The importance of mental health when managing a chronic condition

5
minute read
April 24, 2023
A type 2 diabetic grandmother, enjoying her time with her family.
Note: Image for illustration only. It does not show the author of this story. Photo credit - Yan Krukau.

Let me tell you about my amazing grandmother, who faced her medical condition with remarkable determination and grit!

The start of her journey

At 40, my grandmother was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. But she didn’t let this health upheaval discourage her. Instead, she took charge of her health like a boss and transformed her lifestyle, adopting a healthy diet, cutting back on sugary foods, and exercising moderately.

Her unwavering commitment to her well-being paid off, and her health improved significantly.

However, life had other plans for my lovely grandmother, and she experienced a major setback when my grandfather passed away from sudden cardiac arrest. The shock of losing her life partner took a toll on her mental health, causing her to neglect her diet and physical activity. Subsequently, her blood sugar levels spiralled out of control, and she was hospitalised.

Managing her blood sugar levels was an uphill task, and her doctors recommended she take insulin injections twice a day.

Those strenuous days of physical and mental turmoil were tough. But she battled bravely through them and even sought professional counselling to deal with her grief and loss. Slowly but surely, she overcame the emotional trauma of losing my grandfather.

And after a few days, her sugar levels returned to normal, and the doctors advised her to stop the insulin injections.

After the hospital

My grandma is an absolute powerhouse and refused to become a victim of her medical condition. After returning home, and with renewed determination, she restarted a healthy diet (under the watchful guidance of a certified dietician) and began basic exercises to maintain her health and fitness.

Becoming an inspiration

My grandmother’s story has had a profound impact on me – It’s taught me that taking control of your health is crucial, regardless of your medical condition.

She also showed me how vital it is to be proactive in seeking information and resources to effectively manage your health. That when life throws us a curveball, with the right mindset and approach we can muster our strength and overcome anything.

And her unwavering spirit in managing her diabetes inspired me to take my health seriously, too.

So, let's all take a page out of my grandma's book, and embrace a healthy lifestyle with full vigour! After all, our bodies are our temples, and we must do everything in our power to safeguard them. With a little bit of determination, and a lot of grit, we can conquer any obstacle that comes our way.

Final thoughts: The importance of mental health, self-care and education

One of my biggest takeaways from my grandmother's experience is how important it is to take care of your mental health while managing a chronic condition. Watching her navigate the challenges of her condition wasn’t easy, but it was inspiring. She approached her diagnosis with an unwavering spirit, determined to maintain her quality of life. She didn’t let her struggles define her – She used them as an opportunity to grow and learn.

Dealing with a chronic condition is hard. And while it takes a physical toll, it can also be emotionally taxing. But my grandmother took a holistic approach to her health. She recognised that her mental well-being directly impacted her physical health too.

That’s why she never hesitated to see support from her family and healthcare team. Whether it was talking through her fears and anxieties, or simply having someone to listen to her, she leaned on those around her for strength and encouragement. And it made all the difference.

Another valuable lesson my grandmother taught me was the importance of self-care. Even when she was at her busiest and most stressed, she always made time for the little things that brought her joy; a quiet walk in the park, a cup of tea with a friend, or a good book. She recognised that taking care of herself was necessary not only for managing her diabetes, but also for living a fulfilling life.

Because self-care isn’t just a buzzword; it’s an essential aspect of living a healthy and fulfilling life. To sustain ourselves, we need to incorporate healthy habits into our daily routine (such as keeping stress levels low, getting regular exercise, and taking time to rest and recharge). And to take care of others, we must first take care of ourselves.

In our fast-paced, hyper-connected world, it can be all too easy to neglect our mental and physical well-being. But my grandmother's example reminds me that self-care is not a luxury; it's an absolute necessity. And by prioritising it, we can not only better manage our conditions, but also lead happier and more fulfilling lives.

Finally, my grandmother's journey also highlighted to me the importance of educating yourself about your condition. She had to adapt her entire lifestyle, change her diet, and incorporate basic exercises to manage her diabetes. And to achieve that, she needed to have the right information about her medical condition – Only then could she make informed decisions about our health and what she needed.

Today, my grandmother’s the epitome of perseverance, strength, and courage. Despite the numerous challenges that life has thrown her way, she never allowed her medical condition to limit her life. Instead, she fought back with her head held high, overcame all obstacles, and emerged victorious – an absolute hero in every sense of the word!

I’m grateful for the lessons she’s given me, and the incredible example she’s set. Through her story, I’ve learned that no matter what life throws at me, I can always rise above it, emerging stronger and more resilient than ever.

Graphic of a female profile picture.
Ayesha Fatima
Editor's note: The opinions and experiences reflected in stories from the diabetic community belong to the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of InDiabetes.

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