This is the second post I’ve written on the Diabetes Unconference. It was such a complex experience that it has taken me several days just to process all the emotions, the words, the experience.
I have never spent time around other adults with diabetes. I have never talked with someone who could nod and say, ‘Yeah, that’s how it is for me, too.’ So, sitting in a large room filled with people who were saying things I have been thinking or struggling with alone for many years was overwhelming.
There were many good and bad things about the unconference. I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say about it in the next few weeks–or maybe nothing at all. But there are two things that I have definitely come away from this experience with that I wanted to share with you, my few, but much appreciated, readers.
First, the biggest thing I came away from this experience with is a new friend. I shared a hotel room with another scholarship winner. This woman was…amazing. I didn’t know what to expect when we first connected via email because her words were simple and to the point. However, from the moment she came into our room, she reminded me of my mother. While my mom and I now have a non-existent relationship, this roommate reminded me of a time when my mother and I were very close. As the weekend proceeded, my roommate shared stories with me. We talked about her life back east, about her family, about the child she had in the 70s before anyone truly understood the impact diabetes has on pregnancy and unborn babies. She listened to my frustrations and the things I wanted to get from this unconference, and I listened to hers. We saw eye to eye on many things and that was the one thing I had wanted most from this experience. I wanted to connect with someone, to feel less alone in this world of insulin, exercise, and diet frustrations. And, thanks to her, I did.
My roommate recently emailed me and said she would always be there for me.
That is huge.
The second thing I came away from this unconference with is the understanding that there are not enough type 2 voices out there. While there were other type 2s at the conference–even some on insulin, which was a wonderful thing for me to see–few of them had a voice. When there were discussions on type 2, most of those who spoke were people with type 1 sharing their views on type 2s. While their views were less hurtful than I expected, it wasn’t what I, and others like me, needed to hear the most. We need to hear each other.
Type 1s are loud and proud. And that’s a wonderful thing. It has created a strong network of advocacy that is helping to promote new technologies and medications that are important to all of us. I am–despite the tone of some of my posts–very grateful to these type 1s. What they do benefits me and those like me.
But there are type 2s out there who are stuck in the mire of the media hype who need to hear voices like their own. A type 2 at the unconference told me some things I needed to hear–such as the fact that this thing is not my fault and it’s okay to be less than perfect–and it made a difference to me and to him.
We need to make a difference to others, too.
I have never wanted to promote the types, to promote the separation that the media exploits, maligns, and allows to create a rift in the diabetes community. We are all diabetics. We all share a similar struggle.
I still feel that way.
But I also see that we all come to this thing from a different place and we need to share our experiences because there are others out there like us–maybe their story is a little different, but basically the same–who can relate and find some understanding and connection in our stories.
So, I come away from the unconference with a new friend and a new commitment to this blog. I had stopped writing here as much because I was falling, once again, into a little burnout. But now…I want to keep telling my story so that maybe someone who is struggling as I am will find some help in just knowing that I’m here, too, struggling in a similar way.
And to my one commenter who was at the unconference–I wish I had felt confident enough in myself to introduce myself to you….maybe next time 🙂