Q&A Michelle Sorensen

Mentally overcoming the diabetes stigma. Q&A with Psychological associate Michelle Sorensen

This answer (which I heard a part of when I saw Michelle speak) really changed things for me. Big time.

I can’t even begin to describe to you how freeing her response is. Here we go, the next Q&A with Michelle :)

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Michelle Sorensen, M.Ed., Clinical Psychological Associate Member of the College of Psychologist

How to deal with acceptance of the stigma and the fact some people will say things that are not true?

Michelle: There are many layers of difficulty in living with Type 1 diabetes and this is a tough one to address. I have learned a few things that have helped me with this issue since being diagnosed at age 24.  A lot of my learning comes from the privilege of counselling other people with Type 1.  My patients have taught me so much and I often see some of myself in their stories.

Having a disability or disease that is associated with stigma presents us with the challenge of focusing on what we know to be true, versus the thoughts of others.  Sometimes we are up against not just misconceptions or stereotypes from others, but what they WANT to be true. 

Why would they want to blame people with diabetes or believe people caused their own disease?  Well, because then they can tell themselves they are safe, that this kind of life changing diagnosis couldn’t happen to them. It’s the same reason many of us want to know if someone smokes when we hear they are diagnosed with cancer.  It’s scary to hear about a peer being diagnosed with something out of the blue, and especially if they seem to be doing the right things and living a healthy life.  It makes us feel vulnerable and we don’t like that. 

Brene Brown, in her wonderful book, “The Gifts of Imperfection” writes about how she became more comfortable in her own skin, which is key to being more resilient against judgment from others: “I learned how to worry more about how I felt and less about ‘what people might think’. I was setting new boundaries and began to let go of my need to please, perform, and perfect”.

I can really relate to what Brene writes about.  I think diabetes forced me, in my twenties, to realize how much time and anxiety went into pleasing others.  I remember feeling stressed when I was newly diagnosed and recovering from the ordeal … but about things like not returning a phone call to a friend, or saying no when someone wanted to make plans.  Those things caused me more stress than many of the priorities I needed to focus on, like my schoolwork and my diabetes care.  But no one other than me was responsible for that stress.  It was all pressure I put on myself. 

People with Type 1 can and do accomplish great things.  However, it should always be about what makes us happy and creates moments of joy, not what impresses or pleases others.  if we please ourselves we will be far more tolerant when we perceive judgment or stigma from others.  If we are trying to please or impress others, then we will be very disappointed when they appear unkind. 

Thank You Michelle Sorensen

We all have a lot on the go, so a big huge thank you to Michelle for taking the time to answer my questions and provide support :D

Xo,

J

Check out my first Q&A with Michelle about being diagnosed with t1d as an adult here.

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What are the challenges specific to adults diagnoses? Psychological associate Michelle Sorensen answers.

Photo provided by Michelle Sorensen

Photo provided by Michelle Sorensen

After I saw Michelle speak at the Animas Type 1 Update this year, I knew I had to connect with her.

She was able to articulate so much of what I couldn’t say about my emotional journey with type 1 diabetes. One of the best takeaways I had from that event was this short video she shared. If you haven’t watched it yet, please do.

Michelle has been kind enough to answer some of my most burning questions. Here is the first one!

What are the challenges specific to adults diagnosed with T1?

I think there are some very unique challenges.  It seems to me that with adult Type 1’s, there is an increased risk of misdiagnosis. That being said, there is no doubt that T1’s of all ages are at risk of a missed diagnosis.  I meet so many T1’s diagnosed as adults who were clearly more likely to have T1 than T2 based on age and risk factors, but are started on oral medications rather than insulin because they are labelled as T2.  The LADA (latent autoimmune diabetes in adults) cases are even more likely to receive this treatment and are often told their blood sugars are not high enough to be T1.  This is so frustrating because early intervention can really ease the physical and emotional suffering for people diagnosed with T1.

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I think for a few different reasons these traumatic and dangerous diagnosis stories occur more to adult Type 1’s.  For children diagnosed with diabetes, the alarms bells go off and they are usually treated with insulin right away once they are diagnosed.  For those fortunate enough to have a children’s hospital, treatment is especially prompt and appropriate.  Conversely, I have met young adults sent away from a physician with high blood sugars either on oral medication or simply given a referral to a diabetes clinic.  This lack of proper medical attention adds to the confusion, isolation, and psychological trauma.

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So many adult T1’s are starting their diabetes journey with a lot of grief and loss but without the right kind of support. They may be out of the family home but many have not yet established a family of their own. Young adults are trying to establish autonomy and independence and may see asking for family help as weak or childish.

They are expected from the beginning to manage their own diabetes but could often benefit from having supportive family or friends taught alongside them how to check their blood sugar or administer insulin.

Closing speaker Joe Solowiejczyk quoted this prayer during his talk.

