Saturday, March 30, 2013

Diabetes, Depression and Dogs

It is well known in the literature that diabetics have a high rate of depression.  I think part of it comes from finding out you have a chronic disease that you will have to deal with every day for the rest of your life.  Or perhaps decide to ignore until it gets so bad you can't ignore it. Part is the ignorance with which other people deal with diabetics. I have had people tell me well you only have yourself to blame. And others try to help but their lack of information makes it painful.  Saying oh, having one piece of cake won't kill you is in fact not true.  There is a calculation that takes place whenever I am presented with sugar. I have to ask myself:

  • What was my blood sugar this morning?
  • What was it when I last checked?
  • How many carbs did I eat for (insert meal here)?
  • What else have I eaten - have I had enough protein to offset it?
  • Do I need to go take some more insulin?
But the last question is the most important - is it worth it?  Now a $20 chocolate mousse at a French restaurant may be worth it.  Or it may not depending on whether I'd rather have something later on.  And sometimes you figure I've had very few carbs, I'm hungry and my sugar is getting low - let's go for it.  But there is a ton of thinking and tradeoffs involved.  And I don't say it to anyone because honestly - who'd want to listen?  Yes, it can be depressing.

And some days you just think - I just don't feel like being a diabetic today.  But when you go and eat what you want you can end up sick to your stomach, nauseous, etc, etc - again - depressing.

So what do dogs have to do with it?  Well, a lot. 

First off, a dog needs to be taken care of no matter what mood you are in. And taking 2-3 walks a day, getting out in the fresh air, and burning off calories and carbs does elevate your mood.

Sunlight is a great counter to depression - it is why many people in the great white north buy special lights so they can overcome that winter depression.

But most important - dogs help you create a new "social" network that gives you actual human contact.  Diabetes and depression can make you feel isolated but I am finding that  Bizz has expanded my network tremendously in the last week.  We have our friends at obedience class, we have the people that I chat with at the dog park - yes you are talking about your dog and their's but you are bonding over the shared issue of not liking big dogs jumping on your little one and where the other cool dog parks are in the area.  And there are the people I have met in my neighborhood. Just this week I have met three other women - all walking their dogs and have ended up exchanging emails and phone numbers so we can set up walking dates.

My favorite story is what happened the other night. Bizz and i headed out on our walk. I've taken to listening to music in one ear as we walk. I have a set of walking playlists on my iphone that help keep me energized while Bizz bounces along.  Not sure if he enjoys my singing but he doesn't howl. Anyway, my phone rang and it was my friend Marina. Her car had broken down not too far away so Bizz and i walked over.  As we stood chatting a woman came along with her dog - Lily.  Bizz and Lily are close in size and once Marina was squared away with the tow truck Lily's mom and i headed off to her house so the dogs could have a leashless play date. The two dogs romped for over and hour together - and had a ball. They raced, jumped, groomed each other - it was adorbable. And Lily's mom and I got to just sit and chat about the world at large. It was lovely. And yes, we are getting together again soon to set up our next play date.

Overcoming the feeling of isolation you can get with diabetes is huge and Bizz has made it so I am feeling much more connected in my neighborhood. 

Here is Bizz walking with one of his new buddy's and him napping after his 3 mile hike today.

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