The DOC: The 24/7 Support System I Never Knew that I Needed

I’ve lauded the DOC (Diabetes Online Community) time and time again for connecting me with individuals globally who are also affected by type one diabetes. And I don’t foresee an end to my desire to express gratitude for this amazing community, because over and over, members of it continue to blow me away with their words of encouragement and gestures of friendship.

My latest wave of gratefulness was spurred when I arrived home from work on Monday to a cheerful, Tiffany-blue envelope waiting patiently for me to open it. It was a delightful little package from my friend Sarah, who I “met” via Instagram over the summer. Besides diabetes, we share common interests in fitness, wellness, our pet dogs, and bright colors, among other things.

Sarah went out of her way to mail me a few goodies (shown in the picture), including a cute T1D key chain and an adorable cactus card with a message of support written inside. I was incredibly, pleasantly surprised by all of it. It wasn’t about the material items for me (though they are totally my style, and I can’t wait to make use of them). It was more so how she took the time to put it all together for me, cleverly incorporating some of the things that introduced us to one another in the first place, that really blew me away.

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Sweet trinkets from a sweet friend!

It got me thinking about the larger diabetes community I’ve met and harvested friendships with in the last several years. And as hard as it is for me to properly describe the level of richness, knowledge, and support that those friendships have given to me, it’s beyond easy for me to say that I am infinitely thankful for all of them, and I hope that in return, I am able to offer at least a fraction of the same to others.

With all that said, it’s even more mind-blowing to me that I resisted this community for such a long time. For the first 14 years or so that I lived with diabetes, I rejected the notion that I needed peer support to help me manage the emotional and physical aspects of diabetes. I turned down offers to go to diabetes camp. I didn’t interact with the only two other diabetics in my school’s district because I feared social isolation. In some situations, I even pretended that I didn’t have diabetes, because my yearning to be normal like everyone else overpowered my need to make my health a priority.

That’s why I don’t think it’s a coincidence that things started to turn around when I met other T1Ds my age. That marked the point where I could have open, honest conversations with others who were going through similar life events at the same time as me, without the judgments or criticisms I may have had to endure if I had those same conversations with family or doctors. While I know that I need to give myself and my personal growth some credit for improving how I manage my diabetes, I would be remiss if I did not also attribute some of that credit to the members of the DOC who have made meaningful contributions to my life and my outlook on it.

It’s funny that something special in the mail made me contemplate all of this, but Sarah’s thoughtful package to me is a tangible representation of how connections within the DOC have changed me for the better.

Thank you, Sarah, and another big thank you to those of you in the DOC that I have met, as well as those I have yet to meet.

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Memory Monday: That Time I was Bullied for Having T1D

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much my diabetes thoughts, feelings, and experiences have unfolded over the years. Today, I remember…

…when my alleged “best friend” picked on me for having diabetes. It sucked.

Let me recount this tale by saying first that this was many years ago – I think it was in third or fourth grade. Since my grade school days, I’ve made much smarter choices when it comes to my social circles.

But back then, I didn’t really know any better. I just wanted to be friendly with everyone.

I digress…

Back in elementary school, we were awarded fitness “medals” for being able to complete a series of exercises in physical education. These medals were really just flimsy little patches that you could sew on to a backpack, but nevertheless, I wanted one very badly. But no matter how hard I tried in gym, I just couldn’t complete as many reps as it took to earn a medal. I was always just shy of the threshold, much to my frustration.

I’ll never forget when my “best friend” told me that there was a very obvious reason as to why I couldn’t, and would never, earn a medal:

It’s because she has diabetes, she can’t do anything right with that!

In that moment in time, I was too dumbstruck by the stupidity of that comment to tell her that she was wrong. I was also incredibly hurt by her words, and they haunted me for many years after they were so callously said to my face.

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My Lilly medal means more to me now than a stupid grade-school medal ever could.

Now, as an adult reflecting on it, I wish I had told her that diabetes could never stop me from doing anything. I wish I told her that she was in the wrong for saying what she said, and I wish that she could see all that I’ve accomplished over the years in spite of my diabetes.

But most of all? I wish I could thank her for that comment – because as mean as it was, it gave me something to think about on the days when I just want to quit because of diabetes. Her words serve as a reminder to me that I can and will succeed at anything I set my mind to, diabetes and all.

T1D and Emotional Support: The Best Support Comes from my Online Community

Yesterday, I admitted something via Twitter:

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Without going into a ton of detail, I’ve had higher-than-normal blood sugars in the past week or two. Nothing super alarming, but enough for me to notice and feel discouraged about this new pattern. And enough for me to feel that I needed to tell someone about it.

