Last week, Scott Johnson asked me if I thought on DSMA Live if it was important for people to contribute their voice in the vast sea of voices in the Diabetes Online Community. Over the weekend, Sarah from Sugabetic tweeted, “I don’t know what my place is or if my voice is even needed anymore. My goal has always been to make a difference, but I don’t think I am.”
Cue the heart breaking.
I’ve heard this before. In fact, I’ve heard this come out of my own mouth. With so many people now involved in the diabetes community, and with so many amazing diabetes advocates doing really big, bold things to raise awareness, it’s easy to discount our own contributions. That what we say and share about our own experiences don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things because look at everybody else. It’s easy to start doubting your own worth in a community when some people are chosen over others to travel and speak, or write a book or an article. You start wondering, is anybody listening? Does what I do have value? Or if you haven’t started anything, you might wonder, should I even try? What can I do?
And to these people, I want to wrap you up in my arms and give you a great big hug. And then I want to step back, take you by the shoulders and give you a big shake while yelling, “Knock it off!”
Sorry. I can be a little aggressive when I’m passionate about something.
One voice does matter. While we all share the experience of having to prick our finger, or count carbs, or deal with nosy friends and family, we all come up with our own idiosyncratic “life hacks” for managing diabetes. Sharing these hacks are what makes the diabetes community so powerful and why it’s so important to be connected to others. These diabetes life hacks are not something that your endocrinologist or diabetes educator can tell you (unless you are blessed with one who has diabetes). But even then, they won’t know everything there is to know about coping with diabetes in daily life. Why is your voice important? Because it’s your voice.
An example of this is a recent conversation on a Facebook group for females with diabetes, where the topic of dealing with diabetes on your wedding day came up. Before I even had a chance to join in, there were nearly a dozen comments and nearly every comment said something a little different. That’s why each voice is important. Because even though we are all experiencing the same obstacle, we all have our own tricks and tips for overcoming them.
I think there is a preconceived notion about what diabetes advocacy actually is. We see the “movers and shakers” around the diabetes community putting in so much time and effort into their projects that we start wondering how they find time to sleep. These are amazing advocates — many of them are personal friends — but at the same time, it’s easy to think that what we do doesn’t really matter because look at them, look at what they do! Those are the real advocates, right?
Being a diabetes advocate means making a difference in the life of someone with diabetes. There’s no qualifier on that. It doesn’t have to gain media attention. It doesn’t have to require traveling to another country. Heck, it doesn’t even have to involve talking to people outside your own family and friends. Anything that helps spread knowledge about diabetes makes you a diabetes advocate and it matters. It matters because without you, that person would have continued living in ignorance, or isolation, or despair. If you make a difference to even one person, that matters.
Diabetes advocacy doesn’t have to be flashy. All it needs is you and some investment into helping another person know a little bit more about diabetes. If you do that, you’re a diabetes advocate.
Welcome to the club.