Mindy Bartleson

@mindy-bartleson | contributor
Mindy was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes on March 8, 2000 when she was 7. She was officially diagnosed with ADHD, OCD, and anxiety when she was 22. It took over 10 years, but at 23 she was finally dia
Community Voices

When Your Darkest Moments are Tied to Your Period

It’s dark. It’s always dark no matter what time of day.
My music is turned up and my headphones are in so I can try to escape into the lyrics. I’m hunched against the door of the bathroom feeling the cool tile floor against my feet while I’m hugging my legs to my body trying to calm down. I’m trying to take deep breaths. It feels like everything is closing in around me and then collapsing. I’m collapsing with it, and I cannot stop the fall. I’m Alice, but I’m not going to wonderland. I’m fighting the tears… because once I start, I know I cannot stop. Everything is spilling over. All of my emotions are spilling over. All of the thoughts surrounding losing my dad, living with type 1 #Diabetes and all of the stigma, and the desire to run away from the small town I live in are swirling around in my head. I cannot pick one thing to focus on. It’s always an avalanche with everything at once.I just want to stifle it down like I know best- like I always do. I’m fighting the words inside my head telling me everything is crumbling around me- that I’m a failure- that everyone hates me- that I’m not worth it. These words keep adjusting and coming back, again and again. Eventually the tears escape and the sobbing shakes my entire body. I feel like I can’t breathe. I scream into a pillow to try to flush it all out. I don’t know how to make it stop. The decision to possibly reach out to someone in my life is in the form of a reminder from my cell phone inches away from me. Do I use it to reach out to someone? But who? I don’t want to scare anyone or ask to much of them or do something that pushes them away. In my mind this is what happens, and I cannot keep repeating it. Most moments I decide to leave the phone where it is and sit there with my own staggered breathing. Reminding myself that the countdown to college gets closer each day. That’s what gets me through it. That’s what I focus on. In my mind that’s what will make it all better. Not just a new environment which is the main focus, but the ability to take care of myself first and explore who I am away from the past and the box everyone tries to push me in. No one walking on eggshells around me anymore. No labels. No more judgement. Not feeling like I’m the only one in my situation or with my views. I’ll be free. I will be okay.

Growing up I’d call these “my freak outs”.
I didn’t have something to label them properly. I’d experience them on occasion (actually more than on occasion) throughout middle and high school, but I knew how to get out of them. I knew what to do. I could pull myself up from the bootstraps and power on- focusing on something I could control or try to control which was often my type 1 diabetes. I would focus on the future. I would focus on doing my best. It could be exhausting and take a while, but I’d do it. I’d come back up and keep pushing forward.But there would be times when a freak out was inconsolable. Where I couldn’t bring myself back easily. I couldn’t get out of them easily. I’d fall asleep eventually after I exhausted all of the emotions out of my system and with the sound of the TV on in the background to keep myself focused on something other than the thoughts in my head. I’d wake up exhausted and drained, but I’d carry on.I wasn’t tracking when these would happen. #MentalHealthblogmoretothestory.com/2016/05/03/mentalhealth-diabetes-how-taboo. The stigma everywhere and from everyone was countless. The fear that this would be what would break me if I was truly honest with anyone. The fear that I’d get caught and found out. Bullet journals weren’t a concept I would learn about and embrace until my mid-twenties and use them to track my mental health and chronic illnesses. I wouldn’t pay any mind to them really. I would blame myself. I’d keep it to myself. I’d try to forget it ever happened. I’d tell myself I was overreacting and had no reason.

I’d wake up in the morning like nothing had happened.
If it happened in the middle of the day, I’d pull myself together and pretend like I hadn’t just had a meltdown. I took “fake it, ‘till you make it” to the extreme. I was lucky in a way. Evidence of tears were only apparent with makeup. On the days I felt more fragile, I’d skip the makeup that day.

I thought this was just a part of life. I thought that I was weak, Why couldn’t I get it together? What was wrong with me?
I didn’t know how to cope. I didn’t want to learn how to cope at the time, but I was also in survival mode. I didn’t have the head space or the actual time to cope. I had too much to do. The countdown I zeroed in on did make all of the difference in the end, but not just for the reasons I focused on at the time. The countdown of graduation and college.

My light at the end of the tunnel.
blogmoretothestory.com/2016/05/04/it-makes-me-strong-not-weakI was ready for it. I had been forced into counseling situations before, but I wasn’t ready- they weren’t people I clicked with- and I lied. It wasn’t when I needed it as a kid, but when I did need it- it was nowhere to be found, and I would be treated like it was too late. Another part of it was affordability and finding something that worked for me. Finding that in a small town in the south with a #ChronicIllness was not easy- especially when finances played a factor. So in college, I entered counseling with a ready mindset and a grant to pay for services at the counseling center on campus for those in need. I finally grieved the loss of my dad and worked on looking at past relationships and how to go from there. I went to group therapy- to learn that maybe there’s at least someone who can understand at least a bit of me.

I started embracing the importance of mental health through my experiences and studying social work.
I dived into self-care after several hiccups. Although the freak outs were less frequent, I would still have major ones. I would get discouraged and think I was leaping backwards.

I always felt like a fraud.
Well there was something “wrong” with me. But it was something- well things- out of my control. And it wasn’t the type 1 diabetes or losing my dad when I was 12. It wasn’t things from my past either.

It was my body.
I didn’t have the diagnoses at the time to explain it all to me or to know how to manage it. There was something going on in my brain- HOWEVER- it wasn’t the blogmoretothestory.com/2016/05/10/getting-officially-diagnos...#Anxietyblogmoretothestory.com/2016/05/10/getting-officially-diagnos... (although it played into it.)

I finally knew that these “freak outs” had a name.
Panic attacks.
I went on medications for the ADHD and the anxiety, and these “freak outs” subsided for the most part. Things got better.But, then, periodically, I’d have the extreme breakdowns again. Since I was now on medications and knew what was going on. I could take steps to manage it. I could take the steps to figure it out. I started tracking when these breakdowns would occur.

This tracking lined up with the tracking for my period.
We all know the impact of periods and hormones on emotions. But with all of the factors and unknowns before, it was the last thing I was trying to figure out because it felt like a part of all of it. It was like trying to untangle several pieces of jewelry with similar chains.I used this knowledge to try and remind myself in the moment that it was the period talking. That it wasn’t me. That it wasn’t just the anxiety, ADHD, or OCD. That it wasn’t necessarily that my blood sugar spiked, but it spiked because of my period.

After I was diagnosed with blogmoretothestory.com/2016/07/06/another-journey-begins-dia...#Endometriosis, I had an explanation for the issues with my period, the acne, the excessive hair growth, and why it was so incredibly difficult to lose weight but so easy to gain it.
The decision was to go on birth control continuously which helped with so much.

But there was one thing I wasn’t ready for when I went on continuous birth control-
The uncontrollable breakdowns stopped. The breakdowns I struggled to find a reasoning behind. I now knew that it was more than just my period.
Now of course mental health still happens. Of course things come up. Of course I still experience emotions and anxiety and scattered-ness. Of course I cry. Of course I get angry.But now- I’m not grasping myself in pain and freaking out alone on the bathroom floor.Now I can bring myself back. I grab that phone to reach out to the people in my life.Now there’s a reason for it or something happened- typical emotional responses.I have answers and tools and now knowing it wasn’t normal or okay.What I was experiencing wasn’t the usual- but so many things involved are taboo. I was ashamed and didn’t want to bring it up. Maybe I would tell people, but only bits and pieces. Only to an extent. Not too much so I wouldn’t get found out.Talking about it helped and made all of the difference. It found resources and answers.My, what a diagnosis can do! My, what speaking up does!

Mindy Bartleson Writes Book About Growing Up With Diabetes

The teen years are hard. Going through your teen years with a chronic illness like diabetes can be even harder for everyone involved – both the teen and the parents. There is so much going on when you’re growing up, even before you add in the factor of chronic illness. But it’s oversimplifying to say the teen years are hard, that they are rebelling. Yes, maybe this is the case, but often there is so much more going on in life.   Because of hormones, diabetes became more of a roller coaster for me in my teens and it became more of a roller coaster for everyone around me. Because the frontal lobe still developing in teens, they may be forgetful, make poor or “interesting” choices, have more apparent attitudes, become defiant, are still working on the ability to recognize and understand when emotions comes into play and more. This all adds up. It’s of course not fun for the teen, but at least for me, I felt like no one cared about me anymore because I was no longer the “cute kid with diabetes.” I was an angsty teen with diabetes who had different needs. Then it’s not fun for the people in your life, especially your parents or caregivers. But a lot of the world and the healthcare community overgeneralizes, points fingers, tells you to just wait it out, etc. But that’s seven years of missed opportunities and the possibilities of physical, mental and emotional damage. You’re told it gets better. Yes. It does. But it takes time. It can suck in the moment, but we just get told it gets better. I think as adults, we can forget what it’s like. That’s why many teens don’t relate (well, at least I didn’t) to adults. The rose-colored glasses become way too strong for adults. We forget it can suck for teens, and maybe they just need us to admit it. We forget it’s important to balance the positive and negative so we can still get through it. When I was 22, I saw this happening to my perspectives on experiences. I was applying a rose-colored lens to a lot of things in my life already. I was starting to say all the bad things I went through were worth it or just ignored them completely. But that’s not life, especially in the moment. I’ve always wanted to be an author, but to be perfectly honest, I never saw myself writing a nonfiction book, one about my experience with chronic illness and mental health. However, I did just that. I did that with the goal to finish all of the content before I turned 24 last fall so that rose-colored glasses didn’t impact all of my views on my experiences. I’m aiming to balance the positives and the negatives of growing up in general, but also with chronic illness and mental health along for the ride. I’m pursuing self-publishing and crowdfunding this project. I’ve always wanted to be an author, but I always daydreamed and aspired to write fiction. I actually never planned on starting a blog (look at me now!) either. I’m chasing this dream and aiming to make it a reality – with a few twists. Mindy is self-publishing an honest book about growing up with chronic illness and mental health. To help this book get published, you can visit the crowdfunding page to learn more, back her project and help spread the word. You can also follow Mindy on Instagram , Twitter , Facebook and her blog, “ There’s More to the Story. ” We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

9 Things I Do When Diabetes, Endometriosis and PCOS Makes Me Angry

Let’s face it. Chronic illness can be hard. It can also be annoying. Plus, it can wear you out when you’re trying to live your life and chase your dreams. There are moments I really want to scream. I want to scream “Why me?” I want to scream “It’s not fair.” Especially when I feel like I’m doing every right and trying as hard as I can but things still aren’t going right — my body still isn’t cooperating with me. Which… happens a lot when you have a chronic illness. And you know what? Sometimes, that’s what it takes to help me get through that moment. Occasionally it takes more than that moment. When I feel stuck in my emotions, I try to remind myself of things and do something. 1. I try to remember the influence of social and gender norms on my outlook and in life. A lot of this pressure I feel comes from that. I’m supposed to be a “productive” member of society who is supposed to say I’m fine even if I’m not. It’s a pressure we all feel, not just related to chronic illness. It feels heavier related to my chronic illness, but these are not the norms we have to live by. 2. Did someone say something to me? Made an ignorant or possibly hurtful comment? I try to educate the person instead of reacting harshly (which is what I typically did growing up). I also tell myself, H ey, you aren’t in elementary, middle or high school anymore. People aren’t as cruel — plus you don’t hear these comments on a regular basis anymore. 3. I remind myself that it isn’t about being better than everyone or being “extreme.” 4. Cry. Just as simple as that. I let it out. Crying is good for you. 5. Tell myself it’s OK to feel this way, but I need to pull myself out of it. 6. Is this happening a lot recently? Maybe I need to revisit counseling. 7. I engage in self-care depending on what I need. I aim to practice proactive self-care, but sometimes I need to go to town with it. 8. I let myself escape. If I’m not ready to process, I’ll hide in the pages of a book or watch my favorite movie. Maybe I need to just not think… so I’ll binge-watch a show. It’s OK to do this for a bit, but I need to make sure I’m not trying to run away from my emotions. 9. Back off from it. I’m not saying that I don’t take care of myself, but I don’t push myself so hard for a few hours or days — to manage my type 1 diabetes or try to find the right solution to my period issue for my polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis. (Can be easier said than done, but can also lead to a downhill spiral if I’m not careful.) Maybe I can get out of the funk right away or maybe it takes a little longer. Some things work better than others. But! After I’m out of it, I feel even more ready to take on the world. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo by Grandfailure

