I know from personal experience that the reality of living with diabetes can make me feel a wide range of emotions, from elation to frustration. But no matter how I’m feeling on a particular day, because diabetes is a chronic illness, the burden of day-to-day management remains. I don’t get a break from type 1 diabetes. “Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, receiving the diagnosis can be dramatic,” says Dr. Mariela Glandt, an endocrinologist at Bronx Lebanon Hospital in New York. “In order to deal with it well, emotional support is crucial at diagnosis, and in the months and years following.”
“Despite the fact that living with diabetes can be challenging, it doesn’t need to be a negative experience,” says Riva Greenberg, a diabetes coach and author of The ABCs of Loving Yourself With Diabetes who is living with type 1 diabetes, Riva believes you can “thrive, not just survive, with diabetes.” She emphasizes that managing diabetes requires “a high level of emotional resiliency.”
So how do you build up that emotional resiliency? How do you get up each day to do what you need to do to take care of yourself and keep yourself emotionally strong? Part of the answer may be as simple as: Sit down in front of your computer. Just as traditional diabetes education can now be found online, resources that offer online emotional support to people living with diabetes are proliferating, including a large network known as the Diabetes Online Community (DOC), whose members you’ll find are active on Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and in online forums.
I think one of the easiest ways to join the DOC on Facebook is to search for the terms diabetes or diabetes support. You will find many people who live with diabetes and many diabetes support groups. On Twitter, you can search by “hashtag” (which means a term or phrase preceded by a # sign) to find conversations about diabetes (e.g. #diabetes, #dblog). One of the most popular conversations on Twitter is the weekly Diabetes Social Media Advocacy (DSMA) TweetChat (#dsma), which takes place Wednesday nights at 9pm EST. In DSMA chats, people with diabetes, family members, and caregivers post their responses to a list of questions and then comment on the responses. The topics vary, ranging from food to health insurance.
If you’re new to the online diabetes world, forums may be a good place to start interacting with others going through similar experiences. Anyone can participate in a forum to share experiences, ask questions of peers, learn from others, or feel less lonely. Deborah Kanter, who has been living with type 2 diabetes for two years, says, “In the first year after my diagnosis I tended to seek the counsel and support of my medical team, but sometimes, I still had questions. Increasingly, I turned to the forums on TuDiabetes for more ideas, answers, and support. Many of the regulars who post have been through some of the same experiences that I have. There is a great deal of collective experience on TuDiabetes that I find helpful as I navigate how to take care of myself.” Another popular forum site is Children with Diabetes, which offers a rich support system for families. Children with Diabetes enables you to connect with other parents, people living with diabetes, and medical professionals for answers to all sorts of questions.
Diabetes Sisters offers a range of education and support services to help women of all ages with any type of diabetes live healthier, fuller lives. The programs include a women’s forum, where you can share stories and ask questions about diabetes, and SisterMatch, which helps connect women with friends to support them along their diabetes journey.
Going beyond words is the You Can Do This Project. Founded by Kim Vlasnik, who is living with type 1 diabetes, this site is a collection of videos in which people living with diabetes share their stories. Vlasnik and her team understand the frustrations of living with diabetes and know from personal experience that sometimes just talking about it, or hearing someone else talk about it, may make you feel better.
The Behavioral Diabetes Institute (BDI) has developed a variety of programs to help people living with diabetes overcome emotional and behavioral obstacles. The group does offer on-site programs in California but is aiming to reach a wider audience with newer online resources, including a series of downloadable guides and support videos on a variety of topics such as “The Emotional Side of Living With Diabetes.” The BDI addresses both type 1 and type 2 diabetes and also has a new series of online programs for caregivers.
The Sanofi US CDE* Help Team provides online education and support from certified diabetes educators, focused on helping those living with diabetes to make more healthful lifestyle choices, teaching the ABCs of diabetes, and providing the tools and information to make talking to your doctor easier.
Another, more personalized, way to find online emotional support is through one-on-one work with a coaching professional. The growing field of life coaching has branched out into include diabetes coaches, many of whom have diabetes themselves. Coaches such as Sysy Morales and Riva Greenberg not only offer help with diabetes management, they offer emotional support when you feel like diabetes is knocking you down, both in person and online.
Fit4D is another source of online support; the group has been coaching people living with diabetes since 2006. In addition to individual coaching, Fit4D offers a virtual support group and webinar.
Jessica Apple is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the online diabetes lifestyle magazine A Sweet Life. Her writing has appeared in many publications, including The Sunday New York Times Magazine, The Financial Times Magazine, The Southern Review, The Bellevue Literary Review, and Tablet Magazine. Apple is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and interviewees, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.
© 2012 The DX: The Diabetes Experience