Grief, A Necessary Part of Accepting Diabetes

Michelle Sorensen | December 18, 2012

I don’t remember the first time I had to inject myself with a needle. I don’t remember being taught how to test my blood sugar. But I have many memories of being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. In retrospect, the day of my diagnosis was the beginning of a long process of grieving my diabetes. At the time, however, I had no idea that being diagnosed with a chronic illness would involve a grieving process.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross famously outlined the stages of grief in her 1969 book called On Death and Dying. She described five stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) that describe a process by which people deal with grief and tragedy. Many people think of the stages of grief as just relating to loss of a loved one. These stages, however, apply to many types of loss, including divorce, job loss, dealing with terminal illness, or the diagnosis of a life-changing and life-threatening disease like diabetes. The stages are not in a consistent order and people may go back and forth between different stages. Also, not everyone experiences all the stages. The way each person experiences grief is unique.

On the day I was [...] continue the story

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

When It Doesn’t Make Sense

May 16, 2012

As doctors in training, we learn to think in patterns of symptoms and can often use “clinical judgement” to fit a patient’s presenting symptoms into a diagnosis. This generally works well, until we are presented with an unfamiliar pattern. For example, in the early 80’s I saw a 60 year old shoe salesman with fatigue and a low grade fever. He had general malaise and some muscle weakness. His exam and initial blood work was unrevealing except he was mildly anemic and his sed rate was elevated. A search for cancer and infection unrevealing. So my next thought was polymyalgia rheumatica, an autoimmune illness associated with inflammation of medium sized arteries. I sent him to a surgeon for a temporal artery biopsy which was negative.

About this time he started to get a cough and the chest X-Ray showed a hazy pattern of change. I knew the symptoms yet had not yet encountered HIV. He was one of the first cases in our State, but likely we had all missed the boat with similar patients. Our pattern thinking generally works clinically, but it isn’t a very good way to ferret out a new or unexpected disease. I never thought [...] continue the story

Tig Notaro and Breast Cancer

A message from Louis CK: Tig is a friend of mine and she is very funny.  I love her voice on stage.   One night I was performing at a club in LA called Largo.  Tig was there.   She was about to go on stage.   I hadn’t seen Tig in about a year and I said how are you?   She replied “well I found out today that I have cancer in both breasts and that it has likely spread to my lymph nodes.  My doctor says it looks real bad. “. She wasn’t kidding.  I said “uh.  Jesus.  Tig.  Well. Do you… Have your family… Helping?”. She said “well my mom was with me but a few weeks ago she fell down, hit her head and she died”.  She still wasn’t kidding.

Now, I’m pretty stupid to begin with, and I sure didn’t know what to say now.  I opened my mouth and this came out.  “Jeez, Tig.   I.   Really value you.  Highly.”.  She said “I value you highly too, Louie.”.  Then she held up a wad of note-paper in her hand and said “I’m gonna talk about all of it on stage now.  It’s probably going [...] continue the story

Diagnosis and all that Jazz . . . A Female Perspective on Autism

I am a 20 year-old aspergian who was just diagnosed early last summer. I didn’t know anything about autism until a few months before my diagnosis. I’d heard of it, of course, but did I know what it was? Not really. I’ll admit that I was always under the impression that autism was a debilitating disease, made famous by its drooling, blank eyed poster children who don’t speak and do nothing but cause heart ache for everyone around them.

Since my diagnosis a little over a year ago, I’ve immersed myself in the world of autism. Before joining the ranks I had no idea it was such a large community, filled with its fair share of politics and drama.

Over the past year I’ve been to several conferences and autism events, and I’ve met countless individuals on the spectrum. Meeting other autistic people was a huge breakthrough moment for me. It finally clicked that yes, I belong here; I am one of you. I in no way believe diagnosis to be necessary for everyone, but it definitely helped me. Before my diagnosis I was constantly worried that I wasn’t really on the spectrum, something was just “wrong” with me. What if I [...] continue the story