It was lunch-time on Friday at Friends for Life. (Or maybe it was Thursday. I’m not exactly sure because the days kind of blur together in a rush of activity and fun and exhaustion. But I’m pretty sure it was Friday, our second official day of FFL sessions.) As I checked my blood sugar and dosed for my food, one of the hotel’s dining room attendants struck up a conversation. It was obvious right away that she had a diabetes connection (turned out her nephew has T1), but also that she didn’t quite understand all the details. (As in “My nephew has a pump, oh you do too, so it does everything for you.”. I explained that it wasn’t exactly as easy as that.)
We talked about the fact that I’ve had diabetes for almost 35 years. We talked about how this was my fourth time at Friends for Life. And then she asked “You’ve had diabetes for so long and have been here so many times, are you really still learning anything new?”. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized what a great question that was.
Life with diabetes is, for now, a never ending journey. And I am always still learning. My first few years at Friends for Life the things I learned were more “technical’'. I learned in-depth stuff about sensor data and glycemic indexes and how to best manage exercise. And I’m still always picking up more snippets and tips on stuff like this. But largely the things I learn these days have shifted from the “nuts and bolts” to the “touchy feely”. I get the most out of the sessions that deal with the emotional burden of my chronic illness. I learn the most in sessions where we sit in a circle and let our guard down and pour out our hearts . . . . to a room full of people who really get it because the same things are in their hearts. I get the most out of sessions where I’m surprised to suddenly find tears streaming down my cheeks. I get the most out of the sessions that I can’t really tell you about, because at the start we all make a pact that what is shared goes no farther than the walls of the room we are in. I get the most out of sessions led by psychologists like the fantastic Jill Weissberg-Benchell.
Over 34 years with Type 1. Four trips to Friends for Life, not to mention a big bunch of other diabetes conferences. Still learning? Oh yes. Never underestimate the importance of still learning.