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.

Doucette014

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

My DSMA Blue Fridays photoshoot- the opera gown

We’re getting fancy today for Blue Friday!

This opera gown is very comfy and classic. Comfort for me is very important when watching any kind of show. I don’t want to be shifting around or bound up tight.

Every Friday we wear blue to support those affected by diabetes. If you’re catching any kind of theatre, consider wearing a traditional dark navy for the occasion.
photo 4

photo 2-1

photo 3-1

photo 1-1

What blue are you wearing this Friday?

J

My DSMA photoshoot- the short party dress

Dancing the night away or heading to a lounge?

I personally haven’t done both in years but IF I did, I think I’d wear something like this. If you have been following me for a while, you’ll know that I typically live in gym gear or am sporting around casual clothing.

Every Friday we wear blue to support those affected by diabetes, appropriately called Blue Fridays.

Although typically on Fridays I am sporting blue in a different way, I found trying this dress on fun. It’s nice to pretend right?
photo 1-1

photo 3-1

photo 2-1

What blue are you wearing this Friday?

J

My DSMA Blue Fridays photoshoot- gala ball hopping

Out of all the thrift dresses I tried on, this one is by far my favourite.

I always kick off the weekend by sharing a different fashion of blue.

This one is such a beautiful shade of it too for Blue Fridays (where we wear blue to support those affected by diabetes).

Remember to use the hash tag #bluefridays when you participate. Go ahead and tag me as well. I’d love to see what you’re sporting.

Don’t mind the tag at the front of the dress. I tried to neatly tuck it in. Would you wear this?

photo 2-2

photo 1-1

photo 4

photo 3-1

Are you getting fancy today? Or wearing a casual accent of blue for Blue Fridays?

I’m excited to be doing some swim training with another t1d athlete tomorrow. I think I’ll pack my blue bathing suit 🙂

J

My DSMA Blue Fridays Photoshoot-After 8 sequence dress

A multi-blue, after 8 sequence dress. Big shoulder pads and even bigger sparkle.

Every Friday we wear blue to support those affected by diabetes. It’s called Blue Fridays and it’s all the rage! Enjoy the blinding photos.
photo 2-4

photo 1-2

photo 2-3

photo 3-5

photo 1-3

Have a look at the other thrift store dresses I tried on:

80’s secretary dress with pleated skirt

Rose Spanish style dress

Modern silk evening dress

I’ll have some new Friday fashions next week.

What blue are you wearing this Friday? As sparkly as this?

J

My DSMA Blue Fridays Photoshoot- Modern Evening Dress

It’s blue, silk, flows well and is perfect for an evening dinner. Paired with simple pumps, an up ‘do, and a sleek clutch and you’re ready for the night.

We wear blue each Friday to support those affected with diabetes.

This outfit is dedicated to your weekend out.

It’s the third thrift dress I found in my favourite Friday colour.
photo 4-2

photo 2-2

photo 3-3

photo 1-1

Take a look back at my other blue thrift store finds:

80’s secretary dress with pleated skirt

Rose Spanish dance dress

What blue are you wearing this Friday?

J

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.
photo 2-2

photo 1-1

photo 5

photo 3-3

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.

photo 2

How are you wearing blue today?

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

 

Every runner needs to spend time at the side of the road

Image

Every time I cross the finish line I get a rush. A buzz. A natural high.

I’ve attended one race prior to today’s events as a spectator. But this morning I took it up a notch with my first experience “running people in”.

“Running people in” means being the personal cheerleader for your teammates as they complete the final stretch of their race. You can run someone in at any distance really. When they are drained with achy legs, it is your job to provide support in any way they need it.

After run club one morning I got into a conversation with two of my favourite fellow runners Margaret and Hazel. They spoke about the struggle towards the end of their last 10k race, and I offered to help “run them in” for this one.

As the gun went off, I stood at a visible spot cheering for everyone I did know but also those who I didn’t. I held up my neon pink sign which on one side read, “I’m a stranger but I’m so proud of you”.

When I saw Margaret and Hazel make the corner, I flipped my sign and yelled as loud as I could. “Margaret and Hazel’s #1 Fan!”

Image

They passed me in high spirits, and I then walked to the 7km mark of their 10k race. I eagerly awaited their arrival, and when we met, I felt a little nervous.

How many times should I say encouraging things and when do I stay quiet? Do I really push them or is my job to just accompany them?

In my own head during races it’s a delicate balance of self encouragement but also tough love. And since I’ve been diagnosed  with type 1 diabetes, it’s been hard to understand when my body needs to push or if pulling back is what I need to stay strong till the end.

So I stayed as quiet as I could, but every once and a while would try to encourage them both in whatever way I could.

Way to go! Keep going! We’re almost there!

Then I would sometimes try to distract them. “Hey look at that sign” “Isn’t the fall leaves pretty?”

For part of the run I carried the sign I made for them on my back. I ran in front of them, instructing them to look at the sign or my feet.

I remembered that during a nasty run in the dead of winter, my cousin was pushing me to keep up with him. It was blizzarding and we were the only ones out on the road. He ran in front of me and said, “Just look at my feet. Match my steps, and just focus.” It carried me all the way home, so I opted to give the same advice.

Hazel was looking strong towards the end and I was running with Margaret who was not far behind. Towards the end of the race, another runner from our club named Jack came and grabbed Margaret’s hand. She grabbed mine and together we crossed the finish line.

I had never felt that kind of joy after a race. I got no medal, and I ran 3km in total for the whole day. However when I saw how happy they both were to have made such a strong finish, I was elated. They both made PB’s too!

It was that, coupled with all the thank you’s from strangers this morning, that makes me confident that I’ll be out there again…not gearing for a PB or to complete a certain distance, but to be a cheerleader.

Thank you to all those who have ever come to cheer during a race. It’s time to pay it forward and do the same. Hazel and Margaret continually thanked me after the race but really, I should be thanking them. They gave me such a positive experience and I’m grateful to have had the honour of running in two wonderful friends. I’ll never forget it!