Diabetes. It has knocked me down so many times. You could even say that everyday people with diabetes are humbled by their disease. Diabetes. It is something bigger than all of us.
About a week ago I joined about 150 young adults with type 1 for a weekend in Safety Harbor, Florida at the Students with Diabetes conference. This conference was more than just about having diabetes. It was more than just counting carbs, checking your blood sugar and swapping insurance horror stories. It was seeing resilience in the face of your peers. It was being in a space where you felt normal, where you could be your full self. It was about inspiring the advocates within all of us. It was a place where you were surrounded by others who look death in the face more often than should be acceptable. It was a place for hope. It was a place to foster unique bonds that few people are privileged enough to experience. Yes. Having diabetes can actually be a privilege. Especially within a community like the Students with Diabetes community.
Everyone testing their blood sugar before dinner. One of the more irrelevant things that takes place at the conference, but simultaneously the most powerful. For once we didn’t have to hide it under the table. We could understand the failure sometimes felt with an out of range blood sugar. We could celebrate a ‘100’. We did not have to struggle alone to figure out the carbs in the huge piece of chocolate cake following dinner. And we didn’t have to experience the ungodly thirst that came two hours later when we realized we were all wrong.
*Side note. I think that alone encompasses the difficulty and the power of this disease. Here we are with a combined 100+ years of diabetes and we still get stumped over some chocolate cake. Diabetes is bigger than all of us.
Anyways, the weekend was filled with laughter. Yes. Laughter. Who knew that an entire ballroom of people who have cried, screamed and been fearful of diabetes at one point or another, could be bent-over-tears-in-eyes laughing? We could laugh at ignorant comments thrown our way. We could laugh about silly (but sometimes scary) actions our bodies have taken when our minds are over taken by low blood sugar. Even though we have all had our separate and specific stories. Laughing with others about their most embarrassing or crazy experiences brought us all together.
You see, it was not just laughter. The laughter represented empathy and understanding. It was stress release. It was grieving your diagnosis a little more. It was motivation. It was therapeutic. It was taking a step back out from burn out. Every time we laughed at our diabetes was another act of resistance against a disease that tells us we can’t lead the lives we want to lead.
Diabetes is powerful. It can be humbling and bigger than all of us. But real power is having the strength to control your perspective and view this disease as a blessing in disguise, to view it as a gift. And that’s what the #SWD16 conference was all about.