56 Years of Diabetes and Still Learning

By Joe Nelson | March 28, 2007 12:07 pm

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.

Source URL: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/blog/56-years-of-diabetes-and-still-learning/

Joe Nelson: Joe is a psychotherapist in private practice in Minnesota, where he specializes in the psychology of chronic disease and sexual problems and works with couples, families, children, and teens. He has been a Licensed Psychologist since 1985 and has earned a master’s degree from St. Mary’s College Winona, a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Minnesota, and an associate’s degree in human services from the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.

Joe has worked with troubled youth in Chicago and Minnesota and on a special project on Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota. He was the first social worker hired by an affiliate of the American Diabetes Association. He worked at the International Diabetes Center for 20 years, directing psychological services there for 12 years. A Certified Sex Therapist, Joe co-developed the Sexual Health Center at Park Nicollet Clinic.

Having practiced meditation for over 30 years, Joe offers instruction in mindfulness-based meditation to patients in groups and as individuals. Joe is married, has a 23-year-old daughter, and enjoys scuba diving, motorcycling, golf, and being outdoors doing almost anything.

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