Men’s Perspectives: Type 1 Diabetes, Self-Care and Mental Health
Living with type 1 diabetes is sure to have its ups and downs and it’s not uncommon to occasionally experience negative feelings about having type 1 diabetes.
Maybe you’ve never been asked if type 1 diabetes is negatively affecting your mood or outlook, or if your diabetes management is impacted by feelings of worry, frustration, or hopelessness. But if they are, you’re far from alone.
In fact, the American Diabetes Association recommends a mental health provider be a part of every diabetes care team to address the mental and emotional components of diabetes management.
Despite the fact that these experiences are common, not all healthcare providers are equipped to address mood and anxiety as it relates to type 1 diabetes. The stigmas around mental health may hold you back from speaking up.
Men, particularly, face stigma around emotional needs due to beliefs that acknowledging your feelings is a sign of weakness. They are also less likely to access mental health care.
We asked men across the Beyond Type 1 community for their perspectives on self-care, peer connections and the role emotional support plays in their type 1 diabetes management.
How do you see the relationship between diabetes and mental health?
“I think mental health adds additional complexity for people with type 1 diabetes. The constant maintenance and day-in-day-out struggle of the disease present challenges for anyone—and mental health challenges for sure; emotional burnout, exhaustion. It’s been referenced as having a second job.”
“For men, especially, it presents challenges. Adult men, for better or worse, probably want to believe themselves as strong and vibrant and resilient and diabetes sometimes brings you to your knees.—Chris Nash, 48, from Chicago, Ill.
How has the emotional burden of type 1 diabetes manifested in your life?
“I would purposely forget my blood glucose monitor at home when I would go into my endocrinology appointments. I was scared of being lectured at—it was almost like getting a bad report card. Those appointments wouldn’t be nearly as helpful as they could be.”—Roy Collins, 30, Palo Alto, Calif.
“I thought I was going through this alone. I thought that nobody would understand because I didn’t know anybody with diabetes. You do a lot of self-blaming and you get away with a lot of self-loathing, and you’re feeling unmotivated and uninspired sometimes.
“I remember sitting down with my wife and I said, we need to make an appointment with an attorney to write a will because my life is going to be cut short because of this.” —Kris Leeper, 33, from Portland, Ore.
“I get into a roller coaster of highs and lows and I get in a really dark mood. People ask me, ‘Hey, you want to do this?’ No, I don’t want to do anything. I want to sit here and figure out why the hell my insulin doesn’t work. And everything else is too frustrating. Work becomes difficult. I’m an actor and writer, and writing anything becomes a total chore.” —Jim Turner, 69, from Los Angeles, Calif.
Having access to information and the support of others is empowering—it’s a great way to remember you aren’t alone. Expanding your support network, whether it’s family or friends, online communities, a therapist or a certified diabetes educator, can help manage stress and may even help improve your diabetes management plan.
How have you leaned on others to support you on your diabetes journey?
“I have a network of people living with the disease and we will meet on Zoom on a regular basis. A lot of good information is shared.
“I’ve also looked to encourage people on social media, where I get to connect with people and share my story and say, Hey, everything that you’re going through is okay.” —Kris Leeper
“I reached out on social media and asked: ‘Does anybody know a certified diabetes educator?’ which I’ve never had in my life and in 52 years with diabetes, and somebody reached out. It was easier to talk to her, I think, because she said ‘It’s kind of a crapshoot. I’m just going to throw some suggestions out there and you tell me how it works.’”—Jim Turner
How can mental health services and resources help with diabetes management?
“Having people within the mental health community that can speak to the unique challenges of this disease, the obsessive tendencies it inspires, the day-to-day mental burden of carb counting, I think is key.” —Chris Nash
Roy has an interesting perspective as both a person living with type 1 diabetes and a resident physician training in psychiatry. He’d like to see a collaborative approach to diabetes care:
“There may be interventions that are more like self-care, that are on the less severe, less urgent side that mental health providers can provide to the patient to help them to optimize their health and their ability to handle and manage their illness.
“I think there should be mental health providers in every endocrinology clinic because diabetes is something patients are going to deal with chronically. Mental health care and their ‘physical health’ are going to go in line.
They’re not going to be able to implement adjustments when they are feeling burnt out or when they’re feeling frustrated. It’s a big adjustment, for not only the patient but their families. Basic screening for mental illness and having someone on-site to be able to better help patients deal with all of the different considerations is vitally important.” —Roy Collins
Mental health tends to be a generalized term. There are many kinds of mental health challenges and concerns. Needs range in severity. If working with a professional will help to address your mental health needs, please seek out support.
Check out these resources on how to find mental health support:
- Just Diagnosed with Diabetes? Why and How to Find Mental Health Support
- The T1D Guide for Mental Health Providers
- American Diabetes Association: Mental Health Provider Directory
- How Diabetes Impacts Your Mental Health
Editor’s note: This content was made possible in part with support from Lilly, an active partner of Beyond Type 1 at the time of publication. Beyond Type 1 maintains full editorial control of all content published on our platforms.