Diabetes Success Starts with the State of MindFriday, March 15, 2013
Beverly S. Adler, PhD, CDE (pictured here) has developed and edited two books about people living successfully with diabetes. The books are about peoples’ honest portrayals dealing with their individual challenges and how they were able to overcome them while living with a disease that demands constant attention. Although peoples’ experiences vary, there is an overarching message of empowerment and how one’s success starts with the right attitude.
By: John Parkinson, Clinical Content Coordinator, DiabetesCare.net
In the latter part of the fall of 1974, Beverly Adler was feeling fatigued and really rundown. She simply struck it up to her efforts of working diligently while in college. However, the fatigue continued through the winter and was noticeable to the point that her parents decided to do something. The following spring, Beverly was at a medical appointment for her sister with her parents when they asked the doctor to take a look at Beverly. She was a bit frustrated and embarrassed with her parents for saying something, but after hearing Beverly’s symptoms, which mirrored classic diabetes symptoms, the doctor decided to do a five hour glucose test.
At the time, Adler’s mother was a college professor and one of her students was also feeling sick. On the same day Adler was going for the glucose tolerance test, that student was going for medical tests.
When the results came back, it confirmed that Adler had "Juvenile diabetes" (now called type 1 diabetes), and shortly thereafter, her mother’s student found out she had a brain tumor. After learning of this, Adler pulled herself out of her mild funk, and said to herself, “I can live with diabetes.”
Shortly after receiving her diagnosis, Adler read a book about diabetes that talked about complications as if they were a foregone conclusion. The outlook for diabetes in 1975 was very bleak, and of course this was frightening for Adler. She even questioned if she should continue with her studies in psychology. She wanted to become a therapist and wasn`t sure whether future complications would interfere with that goal.
Like many people first diagnosed, Adler had a challenge when she was first diagnosed. And while she chose very quickly to make the best of her situation, many people who are first diagnosed struggle for some time with it. Adler understands it’s about processing the news of being diagnosed on someone’s own timetable.
After earning her doctorate in psychology, she got married, had kids, and put her career on the backburner. Eventually, after an insightful discussion with her brother, she decided to pursue her psychology career by specializing in treating diabetes patients. It was truly her life`s passion.
Her first job was with a counseling center where she developed her own diabetes wellness program. After she left the clinic to start her private practice, she took her wellness program with her.
Her clinical psychology practice serves anyone with diabetes at any age or any stage of their disease. She helps patients deal with the emotional aspects of diabetes, but as a CDE and a person living with diabetes, she offers additional personal and professional components to her practice. She is affectionately known as "Dr. Bev" to her patients, and there is a sense of compassion and kindness in speaking with her. (Information about her practice can be found here.)
Through the years, Adler has taken good care of herself and has remained positive, despite also having concerns about developing complications. Going back to that first diabetes book she read, it was ingrained in her that her fate would likely result in suffering from some complications.
March 14 marked her 38th diaversary (anniversary date of her diabetes diagnosis), and she is proud to say that she remains free of complications. She jokes that she has finally learned not to worry about them so much.
It was through her life’s long experience with diabetes and living without any complications—which contradicted the medical industry’s outlook in 1975—that she decided to look outwardly to others with the disease and how they lived with it.
A few years ago, she did an Internet search about women and diabetes. She came across a site about the sisterhood of women with diabetes and she knew it was time to write a book about women with diabetes and how they not only survived their diagnosis of diabetes but thrived with it.
Adler began looking for women who might be interested in contributing to her book. The result was her book, My Sweet Life: Successful Women with Diabetes, published in 2011. Last year, her second book, My Sweet Life: Successful Men with Diabetes,was published.
DiabetesCare.net recently sat down with Adler to discuss her practice, the emotional components of the disease, and insights about her two books.
DiabetesCare.net: Can you talk about your practice?
Adler: My specialty treats all types of patients with diabetes. I see type 1s, type 1.5s, and type 2s. Each type has a different focus than the others. I see kids, teens, adults and seniors. All of which have very different needs. I do individual or group sessions. I also do family therapy.
I help them deal with their emotional issues like anxiety, depression, denial, anger and guilt. I also use my diabetes health wellness program. I use a cognitive-behavioral approach to teaching coping strategies, which means changing negative thoughts to a positive attitude (that`s the cognitive part) and changing their harmful actions to healthier choices (that`s the behavioral part). Therapy focuses on the here-and-now and I help them to accept their diabetes. I teach self-care management skills and encourage my patients to feel empowered with their diabetes.
