Lee Ann Thill

In 1978 I was 5 years old, had just started kindergarten, and was diagnosed with... read more

Lee Ann Thill

Bio

In 1978 I was 5 years old, had just started kindergarten, and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Diabetes was a major influence on me as I was growing up – it affected my relationships, my perception of myself, and how I interacted with the world around me. While growing up, diabetes had a major impact on my emotional and social development, and as a result, I've struggled with mental health issues since I was a teenager. I was diagnosed with depression at age 16, and because of the dietary aspect of managing diabetes, which was much different back in the late 70’s and 80’s, I developed a very unhealthy relationship to food and eating. At age 14, I started having eating disorder symptoms, both bulimia and insulin-omission (diabulimia, as it’s now called). It wasn't until I was in my 20's that I started to recognize a relationship between my mental health problems and my diabetes, and I spent my 20's and into my early 30's getting counseling to make amends with the disease I had been so resistant to accept. It’s only been within the last few years that I finally managed to put all the pieces together, embrace my diabetes, and start taking care of myself. I've had some complications – retinopathy that's been successfully treated with laser treatments and a vitrectomy, diabetic mastopathy, adhesive capsulitis, and some kidney damage that has improved since I've gotten my blood sugars managed. Today I’m an art therapist, channeling my professional expertise and energy toward inspiring others to develop a positive attitude about living with diabetes. With increased awareness, I'd like to see the medical community incorporating mental health services into the diabetes health care delivery system from mental health service providers who are knowledgeable about the special issues and needs of diabetic patients. My goal is to create opportunities to use art therapy with diabetics and educate the diabetes community about how creative endeavors can help people live peacefully with diabetes by facilitating self-awareness and promoting the development of healthy coping skills. By blogging, I hope that I can educate others about diabetes-related psychology and behavioral health issues and how counseling and emotional support can make a difference in disease outcome. Currently, I live with my husband, Jason, and our reptilian ‘children’. I like creative activities like cooking, gardening, art-making, and writing. I also like watching sporting events, especially Eagles football, and more than anything, I love to travel. I have a BFA in painting/drawing and ceramics, an MA in art therapy, and I'm a registered art therapist (ATR) and professional member of the American Art Therapy Association, the Delaware Valley Art Therapy Association and the American Diabetes Association.