I turned six years old on September 18th, 1977 and was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes, now called Type 1 Diabetes. Back then; there was no blood glucose numbers, no blood testing, and no pumps for the average person living with diabetes.
It was the dark ages of diabetes. There was no way to check your blood sugar. The best you could do was to test the quantity of sugar in your urine. Very inaccurate! Back then, you had to put a tablet (not a computer,) in a test tube and add several drops of water and urine and wait for it to bubble up. Color change in the concoction designated how much sugar was in your urine. Back then insulin was given by a large syringe; a half-hour before eating even though it took 2 to 4 hours to work.
Think of the resources in your world today! Having all the technology (pump, CGM, etc.,) to manage diabetes well and to feel healthy when you choose to manage it well.
Back then, it wasn’t a choice! No guidance, less education, lack of information, no Internet, and living all alone with no emotional help.
Looking back, I felt sick every day and was depressed. My depression could have been for many reasons related to the disease itself, how I felt about it or the struggle of living with it.
Back then I wasn’t educated to control my diabetes well, but my mother saw I was depressed, sent me to a therapist where I found guidance and help. I found support in that psychotherapist’s office. Even after my depression lifted, diabetes is so stressful to live with that having a non-judgmental support like a therapist made all the difference in the world. I found and still do, find it an excellent way to cope with the day-to-day struggles of living with diabetes.
Has The Dark Ages Lifted?
We are no longer in the dark ages of diabetes management, but when it comes to living a happy life with diabetes, we still are. Therapy is still way underutilized, despite the excessive research that shows the value of therapy for those living with chronic illness.
Going to any therapist would be better than none. If you are not in NYC or Skype is not an option, look for the following types of therapist:
- One living with diabetes
- Social Worker at a diabetes clinic
- Psychologist that is a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE)
- Chronic Illness Specialist
- Diabetes-Focused Psychotherapy
What is Diabetes-Focused Psychotherapy?
DFP takes a holistic approach, combining traditional talk therapy with diabetes education and diabetes management support. It addresses both the physical and emotional aspects of living life with diabetes while still addressing other non-diabetes related life problems to create a unique holistic approach to help people with diabetes live a healthier and happier life.
Eliot LeBow, LCSW, CDE, is a diabetes-focused psychotherapist. His private practice, located in New York City and is also available via Skype. LeBow, who has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1977, treats the many diverse cognitive, behavioral, and emotional needs of people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
All the advice included in this blog is therapeutic in nature and should not be considered medical advice. Before making any changes to your diabetes maintenance program, please consult with your primary physician or endocrinologist.