Diabetes management – mental health is equally important!
8 min reading time
Diabetes management – Mental health is equally important
Who this story is about?
The Dianurse Team presents Wiesje, a type 1 diabetic. She created earlier in 2019 an Instagram account with a major objective to become part of the diabetes communities, to learn more about diabetes, and to share her lessons learned. Wiesje loves posting about her life with diabetes and interacting with other diabetics spreading kindness and positivity. She considers herself very lucky to have been born in Europe where healthcare is organized relatively well. Wiesje was kind to share episodes from her diabetes journey with our readers.
First diabetes experience
Dianurse: For how long do you suffer from diabetes? Wiesje: I have had type 1 diabetes since August 2011, so I’ve had it for over 8 years now.
Dianurse: How did you realize it? How did you start your diabetes journey? Wiesje: I was on a holiday with my family and that’s when we realized there was something wrong with me. My family members had commented on my significant weight loss and what could have caused it. I also remember drinking a lot and having to go to the bathroom every 10 minutes. I would drink a 0.5L water bottle in just a few minutes. When we would go to the beach it would feel like I couldn’t walk anymore I was just too tired to do anything. I felt physically weak like I could collapse any minute. Once we got home we went to the doctors immediately. They checked my blood sugar which was 27 (so way too high). I went to the ER after that. They did some tests and sent me to the “diabetes department” of the hospital where I met my endo.
Dianurse: Did you know what diabetes was and how to act with it? Wiesje: When I was told I had type 1 diabetes I had no idea what it was. I knew it was bad and life-changing but I had no idea what would happen to me. The first week was really hectic and not fun at all. My mother had to inject me (because I wasn’t ready to do it myself yet) and I had a lot of panic attacks. I’m still so grateful for how much patience my mom and the rest of my family had with me. There were times where my mom would have to sit down with me for 2 hours until I finally told her she could do it. The first few months were definitely heavy for me and my surroundings.
About biggest fears …
Dianurse: What were your biggest fears at that time? Wiesje: My biggest fears at the time were not actually about me, but about my family. I was so afraid that my family would get depressed because they had a sick child/sister. I hated seeing them cry because it made me realize that my life would never be the same. Another fear I had (mainly the first week) was that I would not be able to live a long and fulfilling life. Then there are things like needles and everything else that we as diabetics have to do. I hated needles and I couldn’t imagine ever being okay with injecting myself and being different in general.
How to manage diabetes
Dianurse: What’s the best way to manage diabetes, based on your experience? Wiesje: The best way to manage diabetes doesn’t exist in my opinion. Everybody is different. I know some people who go low because of exercise and some people that don’t or sometimes even get high. Some essential things for managing diabetes well would be counting carbs and making sure you think ahead when you’re going to exercise. Another thing that’s really important in my opinion is your mental state. If you’re feeling depressed or unstable managing diabetes is even harder than it normally already is. Taking care of yourself and giving yourself time to unwind every once in a while is so important. When I feel down I overthink and can’t get anything done including anything related to diabetes. Us diabetics are constantly working on taking care of our bodies that our mental state may look less important but over the years I’ve found out that it’s not. So my advice about managing diabetes would definitely be to not forget your mental health!
Dianurse: Tell us more about your lifestyle, diet, and fitness/sport activities? Wiesje: I would say my lifestyle is pretty average. In the summertime I love to exercise a lot, I will go out to take long walks in my neighborhood or cycle wherever I want to go. In the wintertime I don’t do as much because I don’t feel as energetic as I do in the summer. The cold weather makes my blood sugars out of range. Which is why I still try to take walks and be as active as possible! Last summer I also tried working out a few times a week but my blood sugars went crazy so I stopped for a while to get back on track with my blood sugars again. My diet isn’t too crazy either. I try to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables and not too much white bread and dairy. I used to just eat whatever but then I decided that I wanted to test out what effect certain foods had on my blood sugars and mental state that’s when I realized that white bread (and some other foods) really spiked my blood sugar which caused me to feel sick. That doesn’t mean I really cut them out for good or avoid them completely. I just try to eat the foods that are good for my health in general.
Dianurse: What is your favorite dish and why? Wiesje: I don’t really have a favorite dish if I’m being completely honest. Over the past year, I’ve started eating healthier and I’ve started to love vegetables a lot more than I used to. I know a lot of people don’t like it but spinach and broccoli are definitely high on the list of my favorite foods. They are filling and don’t make your blood sugar spike. Same for soup!
Dianurse: What would be the best/most effective way to keep your blood sugar in the healthy range, again based on your experience? Wiesje: As I said before I think the best way to keep your blood sugar in the range is different for everyone. Certain foods may affect you differently than they affect me. Same for exercise and jobs/school. I think every diabetic needs to just try different things to find out what works for them!
About diabetes and technology
Dianurse: Technology is rapidly penetrating healthcare. There are literally thousands of apps capable to track vital signs of humans, or simply data loggers (carbs, blood glucose, etc.). What would be the added value of these technology advances for diabetics? How technology can help diabetics to effectively control their diabetes? Wiesje: I think this also depends on personal preferences. I don’t use a lot of data loggers because I can track my blood sugars by putting them in my pump and for counting carbs I usually just write it down. I do think the internet and these apps can be and are very helpful in controlling our blood sugars. We are just a few clicks away from knowing how much carbs are in the foods and drinks we consume. Besides we can connect with others via social media and other sites on the internet where we can share our experiences and give each other tips on how to manage diabetes.
Dianurse: What do you think about the constant connectivity that tele-health app brings to both diabetics and healthcare providers? Wiesje: I had never heard about tele-health apps before, so I have no experience with them and how effective they are. I stay in touch with my healthcare professional via email (and real -life check-ups of course), but I think it could be really good for some people to be able to have a constant connection with healthcare providers. The professionals will be able to help their patients faster which will help the patients to be in range.
Dianurse: How can you inspire others to take better care of themselves and their diabetes? Wiesje: There are many ways to inspire others. Being kind and making others feel good will not give them energy but in my experience, it will also give you energy. I personally love to go on Instagram to talk to other diabetics, write positive messages and spread kindness. It helps me and I hope it helps others to feel good about life and about themselves. I want people to feel motivated to take care of themselves and truly accept themselves for who they are. I hope that by spreading positive messages to people in my situation I get to help them realize that by taking care of yourself you can reach any goal. After all, being happy should be the goal which will make it all worth it.
Monica is a marketing maanger at Dianurse and a blogger.