GE insulin, Hypoglycaemia and Depression – A Connection?
Stress, Anxiety and Depression
GE insulin, Hypoglycaemia and Depression – A Connection?
A Personal Experience
Colleen Fuller, Canada
Two weeks ago I switched to pork insulin, and there are two main changes in myself that I’ve noticed. The first is that I haven’t had diarrhea for the first time in 3 years. That might not be associated with the insulin – and it’s only been the last several days, but I notice it, and I’m watching. I know that diarrhea can be a complication of diabetes, but I never had experienced it on an on-going basis until I began using GE insulin, and now it seems to be changing.
The second big thing is that my mind is energized. I just don’t know how else to explain it. When I switched to Humulin in 1996 I experienced six comas in a period of about one month and was hypoglycaemic most of the time for about six or seven months. My behaviour definitely did change and the one who felt the brunt of it was my husband. I became extremely aggressive and I also began accusing him of trying to control me and disempower me. This was based on one simple fact: I had no control! I could no longer tell when I was hypoglycaemic, but John, my husband, often could at that time. By the time I began showing symptoms I was long gone and helpless. So John would say “You need some orange juice” and I would begin screaming at him: “how would you know, you’re not a diabetic”. I was terrible, even telling him on several occasions how much I hated him. It was awful, awful, awful and I was miserable.
I began seeing a psychiatrist in 1997 and she diagnosed me with clinical depression. There was a lot in my own past that also came up during this time, including an ex who had committed suicide in 1974. But as I look back on it now, my view of this period is changing. One of the things I complained to the psychiatrist about was my inability to focus on anything. I was finishing a book, but I was really struggling with it. She said that was a symptom of depression. The doctor linked my depression to consistent hypoglycaemia. At that time I had depleted any reserves of glucose in my body – next to nothing in my muscles, organs or brain. This, she said, affected the seretonin levels in my body. Ergo: depression. The answer? Zoloft. No one recommended I stop taking GE insulin. But for a long time I refused to take an anti-depressant. I just didn’t want to take any more drugs – I couldn’t handle it. GE insulin was enough!
By then after blood tests showed that no, I wasn’t miraculously producing my own insulin and that was not the reason for the problems I was having – my endocrinologist wanted to switch me to Humalog and to an insulin pump. You have to understand that I was desperate, and also I now believe that my brain wasn’t functioning properly – otherwise I would have began insisting on being switched back to animal insulin. (I unquestioningly accepted that I “couldn’t” take it any longer because it was being withdrawn – something completely out of character. I didn’t even research the subject, and research is what I do for a living.)
Anyway, I did accept his advice and switched to Humalog and to the pump. After two days on the pump I was still hypoglycaemic all the time. I remember sitting at the table in our dining room all alone, in tears. I felt overwhelmed with diabetes and I thought “my life used to be more than this”.
Diabetes had always been there, but it had never dominated my life – my life was made up of other things like love and work. My logic then proceeded like this: I don’t want this life, but is there another life for me? Is it this life or no life? I felt there was no other life, and that I would forever more be poking my fingers every 30 minutes and chugging apple juice, waking up surrounded by paramedics and that I would lose my autonomy and independence. I wanted to die – I don’t know if I wanted to commit suicide, but I definitely didn’t want to live my life any longer.
I didn’t tell my husband I was feeling this way, but when I saw my psychiatrist I told her and she seemed upset, and really insisted that I begin taking the Zoloft. So I did, because I was upset, too. Suicide was something I’d had to deal with in the past, and so it frightened me to think of myself veering in that direction. She also counselled me to give the Humalog and the pump a chance. These things all probably helped me: the Zoloft, my psychiatrist and the insulin pump, not to mention my family and my husband.
Then about six months ago I began to experience this inability to concentrate or to focus on anything. I don’t know exactly how else to describe it. But I’d stopped seeing the psychiatrist by then, and I’d been off the Zoloft for a while. I didn’t want to get back into that routine, I guess I just wanted to get on with my life. So I ignored it. But it got worse and worse, and ultimately this is what forced me to finally switch back to pork insulin. I’d been reading quite a lot about GE insulin and its possible link to depression in some people. I could feel myself moving in that direction again, mainly, I think, because of this focus thing. I can’t write when I can’t focus. I’d been missing deadlines during this period, which is really terrible.
Lo and behold! I have been more productive in the last week than I have been for months. It might have nothing to do with the insulin, but that’s the only thing that’s changed for me. I feel energetic and very, very focused.
Perhaps that sounds all airy-fairy, but it’s how I feel. When I told my endocrinologist, who I credit with saving my life and who I greatly admire and like, that I wanted to switch back to pork, he was surprised. He didn’t even know animal insulins were still available. But he said the only important thing is how I feel. My blood sugars have always been excellent, both on animal insulin and on GE insulin – except during that bad period when my HbA1C’s were extraordinarily low. (That’s when they began testing me for endogenous insulin.) So, he said, as long as my overall control is good, he himself is not wedded to the GE insulin. “I’m not a salesman for the drug industry,” he said.So there’s my story with insulin and depression. I’d never been depressed before I went on to GE insulin, or at least I’d never been diagnosed with it. I feel that by switching back to pork insulin I’ve been able to avoid taking an anti-depressant. I feel better and more energetic and more focused. I should also just add that the other night I woke up sweating and hypoglycaemic. I was so happy! This hasn’t happened for quite a long while. I trotted downstairs and gulped down a glass of orange juice!
I will never, ever go back to taking GE insulin.