Guest Blog: Mindy Chats Mental Health and Chronic Illness

Editor’s Note: My good friend, Mindy Bartleson, joins Very Light, No Sugar in this guest blog to discuss mental health, chronic illness, and her upcoming work. Thank you to Mindy for saying what is sometimes difficult to put into words.  It matters to many of us, and I can’t wait to read more from you in the future!

 

From Mindy:

Whether you live with a mental health diagnosis or not, mental health plays a significant role in life and chronic illness, like diabetes. But it isn’t the first thing that is focused on- or at all. Why is it often ignored? Or discounted?

 

Over the years I’ve seen how chronic illness and mental health impact each other. I have type 1 diabetes, but there are also a lot of other things going on in my life, including anxiety, OCD, and ADHD.

 

I often hear that message is it must be diabetes distress. That these emotions and possible diagnoses are only because someone has diabetes. Yes. This might be the case, but it isn’t always so. Diabetes is used as the easy answer- the quick way out- and this causes things to be missed- like a diagnosis or how to cope.

 

It’s a lot easier to cope and figure out ways to manage things when you know what’s going on. When I was diagnosed with anxiety, I realized how much of it played into my life growing up. I was told that I had grown accustomed to it. That it was my normal. I honestly cannot say if there was ever pre-anxiety. I was always a high strung and worried kid- even before the diabetes. The moment I went on medication, I realized that it had made a lot of things more difficult.

 

Sometimes my mental health impacts my diabetes- if I get anxious or stressed, my blood sugars typically go higher. If I cry, my blood sugar spikes. Then if I’m more stressed, my OCD plays out in my diabetes management. If I’m above the 200’s, I obsessively want to check my blood sugar every 20 minutes (even with a CGM). Then sometimes, if my blood sugar is high or low, it impacts my mental health too. A low blood sugar makes my ADHD more obvious- I’m more scattered. High blood sugars make me more anxious.

 

When my blood sugars aren’t in target or the issues from PCOS and endometriosis arrive, it becomes more difficult to manage my mental illnesses. It’s hard to appear like there isn’t a lot going on in my head. I cannot hide it.

 

But my mental health isn’t always about my diabetes- sometimes it is- sometimes it isn’t. The same goes for my diabetes. It’s hard to distinguish between the two, but the go to shouldn’t be to attribute everything to diabetes- it could be that, but it could also be something else. Like my blog focuses on, there’s always more to the story. It’s not just one thing- it’s often many things going on.

 

This is a major reason why I decided to take on a project.

 

You see, I’ve written a book, and I’m pursuing self-publishing. It’s about coming of age with chronic illness and mental health. I want to balance the positive with the negative of life experiences with honesty. I’ve always wanted to be an author, but to be perfectly honest, I never saw myself writing this type of book. Since I’m self-publishing, I also decided to use crowdfunding to make this dream a reality.

 
Mindy is self-publishing an honest book about growing up with chronic illness and mental health. She wrote the content before rose colored glasses impacted her experiences too much. To help this book get published, you can visit the crowdfunding page to learn more, back her project, and help spread the word. You can also follow Mindy on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and her blog “There’s More to the Story”.

 

 

 

Advertisements

“Control”

I’m not the first one- and I certainly won’t be the last one- to say that in the context of any chronic disease, the term  “control” needs to be replaced by “giving it your all.”  Our choice of words affects how we emotionally-process the inevitable rises and falls of everyday life with a health condition.  We cannot simply throw a lasso around a chronic disease and call it a day, so let’s make a concerted effort as patients, health care professionals, and most importantly, human beings, to honor the effort that it takes to live with chronic disease through our choice of words.

 

diabetes coaster

“My doctor is showing up, so I probably should be, too.”

A friend- let’s call her Kayla- made this comment in a grad class we are taking together this month in regards to her former interactions with a doctor.  As a teenager, Kayla was understandably a bit defiant in terms of complying with her physician’s advice.  Weren’t we all?  But one day she had an epiphany: What was the point of attending the appointments if she was not willing to be open, honest, and determined in the process of seeking care?  “My doctor is showing up, so I probably should be, too,” Kayla realized.  She changed her outlook and told the doctor her concerns while soaking up his recommendations, taking baby steps until she was comfortable to set more progressive goals along the road to getting better.

The class laughed and we all nodded our heads in agreement.  We can go to the doctor multiple times a month to get bandages placed on our respective health maladies, but this is only temporary relief for pain and suffering that is long-term in nature if it involves chronic illness.  We must not simply “show up” with our physical presences, but also with our attitudes.

I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow and I hope to carry Kayla’s mantra with me.  I want to “show up” with my “game face” on, ready to tackle the issues.  My doctor is strong for me every time I seek her help, so I must, in turn, be brave when making the adjustments she suggests.

Thank you to everyone who offered words of support during my rough day yesterday.  Unfortunately, those days happen more often than I would like for various uncontrollable reasons.  Chronic illness is like trying to stop a leaky faucet by clogging it with a piece of Swiss cheese.  When you fix one spot, another issue can always arise.  My pump site is working well today, but my allergies might cause my liver to release sugar and my blood glucose levels to increase, for example.  Alas, it is a new day and I am thankful that the diabetic online community understands what I mean.

Enjoy the rest of your weekends.  Here’s to a week of good health for everyone.