People ask me why this conference matters, why the organization matters, and it’s sometimes hard to sum up. What’s so great about sitting in a room full of people with diabetes? Isn’t it like surrounding yourself with a reminder of something that is a pain in the butt (diabetes)? Doesn’t it suck to talk about diabetes all the time?
DUDE. NO. This is kind of the opposite. Being around people who understand diabetes doesn’t breed a boatload of discussion about it. Instead, I’m sitting at a lunch table with folks who know the ins and outs of diabetes, but we don’t shout out our blood sugar results or bolus amounts. It’s not like that. We’re talking about what our lives are like outside of diabetes, about the life we build that includes diabetes, not built around diabetes.
People with diabetes wear green bracelets, to both alert to potential emergency situations (you see a green bracelet in distress, think glucose tabs in a hurry) but the green also threads together the people who are playing host to diabetes.
A quick glance at someone’s wrist lets you know that they get it.
Sometimes, when days are kind of rough, I’ll put on a green bracelet to remind myself that I am not alone. Support from the community is as important as the insulin I take; both keep me healthy, and keep me going.
But it’s not just the green bracelets that make this community so powerful. Orange bracelets are given to folks who don’t have diabetes, but who remain touched by diabetes. My daughter and my mother came to Friends for Life with me a few years ago, and they were also able to connect with their respective tribes, the orange braceleters. My mother, after decades of raising me without a vast diabetes support network, was immersed in a sea of parents who understood so much of what she’s experienced as my parent. And my daughter, her understanding of mom’s diabetes expanding with time, was able to hang out with other little kids who had parents with diabetes.
This kind of support, community … whatever you want to call it, it matters. I mean, you’re here reading on a diabetes-centric blog, for crying out loud. Clearly we, as a group, have a pull towards one another and benefit from connecting. For me, knowing I’m not the only PWD (person with diabetes) on the planet makes diabetes easier to handle. This is a hard thing to build studies around and quantify how it affects health outcomes, but taking my insulin is easier when my mental health receives care. My A1C has been consistently steadier since engaging with the community. My level of diabetes health literacy has grown by leaps and bounds. And diabetes scares me less, on the whole, because I am surrounded by people who are in it with me.
Whole person health, remember? Diabetes doesn’t exist in a damn vacuum.
The annual Friends for Life conference is coming up this July, and if you haven’t checked out the conference, now is the best time. There are also other regional conferences (Anaheim in September, Falls Church this past April) that offer the same connection and community on a slightly smaller scale.
Full disclosure: I’m a board member for T-1 Today, which is the parent non-profit organization for Children with Diabetes. My bias includes that, and the fact that I haven’t produced any insulin for the last 30 years. If you’re an organization interested in finding out more about how to make a tangible difference in the diabetes community, please connect with me. And if you are interested in making a charitable donation to support the organization, click here. And thank you!
SUM Related posts:
- CWD: My First Time
- CWD Meets CGM
- CWD – Parenting with Type 1 Diabetes
- CWD: Pregnancy and Diabetes
- CWD: Focus on Technology.
- CWD FFL 2012: Parenting with Type 1 Diabetes.
- CWD: “You Can Not Like It and Still Do It.”
- Being an Adult at Children With Diabetes.
- Friends for Life Frenzy
- Flick of the Wrist
- Friends for Life: Madcap Recap
- My Little Orange Bracelet