A little bit more about WAD...



Initial discussions regarding the overall concept of We Are Diabetes began in the fall of 2011. By January 2012, our official website had been launched and we hit the ground running! Since then, We Are Diabetes has offered a unique type of support that doesn't seem to be found anywhere else; one-on-one mentorship, guidance and resources to any type 1 diabetic who may not only be feeling alone, but who may also be suffering from a co-occurring condition like an eating disorder or depression.

We do not claim to have all of the answers, and sometimes getting support isn't about having the right answer. Sometimes the most helpful and impactful kind of support comes from someone who truly understands what it's like to live with such a demanding and (mostly) invisible chronic illness.

Our staff have all dealt with the emotional turmoil that can come from living with type 1 diabetes. They have fought hard to regain their emotional and physical health, and are passionate about helping others regain their identity beyond their diabetes.

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Asha Brown
Founder & Executive Director


e-mail: asha...@wearediabetes.org

Asha was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 5 years old. Throughout her childhood, diabetes was simply a way of life because her father had type 1 most of his life as well. She didn't mind being a little different than her friends and never had a problem explaining type 1 diabetes to anyone who had questions. In fact, diabetes never created an obstacle in Asha’s life until she was old enough to understand that her weight and body size were not completely under her own control. As a dancer, actress and a fitness instructor by the time she was 17, Asha lived for movement and her body’s ability to feel good in its own skin. After reading many articles and books that gave a daunting account of weight gain associated with insulin resistance and diabetes, Asha felt the first stirring of resentment towards a disease she felt was dooming her to an inability to have the physical strength and shape that she knew she deserved and could achieve. And so she started to omit insulin occasionally when it was “necessary” to get things done.

The obsession with maintaining a healthy size and weight while coping with multiple autoimmune disorders (hypothyroidism, polycystic ovary syndrome, as well as type 1 diabetes) became a full-time job for Asha during high school and college. The lack of support for type 1 diabetics was also disheartening as most of the information discussed in the media dealt with type 2 diabetes. Asha began to omit insulin for the purpose of weight control. She also started to rely on the numbing effect of ommission to drown out the daily anxieties that people with chronic illness often battle against. She felt it was a cruel joke to have such a passion for dance and performing and to have to constantly “take it easy” due to her low blood sugars, or worry that she would have one when she was on stage. Skipping her insulin shots, or taking less than required to cover a meal, became second nature to her, and for years she struggled with the cycles of omitting insulin, binging, restricting and swearing never to do it again.

Asha wrestled, off and on, with symptoms of diabulimia beginning in her sophomore year of high school, but it began to truly take over her life in her freshman year of college. By then, it dramatically affected every single choice she made in her life, her relationships and her daily routines. The effort to keep her eating disorder a secret became all-encompassing. It wasn't until she met the love of her life and was married that she began to consider the idea of seeking treatment for her eating disorder. For years, Asha continued to tell herself that she would stop her dangerous secretive behaviors once she was at her perfect weight. The problem with that, of course, is that there’s no such thing as a perfect weight or a perfect body -- and, therefore, no end in sight. Asha soon realized she had no idea how to live without her eating disorder. And she knew she could never be the wife and life partner to her wonderful husband or truly follow her dreams of performing until she let go of her destructive behaviors.

Asha took her first step towards living fully in her life again when she had an initial assessment made at the Park Nicollet Melrose Center in 2009. She was strongly encouraged to check into the inpatient treatment program that very day due to the severity and danger of her out-of-control diabetes. And with that, she surrendered. She went through a year of treatment, starting with two weeks of inpatient care and then moving to weekly outpatient appointments, and finally monthly. Along with the wonderful support she received from the staff at the Melrose Center, she realized how supportive her family and friends could be once she finally shared her difficulties with them. Her life began to churn once again with passion, discovery and joy.

Asha’s life today is new and very different after finally coming to terms with her disorder. She is no longer imprisoned by the numbers on the scale or the fear of food. After receiving treatment, she returned to teaching yoga, a passion she had enjoyed years ago before her diabulimia took top priority. She performs often in theaters in the Minneapolis area, and delights in exploring and cooking new recipes and foods. She lives very happily with her beloved husband who has been her grounding source of support and continues to give her the courage to fight the odds associated with her type 1 diabetes, her recovery, and reminds her of so many reasons to never give up.

Asha works with families, patients, and health professionals across the USA. She uses her personal experiences with ED-DMT1 to offer hope and support to those still struggling. She also establishes relationships with eating disorder facilities and diabetes organizations across the county to help connect people to appropriate care. Asha has presented at NEDA, AADE, and JDRF, among others. She writes for Diabetes Health, Diabetes Daily, Glu, Insulin Nation, dlife, DiabetesMine, and other websites. She was a member of the ADA Woman and Diabetes Subcommittee and is a member of Diabetes Advocates and BEDA.




Amy Gabbert-Montag
Executive Assistant


e-mail: amy...@wearediabetes.org

Amy was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age seven. Her parents describe her reaction to the diagnosis as positive and mature. Amy and her family adopted a healthy approach to dealing with diabetes. She wasn't afraid to tell others about diabetes and had plenty of support managing her chronic illness. At the age of ten, Amy's three-year-old sister was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Because her sister was so young, Amy's parents had to monitor her sister quite closely. Thus, a lot of the responsibility regarding Amy's diabetes management was shifted to herself. The upbeat attitude she had about diabetes quickly began to wane as she grew frustrated with her less-than-perfect blood sugars and her inability to keep them in range. Even at the age of ten, Amy exhibited a lot of perfectionist traits. She was also hyper-sensitive, extremely hard on herself, and always felt guilty about every single thing she did wrong.

Though she had difficulty regulating her blood sugars during this time, it wasn't until the summer before her junior year of high school that Amy started to skip insulin injections in order to lose weight. "I was upset that I didn't make the A honor roll," she recalls. "I thought I could fix myself by losing weight." She soon found that high blood sugars also numbed the relentless anxiety and pressure Amy felt to be perfect. Her last two years in high school were miserable. Her grades dropped, her mood deteriorated and she isolated herself from her family and friends.

Amy attended college close to her home town where her mental and physical health continued to decline. She was often too sick to attend classes, her financial aid was dropped because of her failing grades, and she started to experience blurry vision and burning pain in her feet. After her disastrous first year in college, Amy finally decided to admit to her endocrinologist why her blood sugars were so high. Her doctor immediately referred her to Park Nicollet's Melrose Center, a clinic that specializes in treating diabetics with eating disorders. Amy's path to recovery was not a linear, upward progression; there were many relapses and slip-ups. "My idea of what treatment was supposed to be was very different from reality. I wanted to figure out what was wrong with me and then change my behaviors. I found that the opposite was more effective."

Amy believes there were many contributing factors to her development of an eating disorder. After her blood sugars had stabilized she began to learn how to deal with anxiety and her perfectionist tendencies. She also found she had a hard time naming emotions and managing them. It was through therapy that she learned effective coping skills that lead her away from self-destructive behaviors.

Amy is passionate about debunking the common myths and misconceptions about eating disorders and treatment. Amy has a bachelor's degree in Women's Studies and is currently a volunteer for the National Eating Disorders Association. Her ambitions are to attend graduate school to attain a master's degree in Social Work and to pursue a career in the eating disorder field.




Kathlin Gordon, RDN
Southeast Regional Outreach Representative



Kathlin Gordon is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She has over 25 years of insulin pump and Continuous Glucose Monitoring technology experience, and specializes in Medical Nutrition Therapy related to diabetes management of Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes in adults, adolescents and children.

During her undergraduate work she was chosen as one of six graduates in the state to complete her internship through the Virginia Department of Health. At Duke University, she participated in several studies, including Diabetes relevance in Depression and Eating Disorders.

Diabetes research and the use of technology to manage diabetes are special areas of interest for Kathlin. Kathlin is a member of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) where she has lobbied Congress to bring awareness and support to the Special Diabetes Program and the importance of funding research. Kathlin is the Southeast Regional Outreach Representative for We Are Diabetes. She is committed to her patients’ health and wellbeing by helping them maintain the full life they had prior to diagnosis.

Kathlin is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (VAND), and the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE).
  • Registered Dietitian Nutritionist 2016
  • VDH Internship 2014-2015
  • Bachelor of Science Food and Nutrition Science, Norfolk State University, 2012
  • Dietetic Technician, Registered, 2003
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts, East Carolina University, 1998



 

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The material on this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute or be a substitute for medical advice from a qualified medical or mental health professional. The individuals associated with We Are Diabetes are not medical or mental health professionals. We Are Diabetes does not endorse any specific treatment centers, physicians, healthcare providers, mental health professionals, tests, products, services, procedures, opinions, or other information that are mentioned on the web site.

Always consult your physician or other qualified healthcare or mental health provider for advice, diagnosis and treatment of any health-related matter, including relating to diabetes and/or eating disorders. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.