Sunday, 31 July 2016

Depression, Complications and Diabetes: Seeing the signs

It's hard to pinpoint when or where it began but it's been creeping in for some time, and the feeling is all too familiar.  There is so much in my life to be grateful for; a wonderful family, a beautiful, healthy daughter, a good job and cosy home. I go on holidays and have had a rare, precious opportunity to spend more than a year at home with my kiddo before returning to work, something people all over the world would give their left arm for.   But when the early days of depression begin, it is rarely because of dwelling on what you lack. It is a complicated issue made murkier by the swings and roundabouts of blood sugars and diabetes complications.

I spent days Googling 'Post Natal Depression', confused that I felt none of the typical symptoms, but well aware that something wasn't right.  I felt deeply connected with my child, and although I relished  (good God, did I RELISH) the moments I had away from her for a break, I couldn't wait to hold her again and make absurdly disgusting fart noises just to see her smile. I was also in the 'easiest' phase of parenting so far, when she sleeps through the night and is predictable in routine in the day.  I was finally drinking hot coffee again, the house was tidy and I could indulge in whatever evening TV I wanted, with little chance of interruption.  But despite being unable to connect my feelings with being a few months postpartum, my mood was low: correction, is low.

To the outside world I still smiled and joked.  I gushed about maternity leave and posted happy pictures on Facebook, but inside my head was whirring full of emotions fuelled by blood sugar mayhem and fears about the future.

The earliest place I could pinpoint as the beginning was visiting the Opthamologist's office, being told that they believed my Maculopathy may be developing, and further tests were needed.  I guess they have told people this a thousand times, but for me it was a first.  Casually talking about my sight like it was a sandwich I might miss out on eating, we discussed treatment and risks like they were no big deal.  Blindness and amputation have always been my greatest diabetes fears, and hearing the words out loud, looking over to my daughter sleeping peacefully in her pushchair, my mind was spinning thinking how much I would stand to miss out on; how much I wouldn't see.

Each morning I wake with a jump as the two - now three - trigger fingers jammed shut on hand, horribly shocking and a painful way to start the day.  The only relief being an operation.  That to follow the two carpal tunnel operations I have already had and the double tendinitis which needed shots and still remains in one hand.  Pain is a powerful beast.

Add to that infected Dexcom site which may, or may not, still have a piece of sensor stuck inside  my leg since May which was viewed by five different medical professionals over five separate visits, before someone had to take my hand and tell me it would be OK, as my eyes filled with tears of terror and defeat.  Eventually someone prescribed me antibiotics. It took a visit to the ER and a million tearful 'thank yous', before someone took my hand.

The pain in my left foot, like walking on a stone, may or may not be a diabetes nerve complication.  It's hard to tell given that nerve endings are tricky things to look at.  But it makes even the most wonderful walk a painful affair.  Pain is a powerful beast.

In recent months I have had so much to feel joyful for, but even the most joyful moments have been dulled by the constant aches and pains of the complications which everyone tells me are 'just a part of diabetes'.  The drip-drip-drip of complications, pain and medical mysteries has left me feeling just a little broken, at a time in my life when most women talk about how pregnancy and labour made them 'think they can do anything', I feel nothing but all the things I can't do.   

"There is always someone worse off than you," Is a mantra I've tried to tell myself, but in the moments I spend trying to get out of bed without bending my fingers because they will snap shut with excruciating pain, or the moments where the GP sends me on my way telling me to lose weight, without investigating any of the issues further, I find it hard to take a whole breath.

I don't know if I am depressed.  But I do know that I am a person with diabetes coming to terms with the possibility of permanent chronic pain from repeated inflammation issues. I am the mother of a baby trying to get my head around the fact that my eyes might not keep going forever.  I am the 33 year-old who has to take each step down the stairs one at a time in the morning because her foot, and swollen joints feel particularly painful today. I am 'the diabetic' gasping of thirst because her postpartum tiredness meant she slept through the 'HIGH' alarm on her Dexcom, the Dexcom she currently resents because of the sensor-might-not-be-sensor still stuck in her leg.

I am human.  And part of being human is that I am feeling ever so completely 'diabetic', right now.  As though that is the biggest part of me. Maybe the only part - the rest having been chipped away by a disease I can't escape. I am afraid.  And that's OK to say.

I don't know what the future will hold, but I know that endorphins and 'saying it out loud' can only serve to help.  Small goals at the gym, spending time outside and perhaps re-immersing myself in the community I have turned away from will help.  

For now, it's just one day at a time.

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