In my last post I talked about how Friends for Life is very much a social occasion for me. Spending time with my d-family is important for my mental health and happiness. But Friends for Life is also about the sessions and learning new things and learning more ways to live a happy and healthy life with my chronic illness. In addition to feeding my soul, FFL feeds my mind.
One might think that after living with diabetes for over 36 years,, there isn’t much new to learn. But that isn’t true. New treatments and technologies are being developed continually and I want to know what my future might hold. So the opening keynote, delivered by Ed Damiano who updated us on the iLet, set the tone for the buffet my mind was embarking on. And since I’ll no longer be attending JDRF Government Day and hearing annual research updates, I was really excited to hear what Aaron Kowalski had to say about things such as encapsulation, smart insulin and closed loop systems - all in various stages of development and / or clinical trials.
Feeding the mind and becoming an educated patient isn’t just about learning what treatment options may be coming in the future. It’s also about learning to take care of ourselves. During MasterLab, Dr. Heyman gave a fantastic, and (for me) a much needed, session entitled "Don’t Forget About You: Taking Care of Yourself While Advocating for Others". It was a great reminder that we need to make sure we are not overextending ourselves,and that we shouldn't feel guilty about taking time for self-care. Or maybe that is just what I took away from it. In any case, it’s something I need to be reminded of.
Then there are the (as I call them) "touchy-feely" sessions. These are sessions that I can't really tell you much about, because we discuss things in a safe space where nothing said will leave the room. We open up about issues such as dealing with complications and diabetes burn-out and topics that tip more on the emotional end of the scale than the medical one. I need that safe place and the bonding that occurs as we bare our souls, and that ah-ha moment when I realize that being bogged down by my chronic illness doesn't make me a failure - it kind of makes me normal.
The truth is, more often than not I look forward to Friends for Life because it’ feeds my soul. But I shouldn’t undervalue the fact that is also feeds my mind. It’s like a gourmet dinner followed by a decadent dessert, and I appreciate every minute.