Thoughts on diabetes and mental health

By | 24 April, 2018

Friend of Shoot Up and regular contributor Rohan talks about his mental health and how it interacts with his diabetes. Just a warning that Rohan is very frank and this article does contain references to depression, self-harm and suicide. You’ll know whether reading further is best for you or not. -Tim

I have been thinking a fair bit recently, and over the last few years, about how diabetes management interacts with mental health issues. I’ve been having issues with both, and have finally put thoughts into words. I feel that a warning is required, as this discussion of the interplay between my depression and diabetes includes several suicidal phases and self harm. Disordered eating may also feature, although I have discussed that before.

I’m also going to gloss over a lot of detail on the interpersonal relationships, as while connected, it’s not relevant. You can ask if you really want to know!

I’ve been a type-1 diabetic for 10 years now – having been diagnosed a month before my 21st birthday makes it easy to keep track of the slow yet inevitable march of time. I’ve had numerous flirtings with The Darkness (no, not the band, the euphemism for depression popularised by John Robins, do keep up!), but always under that crucial two-week period beyond which it is considered a problem.

That changed early in 2015 – arguably it was probably before that, but as so often with these things, it took someone else to point out to me that something was clearly up.

I was fortunate to be in the process of getting my first insulin pump, and was due a session with the clinical psychology team for acceptance therapy (which apparently I should have had at diagnosis, but the problems of knowing what help you’re supposed to get is a whole other subject). This meant that I was already booked into getting some help before I got too deep into the Darkness. The process of getting the pump was also a really useful short-medium term goal to keep me focused. Once that was over (successfully, yay!) in the summer, however, things took a significant downward turn.

I hit a real low, with pretty much ;

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on diabetes and mental health

  1. Tim

    Thanks Rohan for writing about your depression so openly and frankly. As I allude to above, it’s so important to talk about mental health graphically and without recourse to euphemism if we’re to take it seriously.

  2. Alison

    Wow Rohan. Thank you for such a brilliantly honest piece of writing. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.

    I’ve never been in your situation. But aspects of it are very familiar. After several miscarriages I needed some help. The waiting list for NHS treatment was months, and I needed to speak to someone now. I was lucky because my husband took control of sorting it all out (because I knew I had a problem but didn’t have the ability to do anything about it). My employer had an arrangement with a company who provided counselling over the phone that day, and face to face the next week. For me, just talking to someone really helped. Along with some CBT (supported by someone who was strict with me – I know exactly what you mean). It still disturbs me that without the support of my family and employer, I’d have been in a much worse place.

    Your point about not having the spare brain capacity to worry about insulin carb ratios is such an important one. I’m always banging on about patients needing to have choice and control etc. But this is where it becomes so important to understand you’re treating an individual. Diabetes can’t be isolated from everything else that is going on. And if the mind isn’t working properly, managing diabetes becomes a whole new level of difficult. We need support in place to help people through that, in a timely fashion.

    Thank you for sharing and best of luck with everything.


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