Blog

R U OK?

Today is R U OK day; very timely considering the currently environment we’re in. Melbourne has been facing various stages of lockdown restrictions since April. Our economy has taken a massive hit with people all around losing their jobs, feeling enormous pressures at work or facing uncertain futures. Social connections are surviving through online channels, if at all. Combined, it’s not surprising that many of our mental health states are currently quite fragile.

I have been feeling really isolated since working from home and not being able to visit family. There are days where I’m grateful for the uninterrupted quietness and other times the silence becomes deafening. I’ve learned to be more forward and open about sharing when I’m not coping. But as the days draw on, I’m finding myself turning my camera off to hide during meetings, becoming more withdrawn from conversations, getting teary over little things and that little voice in my head that says “I can’t do this” keeps getting louder.

A friend asked me what I was going to do to manage this and it was nice to talk about the actionable things that I could work on to get me out of this rut. My solutions were to:

  • Schedule days off and actually take them (i.e. not respond to emails; work on my side gigs that I enjoy; be more relaxed in my routine etc.)
  • Look at my work schedule and be realistic with what I can actually accomplish within my contracted hours
  • Chase the sun! Go for a walks while the sun is still out to get some Vitamin D.
  • Have a shower everyday! It’s my favourite way to unwind before bed, so I’m committing to it.
  • Listen to my body; when I need to rest, I will rest. Even if it’s just a 15 minute power nap. Naps are the most underrated things that exist.
  • Schedule things that I look forward to during the week. This could be scheduling a day off, a night for takeaway, a movie night (without multitasking on the laptop), heading to the nearby lake for a walk with pastries in hand.

Obviously I didn’t list all of these to my poor friend. But some of these are things that can be so easily overlooked; like ensuring you keep up with some physical activity, personal and sleep hygiene etc. It’s easy for these to slip away from the radar when things get muddy and your motivation is low.

So in this year’s R U OK day, I’d like to encourage you, not just to ask a friend if they’re okay, but to ask and be honest with yourself about how you’re doing. You are worth looking after. You deserve to be happy. And you are in the best position to make that happen for yourself.

Not sure where to start? Head to the R U OK website here: https://www.ruok.org.au/

They also have a list of more specific support services depending on the situation here: https://www.ruok.org.au/findhelp

You got this. I’ve got this. We can do this.

My Diabetes Inklings

Celebrating 10 Years of the ACBRD

Recently the Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes (ACBRD) celebrated their 10th anniversary. I was honoured to be invited to share what this significant milestone meant for me as a person living with diabetes at their webinar event. The more I reflected on this, the more I realised the enormous ripple effect that research on the psychosocial, emotional and mental wellbeing of diabetes has on the diabetes community.

The focus on diabetes management has often been focused on the clinical aspect of it. Only in the past few years have we really started being more vocal and inclusive of the psychosocial, emotional and mental aspects of living with diabetes day to day. Diabetes advocacy has played a big role in getting this recognised. At the same time, clinicians are also more likely to now take this more seriously due to the published research in this area. it really shouldn’t take research to get clinicians to listen, acknowledge or validate the experiences of people living with the condition. But we will take all the help we can get.

Most importantly, the growing research in this area provides hope for me; hope that we will keep fighting the stigma associated with diabetes. And that this will ensure we receive the same care, empathy and compassion by clinicians and others as those facing other conditions such as cancer. Even if all of this research leads to a conversation, getting people to start thinking about how they talk about diabetes and to people with diabetes will make a difference. The emerging research also boosts my self-confidence to advocate for my own medical needs when I speak with my healthcare team.

As a researcher, recognition for psychosocial, emotional and mental wellbeing research in diabetes further highlights the importance of my own work and advocacy around peer support for people with diabetes in Australia. In return, the research is translated into the work that Diabetes Victoria, Diabetes Australia and the NDSS does for people with diabetes. Talk about impact!

While there is still a long way to go in this area with lots of topics to explore, it’s important to celebrate the achievements that have been done to date. So a massive thank you to the ACBRD for all the work that you’ve accomplished so far. I can’t wait to see the exciting new research coming out from your centre and be part of that. To find out more about the ACBRD, check out their website here and don’t forget to read their 10 year report for a summary of their work up till this milestone.

My Diabetes Inklings

Finding Your Tribe

Peer support is a tricky and funny thing within the diabetes community. It exists in various forms; in person meetings, casual catch ups, to online forums and organised tweetchats. Peer support holds different meaning for each person. Some people I’ve spoken to think it’s unnecessary, many sing their praises and others see it as this dangerous or obnoxious underground club.

Being an introvert I struggle to talk with others in person, which is why I thrive in an online space. Having space and time to think about my responses without someone staring at you takes a lot of pressure off! I especially loved our OzDOC tweetchats with guided questions and the ability to hear different perspective on a particular topic. It was self-contained and easy to manage.

Discussion forums are my favourite place to lurk and learn. But they’re also a dangerous place for my mental health. Over the years, I’ve found myself being more frustrated than supported in these forums. Partly due to the horror stories people share of being treated so poorly by healthcare professionals, or the self-centred nature of people with their inability to look past their own noses and have empathy towards others. Especially when it comes to the infighting between the different types of diabetes. I had to step away from many of these forums as it put me in such a negative space.

Yet from these various online peer support platforms, I have met some of my closest friends to date. While we share the same connection of living with diabetes, I realised that I needed more than that to build a friendship. The most valuable question I have learned to ask myself is whether I would still hang out with these people even if we didn’t have diabetes. Yes, it’s great to have someone to vent to about a broken pancreas. But it’s easier to do this with someone I trust and value rather than airing it out in public. And I think part of this has evolved over time as my career developed and I prioritised my privacy.

Finding my own support network has been an endless case of trial and error with tears, heartache and self-doubt involved. But peer support is still the most valuable part of my diabetes management. When I talk about peer support, my biggest advice is always to approach it with an open mind and heart (easier said than done!). It’s akin to finding your own diabetes care team. Sometimes it takes a few tries before you find the right fit for you. At the end of the day though, it’s all worth it to find those precious gems of people you just click with.