Bouncing Back and Moving Forward—Diabetes Burnout
When I woke up one morning and I was unable to even get out of bed, I knew I needed help. I was expected to work and I had bills to pay, but carrying on with normal life seemed so impossible. And on top of all that, I felt pathetic and embarrassed for feeling that way.
The day before, I had indulged in a 10-hour binge-eating episode which lead to a blood sugar rollercoaster and a debilitating episode of depression—not to mention a painful, swollen belly. I’m not talking about a normal person overeating at Thanksgiving; I am talking about a mismanaged disease.
I am a person with type 1 diabetes and have been living with the illness for 16 years. When I had my binge-eating episode, I was 28 and had been successfully managing my diabetes for half of my life. As I look back, I can see I was experiencing what I call a “diabetic mid-life crisis.” I was drowning in my depression, but it forced me to wake me up to the realization that my diabetes is never going away and I have to learn to cope with it in a healthy way.
But the thought of it all was just exhausting. I was burned out. I didn’t know “diabetes burnout” was an official term, and I wasn’t even sure that my diabetes was to blame. I sought counseling and quickly got back on my feet.
Then I looked back on my journey…
I had struggled to maintain my own healthy balance amid a severe shortage of resources for type 1s. In my desperate moment lying in bed that morning, I wished that someone had been there to listen to me—to truly understand my disease and all the ways it impacts my body and my life. I needed someone to ask me to be honest about my fears and challenges. I needed someone to inspire me to be healthy, and to hold me accountable to my own dreams.
I thought about how well I manage my diabetes and yet “diabetes burnout” still got to me:
“There have to be more people like me—people living with chronic disease who don’t realize that they are susceptible to developing depression and other mental health issues. There must be people with type 1 diabetes out there seeking help but don’t feel completely understood. Where are all the counselors, psychologists and coaches with type 1 diabetes? What can I do to help?”
Not long after, I set out to fill that void for my fellow type 1s. I enrolled in Duke’s Integrative Health Coaching Professional Training Program, and upon my graduation, I started Ginkgo—Integrative Health Coaching. I also organize a local MeetUp group for adult type 1s and their partners. Both of these initiatives continue to grow and affirm the need for intuitive support.
For me, I chose to go into coaching rather than counseling because of the forward movement coaching inspires. As health coaches we sometimes touch on issues of the past, but we do so to help launch us forward. I knew where I was and where I wanted to be, but I was struggling to find my way there. That is what coaching does—it helps you look at where you are and where you want to be and empowers you to make it happen.
No one can argue that people with type 1 diabetes don’t have a lot to handle. We are constantly adapting, and we have no choice but to be our own physicians on a minute-by-minute basis. And that requires more discipline than anyone is born to handle; it has to be developed. We may be healthy mentally, but when you tack on a disease that won’t give you break, ever—Yeah, anyone would go crazy. Anyone would get tired. Anyone would want to give up. But you don’t have to give up— there IS help out there.
Sometimes we can’t do it on our own, and that’s okay. We all need a little help every now and then. I don’t want other type 1s to go through the same lonely experiences I did.
We all need a hand to hold from time to time, and I’m offering mine.
Other important reading on Diabetes Burnout and Depression: