Psychological Support: The Missing Piece in Diabetes Care

Michelle Sorensen | November 13, 2012

When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1999, I was both overwhelmed with information and desperate to find more information. It was easy to find depressing facts about the immediate dangers I would face, as well as the future complications I might suffer one day. When I looked for more, however, something about support or about real people living with type 1, there was nothing more than information about fundraising and camps for kids with diabetes.

I was in the middle of graduate school at the time of my diagnosis, training to be a psychologist. In the years since, while learning to manage my diabetes, I have furthered my knowledge about how to help others with diabetes make changes and feel better. I learned quickly that the psychological aspect of diabetes care is mostly absent in the diabetes field. Patients had access to information, but they didn’t have support.

Eventually, I began to counsel people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Using cognitive behavioral therapy, I have tried to help my clients learn how to change the way they think, so that they can change the way they feel and behave. In recent [...] continue the story

Lauren Pizzi: AWD (Artist with Diabetes)

In late 2010, I began thinking about how I could allow my 15 years living with type-one diabetes to speak in a non-abstract, relatable, and original way. “Balance” (oil on canvas, 2010) 9 x 12” This was my first attempt to paint anything from a pure, conceptual approach. After photographing dozens of pictures of my daily companions, (low blood sugar treatments: skittles and smarties as well as my insulin bottle/syringes, which I use to fight high glucose levels) I realized that this still life literally was my life. Even with tight management of my disease, low and high levels are frequent. “Balancing Act” (charcoal on paper, 2012) 22×30″ In one perspective, diabetes can be compared to as a job I didn’t apply for, a job I received, and a job I can never take a day off from, but it has also given me strength, patience, and optimism. That’s what I hope the painting displays; a juxtaposition of brightly colored candies and the sudden sharp, alarming glisten of an exposed syringe. I used to be afraid of labeling myself, but now I proudly say, “I am a diabetic.” With the completion of this work, (Balance) I believe I found my voice. Bittersweet (charcoal, pastel, gel medium, oil [...] continue the story

Garden Hill Renal Health Unit

Photography: David Campion

The establishment of a renal dialysis unit within a half hour journey of the four First Nations communities clustered on Island Lake in north eastern Manitoba has made a substantial improvement in their quality of life. People dependent on dialysis no longer have to uproot their families and move to Winnipeg. They are reunited with their friends, support networks and the culture of their communities. Many are even able to return to work and move on with their lives. And as the Renal Health Unit proceeds with the education and prevention work it has planned with the communities, there is hope that future generations will enjoy better health.

To learn more:

Website: http://www.umanitoba.ca/faculties/medicine/units/northern_medical_unit

Address: University of Manitoba Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2

Phone: 204-474-8880 1-800-432-1960 (within North America)

More Frontline Health Stories

The Waiting Room: Fatherhood

William Morgan and his three sons Matthew, Joshua and Andrew wait for their mom to get medication to treat her diabetes.

Heather’s Story

Ask Dr. Heather Stuckey about her diabetes, and you probably won’t get the answer you’d expect. You won’t hear about insulin doses or what her blood sugar was earlier that day. She may not mention that she has Type 1, and not Type 2, diabetes.

What she might say, though, is this: “My diabetes is like dry bones. For me, it’s just a never-ending dryness.”

Heather has been managing Type 1 diabetes for most of her life, since she was diagnosed at age 12. And for as long as she can remember, creative expression has been part of her coping strategy. She recalls that, even as a child, she felt the need to search for support outside of traditional medicine, as she has long been aware of the emotional gap in diabetes treatment. “There are so many different specialists who treat diabetes,” she says. “But the psychological aspects of having diabetes are simply not recognized.”

Compelled by her love of writing and an interest in art, she sought to make peace with the range of emotions that often accompany chronic illnesses like diabetes. She did this by engaging in creative expression. “I was asking myself, how do I thrive with this disease? How [...] continue the story