Zits and Group Therapy

For the past six weeks, my She and I have been part of a project called the Group Therapy Project for Teens, which is led by her pediatric psych at our local Children’s Hospital. We’ve been invited to be part of this project for a few years, and finally agreed to do it, knowing without our two bodies it wouldn’t happen. Group happens on our only night off from marching band; Monday, with a three hour commitment including drive time, on our sleepiest of days. Yuck.

Together we ticked off the reasons we should do it:

  1. This would help Doc in her job and someday Pip might need someone else to say yes if she follows through on the dream of being a pediatric psych.
  2. Being the role model in the room is a motivator for Pip.
  3. We were told there was a friend that she liked in group, so seeing a T1D friend every week for 6 weeks could be fun.
  4. We just may get something out of it.

We decided to put on our big girl panties, grab caffeine and just do it already.

The group is comprised of a mere four families. She is the only girl. Teens and parents are split up for much of the time and are brought together to reveal goals and rewards for the upcoming week. My initial reaction was that we were serving as role models of how to do this thing called Diabetes “well enough”. The truth is there are varying degrees of “well enough”. Four checks a day with trying to remember to bolus is well enough for one family, six checks and bolusing at each meal or snack and reporting in is well enough for us. < — But sometimes that doesn’t feel well enough to me because we know all these little tricks and if she would just use them already, please. But you know…teen.

I walked in with what felt like a truckload of knowledge (not really) and experiences I’d actively gathered over the past near four years from our nurse practitioner, psych, older Type 1 PWDs (Person with Diabetes), JDRF activities, ADA, rich relationships with said kid’s Type 1 friends and their families, CWD FFL convention, Gary Scheiner and the likes’ nuggets of wisdom, foundations, institutes, websites, bloggers, vloggers, podcasters, and technical support and reports from companies that make products that keep my She alive.

I chatted up the benefits of ADA camp. (What’s that?) I chatted up JDRF and the Believe in Blue dance coming up. (What’s that?) I chatted up FFL to one of the parents there and talked about scholarship. (Oh, really? Hmmm.) I talked about how adult Type 1 bloggers help to make me a better mom to my CWD. (Disbelief.) <– that one made me want to cry.

It didn’t take long after meeting the other participants to realize my knowledge seemed big enough to spill into the empty chairs around me, and their knowledge sat in their chairs with them taking up very little space. I was stunned. And, that awareness made me take a good long look at myself and what I was doing.

Diabetes had become my job and I was its bitch.

There are people in this world of diabetes who get their diagnosis, consider insulin the “medicine” their sick kid needs to take, gloss over the World of Diabetes book or other resources presented to them at the hospital and go about their life.  Those people wound up in this group with their teen because they just don’t know what to do to get their kid to do what he needs to do and care about being healthy. Oh, the teenage brain…a perverted marvel. They all remind me of Jeremy Duncan of the comic strip, Zits. And then there are people like us who devour the info, but still wind up wondering why the kid is slipping into Idontcareland.

This must be what it has felt like to my kids as they were perpetually placed at tables with kids who had a different mind set on how to be a good student. We left after that first night, thinking WTH? Why. Are. We. Doing. This?

The weeks progressed and I paid careful attention to being a good listener because I’m known to be more of a sharer and there’s only so many minutes in an hour. Sometimes I just couldn’t help it, and would nicely interject with a nugget of information or an experience in effort to do for them what others had done for me. Help.

We dragged our sorry butts there every week. And it really couldn’t have come at a better time, because while we were doing our 10-minutes of diabetes talk four times a week as homework, my She’s floodgates opened and what flowed out was talk of depression. It was an eye-opener and for that alone, I am grateful. Her homework was mostly to take the time to improve her insulin therapy, using the tips and tricks we picked up along the way. My homework was always (and I mean always) to Take a Chill Pill Already.

I’ve been talking about this chill pill thing with her doc for a little while and had already eased up a lot on using any new-found knowledge as teachable moments. But even so, her doctor knew what I didn’t yet know and could probably write my review of the experiment herself.

This group helped me realize my own life in terms of what I know about diabetes and what drives me to learn all that I can learn about management. My being the other participants’ polar opposite was a good wake up call. It made me realize I was a walking resource always on the ready. I’m a born spokesperson for anything that adds value to my life. I just can’t help it. Do I want to step back completely from learning and growing in diabetes? No. Should I stop interjecting all things diabetes into my daily life? Yes. It’s probably smart for me to cut that down to a nice 50% of where I am now. And, as I type this I think but, but, BUT! There are so many good things happening right now and I want to be on the very edge of the outside peering in to the next big thing as it is happening. I’m really afraid I’ll miss something.

We covered Diabetes charts as if we were in our first few months of diagnosis, including ketone flow charts, management sick days with or without ketones, treatment during activity and 504 plans. We were given a red binder that was tabbed for our six weeks and when the 504 plan week came up, I offered to share our plan that we’ve tweaked for several years but have never needed to fall back on. (Disclaimer: The kid approves the sharing of this plan, yet I still ask permission any time a chance comes up.)


At week 4 a funny thing happened and we all started talking to one another with much disregard, but no disrespect, to our student moderator. And it was nice.

At week 6, we played Family Feud, diabetes style, with data taken from a poll of 100 diabetes families. It was a good time and each kid believed their parent was an idiot and told us so when we thought of answers to questions like What are the top 5 symptoms of hypoglycemia?  Easy enough right? Wrong.  No one in the room got fatigue. Because, of course. Shut Up Mom, You Are An Idiot.

All in all, I’m glad we were participants and what I got out of it was what I gave to it, and then some.

I would recommend this to other parents and kids who are given an opportunity, ANY opportunity to participate in group therapy. Zits and all.


Sharon K. Chrisman Written by:

Sharon Kabbes Chrisman

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