Contrary to some recent criticisms, we don't believe the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) is a closed club. Actually, it's a very open and welcoming place where anyone struggling with diabetes can find support and information. We each might be looking for something different online, and we each have unique experiences. With that in mind, the monthly Diabetes Social Media Advocacy (DSMA) blog carnival is reflecting on a chat from June 13th called Winging It and asked to hear thoughts on the following sentence:
The diabetes (online) community has taught me how to _______ and _______.
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For me, this isn't a fill-in-the-blank kind of question.
I'm not even sure how to respond, because the DOC has taught me so much and changed my life for the better.
Before finding the DOC, I didn't wear diabetes on my sleeve. I didn't share it with the world. My attitude about living with diabetes was mostly negative, because really I'd lost hope that I would ever be able to live without complications or not be adversely impacted by my type 1. That feeling of doom is just something that grew over time, since being diagnosed at age 5.
This was just something I dealt with on my own, and really didn't connect with others on. Why talk about something that most of the general public doesn't understand and typically strapped my optimism whenever I thought about it?
But, in finding the D-Community's support that I didn't even know I needed, my perspective changed.
One important lesson I learned from connecting with many fellow PWDs is that I'm not an expert. No matter how long someone has lived with diabetes, he or she doesn't know everything. We're always learning.
From reading the fun posts and seeing the humor in our D-Life, I've been better able to step back and get some perspective, laugh at the situations that might otherwise be somewhat stressful, and create a positive attitude about my own experiences with diabetes.
As in: Why do the Diabetes Gods only make my infusion sites gush blood when I'm wearing a white shirt? Do they really take that much joy in mocking me and forcing me to keep a supply of bleach on hand?
See, I learned to find the humor in otherwise aggravating situations...
Some people make songs or rap about their diabetes. Others create art or draw cartoons. We can find humor in all kinds of everyday things and take pictures to share with the world. Naming our diabetes devices isn't unheard of, either.
Yes, my pump's name is Bacon Gibbs (because I'm a fan of both the breakfast food and also the TV series NCIS), but I digress...
Honestly, I think naming your pump and other silliness are just ways to embrace our D-Lives and share the things we go through in a fun, less-threatening way than the "medical" approach.
Sometimes, it's just a matter of waking up to a low or high blood sugar in the middle of the night and being able to Tweet about it, and see the response from others who really get my frustration. When that support is in your corner and judgement isn't the first reaction you get from people, you're more likely to put yourself out there.
I've learned that sharing our stories can have huge ripple effects, in ways we can't even imagine, keeping us accountable and able to better manage our own health, and also helping those who might just need a hug or motivational boost to keep checking their BG levels.
As the community has grown through the years and the number of D-blogs has exploded, I've been able to see so many different viewpoints — something that's essential for any journalist, who was taught from Day One that there are at least eight sides to every story. I've connected with people who are outside of the original type 1 blogging circle and learned more about type 2s, D-parents and those diagnosed with LADA later in life. And I learned to not be so critical of complicated things like the FDA and Pharma (even though much of it may be justified), and instead recognize that these entities have some very passionate and dedicated people working to do what's best for us PWDs.
So that's what the DOC has taught me, and in doing so it's helped me be a better person who wants to share my story and help others seeking the same kind of community. Maybe that's advocating. Or maybe it's just sharing my story — all mixed together with covering diabetes issues here at the 'Mine and getting people information they need, want or can use in their own worlds.
Basically, it's all just ways of coping and keeping my sanity.
And with all of that, the DOC has taught me how to appreciate what we have, despite diabetes and in many ways because of diabetes.
That's the short and sweet of it (and yes, that WAS a diabetes pun!).
This post is our July 2012 entry in the DSMA Blog Carnival. Click here to learn more if you'd like to participate too.