The Power of People
Whether you find support in an online community or downtown, support can make all the difference.
By Scott Johnson
July 2010 — Diabetes is an invisible thing most of the time. Unless you're "trained" to spot things like infusion sets/tubing or insulin pumps, you'd never know if a person has diabetes or not. And even then, many people living with diabetes and using insulin pumps don't wear them in visible locations. So you never really know.
Life with diabetes can feel very lonely and isolating. Taking advantage of the access the Internet offers can help chip away at the isolation you feel. An online community can connect you to a lot of other people living with diabetes, people who speak your language, people who understand.
I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but the Internet offers a lot of control around your privacy. Anyone can open a web browser and just read; blog posts, community forums, Twitter, etc. There are so many different places where there are stories, experiences, and conversations about life with diabetes. Sometimes just reading that stuff helps.
If you want to get a little more involved, but are still concerned about privacy, you can participate in an online community, either anonymously (in some cases), or with a made-up screen name. You still have full control of what you disclose.
Getting involved with an online community will expose you to many people living with diabetes and their experiences. Everyone has a different way to deal with things, and by reading their experiences you might learn something, or at least increase your awareness. Sometimes seeing more than one way to do something can give you ideas about your own diabetes management.
You'll often connect with something or someone you find in an online community. You'll find something that resonates with you. You'll relate to it, and feel like you've gone through the exact same thing – that's where you'll feel the isolation fading away a little bit.
Maybe you'll find a group of people with diabetes who get together locally. Many of the online community sites have areas in the forums dedicated to just that. There will usually be details on when and where, and you can often get a feel for who else might be attending.
Some groups are very casual and relaxed, usually meeting at a local coffee shop or caf. Other groups can be a little more structured, with an agenda and speakers, and will usually meet up at locations with meeting rooms or other spaces to accommodate that sort of meeting.
The casual groups are usually more social, and the conversation doesn't typically have a specific direction. It's just like getting together with old friends and catching up. Time seems to speed by, and before you know it you'll have spent three hours just chatting away.
The structured groups usually have a more defined start and end time, are a little less social, and usually more focused on presenting information. That information might come from a guest speaker, or from the meeting facilitators.
Take a little bit of time to learn about the group you are interested in. If you live with type 1 diabetes, you'll not get much useful information or bonding if you attend a group focused on life with type 2 diabetes.
It may take a little bit of work to find a group you'll enjoy attending, but finding a group that fits you will pay off. There's nothing better than spending a little bit of time with people that understand life with diabetes.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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