DiabetesCare.net: Can you talk about the emotional components of dealing with diabetes?
Adler: I understand that patients take their own time when accepting their diagnosis. When I disclose to my patients that I also have diabetes, their reaction is one of knowing that I can relate to them.
I tell them that life does get better, and that the day-to-day issues they have to deal with are the same as mine. I feel like I can be a good role model with my patients so we can have those discussions.
I’m also quick to disclose that I’m not perfect, but then again no one is. I don’t want them to think I don’t have highs and lows because I do. I don’t mind sharing with them the emotional reactions to coping with challenges.
DiabetesCare.net: Can you take us through why you decided to write the two books?
Adler: There hadn’t been any books like mine. Before the Internet, there wasn’t an opportunity for patients to get acquainted with other women with diabetes. It was quite lonely and isolating. Most people were either uninformed or misinformed about diabetes.
I had this idea that it would be nice to have a book to share stories about successful women. I went online a few years ago and found a women’s website, and I knew at that point it was the right time.
The men’s book came about because men came to me and said, `well, where’s our book?’ When I heard enough men saying that I should write a book, I started to listen.Like I had done before with the women, I then began to look up men with diabetes online, and to my surprise there was nothing.There is no brotherhood of men with diabetes. So, again I knew, it was the right time for such a book. I hadn’t planned it that way, but that is how it came about.
DiabetesCare.net: Was there a criteria for how you decided who to use as writers?
Adler: I looked for women and men who were successful in their careers and with their diabetes. Some of these people I was aware of because of their notoriety. Of course, there were others that were successful, but I didn’t know of them and I thought they were worthy to know about.
I found some online and some came from other peoples’ recommendations. I wanted to include a diversity of writers; an assortment of people with type 1, 1.5, and type 2 and different ages and years of living with diabetes, and geographically diverse, as well.
DiabetesCare.net: Did you find a general approach in how each of the sexes approached and dealt with diabetes like how men dealt with diabetes versus women?
Adler: I found that women were gentler in their approach to diabetes and acceptance. They challenged themselves on more of an emotional level until they came to that pivotal moment when they decided they could live successfully with diabetes. They would ask themselves, "Why me?" and come to the answer of "why not me?"
The men were physically aggressive about their diabetes. A lot of the men got involved in sports. They challenged themselves to accomplish things that non-diabetic men accomplished. They went that step beyond and showed that men with diabetes could also be successful. They put 110 percent into what they did.
Both the men and women bared all. They shared sadness and humor. They were very direct and candid in their words they shared. I could not have published these books without the honesty of my authors. I really appreciated all they contributed.
DiabetesCare.net: The books are inspiring individual stories. It would seem that newly diagnosed people would be a target audience, but who else should pick up these books?
Adler: Yes, newly diagnosed people can certainly benefit, but people who have had diabetes for a long time, and who may not have had the best diabetes management and who are now struggling with the complications too. These folks need to read the books too to be inspired as well.
In my women’s book, two of my women had kidney transplants and still they can say this is a blessing that they are still alive and teaching others it’s not the end of the world. Newly diagnosed people and people who have had the disease for a while and who could use a little encouragement should pick up these books.
DiabetesCare.net: Is there a common theme running through the book?
Adler: There is a theme running through both books and that has to do with seeing diabetes as a blessing in disguise. All my contributing writers and I feel that way. Some of the writers say it’s not a blessing in disguise—it’s just a blessing. But they also agree that diabetes has helped them in their lives. They succeed, not despite their diabetes, but because of it. They don`t just survive with diabetes, they thrive with diabetes!
I agree with that idea. Had it not been for diabetes, I’m not so sure I would have been so healthy in my lifestyle. I’m not sure where my career would have gone. This is the way it worked out for me. I certainly don’t want people to pity me and say they feel sorry for me that I have diabetes; I’m very grateful actually that it is something I can live with.
DiabetesCare.net: Does having diabetes give them some focus in their lives?
Adler: On a spiritual level most of us ask, ‘why did this happen?’ We all come up with the idea that this is part of our life’s purpose. I feel like it is part of my purpose. I am living and teaching about diabetes. I’m helping others to live with it. I think the contributing writers can say to some extent that they feel this is divinely planned. I feel like this is my destiny`s plan.
A portion of the proceeds for the books will be donated by Adler and her authors to the American Diabetes Association. Her book, My Sweet Life: Successful Women with Diabetes can be purchased here, and the My Sweet Life: Successful Men with Diabetes book can be purchased here.