Managing one’s diabetes is a huge burden to carry alone. When adults with T1 (who were diagnosed as children) describe their past experience in paediatric care, it is often with longing.  They remember the way staff knew them and their families, the encouragement and the smiles.  Adults could use all of this as well! We like smiles and bright colours and being seen as a whole person!

Look out for more Q&A with her in the future.

Thank you Michelle :)

Read more about her here.

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My favourite diabetes blog week entries!

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My memory is fuzzy, but work with me.

I THINK I tried to participate in Diabetes Blog Week before but this year around, I know I definitely did NOT.

I’ve been really working on a digital cleanse and re-organization as of late (more on that later!). Be that as it may, Diabetes Blog Week is such a fun way for us all to bond.

Although I did not take part, I DID read and here are a few of my favourite entries from the past week (whether you participated officially or not).

3 of my favourite #DBLOGWEEK

Learned a fantastic tip about how to remember to change lancets + an honest look into her views on the online diabetes world. Scully’s Diabetes Blog Week day 4 entry on changes. 

Ironman-in-training Anne Marie, another type 1 athlete, talks about the reality of the upcoming big race and the sacrifices that need to be made. Cheer her on! Read it here.

Scott had me in near tears with this entry. Scott, your posts have helped me so much throughout the years. Please know that. Whatever you do, know that you are so respected.

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Check out Karen at BitterSweetDiabetes. She’s got all the info and deets on #DBlogWeek.

Thank you to everyone who shared their stories.

XO,

J

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Free hospital workshop in York Region aiming to change your relationship with food

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It’s a free program, getting booked up fast, and aims to change your relationship with food.

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If you live in the York Region, Ontario area this might peak your interest.

Location: Markham Stouffville Hospital.

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  • 4 part how-to workshop for changing your relationship with food
  • Starts in early November with about 12-15 people in the group
  • Aimed to help you understand why you eat the way you do, and how to change your thinking to change your eating habits

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The fall session is filling up so if you are interested, contact Susan Oram RD at soram@msh.on.ca or 905-472-7373 x 6835

XO,

J

 

 

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Did you know I have anxiety? Anxiety and diabetes.

A recent Instagram post: It exists. You can live without hating your body, a disease you might have, or circumstances beyond your control.  There's so much happiness and life to live. Every moment is a gift. So stop and really take notice of your thoughts. Take stock of how much time you spend doing things that never help you achieve your goals.  Calculate all the time you spend worrying about nothing, reading about people you don't know and will never be part of your life and choose to focus on the better.  Health is not the absence of disease. Health means choosing a life worth living.

Beside the toilet. On the floor. In my bed. Under the dining room table. On the street. During a run. In the shower. At a casino.

I have lived with anxiety for the majority of my life and these are a few of the places where I have had debilitating anxiety attacks. In the midst of hyper-ventilating, crying and often shaking, I sometimes think, “What did I ever do to deserve this?”

Sometimes I wake up with a face so swollen from so many hours of crying, it looks like I had some type of severe allergic reaction.

Although I haven’t addressed this much before, I am going to now. This is prompted by fellow Canadian blogger and athlete Chris Scully Brown. She recently wrote this article for A Sweet Life.

It’s so honest. And vulnerable. And crazy empowering.

Scully, thank you for being so brave and giving your perspective on a topic we need to address more.

J

 

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For Nepal.

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Couldn’t have said it better. Let us be so incredibly grateful for what we have. Thank you to Dr. Anne Marie Hospod, an Ironman-in-training with t1d for this thoughtful post.

Originally posted on Road to Ironman Wisconsin!:

Weeks until the full IM in Wisconsin: 20

Weeks until the half IM in Tremblant: 8

It feels wrong to talk about triathlon and training after a terrible natural disaster has shaken and devastated Nepal.  Knowing that a friend of mine was stationed at the Everest Base Camp (she is thankfully ok) has shaken me. We know life is fragile. Having type 1 diabetes reminds me of life’s fragility. Having lost my father at a young age reminds me to remain in the present moment. My challenges have allowed me to grow, and become someone who appreciates every little, wonderful, thing. And yet, as challenges come and go, we sometimes forget that this life really is beautiful. Stunning. The ability to laugh and connect with one another. To love. To share. We are so blessed. Events like this earthquake certainly remind us – in a brutal, quick, face-slapping way –…

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Diagnosed with T1D on Christmas Day. Shawn Shepheard shares his story at JDRF conference in Regina

IMG_0613   Imagine being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on Christmas Day. Can I get a refund on this not-so-sweet gift? That’s what happened to Shawn Shepheard. At that time he was 30 years old, engaged to be married. If you’re looking for inspiration on living well with diabetes, this is it. He recently shared his story and how he turned it all  around at the JDRF conference in Regina. Read the full story by The Star Phoenix here. Xo, J