56 Years of Diabetes and Still Learning

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In one of the comments my blog post received last week, the reader asked if any of the writers on this blog had diabetes.

I became very reactive to this comment initially (feeling hurt, misunderstood, etc.). After all, don’t they realize that my dad had Type 1 diabetes since before I was born? Don’t they know that my professional career has been related to the psychology of diabetes? Don’t they realize that I have really spent these 56 years living around, studying, teaching, and counseling people who have diabetes?

And then it hit me. I really don’t know what it is like to have diabetes—I don’t have it. I can guess, empathize, and try to understand, but really I can’t know what it is like to live with this condition. I suppose I’ll never know for sure how readers or patients are feeling about what I say unless I too experience exactly what they are experiencing.

I believe that the intent of the comment was to point out the insensitivity of my blog entry, believing that the entry was being used to scare people into being motivated. This was not what I intended, but the point is important. Health-care professionals who don’t take the time to listen and get to know their patients run the risk of trying to influence them without understanding them. This may be done through intimidation or an attempt to create a fear of diabetes complications. This old style of influence is usually not effective, but is still used too often.

Writing a blog has been interesting in that my usual style of working with people is to have a dialogue with them. With a blog, though, I am throwing something out there, and you (the reader) might throw something back. This usually doesn’t make for great conversation, but does provide a bit of food for thought.

So here is some food for thought. I wonder what you think the pros and cons would be of a diabetes educator, psychologist, or physician having diabetes. How is this a strength? And can it be a weakness? Obviously, there are fewer educators who have diabetes than those who don’t, but maybe those of us who don’t should be listening more closely to what they have to say.

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