An article in the New York Times by Kristin Wong, entitled “The 6 Steps to Turning Setbacks into Advantages,” prompted me to write this blog. It had long been my intent to write about the grief of diagnosis and the path to finding acceptance of one’s new life with diabetes; Ms. Wong’s excellent article, discussing the findings of Stephanie Marston and Ama Marston in their 2018 book Type R: Transformative Resilience for Thriving in a Turbulent World got me off my duff.
Transformative resilience is the ability to improve one's life because of a setback such as a diabetes diagnosis; it is the possibility of turning adversity into growth. In her New York Times article, Ms. Wong describes the six stages that are outlined by the Marstons, which I have adapted to be specific to a diabetes diagnosis.
Stage 1: Comfort Zone (or the calm before the storm, your life before the proverbial s**t hits the fan)
Stage 2: Disruption (diagnosed with diabetes)
Panic, fear, or grief ensue. This is a good time to rely on external support systems, such as sympathetic friends and family. Or find a diabetes support group (online or in person).
Stage 3: In the middle of chaos
Chaos ensues as you struggle to make sense of your shattered reality. Denial can be a huge factor. You experience grief, similar to grieving a death, because in fact it is the death of your former life, your life before diabetes.
Stage 4: A catalyst emerges
You experience an epiphany, which helps to jump-start your transformation. This catalyst typically happens organically, and it is about accepting the reality of your new life. Joseph Campbell said, “We must let go of the life we have planned so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”
Stage 5: You move toward something new
You learn new skills, such as diabetes management skills, and you reshape your place in the world.
Stage 6: You are comfortable with the change
You have reached a point where everything has changed and you have fully accepted that.
I have had long conversations with my endocrinologist about how coming to acceptance of having Type 1 diabetes is the key to good diabetes management and living well with diabetes. For me, it has been essential to view my life with Type 1 diabetes as my new life. Pre-diagnosis was my old life, and it is gone. People who operate in the anger stage of grieving a diabetes diagnosis have a difficult time taking care of themselves and doing the extensive drudgery we must perform 24/7/365. In my view, coming to a place of acceptance of one’s new life is essential to good diabetes management and living well.