Letting go of friendships after diabetes diagnosis. Q&A with Psychological Associate Michelle Sorensen

Q&A Michelle Sorensen

How do I mentally let go of some of the friendships that did not survive my diagnoses?  Still mourning, nothing left to say or do….

First of all, when someone is grieving they always have the right to distance themselves from those who cannot support them in the way they need to be supported. 

Sometimes it is not MORE support that is needed, but a DIFFERENT kind of support.  You can be surrounded by people but feel totally unsupported.

If being around someone who cannot support you in the way you need to be supported (with empathy and compassion) is upsetting, create distance when it is possible.  If you feel a little guilty doing so, don’t worry.  It is far better for you and for others if you choose a little guilt over a pile of resentment.

When angry, we do not want to turn against others (aggression) or turn inwards (bottling it all up). Asserting yourself may mean disclosing that you are hurt, disappointed or confused about their reaction. However, do not create expectations that this will change their behaviour. If you assert yourself, do it for you.  Even if the friend cannot respond with anything positive, feel proud of yourself that you were brave enough to be vulnerable and open up.  And then move forward and focus on building other relationships.

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As someone who is a long ways out of young adulthood and firmly entering middle age (!) I would advise to be careful about writing anyone important off completely.  The twenties and even thirties are full of major life changes and growth.  People are not the same (hopefully) at 40 as they are at 20.  I have friends who were amazing when I was diagnosed.  I still remember my friend Deb coming to get me from the hospital and to pick up my mom from the airport.  I remember my friends Diana and Jenn telling me that when they heard I was admitted to hospital and diagnosed, they cried on the phone together. 

I still tear up when I remember the relief of knowing some of my friends understood the severity of my situation.  However, I had friends caught up in their own lives who made insensitive comments, minimized diabetes, or hurt me in some way.  Some of them have had tough life experiences of their own since then or simply matured and now are so supportive.  I am really glad I kept them in my life, but just adjusted expectations or took breaks as needed.

I also know looking back, that being in my twenties made it hard to incorporate chronic disease into my identity because I was still figuring myself out!  When my husband came into my life, he challenged me to be less of a people pleaser and to look out for myself more.  His support and insight really helped me to realize that my expectations of others were largely a reflection of how much I expected out of myself.  Now that I am more compassionate towards myself, the behaviour of others impacts me less.  I always encourage my type 1 patients to “create more space in their lives for diabetes”…. being less stressed and less rushed, juggling fewer balls…  this all helps us to have more patience for diabetes and for other people.  It may be extra important for people with diabetes, but it is actually true for everyone.

Diabetes has given me so many life lessons.  I sometimes joke that I would be quite happy if I was cured now and could hang on to the life lessons and give the diabetes back!  As much as trying to manage the diabetes drives me crazy at times, I seriously doubt I would be a happier person if I had never been diagnosed.  Having a perfect HgA1C does not make people happy if they never worried about it in the first place!  So I will take my imperfect pancreas and make the best of it.

Thank You Michelle Sorensen

This is the third and final installment of my Q&A series with Michelle. Thank you for all of your time Michelle. You have taught me so much and hopefully others reading.

If you missed the first two, here they are!

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

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

XO,

J

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