Two weeks ago, I was in Vienna for the third annual European Animas Blogger Summit. (I’m a blogger, and I have a working relationship with Animas. Only missing the European part, and I can’t even pretend because I was once told that my attempt at a British accent was akin to Dick Van Dyke’s Mary Poppins attempt. So, no.) Other folks who were in attendance have written about their impressions and take-aways, but the discussions we had can’t be concisely covered in a blog post. It would take several blog posts.
So, in keeping with that theme, this blog post is centered around one of the discussions that embedded itself into my head: connecting with PWD who are living with type 2 diabetes.
It started with a conversation about the #walkwithd campaign.
“The Walk with D campaign is about showing people what diabetes is really like, peeling back the stigma and reinstating dignity. We do this already through blogs and Twitter and Facebook updates and all of the photos we share with our community and society as a whole. The hashtag is simply a way to link some of these discussions, and to share more. But, in looking around the room, I see a lot of kindred spirits who are dealing with type 1 diabetes. Where are the type 2 voices?”
I don’t know much at all about life with type 2 diabetes. Sure, I can look it up on dLife or WebMD or some other resource that gives a high-level definition of type 2 diabetes, but that doesn’t give me a sense of what it’s actually like to live with type 2 diabetes.
My lack of perspective used to be rooted in straight up ignorance. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a child, I actively sought to separate myself from my type 2 peers because I didn’t want people thinking “I did this to myself.” And I have to put that statement in quotes because it’s such a crummy one, now that I know so much more about the differences and similarities between all types of diabetes.
It’s difficult to talk about how I felt when people lumped type 1 and type 2 together. I’m embarrassed to admit these things. The diseases are different in their origin but so similar in how they map out physically, and more importantly, emotionally, and I wish I had known that earlier. I wish I had been more supportive of my type 2 peers. I wish I had known how they felt.
And that’s the part I truly want to better understand. How does it FEEL to live with type 2?
Rachel at Refreshing D was one of the first people who had type 2 diabetes who I really got to know. Through her columns at dLife, her blog, and through becoming friends, I had a reliable window into life with type 2 diabetes. I don’t know if I can properly articulate how much she has taught me, or thank her for being brave enough to share her story. With Rachel as my gateway to understanding type 2 diabetes, I connected to and learned from people like Travis, Sue, Kate, and Bob. People who live with diabetes – just not the type I’m familiar with – but who I need to better understand in order to best understand this community.
“I wish more people with type 2 would raise their voices. How can we encourage them to? How can we empower them to?”
The discussion during the blogger summit was frustrating in that none of us had a clear answer, but we realized that the responsibility for creating an empowering and inviting environment was on the DOC, both globally and in our respective countries. We, as people with type 1 diabetes, are smaller in number in society but we tend to dominate the Diabetes Online Community, and I think it’s up to us to help pave the way for people with type 2 diabetes to feel comfortable coming out of their diabetes cave and sharing their perspectives. Stigma runs rampant regarding diabetes, but we can help change it from the inside by getting to know our peers. Finding what unites us can help us better understand one another as people and can help us all feel like we’re part of a community that has our back.
If you’re living with type 2 diabetes and you’re reading this post, please share your journey.
I walk with diabetes, but I don’t walk alone. And neither do you.