Depression, Alcohol and the Night I Almost Died


When I think about the last 13 years of having type 1 diabetes, I think of all the life experiences I’ve had and all the lessons I’ve had to endure. It’s forced me to grow up and have responsibilities since the young age of 12, that many do not have to deal with on a daily basis. I’m honestly grateful that I’m alive today. I’m not a person with diabetes that’s always made the right decisions when it comes to my health and have had to learn the hard way in many instances.

Diabetes hasn’t left me with much room for mistakes. It takes a lot of sacrifice, planning and hard work. Unlike many, I grew up with a lack of family support. My family never took the time to understand my diabetes, educate themselves, or really seek the help that I needed. Now that I’m older, I realize that I can’t hold onto that resentment anymore. This is my responsibility and this is my life. But thinking back, there were so many times when I felt like giving up and throwing in the towel. My teenage years and up until young adolescence, I was completely lost.

I’ve dealt with depression the majority of my life. I’m accustomed to it now; I’ve learned ways to cope. I don’t think diabetes is completely to blame, but it has a lot to do with it. I used to feel sorry for myself and how I couldn’t relate to my peers. I wasn’t able to open up and let people in on knowing this part of my life that I had difficulty in managing. My family, my friends, everyone I knew was frustrated that I wouldn’t listen and fix the problem. Knowing what I know now, I realize that I’m the only person who can turn my life around. Diabetes affects everyone involved, but it’s the person with diabetes who has to take control for herself.

Years ago, when I was becoming an adult with the new ability to drink, I abused alcohol to cope with my emotions. It was my way of avoiding the reality of my life, not wanting to accept the one thing that I couldn’t change. I think admitting now that I had these faults is kind of nerve wracking as well as life changing. The hardest part of this disease for me is having the courage to speak up and share my story.

The biggest “diabetic incident” was when I was 22. One morning after a night of drinking alcohol, I went into the kitchen to take my long acting insulin (pen) and ended up mistakenly taking fast acting. I wasn’t aware what I had done at first, but when I had laid back down for a little bit, I started sweating profusely and knew then that I must have taken the wrong insulin. I went back into the kitchen to grab something quick, but I was dazed and confused. I was unable to concentrate on what I was doing. My boyfriend at the time (now husband) came into the kitchen to see what I was doing. He tried talking to me, but I wouldn’t respond.

I then ended up having a grand mal seizure. Thankfully, my husband was there to grab me and not let me fall. I seized in his arms, and he yelled for his mother to call 911. The next thing I remember is waking up in the emergency room. I don’t remember having a seizure—all I knew is that I was left with an injured tongue from biting down too hard. I’m lucky that I’m alive today; I could have gone into a coma—or worse—died.

Today, I’m a mother of three littles ones. My children saved my life. I’ve completely changed my life for the better; I’m 26 and finishing pursuing my education. I workout and I eat healthier. I’ve recently gotten involved in the diabetes online community as well. I created and blog at The Diabetic Journey, where I share my journey living with diabetes. My whole purpose in doing this is to let others know that they’re not alone. I’ve been through the ringer, and I’ve made it out alive. I count my blessings every day. I definitely believe I have a guardian angel. I have a purpose in this life, and I’m going to do all that is in my power to fulfill it.

It’s important for me to raise awareness for mental health. For those that battle with this disease every day. I want to create a community where others can express their thoughts and emotions without judgement. Because of the lack of support I had growing up, I want to help others have that. Every journey is unique and different. Every story and every voice should be heard. I want to make a difference in this world, and I hope am.

Read more on Depression and It’s Relationship to Type 1  and How Diabetes Impacts Your Mental Health by Dr. Mark Heyman

WRITTEN BY Brittany Gilleland, POSTED 05/23/16, UPDATED 09/27/22

Brittany Gilleland is a person with type 1 diabetes for over 13 years, since the age of 12. She’s a military wife, mother and blogger at The Diabetic Journey. She’s a beach girl living in the mountains currently. In her spare time, she likes going for a run and spending time outdoors. She aspires to raise awareness for diabetes and to help others with support and inspiration. Follow her on Twitter @thediabjourney or Instagram @thediabeticjourney.