Don’t ever think that you are a failure, or a bad person for what happens with your diabetes and especially your mental health. It is easy to feel broken when part of your body does not work, when you have to deal with the fact that something has gone wrong and will never be the same. On the outside other people might not know how much you are struggling, or that you have struggled in the past. In point of fact, I have personally been at the bottom of a pit before in my life. As a teenager and later, after major depression and panic attacks, it even got so bad that I wanted to leave this earth….. Things can get so bad that you can not see a way out, but there is always a little piece of light somewhere if you look for it. Noticing that crack of light is the most important thing. Try to get out of your head and notice the world around you.
When I was 16 I felt like I was worthless, lost and unlovable. I carried so much guilt about my behaviour, making up my blood glucose graphs, not taking all of my insulin, eating whatever, my drinking and smoking. I felt so broken and so different to everyone else in the small country town where I grew up due to my type 1 diabetes. I wanted to become part of the “other” people around me, those who seemed to have better lives than I did. I tried to forget about diabetes.
All of this led me to enter into a relationship where I was abused, physically and mentally. It was a very difficult, damaging and frightening time. Later, when I was recovering from all of this, I realised that I had been a scared, lost young woman, who had done absolutely nothing wrong. Later in my life, after post-natal depression and then post traumatic stress from the work I was doing (I had my life threatened and witnessed terrible child abuse in my social work role), I slipped into a very dark place indeed. I was virtually housebound and could not even do the shopping or go to the hairdresser without anxiety and panic attacks. At that time I had a 2 year old and was engaged to be married. My first panic attack in a major department store was so embarrasing, frightening and made me feel even more trapped in my life. The worst was probably when I was 20 weeks pregnant with my second child at a football match and I experienced blindness from a panic attack. As my husband led me out of the grounds, I literally saw only white…I guess this is where the term “blind panic” comes from.
Here I sit, many years later, a mum to 3 wonderful sons, a wife, a confident business woman and academic, who has achieved so much in my life. I continue to develop and grow, to do new things and have new experiences. I laugh often. I deal with crap days with diabetes and bad patches with my health. I have down days where it all seems too hard. I have many days and little moments where I experience great joy. The little cracks of light in my life when I needed to climb out of the darkness were my children, my husband and my family. The reasons to hang onto life were far stronger than those pushing me to leave. I know it is not always this way. People do leave this earth way too early. Noticing that you are something, that you matter and there are so many parts to life can help. Recognising that we all have cracks and that there is even a glimmer of hope, can help you return to the light in your life.
The things that helped me to move through these times included:
- love from family and friends
- having someone else to care for and be responsible for
- medication for a time
- mindfulness and positive visualisation learned in therapy
- permission to need this time to deal with it all
- music, writing poetry and journals, and
Anxiety is still part of my life, but it is something I am aware of and can manage and reduce. Sometimes it pushes me around still, but I no longer feel worthless and I have not wanted to leave this earth for a very very long time. Quite the opposite, I hold onto it, eat it up, experience as much of it as I possibly can. Life is a treasure and it is the perfection in the imperfection that makes it so. There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in. If you know someone who seems lost, please reach out your hand to them as sometimes it can be very hard to climb up yourself – be their lighthouse. And be sure to talk about these troubles before you get to that place if you can, because even in the deepest hole of hopelessness there is a crack of light. Helen
With thanks to the wonderful Mr Leonard Cohen