A couple of months ago, I was chatting with Laura, from DiabeticMe-T1, over Skype about our experience in our respective diabetes support groups. (Laura’s group is in Portlaoise, details here). Read more about Laura here.
Laura mentioned that in chatting to someone whom she was trying to encourage to attend, the person, thankfully, knew her well enough to ask outright if the group sat around comparing glucose numbers. This was a huge concern for the individual because they felt that their numbers were terrible and didn’t want to talk about them. Or feel worse about their diabetes.
This thought had never occurred to me before but my response to Laura was “That’s really the one thing we don’t do!”
Before this conversation, I assumed that the most common barrier for people to attend our type 1 diabetes group was not knowing about it. I think this is probably still true. And that the second barrier was the fear of walking into a room full of strangers, which I know for some people is extremely difficult!! Then, there’s not knowing what to expect once you’re there, I mean, we could very possibly be nutjobs. (Don’t answer that!). Or what if there isn’t actually anyone there with my type of diabetes? Will I have to talk about my own diabetes? And so on….
So in this post, I am going to share a little about what we do and what we talk about.
WHAT HAPPENS AT CLARE TYPE 1 D SUPPORT
The Clare type 1 diabetes meet ups are financed by the Clare branch of Diabetes Ireland which means we can have a private function room in a local hotel and as we each arrive we can help ourselves to tea or coffee.
Once everyone is settled we going around the room and say our first names and how long we’ve had type 1 diabetes for. This usually ranges from newly diagnosed to 40-60 years with diabetes. I always feel this exercise itself is worth me showing up. Our group is very diverse in age and length of time lived with the big D.
Then we usually have a couple of announcements on what’s new in the world of diabetes followed by a short presentation or discussion on a predetermined topic. However,, sometimes there is no predetermined topic and we fly by the seat of our pants.
What is talked about at Diabetes support
Last year, one of our topics was Tools, Techniques, Treatments & Tech we use to help us manage our Diabetes. So here is where the group would contribute by saying something like, “I use carb counting and i find it really helps” and others might ask questions such as where they can go to learn more. We also talked about the different blood glucose meter we use and have a bit of a “show and tell” which is always a good discussion. We even, one time, exchanged ideas on ways to remind ourselves to check our glucose/sugars when we’re supposed to.
We moved on then to talk about developments in the future such as Connected Injection Pens, etc. We might also swop tips on navigating the long term illness system or tips on driving safely with type 1 diabetes.
We only have about four people in the group who use insulin pumps and also use glucose sensors si quite often another person might have lots of question to know more about both of these devices.
What is NOT talked about at Diabetes support
Funnily enough, one thing we actually don’t talk about is what our glucose numbers are or what our HbA1c is beyond “good, grand, I’m happy with it or “I want to do better””.
We wrap up our discussions after about an hour and a half, however, some discussions are difficult to leave and continue.
What I love about our meet ups is that no matter how tired or how much I’m really struggling with my diabetes I always go home feeling lifted after. Always!
I wrote the post below in February 2012 about another one of our meetings and it still holds true to this day. However, the group has become a lot more diverse, especially in gender and increase in numbers.
I’ve been struggling to be consistent with my posts lately and to come up with interesting topics to write about. So, I thought I would just give you a couple of lines about the Type 1 Support group that I am part of.
We meet every month in Ennis, Co. Clare and there are usually about 6 of us. Six is a nice number; it means we can relax a bit and really talk about what’s bothering us in our diabetic lives.
Last night, we meet in the Temple Gate Hotel and there were 4 of us. There was myself, who has had type 1 for almost 19 years, a lady who has grown up children and has type 1 for about 20 years, another lady who’s 12 year old has had type 1 for 4 years and another lady who has had type 1 for 46 years. Even though we were from different stages of live and we were diagnosed at different ages; we all had something in common.
This group has been a huge source of strength to me as I face the everyday “challenges” in living with diabetes and also a great source of local information. Through this group I have learned about the choices I have in terms of medical care and I’ve picked up quite a few tips and techniques that others use to improve their diabetes management.
Another benefit to being part of this support group is that you don’t have to translate the lingo; you can talk about hypos, hypers, HbA1c’s, etc. without having to explain what each word means. This makes for a very relaxed conversation.
All in all I’ve had a positive experience with my group and I would encourage others to reach out and try and find a group in your area. I know there are type 1 groups in Dublin, Cork & Sligo; Diabetes Ireland would have more information about if there are other types of diabetes support groups in your area.
I had been living with type 1 for 8 years before I met another person just like me. It was only then that I realised I didn’t have to live with this by myself and I didn’t have to feel this isolation. It was like walking into a warm room from a draughty hallway.
Upcoming Type 1 Diabetes Meetings
Clare Type 1 Adults Tuesday February 19th - Contact Grainne at ClareGroup@Diabetes.ie
Laois Type 1 Adults Thursday February 28th - Contact Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org
And More - Here’s a List of diabetes support groups in Ireland on Facebook and who meet up in real life.