced me to step outside myself to attempt to examine my own coping mechanisms.
Who remembers the movie Broadcast News? How Holly Hunter's character is hard-working and hard-hitting, but every once in a while, she unplugs the phone and breaks down in a good solid crying jag. That's her coping mechanism. I realized that I function much the same way. I can "soldier through" even the worst days, when I rush to the gym after dropping all three kids off at school, desperate for a workout that I feel I don't really have time for, only to have my OmniPod rip off my shoulder and start a bleeding gusher in my husband's car. Grrr. Or when my "go-to" bag of diabetes backups gets left at home somehow, and BOTH my pump and CGM sensor poop out on me right before lunch, when I'm hungry and cranky to begin with. Or worst of all, when my BG numbers are all over the map (mostly #@$%! high) for days on end, and I cannot for the life of me figure out where the problem lies (expired insulin? poor carb counting? a kinked cannula? an oncoming cold? who knows?!)
I can make it through those days, and still complete my work, pick up the kids on time, make the dinner, clean it up, and do three loads of laundry before bed. Most times.
Then every once in a while it all catches up with me, and I burst into tears, that sometimes last a whole day. I suppose I should be embarrassed about this, but I refuse to apologize. We work hard to make the best of life with diabetes, but the truth is, lots of times it's just crap.
I've found that I need to just let it all out. Have that cry. Then take a hot bath, or go get my nails done, or go for a long walk outdoors where it's pretty.
I've found that I can't allow myself to think too long-term: I do get frightened by the notion of how my body may be damaged by this disease, and overwhelmed by the thought of fussing with carb counting, finger pricks and injections for DECADES to come. Those are not happy thoughts. So instead I hone in on the little day-to-day victories, like finishing a workout at 102 mg/dL, or getting my A1C down from where it was last time.
Of course winter makes it harder. Grey skies make me feel melancholy. I think it's more important than ever during the winter months to connect, connect, connect with all our DOC friends for commiseration and cheering each other on.
Staying physically active is the No. 1 "sanity saver" for me; I try to take as many aerobics and spin classes as I can, and get out for a run the minute the sun makes an appearance. I even signed up for a 10K in January — the first one I've done in about 10 years, and it felt great. The endorphins are addictive. They make me wonder what all that crying was about.
Does my body react differently to insulin when it is colder? Perhaps. Another variable to my unexplained highs conundrum! I shall wrestle to understand this, by the usual method of trial and error. I shall soldier through. And when I get really frustrated, excuse me if I don't answer the phone for a bit, while I'm out having a good cry.
Allison's Take -
I have dealt with Seasonal Affective Disorder since I was in high school. It is a pretty common occurrence for the inhabitants of the Pacific Northwest. Four straight months of gray, rainy weather? It's enough to drive even the happiest-go-lucky person mad. For me, stress, sadness and depression have always done a number on my blood sugars, not only directly through hormonal changes, but also indirectly through lack of energy and lack of interest in managing my diabetes. When you get into a funk where everything feels gloomy and pointless, it can be difficult to summon the willpower to check your blood sugar for the umpteenth time.
Over the years, I've figured a few things that help me cope during the winter blues, and also the rest of the year because frankly, diabetes doesn't take summers off either! Here are three of my "top tips," so to speak:
1) Spending time with friends. It's easy to stay holed up at home during the cold, blustery months and have no contact with anyone. That's why I've found the DOC to be especially invaluable. While I love to spend in-real-life time with my fellow PWDs during the summer months (at the many industry conferences and events), there is usually a void of activity in the winter. Twitter, Facebook, commenting on blogs, and even the occasional Gchat. Of course, in person meet-ups are even better, and it can be refreshing motivation to spend a little time venting and griping!
2) Spending time outside. In Oregon, a sunny day was rare, but blue skies are much more common here in New York, despite the freezing temperatures. Despite that, I also know that spending time outside, getting what little Vitamin D is provided, can actually boost my spirits significantly. As long as I dress warmly, a nice walk in town to get some fresh air and exercise really does wonders for me.
3. Admitting when your problem is serious and get the help you need. Sometimes you just can't just "sleep it off" or "think happy thoughts." Sometimes depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder or what-have-you can cause serious problems. If your depression is getting in the way of you living your life, if you find it persisting day after day, and you see no sign of relief, then it's probably time to seek professional help. There is nothing shameful about seeking counseling. I have been in therapy before, and it has done wonders for helping me get out of circular thought patterns.
This post is our February entry in the DSMA Blog Carnival. If you'd like to participate too, you can get all of the information here.