What? Thankful for Anything About Diabetes?

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, many of us are taking time to reflect on what we are thankful for.  Recently, I have been thinking a lot about what I am thankful for, and I really surprised myself when some things related to diabetes made my list.  Let me explain.

It is no secret that living with diabetes comes with many challenges.  But I have learned that living with diabetes can bring opportunities for learning and growth in some unexpected ways.  When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 14 years ago, I could not have imagined the challenges – or the opportunities – that diabetes would give me.  While reflecting on what I am thankful for, I realized that my life includes many things that I would not have, if not for diabetes – and for many of these things I am thankful.

Now before you call me crazy and stop reading this blog, let me say that it would be a dream come true not to have to live with diabetes – and all the challenges it brings – even for just one day.

That being said, having diabetes has given me some (unexpected) gifts for which I am very thankful:

  1. A heightened awareness of my body:  As a person with diabetes, I am very aware of my body and how I am feeling.  I know this awareness, which I developed by living with diabetes for the past 14 years, helps me to make healthier choices and be a healthier person.
  2. A better understanding of nutrition:  As someone who loves to cook and eat, living with diabetes has really made me aware of what I put into my body. I may not always make the best food choices, but I am more aware of how certain foods affect me, and I know this knowledge helps me to eat healthier.
  3. A higher frustration tolerance:  I try to keep a pretty tight reign on my blood sugars, but sometimes, despite by best efforts, my blood sugars get out of whack for no good reason.  This can be really frustrating!  But I am learning to accept that no matter how hard I try, my blood sugars will not always be perfect.  Accepting this fact has made it easier for me to live with other frustrations in my life, including not always having a good explanation when everything doesn’t go right.
  4. A stronger relationship with my wife:  When I met my wife, she had no idea about diabetes.  In getting to know me, she also got a crash course in diabetes.  Over the years, she has been my biggest supporter and is there with me during the good diabetes times and the bad, which has helped to strengthen our relationship.
  5. A fulfilling career:  I am a health psychologist.  This is a career I would have never considered, or probably even knew existed, if I did not have diabetes.  A big part of my job is to help people with health conditions like diabetes to live healthy lives – something I am passionate about.  I am able to use my passion to help others and I couldn’t ask for more!

This Thanksgiving, I would encourage you to think about what unexpected “gifts” diabetes has given you, that you are thankful for.

Harnessing E-Learning To Benefit People with Diabetes

Many people don’t have access to good, useful information
When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, more than 50 years ago, I lived in a very small town in northern Minnesota. At that time, there were few, if any, resources available that would help me to live with this new and very complicated disease. What I learned about diabetes, and how to manage it, was acquired largely through what, in my part of the country, was called the “School of Hard Knocks.”

There are probably instances in which the school of hard knocks is the best teacher, but I don’t think that is true when it comes to living with diabetes. We could, each of us, use more training and support to deal with the psychological and behavioral barriers to living a long and healthy life with diabetes. Today, in spite of all the technologies we have available, millions of people with diabetes find it difficult, if not impossible, to obtain resources to help them with the daily challenges of living with diabetes. Not everybody lives in range of a diabetes center, so good, useful information may be hard to come by.

In the education sphere, there has long been recognition that people who need or want to learn something may be physically or socially distant from someone who can teach them what they wish to learn. Attending a physical classroom to learn is just not feasible, for a variety of reasons. This desire to learn has been addressed through a process of education first known as correspondence study, and evolving into what today is called distance or online education. An early example of learning at a distance occurred in 1728, the subject matter being learning shorthand by lessons delivered weekly through the mail. (http://www.brightonsbm.com/infographics/distance_learning_infographic_large.jpg0.)

BDI is creating E-learning to increase 24/7 access to information that addresses the emotional and behavioral challenges they may face
BDI aims to address the access challenge. People with diabetes should be able to access information and education that is important to the management of their diabetes, no matter where they live, what time it is, or their financial status. Enter BDIOnline, soon to be a collection of highly interactive web-based modules and courses that will be a little like diabetes itself: the courses will be available 24/7, each and every day. The courses focus on providing tools for people to meet the psychological challenges to living with diabetes 24/7, every day. We’re starting with one of our most popular offerings, Getting on Track with type 1 diabetes. We’ve already identified another 30 or so courses for development. All we need is the money to get it done.

BDI OnlineWhat is the best way to publicize the e-learning courses and gauge their effectiveness?
With BDIOnline, people with diabetes need not feel alone or isolated in their quest to get tools and information to do a better job of managing their diabetes, and living a long and healthy life. Of course, simply having access to useful information is not enough: you need to actively use that access to get what you need. Technology can make great stuff available, but in the end, a person with diabetes must want to improve their lives by taking action.

So, from BDI’s perspective, how do we encourage people to take advantage of the education and training available to people with diabetes? What’s the best way(s) to make people aware of these resources? And how do we know if what we are providing is useful to people?

Any insights you can provide about these questions would be gratefully received!