Those of us who have found the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) know what a difference it makes to have a whole bunch of people to interact with who know exactly what it feels like to live with diabetes. There is something so special about communicating with someone who really gets it, who really understands what you go through, who knows what you are feeling without long explanations . . . because they are feeling the same things. It has certainly made the world of difference in how I feel about having diabetes, and how I live with diabetes.
So how do we spread the word about the online community to those who need it, but don't know it's here? Well, last weekend I had a chance to do just that when I was part of the Taking Control of Your Diabetes program in DC on Saturday. I arrived first thing in the morning . . . no, wait. I actually arrived 30 minutes later than I meant to because I got hopelessly lost on the four block walk from my hotel the the convention center. Seriously, four blocks and a GPS app on my iPhone, and I still couldn’t find my way to the HUGE convention center. In the end I gave up and took a cab. I’m a navigational nightmare.
It was much easier to find my spot in the Health Fair - the TCOYD staff had set up a terrific area near the entrance with a big slide projector and several rows of chairs. Cue the nerves - which were compounded by the fact that I soon found I’d be (somewhat unexpectedly) covering the booth on my own! I had my slides all ready and had gone over what I wanted to say . . . .but really, how do you convey what it’s like to become a part of the DOC? How do you bring the true magic of what we have online to those who haven’t experienced it?
As it turns out, it’s easier than you might think. The first thing I realized was the people in an expo hall aren’t likely to sit down for a formal slide show. And really, the DOC isn’t exactly formal anyway, right? Our unofficial mascot is a unicorn and our logo would feature cupcakes and bacon. We may be passionate and fierce about our cause, but we are also fun and goofy in the best possible ways. So I bagged my “formal presentation”, and I spent my time talking one on one with anyone and everyone who stopped by the booth. When I talked about the isolation diabetes can bring and the need for emotional support, I saw people’s eyes light up! I showed slides of tudiabetes and Diabetes Daily as great community sites to get started on. I pointed out the copy of the Diabetes Advocates brochure that was included in the TCOYD event booklet. We talked of trying to understand that our loved ones are showing concern for us when they seemingly nag us about checking our blood sugar. We talked about how highs and low effect our mood. We talked about diabetes and food allergies, diabetes and getting older, and diabetes burnout. I showed my pump and CGM to some people who had never seen either before.
I knew I’d be connecting with people who didn’t know about the DOC, but I actually connected with many others as well. I met someone I know from tudiabetes and a couple of people who used write blogs that I followed. I talked to endos and pharma reps. I had a discussion with someone from Diabetes Forecast. I had a great chat with Chris from GlucoLift and then had an interesting conversation with his dad about social media.
When I left after a full day, I was very tired but very inspired. I’m hoping the people I met will join the DOC, and I hope I run into them online. (If I met you on Saturday and you’re reading this, Hi and Welcome to the DOC!!) But most important was the feeling that I really connected with a whole new group of people who, like me, are living every day with diabetes and could use a little support. Because connecting with other PWDs, both online and off, is really what it’s all about.