If I Knew Then: Diabetes Blogging.
I wish I had known, at the outset, what a “blog” was. When Chris suggested I start one back in 2005, the face I made was as though he had shoved a lemon into my mouth. “A blaaaaahgg?”
I wish I had known that things like SEO would matter – not on the “I need more page views” sort of nonsense, but in terms of being found by the people I was hoping to connect with. I started blogging in search of others who understood what diabetes in real life was like, and in starting that journey, I picked a blog title that took poetic license into account more so than SEO. (I guess I should have included ‘diabetes’ in the title, but where’s the fun in that?)
I wish I had known how privacy concerns would change over the course of a decade. When I first started writing about diabetes, I wanted other people to find me, and I was happy to have my real name attached to my writing. (I also didn’t know any better.) Openly disclosing my diabetes was an asset in my pursuit of diabetes-related employment (leading directly to my job at dLife) and I was fine with being Googled. But over time, and with the realization of how pervasive the Internet is, I wanted a less-is-more approach for certain topics. Not everything needs to be shared, in particular moments where my family is concerned. We have made certain decisions, as a family, but it doesn’t mean they are the right choice for everyone. There is no “right choice,” – just varying perspectives and levels of comfort.
I wish I had known how much I needed to connect with peers who have diabetes. I don’t know what it’s like for every person diagnosed with type 1 as a kid, but for me, there was this long period between diabetes camp and finding the DOC where I felt isolated and alone with diabetes. I didn’t realize the missing link between “pursuing” and “achieving” my health-related goals was peer-to-peer support. Having access to a community doesn’t make me like diabetes, but it does make diabetes feel less like something I’m inclined to hate.
I wish I had known there would be trolls. And that they don’t matter.
I wish I had known how my writing would affect the people closest to me. When I write about a low blood sugar that scared the hell out of me, I forget that my mother and father also read about that same low blood sugar, and it still scares the hell out of them. My diabetes, though existing in my physical body, reaches out into my family and might scare them at times, too.
(To that same end, I wish I had known my mother didn’t know that I could pre-write posts and schedule them to go live at any given time. For a while, my mom thought a new blog post in the morning meant I was awake and fine. I hated taking that security away from her.)
I wish I had known there would be growing pains as the community expanded and grew in numbers, scope, and passion. When the DOC was small, it was easy to know all the folks involved and for people to support one another. Now, there are hundreds and hundreds of amazing voices and perspectives, and keeping up is damn near impossible. Even the best feed reader and the strongest coffee can’t get me through everyone’s new updates, so I read as many as I can instead of reading as many as there are. Sometimes I don’t agree with everything I read, but isn’t that the point? For the community to expand my mind and my perspectives? For the DOC to be the red pill?
I wish I had known that the community would be bigger than one state, or one country, or even one continent. I wish I had known that I would find kindred spirits in London and Melbourne and Burlington. I wish I had known that these people were there the whole time, living with diabetes just like I was, and that I wasn’t nearly as alone as I felt at times.
I wish I had known there would be a lot of people asking “How do I get involved?” Because then I’d be prepared to tell them that involvement requires participation. You want to get involved with the diabetes community, online or off? You need to put yourself out there, even just a little bit, and make yourself available. Volunteer at local JDRF or ADA events. If support groups don’t exist, start one. If you want to become more connected online, go to where many people are connecting (try #dsma tonight, even!). Start your own website. There are many avenues for diabetes advocacy, and the need for your voice is critical.
But what I did know is that every voice matters. And every voice has always mattered. This community is huge and continues to grow because it needs to, and because there isn’t someone who tells the story of all of us. We tell our own stories, and the power is found in the collective itself. One diabetes blog or website or newsletter doesn’t define this community (there is no “blog of Sauron”… wait a second …), so share your story – please! Raise your voice. And maybe the difference we make can be felt in more that just our own lives.