Celebrating the Anniversary of My Diabetes Diagnosis

Every year on March 8 (since 2000) you can find me celebrating with a different activity each year but always a red velvet cupcake. (Why always a red velvet cupcake? Tradition, and because I love them! Plus of course the “irony” that I celebrate with a cupcake.) What do I celebrate? I celebrate the day I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I call it my DiaBirthday (but many others in the diabetes community call it their Diaversary – we’re all different, right?). But yes, I celebrate it every year. I started to put more into my celebrations at the age of 12 after my dad passed away from cancer. He passed away a few days after my birthday, and a few years later my grandmother passed away a few days before my birthday. There was so much sadness surrounding my birthday – it was hard to want to celebrate. I expressed this from the moment I was about to turn 12 while my dad was sick and for years after that, but my family didn’t listen to me. I was just a kid, right? So every year we celebrated against my wishes which added to my negative feelings towards my birthday. So, needless to say I just wasn’t a fan of my birthday for a long time. (I’m still not super into making a production out of it, but it’s something I’ve worked on through the years. It became easier once I finally grieved for people who passed away when I finally entered counseling my freshman year of college.) I would participate in my birthday celebrations for everyone around me, but I would tune out as much as I could. But when March rolled around, I put my all into that celebration. I would go all out for my DiaBirthday. My dad had a huge impact on my views of myself in relation to my diabetes, including trying to make the day I was diagnosed as positive as possible – which I always appreciate. I sometimes get questions and odd looks from people when I say I celebrate it – people impacted by diabetes as well as people who aren’t. I’m all for celebrating something instead of mourning a life I don’t remember (but I do have moments where I think, not…another…year…). It gives me something to look forward to. It’s a positive day instead of a negative one. At least I try to make it so. If I’m feeling burned out by diabetes, I try to put even more effort into my DiaBirthday. But mostly, it’s still easier to celebrate my DiaBirthday in March instead of my birthday in November because there is still a cloud that surrounds me – no matter how far I’ve come. So every year on March 8, you’ll find me with a red velvet cupcake and a way to celebrate. Just like birthdays there are bigger celebration years than others. (I wonder what I’ll do for year 18?) This year, I celebrated it early by treating myself to concert tickets to see Panic! At the Disco. (It’s the most money I’ve ever spent on concert tickets but also the best seats I’ve ever had. Plus I’ve been fan for about 12 years.) But of course on the actual day I’ll be getting a red velvet cupcake, and this year I’ll be treating myself to some of my favorite movies and dinner out on the day of. Happy DiaBirthday to me! We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here. Thinkstock photo via RuthBlack.

