T Minus Two Type Two Diabetes and Other Passions


A Different Kind of Advocacy

Those of us who blog about living with diabetes have - as a group, anyway - a number of goals. We hope to make connections with people in similar situations who may be feeling alone or incapable. We hope to raise awareness outside of our community. We hope to use group action to influence media and government.
Sometimes, though, we're writing to our community - to each other. Much of my writing has been aimed at explaining Type 2 diabetes, particularly its progressive nature and the resulting vast diversity in individual situations, to the larger Diabetes Online Community. Others work to help the community understand life with particular complications or with the combination of diabetes and other health conditions.
Like diabetes, clinical depression can be difficult to understand for those who don't experience it. It's hard for those who've not been there to understand the full impact of the combination of emotional and physiological symptoms that go so far beyond sadness. Those of us who do experience it need the company of those who "get it", and we also need those closest to us to know that we're not making it up or that we just need to 'snap out of it'.
Why is this a community issue at all? Isn't emotional health a personal issue? The fact is this: depression is deeply corrosive to individual diabetes care. When we're depressed,we may not feel that self-care is worth the effort, we may lack the energy for our daily routines, and the planning and calculations involved may be too much for temporarily-diminished mental capacity. Like community awareness, like health care policy, like economic access to medicine and supplies, depression is an issue we as a community must be aware of and concerned about.
Depression has an enormous impact on our community. While I've seen no surveys, it seems to me that the percentage of diabetes bloggers and tweeters who struggle with it must be very large. Yet, though open discussion of it is growing, there is still a need for a different kind of advocacy:
  • We need community members who experience depression to know that they're not alone
  • We need community members who have these symptoms but have never been diagnosed to recognize that what they're experiencing may be something that's happening TO them rather than something they're causing.
  • Though decisions about what, if any help to seek are very personal, people with depressive symptoms need to know that there are options.
  • We need our "Type Awesomes" (family members of people with diabetes) to have enough awareness to perhaps recognize depression in those they love.

Depression and other mental and emotional conditions still carry stigma, and not everyone who have them are going to feel it's appropriate to be open about them. No one should blog on this subject if they're not comfortable. But those who DO feel comfortable in discussing their experiences can benefit others by doing so. When I finally - after more than 20 years of episodes - saw a psychiatrist, the best thing - the freeing and exalting thing - about that first meeting was that the strangeness my life had become made sense to him.  To a lesser degree, I've found the same comfort in reading posts by others who experience depression.

There's also work to be done by those who advocate outside of our community. We are just beginning to see health providers and organizations show awareness of the potential emotional impact of our disease.   But much more needs to be done in this area.

Depression matters. Be aware.

This post is my February entry in the DSMA Blog Carnival.  If you’d like to participate too, you can get all of the information at http://diabetessocmed.com/2012/february-dsma-blog-carnival/.

Filed under: Mental Health 6 Comments

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