In a recent post, I discussed my experience with depression. Here I want to think about how depression may impact attempts to make the lifestyle changes appropriate to dealing with diabetes.
- When I'm depressed, I tend to feel a serious lack of energy. Exercise seems like it requires an investment of "oomph" that I don't have, like asking a family in poverty to contribute to a savings account. An excellent idea, but it just feels impossible. (Ironically, research has shown - and my experience confirms - that exercise is a powerful treatment for depression.)
- When I'm depressed, the way I normally do things feels like survival strategy. I suppose that most people have habits they fall back on during tough times. For me, that involves climbing in bed and grabbing a crossword, a computer game, a favorite book -- anything that allows me to turn off my stupid brain. (I'm fortunate - no, make that blessed - that I never got into drugs or alcohol: I don't think it would be pretty.) I'll hide away like that for the whole evening, or even the whole weekend. This strategy does nothing to help me feel better, or to take care of my diabetes -- but the pull of this practice when things are crazy is very, very strong. And the strong pull of the old tricks makes it that much harder to try out "new tricks" such as exercise, meditation, reading positive literature, and finding new activities.
- When I'm depressed, medical appointments and even testing feel like judgments on my character, on my value as a person, that I just can't face. (Yes, I know this is absurd. That doesn't help.) Not getting regular medical appointments means that I'm not getting the information I need, and maybe not even the tools I need, to better control my diabetes.
So, for me, part of lifestyle change includes learning some New Tricks when it comes to dealing with depression. Not an easy thing.