Today’s prompt: May is Mental Health Month so now seems like a great time to explore the emotional side of living with, or caring for someone with, diabetes. What things can make dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for you and / or your loved one, and how do you cope? (Thanks go out to Scott of Strangely Diabetic for coordinating this topic.)
Recently I’ve been interviewed for two different publications about diabetes burnout. The first was Ginger Vieira’s book, Dealing with Diabetes Burnout, which comes out at the end of this month, and the other is an article for Diabetes Forecast which comes out in August. So apparently I am now an authority on diabetes burnout.
Except not really. I’m not really an expert on burnout or depression or mental health except for when it comes to my own experiences with it.
But that’s about to change.
I thought today’s post would be the perfect opportunity to make a little announcement. It’s something that I have been mulling over for the past few weeks and finally came to a firm conclusion about just a couple weeks ago. I have decided that I no longer want to be a Registered Dietitian.
Instead, I’m applying to the Masters in Counseling and Psychology program at St. Mary’s University in Minnesota. My new goal is to work as a therapist for people dealing with health problems, including diabetes, but also cancer, infertility, and other chronic diseases. I still haven’t been accepted to the school yet. I just finished my application, but with this topic and with it being Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to make the announcement now.
When I moved to Minnesota in January, I quickly realized that most of the work I had done thus far wasn’t going to transfer to the University of Minnesota. They had new requirements that I wasn’t prepared for. I decided that not only was the coursework going to be more intense than I had anticipated, it was also going to lead me down a road that I wasn’t as enthusiastic as I had once been. While I enjoy food and like learning new things about nutrition, the truth is that I don’t really want to teach people about nutrition. It’s something that I enjoy on a personal level, but isn’t something I want to make my career out of.
I had analyzed the requirements for being a Certified Diabetes Educator over and over again. Nothing seemed like it was really going to fit. The only thing that seemed interesting to me at this point was being a psychologist, but a licensed psychologist is a doctorate program. Was that something I wanted to commit to? I reached out to some trusted advisers to get their thoughts on what I could do. In the end I decided that my new course of action was to work in the underserved mental health area of diabetes. I decided that I didn’t want to just work with people with diabetes. We are not the only ones who deal with depression and burnout because of our health. This is rampant amongst all who deal with health problems.
Will I still become a CDE? Perhaps. It’s certainly possible, but at this point I’m at peace with the possibility that it might not happen. I’m also interested in being a health coach, working on behavior change by helping people identify action items and stay motivated. Coaching will also allow me to work with people who live out of state. Counseling is a licensed profession, so you can only work with clients in your home state. Coaching isn’t licensed, and so I will be able to work with clients around the country (and the world!). Of course, I’m still a ways out from figuring out my exact services, but this is what I think I’ll do in the future.
Diabetes burnout and mental health issues is something that is talked about fairly often in the diabetes community, but things seem to stop short of actually finding answers. The DOC is certainly a wonderful place to come for emotional support, but having worked with a therapist myself, there is really something to be said for working one-on-one with someone who can help dig and explore with you. Of course, finding a therapist who understands and has experience with chronic health problems are in short supply, just like diabetes educators are in short supply. Hopefully I can do at least one, if not both!