But why post this on Twitter, and not tell my family or my friends? I chose Twitter as my outlet because my network there is composed primarily of people with diabetes. They’re the ones who completely understand where I’m coming from. That’s not to discount my family and friends – they know me and my diabetes well, and I know that I could reach out to any one of them whenever I need to – but truthfully, sometimes it’s easier to talk to people who know exactly what I’m experiencing. I don’t have to explain myself as much, and it’s understood immediately that my feelings are valid and warranted. And just the acknowledgment, the “hey, I’ve been there, too” or the “I know what that’s like”, is all I really need.

I was blown away by the responses I received on Twitter. Many people took the time to reply to me, and I continued to receive tweets for hours throughout the day. Each message encouraged me and motivated me, and some even applauded me for admitting my troubles to my Twitter network. I also received a couple of really great GIFs; in particular, the beaming cactus put a big old grin on my face.

So thank you, DOC, for being there for me when I needed to be lifted up. I’ll keep you all updated as I try to figure out what’s going on, but for now, thank you for reinvigorating me and for caring. No words can truly express my gratitude, but damn, this community is incredible.

I’m reminding myself, and you, that I’ve got this – and you do, too.

I’m Right, You’re Wrong: Debating with T1D

I found the diabetes online community (DOC) a few years ago – or perhaps it found me – and to this day, I’m incredibly grateful for it. It’s introduced me to new friends and it’s always been a reliable source of information. Whether I’m lamenting a low blood sugar at 2 A.M. or asking if anyone has advice on a pod problem at 2 P.M., odds are I’ll have someone reaching out to me within minutes in some form or fashion. That kind of on-the-fly support is invaluable.

That being said…the DOC is not always a perfect safe haven.

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When it comes to diabetes, there shouldn’t be a “right” or a “wrong” side. T1D is hard enough.

In fact, if there was one thing I could change about it, it would be to make it a judgment-free space: because all too often, people are unfairly judged for how they choose to manage their own diabetes.

I’m not saying that people aren’t entitled to opinions. Of course they are! But what happened to respectfully disagreeing with people?

I’ve seen situations like the following across different social media platforms:

  • People getting attacked for following low/medium/high-carb diets
  • People getting criticized for sharing “good” and “bad” blood sugars/A1cs
  • People getting judged for dealing with diabetes burnout – as well as people getting judged for sharing their diabetes triumphs
  • People getting discouraged from posting only the pretty parts of diabetes

We can’t keep doing this to each other. Just because a certain diet or T1D management strategy works out well for one person, doesn’t mean that it will work the same for another. That’s because diabetes is not a one-size-fits-all condition.

And we shouldn’t be judging one another for our differences. In fact, our differences can teach us so much more than our similarities can. We should celebrate one another for living with diabetes: doing the best we can, day after day, whether it yields “ideal” or “not ideal” results. Because it’s damn difficult to manage, and anyone who says otherwise is being judgmental.

We can learn and grow from one another, which is pretty powerful, as long as we refrain from this “I’m right, you’re wrong” attitude.

 

 

I Get by with a Little Help from my Friends (Diabetes Edition)

Let me introduce you to Nelly Needle:

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A cactus filled with needles that don’t prick is my kind of cactus.

This adorable cactus-in-a-cup was handmade for me by one of my dear college friends, Emma. She made it for me for my birthday and I nearly cried tears of gratitude when she gave it to me. I felt the same way when another college friend, Kira, sent me a box for my birthday that contained a thoughtfully-chosen book and a cute little cactus pin that now adorns my meter case.

Emma and Kira, as well as our other friends from college, probably don’t realize how nervous I was to explain my diabetes to them when we first met. All my friends from back home had known about my diabetes growing up; as a result, it’d been a very long time since I had to open up about it to brand new people. I worried that they wouldn’t accept it or would treat me differently after learning about it.

I’m happy to say that I couldn’t have been more wrong. Within the first few days of my freshman year of college, I found the group of people that I wanted and needed to have in my life. They were not only accepting of my diabetes, but genuinely curious about it. They peppered me with questions that I was pleased to answer and marveled at my ease with injecting myself in the middle of the dining commons. To this day, they still express interest and desire to learn about diabetes, which means more to me than words can express.

The cacti I’ve amassed over the last few months, courtesy of my friends, serve as daily reminders that I 1) have some really incredible and supportive friends and 2) should always remember to embrace diabetes for what it is, needles and all.