By: Meagan Esler
If you’ve had diabetes for a number of years, chances are that you remember when there was no Internet access and no diabetes online community. You had no way to look up information online and no instant connection to millions of others around the world living with diabetes. Unless you had a friend nearby with diabetes, there was no one to understand how you felt when your blood sugar numbers were less than stellar, and no one to sympathize with how hard it can be to get your A1C down.
After my diagnosis, I felt so alone with my type 1 diabetes. I couldn’t find a diabetes support group in my area, and it was easy to become depressed when everyone around me had a perfectly cooperative pancreas.
During this time, I attended an insulin pump seminar I learned about from my doctor. I attended not only because of my interest in the pump, but also in order to find others like me and hear their experiences, fears, and hopes about the pump.
I was able to sit at a large table in a beautiful hotel dining room and chat over breakfast with a number of people who had had diabetes for between three and 40 years. It made me feel so normal. A roomful of people with diabetes! What on earth could be better? We ate our meals without anyone asking “Are you really allowed to eat that?” We traded stories about taking multiple daily injections. We spoke to people wearing pumps and even got to try on the infusion set to get an actual feel for what it’s like to attach a pump. In the ladies room, we proudly inserted the introducer needle on the infusion set without flinching. In fact, we laughed together, giggling like giddy teenagers trying on prom dresses. I was fascinated by the pump, and although I didn’t end up getting a pump due to financial issues, what I did get was connections with people like me. To me, that was worth all the money I had.
Years later, I discovered a “Diabetes and Mindfulness” class being offered at a local hospital at no cost. I decided I had to attend. The weather that wintry night in Chicago was awful, but I drove through a near blizzard just to connect with others living with diabetes. I worried that it would be canceled, but, despite the weather, the room was filled with people with diabetes. We bonded over our stories and learned about ways to cope with the daily stresses of living with diabetes. Our instructor had diabetes and was fully aware of the toll a chronic illness can take on a person’s mood and well-being. We meditated together. We talked about our fears and wishes for a cure, and we made new friends. It was an evening I’ll never forget.
Nowadays, practically everyone has a computer. We can find information about diabetes easily and connect with people at the quick touch of a button. I’ve discovered people with diabetes living around the world, people with whom I connect on a near daily basis through the Internet.
While I still believe that it’s important to have a group that you can meet with in person, the diabetic online community has saved my sanity. I’m happy to be able to focus on some of the blessings we have living with diabetes in this day and age. Compared to the lonely diabetic I was for the first fifteen years of my diagnosis, today I know that I am truly very lucky.