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 DSMA Blue Fridays Photoshoot-Spanish Style

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone,

It’s the second installment of my thrift store dresses in blue.

We wear blue every friday to support those affected by diabetes.

I’m not sure the origin of this dress but I feel like it has a Spanish flare to it. Spain is known for its passionate, romantic and ultra-sexy dance styles so for Valentine’s Day, I think this fits well.
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Remember to use the hashtag #BlueFridays when you participate.

And since it’s love day, don’t forget about the Spare a Rose, Save a Child initiative. Help save a diabetic child’s life by donating, which will provide funds for much needed supplies like insulin, strips and access to doctors.

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How are you wearing blue today?

J

Photo Essay: Spare a Rose, Save a Child (Life for a Child Program)

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How many of us stare at our meter, then cringe and complain at our blood glucose reading?

We feel our hard fingertips and needle stings, grunt at error messages and faulty sites.

Although our frustrations shouldn’t be dismissed, they are definitely #firstworldproblems. Many in developing countries don’t have access to insulin, meters, strips or even doctors.

You can make a difference for someone living with diabetes. The difference between life and death.

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This Valentine’s Day, consider donating to the International Diabetes Federation Life for a Child program. Spare a rose in your bouquet on love day and give hope to a child who needs it.

See the faces of those you are helping.

A full list of blogs and sites helping to promote Spare A Rose, Save a Child via Kerri Sparling’s Six Until Me

Sending love to diabetic children and their families around the world,

J

Canadian Diabetes Association’s Stress, Depression and Type 1 Diabetes Talk

Hey, I know you!

Towards the end of Leah Drazek’s presentation on mental health and type 1 diabetes, I happened to spot someone I had met at the JDRF type 1 adult support group in November.

I don’t know about you, but when I see someone and know they are type 1 as well, I get this surge of excitement and happiness. My face changes. I smile. And I feel 100 times better. Does that feeling ever go away?

We updated each other on how we were doing with our diabetes management, what’s been happening since we last saw each other and offered words of support. It was short and sweet, and although I didn’t know it at the time, it was something I really needed.

It’s just like being in a room filled with other type 1’s out there. The room was packed at the ING Direct Cafe in downtown Toronto, and I saw people of all ages and cultures. It was the first time I saw such diversity. If you read my previous post titled What it’s like to be the only Chinese type 1 diabetic you know, I think you’d understand how much this meant to me.

And from the audience to the speaker, that feeling continued on. As Drazek went through her slides listing stats and symptoms of mental health and type 1 diabetes, I started giving myself internal head nods and inside saying, “Yes! I’ve felt that. Oh! I can relate completely. I’ve been there!”

My note highlights

  • People with type 1 diabetes are over 3x risk of developing depression
  • Risk factors for developing depression with type 1 diabetes: female, poverty, few social support, stressful event, longer duration of diabetes, poor glycemic control, presence long term complications, physical inactivity
  • Symptoms: sadness, lack of pleasure in almost all activities, significant weight loss/gain, sleeping longer than normal, loss of energy, agitation, impaired concentration
  • How to deal: use supports such as family/friends, counselors, family doctors
  • Drink more water, less coffee, listen to music, exercise, spend time with people you like, positive self talk, antidepressant/anxiety medications, drink more h20
  • Be open and honest with your diabetes health care provider, they can better guide and provide resources

My live tweets: Canadian Diabetes Association’s Stress, Depression and Type 1 diabetes

Drazek shared personal stories about having a panic attack, how family changes impacted her stress levels and even what her blood glucose levels were before and after a recent car accident.

What made the experience worthwhile was having a fellow type 1 diabetic speaking right in front of me, being vulnerable and sharing her life in a very raw and honest way.

I walked away with more confidence, feeling less alone, and after exchanging numbers with my support group buddy, possibly a new friend.

