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A Purpose for Survival

I last blogged about a term that Trisha Torrey coined: Proactive Survivorship.  She called it the 6th Stage of Grief and describes how and why some people are able and indeed need to turn horrible events in their own lives into actions that can help others.

I’ve never really liked being called a survivor of diabetes.  To me, a survivor survives some type of “event”.  An event with a definite beginning and a definite ending.  Diabetes doesn’t have an ending.  Unless you count dying, which I don’t because if I die I’ll no longer care about diabetes. Or anything else for that matter.  So there ;D

Survivorship, though, conveys a meaning of the “state or condition” of surviving.  It is an ongoing process.

Elizabeth Kubler Ross wrote about the 5 Stages of Grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance as a “process” that people use to adjust to some type of “loss”, any type of loss really.  Be it the loss of a round of golf to the loss of our health or, tragically, the loss of a loved one.

5 stages for a round of golf? Seriously? Seriously.  Think about the conversation you’d have. “I can’t believe I missed that putt!” then onto “DAMMIT” followed up by a “If I had just hit the ball a little softer”.  You’d then let out a sigh and shake hands with your opponent and buy the first round at the 19th hole.

Talking with Morpheus about grief has shown me that it’s not quite that clear cut for most of us. The stages often get jumbled up together. You may get stuck unable to move past one stage and on the next. In my case, I had to find something to “blame” for the loss. The blame gave me something to use that anger on and when I blamed myself, I was stuck.

It became a vicious cycle of anger at myself, bargaining that by ignoring my diabetes I would eventually get everything I deserved, and then depression that I kept on surviving.  Which in turn spawned more anger at myself, which…  Ye gods, what a mess.

Eventually, after blogging and being part of the DOC for a while, I was able to start the process of forgiving  myself. Which enabled me to seek some counseling because I was finally able to see for myself, to understand that I was indeed stuck and had been for a long time.

Morpheus has helped me understand that, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter why I survived, just that I  did. It wasn’t a failure that I did not die but, at the same time, it didn’t feel like a success. It was a type of acceptance, but I found that I wasn’t done with the process of grieving.

I’ve accepted my loss, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.  I need more to find some type of balance, some type of peace within myself.  That is why Torrey’s description of Proactive Survivorship struck such a strong chord with me.  It lets me understand a little better why I blog, why I advocate and why I will probably continue to do so in some form or another.

Much like blame gave purpose for my anger, the idea of survivorship now gives purpose to my survival.

© 2012 Scott Strange, Strangely Diabetic and

  • StephenS

    Scott, interesting insight. I’ve certainly felt some of the anger and depression at times. But I agree that writing about it seems to help. I like that word… survivorship.

  • Alanna Swartz

    Great post! It’s so true that coming to terms with diabetes is just as important as controling blood sugars etc. I really like the term suvivorship and will continue to think about it.

    • Thanks Alanna! I also believe that our emotional health is as critical, if not more so at times, as our physical health. I like the term too and it’s presented me with a new way to think about things

  • Scott K. Johnson

    Very powerful post, Scott. Thank you!

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