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 😀

Xo,

J

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

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