J

Links:

Canadian Diabetes Association

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Contact List

American Diabetes Association Depression Information

 

The dreaded “before” photo & taking on the Inches Challenge

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I’m a big fan of my gym. Here’s why:

  • Trainers are friendly and so helpful. Every time I go in, I call on one of them to see if I’m doing an exercise correctly. I always have a good experience and walk away feeling empowered and not intimidated in the slightest (the latter being a big deal for me).
  • They provide lots of fundraising initiatives. For Christmas, one of the trainers dead lifted the total weight of how much food was donated. For Movember, donators could purchase from an exercise “menu”, appetizers being $2, a main course $5. I bought a few appetizers and purchased squats. At the end the trainers had to do all the exercises that were purchased from the Movember menu. I won a poster and free passes to the gym 😀
  • New programming. Last month I took part in two olympic lifting sessions (power clean and dead lift, which I’ll blog about later) and had a blast doing it. And now, I am taking on the Inches Challenge.

So the photo above explains it all. On Thursday I had my measurements taken and sat down to talk about my goals. You can decide your end date to the challenge. I have decided it will be a year from now.

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For the most part, I want more definition. I want to build muscle and decrease my body fat percentage. 2013 was definitely a year to push myself when it came to fitness and this year, I want to continue to grow and dedicate myself to my health.

Taking a “before” photo was nerve-wracking. It took 10 seconds at the most, but standing there, in form fitting gym clothes to bare every curve in front of a lens that I wasn’t shooting was no easy task. I wouldn’t have dared to enter something like this 5 years ago.

I’ve never been a person that was proud of my body. I struggled long and hard and resounded a while back that it just wasn’t in the cards for me to be really fit. Being diagnosed, and all that has come with it, has really changed my perspective on things.

We hold so much power in our thoughts. We are much stronger than we believe. I’m thankful to be part of a fitness facility that helps build my self esteem and provides me with a comforting environment where I can say, “Yes, sign me up! I can do this.”

Find a place, whether it’s outside alone on a trail or a group class with an energetic instructor, that makes you feel comfortable. An environment that makes you feel strong, that encourages you to step outside of your comfort zone.

It makes all the difference. And with that, you will be another step closer to conquering your fears and reaching your goals.

Body Fat 33% & going down,

J

2013 Year in review fitness goals. Did I meet them? Plus my promise for 2014.

I had three fitness goals for 2013: complete two mini triathlons and my first half-marathon.

It was pretty ugly at times, and there were moments where I wanted to throw in the towel (and toss my meter into the lake and never look back), but I pushed through and got it done.

Being able to do these events during my first year and some after diagnosis mean more to me than my university degree or any promotion I’ve gotten too.

 

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Why? Because the past few years have been the toughest of my life thus far.

I found out about multiple health challenges and with that came the stress, the worry and the realization of how precious life is. It also meant coming to terms with how I lived my life up to this point. It was and is really, really tough.

It was a smack in the face about every aspect of my life.

A quarter life crisis on steroids.

After all the hospital visits and endless doctors appointments, it seemed as though the universe was saying that my body was simply faulty.

As things got worse, I started to look at training differently. A gym session wasn’t just a time to get sweaty and have fun, it was a part of my day where I felt in control and in charge. Getting stronger and faster showed me how powerful I was. And instead of my body being ugly and riddled with defects, I saw how beautiful I could make it. I could turn myself into a well oiled machine and the things I did this year, blew me away.

I completed all my goals by the fall, so I decided to tackle Runner’s World magazine’s Run Streak Challenge. Run 1 mile every day from Thanksgiving to New Years. I haven’t missed a day, and this morning, I silenced my doubts about hitting my 9 minute/mile goal with this:

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So 2014, I will start with the Inches Challenge at my gym. It’s time to devote myself even more. I’m ready.

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And with Nike’s #WeRun2014 challenge. 100 miles in the first month of the year.

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The distance seems scary, but so are a lot of other things. I can do it. And YOU can do whatever you set your mind to. If there’s anything I learned this year, it’s that fear can rob you of your dreams and the life you want to live. So proclaim your fitness goals for next year.

