I was impressed when I tripped over Jessica Bernstein in an article in DiabetesHealth magazine last month titled, “Blood & Honey: A Documentary.”
Bernstein is a psychologist making a documentary film that deals with the psychological component of living with diabetes. As a type 1 diabetic herself, she says, “I wanted to understand how living with the condition for so many years influenced people’s identity development.”
Like me, Bernstein has seen that diabetes researchers are focused almost exclusively on the negative aspects of diabetes. Few talk about how people can develop in positive ways as a result of dealing with diabetes. Bernstein began turning this realization and curiosity about how diabetes can have a positive, developmental affect into a film.
Her film, Blood & Honey is still partially in development and looking forextra funding. At present, the film features interviews with several people who live with chronic illness and explores what we can learn from them. There’s an African medicine man who shares that peple who live with chronic illness for many years in his culture are considered “elders,” the wise ones that communities draw upon in times of crisis. An interesting and far different slant than how seniors who live with diabetes here are regarded and hold it themselves. Here the primary sentiments attached seem to be: blame, guilt and victimhood rather than wisdom and reverence.
Philosopher, Susan Wendell, who’s lived with chronic fatigue syndrome for 20 years also featured in the film believes people who spend years living with chronic illness learning how to deal with pain and suffering become valuable resources for others. “We don’t talk as much about the experience of illness as we talk about how to get over it, how to stop it, how to prevent it, how to relieve it, how you can be healthy if you really try,” says Wendell. “I think there’s an enormous body of knowledge among people who are suffering that is untapped and if we tapped into it we’d be less afraid and know better how to cope when something happens to us,” she finishes.
As producer Bernstein says,”Coming to see myself as someone with wisdom to share was a revelation.” When Bernstein tells someone she’s lived with diabetes for 36 years, as have I incidentally, they remark, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” Nobody she says has thought to pick her brain and learn what she’s learned about central issues of diabetes and life, like uncertainty, loss, change and mortality.
Imagine just for a moment how it might change how you feel about yourself and living with diabetes if you regarded yourself as a wise one where every day your strength, courage, humility and dreams are tested, and you learn from such experiences. Would you see yourself differently, your capability and value?
Bernstein’s film has gotten off to an exciting start and is seeking funds. Learn more about the film by checking out her web site, and you can make a tax deductible donation through www.bloodandhoney.org.