Tag Archives: groups

Diabetes group think.

”The virtues, like the Muses, are always seen in groups. A good principle was never found solitary in any breast.”

As we head into the diabetes conference season, I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about groups, and how groups, particularly groups of people meeting in person, affect our lives and how we feel about them. And how we feel about others.

It’s not fair to say I’ve always been a joiner; it’s not fair to say I’ve never been a joiner. I’ve been a little of both through the years. Some of the things I’ve joined have been underwhelming (Board of Directors of my community association), and some have been fantastic (hello Diabetes Online Community!). Some of the decisions I’ve made to not join have been okay too. Since I’ve been old enough to vote, I’ve resisted joining the Republican or Democratic party, and I’m still a proponent of a third national party in the USA, though I would not join that either, if asked. I highly value my independence.
”I was never really attached to a clique, and I wanted to be in all the different groups; I was never a one-group kind of person. I think that’s still part of my personality today.”
~Katy Perry~

What is it that a group can do that an individual cannot? In diabetes, the answer is simple: A group can provide validation. A group can provide trust. A group can provide empathy and understanding. And that’s just for starters.

Can I survive without ever coming into face-to-face contact with another person who lives with diabetes? Sure… I did it for nearly twenty years. Those were also, arguably, among the worst years of my life. It’s the time when I encountered the worst of my diabetes. It’s the time when I struggled with careers multiple times and was knocked down repeatedly. Sometimes because I wasn’t up to the task, sometimes because someone else in the group found that the best way to get ahead was to make others look worse in contrast. That’s a side of human behavior I’ve really only seen from my generation, and I’m happy about that. I also hope I’m right about that.

At any rate, groups do not always generate the best of outcomes. And outcomes like that never lead to sustainable results. But what about this diabetes group think? How does it differ?

I’m not an expert in this field, but you have to think part of it comes from our shared experiences. We’ve all been down the same road a few times, right? That’s a good starting point. Also, we do not come into contact with others living with diabetes very often. When we do, we are often overwhelmed by an unspoken desire to ask and share and comiserate in equal measure. We want to understand another person’s diabetes as only we, as People With Diabetes ourselves, can understand it.

Occasionally, we will come together as a wonderful group of individuals as part of a shared experience. We all may have faulty pancreases in common, or faulty pancreases may be very close to us via a spouse, a friend, or a child. But rather than the inept nature of one organ being the focus, we instead gravitate toward making our lives better, using our invaluable perspectives of perseverance and empathy to forge a better future.
”Nothing truly valuable can be achieved except by the unselfish cooperation of many individuals.”
~Albert Einstein~

Recognizing all this has allowed me to change my focus from “what can I do?” to “what can I do for people living with diabetes?”. Being part of a group who knows my life because they have also lived the same life helps me trust more. It makes me want to engage in the conversation and strive toward a common purpose.

We’re not all perfect. Not all groups are perfect. But shared perspectives, the trust it brings, and the understanding and bonds that derive from it are universal, my brothers and sisters. It will never go out of style.

This weekend, I will be at the JDRF TypeOneNation Summit in Bethesda, Maryland. To find out more, CLICK HERE. If you plan to be there, let me know so we can say Hi!

Next weekend, I will be facilitating at the Diabetes UnConference in Las Vegas. To find out more, CLICK HERE.

DSMA Blog Carnival. Ideal Diabetes Support Group?

This blog is so new I probably shouldn’t be doing this, but I’ll give it a try anyway. The April DSMA Blog Carnival topic is:

Describe your ideal diabetes “support group”? What would you discuss?

Both of these questions are hopefully answered below.

My ideal support group… well, first of all, it would exist (more on that later). Assuming it does exist, I would want my ideal support group to have 4 qualities:

1. Inclusion. No haters in this group. I know that people don’t always look at the world in the same way, but support means accepting someone on their terms, not mine. Same for conversation. Everyone needs to feel free to be themselves.

2. A sense of humor. Diabetes is a daily struggle for all of us. Not taking ourselves too seriously allows us to focus on what is really important (and who is really important), when it really matters.

3. Flexibility. Let’s face it: things change, people change, diabetes changes all of us. Having the same agenda or focus at every get-together is the kind of rigidity that turns me off. Being flexible means keeping things new and fresh rather than old and stale. Flexibility means acceptance to change, and even embracing change that helps a group’s evolution toward a more perfect union.

4. Goals. Read: Advocacy. The primary goal of any support group should be support of group members, right? If that’s your only goal, okay. But you’re not part of my ideal support group anymore. Because there are always people who need more support than ourselves (well, almost always). My ideal group sets goals that will help make the world a better place for PWDs. That’s not reaching too far, is it? Okay, goals need to be attainable. But I would really like my group’s support to be larger than just the group.

That’s my ideal support group, and at least a basis for discussion. But I have to admit that I’m just guessing here. I’ve never attended a support group meeting since my diagnosis. In fact, in 21 years with diabetes, I think I’ve met maybe 15 other diabetics in a a live setting. And about 10 of those were at a local event for adults with type 1 a couple of months ago. I only found out about that because I had volunteered with the local JDRF chapter the week before.

To be honest, I share much of the blame. I haven’t been a particularly social creature in the past (I’m getting better, I think). Also, I was diagnosed and spent the first few years with diabetes in one city, then moved to another city where I knew virtually no one. I haven’t signed up for a lot of JDRF or ADA walks or rides. And, for various reasons, I’ve pretty much shared my D-story with people on a need-to-know basis.

I haven’t attended events, lectures, presentations, or conferences, mostly because, until recently, I didn’t even know these things existed. As it is, these things rarely happen in my part of world anyway. Wait a minute… Hey! I think I have our first discussion topic! Our first goal! Who’s with me? Let’s goooooo!!!!!

Author’s note: Looking for my first support group meeting… more to come.

This post is my April entry in the DSMA Blog Carnival. If you’d like to participate too, you can get all of the information at http://diabetessocmed.com/2012/april-dsma-blog-carnival-2/

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