Why Health Insurance Shouldn't Be Political

There’s a lot going on right now in the world, but right now I’m focused on politics. There’s a lot going on all at once even then, but I’m specifically paying attention to one thing in particular — health insurance. There is so much in politics that applies to me and the people I care about, but for me health insurance is what makes my hair stand on end at this moment. It’s what, in all honesty, keeps me up at night right now. It’s been doing so for much of life, but after the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed, I slept a little better. After the recent elections, though, I felt concerned and worried again. I felt defeated. I felt annoyed. I felt like a step had been taken regarding healthcare, but now will we go back? Will we have to fight all over again? All of these questions, emotions, and much more have been heightened as of this week. I live with multiple chronic illnesses. The ones that are at the forefront of my mind with care, costs, and insurance coverage in this political climate are my type 1 diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, and endometriosis (with my anxiety along for the ride when I’m thinking about everything). Many of us have to fight to live already. We fight each day. People fight for us and with us. I wonder why we have to keep fighting for so much that honestly… we shouldn’t have to fight for. The ACA gave me and many others protections. It gave us a choice. A chance. Hope. Pre-existing conditions. They follow me like a cloud. I’ve felt this cloud since I was about 12 years old. You hear people say a lot of things. Things that feel like an attack on me, my health, and my life. One thing I’ve seen: “Well, you should have gotten insurance before you had a pre-existing condition.” I did — really great insurance actually, but when my dad passed away, we lost it. We struggled after that. We were left with a not-so-great company through my mom and dad jumping through hoops before he passed away — a jumbled retirement plans of sorts that my mom had to pay to keep me on. But they would threaten to kick me off constantly, and I’d often get “lost” in the system. My mom tried to get better insurance for both of us or find other jobs, but she would get turned away… because of me. Because I had a pre-existing condition, she couldn’t get me on insurance. She got multiple jobs. I babysat then got part time jobs when I was old enough. We hoarded medical supplies because we never knew when there was going to be an issue. We fought to get the amount of things I needed to take care of myself. I applied for as many scholarships as possible and worked in college. We utilized payment assistant programs and Children’s Medical Services until I was 21 because of how little the insurance company covered (and our financial status). This was all to cover the costs of the things I needed to stay alive and to plan if there was an issue. I pushed myself toward a certain direction in life because insurance would always be a factor. But then something happened… The ACA passed and made it through multiple hoops and became an actual thing. My pre-existing conditions wouldn’t hold me back from the path I wanted to take now. The hurdle of having them wasn’t quite as high of a jump for me anymore. I had a choice in my paths because I couldn’t be denied coverage anymore. When I had issues with my former insurance company, I had law to back me up, which I always reminded them on our many phone calls about the issues they created. After I graduated college and got new health insurance, I found myself crying tears of happiness. The costs were lower. Things were more transparent. I didn’t have to fight so hard. I actually had some choices in my care. Most of the people I interacted with from the insurance company and my choice of a pharmacy treated me like I was a human being first. I wasn’t fighting as hard anymore. I was out of survival mode. It shakes me to my core that we are getting ready to fight again, and all because of partisan politics. You can see it in the votes that have started regarding the ACA. Mostly down the middle and in the secret of night. If you take to social media, you find interviews and comments against ACA. You’ll also find stories and experiences about all of the people the ACA has helped. I’ll be the first to admit, the ACA isn’t perfect. It needs work. But I think it was finally a step towards the right direction. Even before ACA, insurance needed a lot of work and still does. When I see so many attacks about the ACA and plans to get rid of it with no replacement, my hairs sticks up. My anxiety riles up inside, and I struggle with the “what if” aspect of my anxiety.  Many of us are sitting on the edge. Advocating when, where, and how we can. Preparing for the worst, but holding onto a piece of hope. My health. My life. Our health. Our lives. This is all at the center of politics and being pushed around by which party “wins.” That’s what it feels like to me. It isn’t about the American people. It’s about which party wins. It isn’t about our health, our journeys, and the fighting we already do. Health (among other things) shouldn’t be about political parties. It should be about the actual people. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Lead photo by Thinkstock Images

When Doctors Blame All My Health Problems on My Type 1 Diabetes

It started with my type 1 diabetes (T1D) diagnosis at age 7. Even during the months of appointments trying to figure out what was wrong… The healthcare professionals went for the easy answer. My parents were overreacting. Even when we came back after someone told us it’s probably diabetes, they tried to send us home. After I was diagnosed with T1D, that became the new easy way out. The easy answer. The only answer. I acknowledge it. I acknowledge that yes, sometimes T1D is the answer. Even if it is, does that mean we stop there and take the easy way out? I sprained my ankle when I was 9. As the doctor was looking at my ankle, she stated, “You sprained your ankle because you must have had a low blood sugar.” No. I’m just clumsy. My dad picked me up right after that, and we walked out to never see her again. I was forgetful and scattered for most of my life. I displayed all of the symptoms of ADHD, but I didn’t get an official diagnosis until I was 22 when I had had enough. Up until then, I was told it was due to high blood sugars. I was anxious and stressed all of the time, but apparently this was only because of diabetes. Just like with ADHD, I didn’t get an official diagnosis of anxiety and OCD until I was 22. My anxiety was just because I had diabetes. There was little acknowledgement until I found the right doctor that my OCD and anxiety manifest themselves via my diabetes. Yes, sometimes my diabetes is tied to my mental health, but it isn’t the only answer. My first period was debilitatingly painful, and the first doctor blamed my diabetes. Many doctors blamed the diabetes and didn’t want me on birth control. Apparently, that was the only thing it could be. I should just deal with it. Then, we had to use the chaos my period created for my diabetes to finally get on birth control. Since it was “just the diabetes,” I wasn’t diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis until I was 23. After living with a chronic illness for almost 17 years, I’ve learned when to leave a health care provider if it isn’t the right fit. My first sign is if they won’t drop that the only answer is diabetes. Maybe it is part of it or all of it, but I don’t want to miss other possibilities because it’s the easy way out. It’s already happened too many times before. I’ve also learned to stick up for myself and to listen to my body. There’s more to me and my health than this chronic illness. If I strive for my illness not to be a cop out in my life, why does it seem to become so in health care? We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Lead photo by Thinkstock Images