For some reason lately I’ve been thinking about the similarities between diabetes and depression. I know that depression can be one of the complications of diabetes, but that is something I learned only when I did a little research about diabetes and isn’t what I want to share about these two diseases.
Caveat: I am not a doctor and this post is not intended as medical advice. It simply an observation that has been on my mind lately and is helpful for me in understanding my own challenges to keep depression at bay.
I do not have diabetes, but I do know people who do. Diabetes is a disease for which there is no “cure,” though there are treatments that can minimize the symptoms and complications that can arise from this disease. Some people with diabetes do a great job of taking such good care of themselves and following their doctor’s orders that they are virtually symptom free. You would never know they had diabetes unless they told you. I’ve known other diabetics who don’t follow doctor’s orders, and the outcome was terrible.
Dealing with diabetes is not an easy road. For people with Type 2 diabetes, a strict diet and exercise are a must, and monitoring blood sugar levels is essential. For people with Type 1 diabetes, insulin injections are also necessary because their bodies do not produce any of this necessary hormone. It is a lifelong affliction, the potential effects of which can be minimized but never forgotten or ignored.
I believe that for some people depression is similar to diabetes in that it is never cured. These people are prone to depression, and may have suffered through one or more episodes of major depression in their lives. From a statistical standpoint, a person who has had more than two major depressive episodes is highly likely to have another in their lifetime. But it isn’t inevitable that they will. Just as the symptoms of diabetes can be prevented or minimized with careful management, so the symptoms of depression can be prevented or minimized with proper care.
There are some people who, like the person with Type 1 diabetes, need medication to help keep them stable and to prevent major depression from setting in. (Though this may be a small percentage, just as Type 1 diabetes is much rarer than Type 2.) But everyone who struggles with depression can help prevent or minimize the effects of a relapse by taking steps to truly care of themselves. Diet and exercise can be part of this self-care, but for the person who lives with the knowledge of depression there is a mental and spiritual component of their self-care that goes beyond what is required of the diabetic.
Many years ago the doctor I was seeing told me I would be on antidepressants for the rest of my life. Having now been off them for 13 years and not suffered another major depressive episode in all that time, I think I can safely say she was wrong. But in the last few years I have come to understand that I am one of those people who cannot take for granted that depression is strictly a part of my past. It is forever a part of who I am and I must never forget the misery it has caused me and could cause me again if I do not take care of my mental and spiritual health.
For me, warding off a relapse of depression requires that I choose to engage in regular prayer time; to listen to music that is encouraging and uplifting, and avoid music that is depressing; to talk to a Christian friend if something is bothering me; to take a periodic inventory of my own actions and attitudes, and correct any that are negative; and to trust in the Holy Spirit to guide my thoughts, putting on the whole armor of God. When I do these things, I can live in such a way that others would never know that depression is a part of my life. But if I neglect these things for too long, I will soon detect the specter of depression looming in my heart and in my mind, and the outcome will be terrible.
Just as the diabetic can never forget that they have diabetes and neglect their diet and health regimen, I can never forget that depression is ever a part of me and neglect my mental and spiritual regimen. I must be ever vigilant and cling to Jesus as my Rock, trusting in His promises, and following His commands and precepts to love, forgive, and be content.