Until a few months ago, I didn’t know much about the peer-to-peer support and family connection accomplished by ConnecT1D. It wasn’t until Susan Horst reached out to me to see if I was available to visit for their ConnecT1D retreat that I was thrown into their world of the powerhouse diabetes outreach taking place in the Pacific Northwest.
Susan Horst, project manager at ConnecT1D, shared her personal story over at A Sweet Life, shedding light on what brought her into the diabetes space in the first place and what keeps her here. She was tasked with organizing and launching the first ConnecT1D Retreat and it was an event that both inspired PWD and ignited friendships. Joe Solowiejczyk and I were charged with facilitating discussions and delivering the keynote addresses, alongside Jody Stanislaw, Cassady Kintner, and other speakers touched by diabetes.
The Facebook group for this event was a little quiet before the retreat, but after everyone had a chance to connect, discussions started to blow up (in a good way) in the threads. People were reconnecting, firming up plans, and sharing photos of experiences with new friends. It was awesome to watch the group transition from “functional” to “frigging unstoppable.”
Jo Fasen, an attendee with T1D, said, “[The] ConnecT1D Retreat created a wonderfully unique opportunity, offered no where else that I am aware of, to connect in a safe, fun and friendly environment. Everyone could share in their own way and we learned from everyone while the speakers addressed serious issues and concerns with humor and humility. Memorable, compelling, impactful are only some of the words to describe this experience … and I don’t know anyone that won’t be back next year.”
Julie Schliebner said, “To connect with others sharing in the same struggle was invaluable to me. When I feel less alone and understood I am able to ride the roller coaster with greater self compassion. I am so grateful to ConnecT1D and each attendee. I really look forward to more time with this community. I want to attend every single year!”
Jim Cheairs chimed in with two things: “I understand that I don’t have to live with T1D in a vacuum and I am in the process of ordering a CGM … [a] Dexcom, which is a result of info gleamed from others at the retreat.”
“The retreat aspect of the weekend is what made it the best ever,” said John Highet. “Saturday’s conference was great – don’t get me wrong, with really good talks and really good participation & interaction. But the real connecting didn’t start for me until the walk to the ferry with Brandon and Brenna VanDalsen and didn’t end until the ferry ride back to Seattle with David, Patricia, Alex, and Joel. In between were connections with many more, enjoying the sun and resort, just hanging out, and some inspiring, vulnerable and emotional small group breakouts on Sunday. It will be hard to top this, but I will be there whenever it happens.”
“For the first time in my life I felt like I wasn’t alone with type 1 diabetes,” shared Lauren Sorteberg. “Connect1D was amazing and the speakers were down to earth and real! It shaped me in more ways than I could have imagine! It was an emotional, eye-opening experience.”
Diana Cheairs brought some spousal perspectives, attending the retreat with her husband (who has type 1 diabetes). “I missed the first day so I didn’t know I am a T3 [person who supports a PWD]. All the T3 met outside by the beautiful willow tree. Looking around at all of us, many of us realized that we had never spent any time with other spouses of T1’s. Most of us had never even met another spouse of a T1. Wow , that was weird to realize that in the 20 years out of 38 years that Jim and I have been together I had not spent any time with a T3. I shared things with the group that I have not shared with others because those others would not have understood.”
Access to sound and reasonable medical advice is necessary for a healthy life with diabetes, but peer-to-peer connections are just as essential. Sitting with a group of people who understand the intimacy of diabetes, both emotionally and physically, can be a powerful healing and dealing strategy. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to visit the ConnecT1D group and see the power in their collective stories.
Attendee Tracy Wu summed it up perfectly: ” It was such a great weekend for my mental well-being and gives me more oomph to face tackling diabetes for another 32 years!!”