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part of her

Madeline has been calling my bluff. In her own way, she’s been chipping at a belief I’ve held for a long time. Challenging me to face up to the ways in which this belief does not hold up for her. Forcing me to see that it does not hold up at all.

Eons ago, I was a graduate student in the field of social work. The program was one oriented to social justice and community action, not to the field of clinical work. I never went to graduate school to become a therapist. And yet, that is where I ended up. During my second year of study, I landed a coveted clinical position in a program that was intended to help preserve families struggling with the worst challenges families can face. I loved it, and I have stuck with clinical work ever since.

During my clinical practicum, I learned a therapeutic approached designed to compartmentalize disease, maladjustment, or whatever “bad thing” affecting a person’s life. We learned how to teach people to box the thing up and set it outside of themselves, so that they could more easily recognize it, study it, understand it, fight it, integrate it, defeat it… The idea here was to teach people that the “bad thing” was not who they were—it was this thing that was happening to them, and it could be separated out and defined and dealt with in ways that preserved people’s core. In other words, depression is not who you are. An eating disorder is not who you are. Sexual abuse is not who you are.

And so when diabetes came knocking, it was a natural thing for me to introduce this way of thinking to Madeline. Right from the start, I told her that diabetes is not who she is. It does not define her. It has a role in her life, but does not govern her. It isn’t her—it’s this thing that has happened to her and it can be boxed up and set outside of her core being. I’ve told her that when it’s out there, she can think about it and feel about it in whatever way works for her.

Problem is, this approach has not worked for Madeline. When she’s reeling from a low, when she dwells on being the only kid she knows with diabetes, when she has to stop playing in order to program a bolus, when she has to choose foods based on carb counts instead of preference—she hates diabetes. And sometimes, she hates herself for having diabetes. She tells me that diabetes is a part of who she is, and that it cannot be pushed outside of herself in order to make it less scary or more palatable.

I have disagreed, and I have continued to beat the drum. Put diabetes in the box, Madeline. It is not who you are. I’ve opened my ears, but not my heart nor my mind, to what she has been trying to tell me.


I’m a firm believer in the idea that the gifts you need find you when you need them most. I found this gift in my inbox last week. I have read it over and over again. Thought about it more than I’ve thought about anything else. This gift has rocked my world.

Please read it. Maybe it’s a gift for you, too.


About Heather Garcia Queen

I am… a mother of 3 spectacular children. A wife of an architect extraordinaire. An MSW. A psychologist in an elementary school. A (wishful) writer. A protector of family and spirit. A worshipper of the natural world. A seeker of knowledge. A lover of the arts. An introvert. A silver-lining kind of girl.


One thought on “part of her

  1. Hmm. What a tough situation for both of you guys. Hopefully it’s part of a coping somehow, and she’ll work through it. Diabetes sucks, and it’s not fair that we have to do so much extra stuff and deal with interruptions. Hard to recognize that we do a pretty good job of being a pancreas most of the time. 🙂

    Posted by Scott K. Johnson | 03/25/2013, 3:54 am

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Creative Commons License
This work by Heather Garcia Queen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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