2014: 

  • #WeRun2014
  • Complete my gym’s inches challenge
  • Complete the Ottawa half-marathon
  • Complete 150km MS Bike ride (my first long distance ride)
  • Get over fear of lake swimming (so I can do more triathlons)
  • Volunteer more at events/programs that promote physical activity

I’ll be here, writing next year around this time, about how I accomplished the above. And you will too with your goals.

In the spirit of hashtags…

#letsdothis

J

 

 

 

What it’s like to be the only Chinese type 1 diabetic you know

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Every time I go to a type 1 diabetes-related event, my heart breaks a little.

Not just because I have type 1 diabetes, which I am learning is a disease that breeds champions, but because I am consistently one of very few if not the only Asian person there. In Canada. In Toronto. A city that is touted for being one of the most multi-cultural places in the world.

In fact I’ve been hard-pressed to find a significant representation of any visible minorities during the events I’ve attended. Mind you, I haven’t been to a ton of these things, maybe 10, but for me it’s enough to know that when I go in the future, chances are, I stand alone. And, if I ever do get the chance to see another visible minority out there, I apologize in advance, but I’m going to want to befriend you very quickly and in all likelihood will try and hug you towards the end of whatever session we are attending.

I attended my first JDRF adult support group meeting last night, and I asked the entire group, “Do you know anyone who is Asian with type 1 diabetes?”

Silence. Then the JDRF rep piped up to say she did know Asian families with children who have type 1. Okay, so they are children and I’m an adult (I was diagnosed at 29). However, it was enough to give me a little boost.

Once the meeting was over, she came back to me and said, “Now that I think about it, the kids are mixed with one Asian parent.”

I can’t explain why but I was a disappointed when she said that. Let me be very clear, if I’m not seeing anyone out at support groups because I am really one of a very very small group of people who are Asian and have type 1, I am totally fine with that. But I really don’t think that is the case.

I’m not going to say that Chinese Canadians are the only group of people who, in general, don’t speak openly about illness. That would be very ignorant. There are a myriad of cultures and subcultures that hold beliefs which make speaking about illness in an open fashion a very difficult task.

Explaining to people you have type 1 diabetes is not easy. You need to mentally prepare for what it means to take this next step: the questions, the myths, people’s wild assumptions, clarifying stereotypes, the pity party you did not ask for, and the worst, that look and sigh, as if to say, “Sorry your life sucks”. For me this is an emotional and taxing process which requires a lot of strength, courage and sheer willpower.

I’ve done it before, so I know what it’s like. I waited a month before telling my parents. I did this in part because I wanted more of a concrete answer to what I had (they initially diagnosed me with type 2 diabetes), and in all honesty, I needed the time to mourn. And although in my heart of hearts I knew this wasn’t the case, I still felt I had let them down somehow. I felt I would be outcast, unwanted and unloved. And my parents are the most wonderfully supportive parents I know of. Yet I still felt this way. I still struggle with these thoughts all the time. I secretly cry about it still. I’m working on it.

I understand and sympathize as to why people believe it’s important to keep illness a secret. I must, because I’ve spent a good chunk of this past year trying to break my own head out of that belief system.

There’s no place in this entry to explain all the different types of belief systems that lead people to live with illness in silence. I’ll leave that up to you to decipher. And it’s by no means a finger point to any of the cultures that hold these beliefs either.

People who have diabetes or any kind of illness need support. I think it’s fair to say the greater the support, the better chance at a greater quality of life. How do you garner support when no one knows? One of the biggest reliefs I felt was when I met people who also had type 1 diabetes.

No one wants to feel alone. Loneliness is a dark and scary road. I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot better going to battle with an army of people beside me than carrying the load by myself. Knowing people rally behind me gives me strength to move forward and to tackle life’s challenges.

If you are out there, Chinese type 1 diabetics, or anyone living with an illness tucked neatly in your jacket pocket, please know you are not alone.

You are not alone.

Jessica

Please feel free to e-mail me with 100% confidentiality at t1dactiveliving @ icloud.com (take out spaces).