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

Shifting perspectives on Epilepsy

By Trevor Park October 2011

I have been dealing with my epilepsy ever since I was 13. I started getting grand mal seizures lasting anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes. I would black out, and the seizures would leave me confused, sore and usually lying on the ground.

Having seizures changed my outlook on life. I realized: stepping into the pool, bath or spa was now a potentially deadly activity. I wouldn’t be able to skydive, ocean dive or rock climb. And say goodbye to driving, that great leap from adolescence to adulthood. The only thing worse than being the only kid in high school who can’t drive is having gotten your license and then having it taken away.

You have to be seizure-free for one year to drive. I made it a year—but not much longer. When my parents were away, I took their car and was driving to a friend’s house when I had a grand mal seizure, lost consciousness and smashed into a lamp post at 80 kilometers an hour. Like that, my driving days were over.

I wanted to know: how can I fix this problem? How can I lead a normal life? The neurologists I saw said the [...] continue the story

The Talking Treatment

Joshua Kors is an investigative reporter for The Nation, where he covers health issues. He is the winner of the National Magazine Award, George Polk Award, IRE Award, the National Press Club’s Hume Award, the Mental Health Media Award and many others. His reporting on health issues has been featured on PBS, CNN and the BBC. He also collaborated with ABC News’ Bob Woodruff on “World News Tonight” and “Nightline” investigations, part of a series on health issues in the military, which won the Peabody Award.

He has written extensively about his own epilepsy. The following article was completed in May 2003, as his master’s thesis for the Columbia School of Journalism. This version has been updated to include reporting on his epilepsy experience in the 8 years since its original publication to October 2011. ♦ ♦ ♦ May 2003 The Talking Treatment Looking at a New Approach to Epilepsy  By Joshua Kors

Even today I have a hard time talking about my epilepsy.

Though it’s been 11 years since my first seizure, five years since I last saw the inside of an ambulance, I still feel my stomach constrict when the topic comes up.

There are reasons, I suppose. In a sheltered life lived in the suburbs, epilepsy [...] continue the story

My Flesh and Blood 01/06

My Flesh and Blood is a 2003 documentary film by Jonathan Karsh chronicling a year in the life of the Tom family. The Tom family is notable as the mother, Susan, adopted eleven children, most of whom had serious disabilities or diseases. The film itself is notable for handling the sensitive subject matter in an unsentimental way that is more uplifting than one might expect. It was nominated for and won several awards, including the Audience Award and the Director’s Award at the Sundance Film Festival.