Why Going to Therapy is Giving Yourself the Chance You Deserve
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Growing up, you may constantly hear how important taking care of your physical health is. But mental health is often overlooked. Today, mental health is recognized as a more critical part of overall wellbeing. Still, there are stigmas surrounding it that need to be addressed.
Some people hesitate to go to therapy because they believe it’s only for rich people or that they don’t “need” it because they should be able to work through challenges independently. There is also a stigma that you have to be “broken” to go to therapy, but that’s just not true! Preventative mental health care is just as important as preventative physical health care.
Beyond Type 1 sat down with Nicole “Nikki” Antonian, a member of the type 2 diabetes community, to talk about some of these stigmas and the benefits of therapy.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
BT1: Hi, Nicole. As a person who is integrated in the type 2 diabetes community, we’d love your take on therapy, the stigmas and hesitations surrounding it and why it’s an important mental health tool. Before we dive in, can you start by introducing yourself to our readers?
Nikki: I live in Los Angeles, and I’m a type 2 diabetic. I’ve been type 2 for almost 10 years now. It’s been about nine and a half—July is my big 10, and yeah, it’s been a struggle. I’m a survivor of pancreatitis twice, sepsis and ketoacidosis. I’ve been through it all. Mental health plays a huge part in all of it.
How has being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes impacted your mental health?
It’s impacted it more than anyone will realize because there are incredibly dark days where you just say: “Why can’t I be like everybody else? Why do I have to constantly be watching everything?”
“Why can’t I just be a normal human being with no issues?”
And those thoughts take you to a really dark place. Then those dark thoughts make you binge-eat. I think a lot of diabetics deal with this because we’re so restrictive.
Binge-eating is filling a void or a control. It’s an aspect of control that we think we have, but it ends up becoming the one thing we can’t control at all. So being a diabetic, it goes hand-in-hand with mental health and stress. Like with blood sugar, you can be doing everything right, you can be exercising and not eating sugar, but your blood sugar will be 200.
If you’re not feeling well, or you’re stressed with work, or you’re just having one of those days where your body feels super lethargic. It’s not always because of eating a piece of candy— it’s because you’re stressed out. So definitely, mental health ties in perfectly.
Have you ever gone to therapy?
I sure have! I’ve been to an eating disorder therapist. I actually did develop bulimia, but not the throw-up or vomiting purge kind—it was abusing laxatives, which is absolutely a form of purging, and not a lot of people know that.
I didn’t actually know that until I went to the hospital the first time with pancreatitis. I actually was evaluated by a psychiatrist because they thought I ate myself into suicide. Like, they thought I was trying to commit suicide by overeating, because the pancreatitis came from really high triglycerides. When I say high, I mean like, I was in the thousands. Thousands—those are bad.
They had to evaluate me to make sure I was okay, and when I was being honest and just explaining what I was going through and why I was so stressed, she was like, “Well, it actually sounds like you might be bulimic because you were abusing laxatives,” and I’m like, “Oh, okay.”
So that was a very scary reality too.
What was the turning point that pushed you to seek therapy? I know many people might get that recommendation, but don’t follow through. What made you decide to follow through?
I think I was just really terrified of the fact that I got so sick, and they told me 100 times that: “You really shouldn’t be alive right now because of how high your numbers were. Your pancreas was going to explode,” and that’s really scary.
The fact that it happened twice, and it was for the same reasons. I was great, everything was perfect, and then I fell off again and ate again and got it a second time. I had neglected going to therapy because I was like, “I’m fine now, we figured it out,” but I realized that therapy was the key to holding me together. So even after the second time, my driving force behind keeping therapy was that fear of death.
I can’t let this happen again. I kept saying, “I’m a cat with nine lives, now I’ve got seven,” and then I got COVID and I said I have six. It was the desire and urge to live and keep living. That’s what kept me going. And I think having it a second time was really that wakeup call of telling myself: “Oh, you’re not invincible, you got to stick to it.”
There are often physical and financial barriers for people to seek the help and resources they need, whether we’re talking about going to therapy or simply affording insulin. Were there any barriers for you to actually go to therapy?
No, not that I could remember. It was pretty easy, and once I got it in my head that I was ready to go, I was ready to go and was very open to it. The only barrier that came up later was me. I thought, “I have the tools now, and I know what the triggers are and I know how to fix it,” but then it came back.
I wouldn’t say there were barriers to start, it was more like once I stopped therapy I had to make the decision to go back.
How do you see therapy now compared to before?
I always thought, and I think a lot of people are like this, where they think, “if I could just get my life in order in this way I will be happier.”
“If I can have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, I’ll be happier.”
“If I can get a new house, or a new job, I’ll be happier.”
A lot of people assume that. But then when they actually go to therapy, start understanding the science behind it all, and start unraveling all the tools and pieces and fit everything together, it’s so different than just getting another job, or moving to a new town.
I did all of those things. I got a partner, a new job, I got new this, new that and yes, I’m much happier and healthier. But I still wouldn’t be able to be as successful as I am now at managing my diabetes and having this “great life” without the tools that I learned from my therapist.
She helped me realize why it was that I was going after all that candy, chips and carbs and why I went to those instead of relying on exercise and healthier eating. Those tools are just invaluable, so it changed my perspective a lot.
Aside from therapy, are there other ways that you take care of your mental health?
Yeah, crafts. I love doing crafty stuff. I also love running. I’m not great at it, but I do it. It makes me feel better, and also helps with the blood sugar levels so it’s like, why wouldn’t I do that?
If someone is debating whether they should go to therapy, what advice do you have for them?
I would say, weigh all of your options in terms of: “Is this something I can take on financially?” If yes, then do it. Open your mind to learning more about yourself and how your mind and body work, and just give yourself the chance you deserve.
That’s what I would say—give yourself the chance you deserve.
Educational content related to mental health therapy is made possible with support from BetterHelp. Thank you to BetterHelp for offering everyone in our community two free therapy sessions. Learn more at BetterHelp.com/BeyondType1.
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