The Social Network
Over the past 40 years that I’ve lived with diabetes (I was diagnosed at age 16, when I became very ill on vacation—proof Disney World is not always the happiest place on earth), I have come to realize my experience isn’t the norm. I have encountered many people who say they have never met in person anyone else with diabetes. Until I became active in the diabetes community, I never knew that people with diabetes felt isolated or that they often saw diabetes as a personal, lonely disease.
Before I was born and every day after, the prospect of having diabetes and the very real issues resulting from the disease were part of my life. My aunt, Patti Ann, whom I never met, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1947 and passed away from an unrelated issue in 1950, at age 10. My mother had gestational diabetes during her pregnancy with me in 1957 and was diagnosed with type 1 in 1962.
Because of her diabetes, my mother was the perfect person to babysit other type 1 children, giving their moms a break from child care burdens. She often obliged, even for children she did not know. These kids were part of my life—their diabetes, their strict snack plans, and their regimes of urine testing, injections, and boiling syringes. Some have been lifelong acquaintances.
Frankly, I was shocked when I started to encounter people with diabetes who had never met or interacted with others like them. This isolation was a revelation, inspiring me to start blogging as a part of the diabetes online community—an unofficial group of people discussing their diabetes across social media platforms, blogs, and other websites. My blog posts are a mixture of remembrances, information, thoughts, feelings, and impressions shared about my life with diabetes. As I blog, I am reminded that we each have a story to tell, and with those stories, we share knowledge.
When I was diagnosed, there were people with diabetes for me to learn from, but most people learn to live with the disease all by themselves. My greatest hope is that I can help others stop feeling so alone. I hope that if you have diabetes and feel isolated or alone you will reach out to the online community.
My history may be a rarity, but I hope someday the diabetes online community will be a common addition to the life of everyone with diabetes. Today, our online communities mean isolation need not be a symptom of our disease.
Lawrence Richard ("Rick") Phillips, EDD, is a retired public school administrator who lives in Noblesville, Indiana, with Sheryl, his wife of 37 years. He has two sons, two daughters-in-law, and three of the best grandchildren around. He loves humor, laughing, and being mischievous—not necessarily in that order. You can find him on his blog, RA Diabetes.
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