I never cease to be amazed at how awesome it feels to meet other people and families who share this journey with Type 1 diabetes. There is such an instant bond, a “knowing” - an amazing freedom and humour around diabetes that only those of us who live with it can truly understand. Whether it simply means knowing the “lingo” around carb counting, bolusing, different types of insulin, or knowing the terror of what a low feels like – there is an instant comfort and connection among people who “get it” at the life level as we do. Now, at the 24-year mark, I can honestly say that the best part of having diabetes is the “family” I’ve found and the friendships I’ve created with people in the diabetes community.
For the first 16 years following my diagnosis, I was very much a “lone wolf” who didn’t know anybody with diabetes, and figured it was just up to me to “suck it up” and figure out how to find my way in a society with so much ignorance around Type 1 diabetes. I didn’t make my diabetes a secret, but I was pretty quiet about it as I figured that nobody cared or would ever listen long enough to understand just how complex and ever-changing the equation is to try and manage this disease. It had never, ever occurred to me to look for friends/peers with the same condition I silently resented and coped with every day.
I had left home within 6 months of diagnosis to go to university, so I never got the benefit of the “diabetes camp” experience as a child, and it was only when I started volunteering with JDRF and CDA that I got a taste of how great it was to be around people with a common bond. Over the years, I’ve been involved in volunteering, participated in a support group, started and ran an online community for awhile, and now I get to connect with people primarily through diabetes events and conferences, and especially through the magic of Facebook. It blows my mind how a medium like the Internet can bring us together and offer such strength, comfort, support and inspiration for one another. None of us has to go through this alone anymore.
I have seen amazing things happen when the community comes together - for an inspired project; supporting a family coping with loss; encouraging someone who is having a hard time; or just sharing stories & hilarious anecdotes from life with diabetes. It feels “healing” to know that there are others out there who share the same struggles, and who are in your corner on those hard days when you’ve just had enough and want to quit. The burden of managing it all feels lighter somehow.
For me, I am inspired beyond measure seeing my Type 1 peers out there living their passion and being amazing in their own way, showing the world that diabetes isn’t going to hold them back from living their best life. It makes me want to be better. My heroes remind me of what’s possible instead of how hard it is.
I can barely find words strong enough to describe my gratitude for the people I’ve met and connected with in-person or online on this crazy journey with diabetes. You are the wind beneath my wings and my world is brighter and a whole lot more fun because of you.