Is a Diabetes Diagnosis Enough to Create a Community?

A diabetes activist discovers the limits of a common experience with a chronic condition.



Remember a couple of Novembers ago when JDRF had that thingy that let you turn your Facebook and Instagram avatar blue? That was fun. Mostly I loved it because it made it easier to find other people affected by diabetes. I mean all you had to do was look for the blue and add friend or follow! I must have added a thousand new friends. Proud I was; my diabetes community was growing and it was like gaining a family.

There I was with all my diabetes friends, sharing stories about diabetes and our experiences, sharing recipes and links to websites. There were even friends with whom I was making plans to create Facebook groups and launch advocacy projects. We talked about all kinds of stuff we were going to do to fight diabetes. It was a wonderful time.

Then election-time came around.

Wow.

It got crazy everywhere, including online. You’d think folks could still be civil considering they share a connection to diabetes.

Nope. They could not.

I saw many arguments breaking out online – diabetes parent against diabetes parent, advocate against diabetic, even advocate against advocate. It was over politics, news stories, or something silly. Most of these arguments weren’t about diabetes, but some were – a classic was the Type 1 fighting with the Type 2 over something that offended one group or the other.

What depressed me was thinking I had made a connection with someone who shared my passion for advocacy, only to have those plans fall apart. The lesson was that sometimes diabetes isn’t enough to build a relationship.

Call me gullible, but I have to say, I got burned more than a few times. I even wanted to walk away from advocating, but I took a beat and thought it through before I did anything so drastic as that. See, my father was a soul radio DJ when I was a kid, and he used to play this song by The Honeycomb titled “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show.” That was it. That’s what I needed to hear.

And that monkey did not/will not stop this show.

There are a lot of people affected by diabetes. It takes all comers: the artistic, the loving, the faithful, the kind, the racist, the hateful, the spiteful, the atheist, the socialist, the liberal, the gay, the conservative, the libertarian, the green, the hip hop, the punk rock, the wealthy, the middle class, the poor, the highly educated, the meat eating, the vegan, the uneducated, the black, the white, the Native American, the Hispanic, the Jewish, the Muslim, etc.

We all don’t have to see eye to eye, but we can try to be civil. The bigger picture is diabetes and how we can live with it and have a full life. We don’t have to share the same ideals, but we can still stay on task and work toward our goals. In spite of our differences, we can support one another. We’re in this fight together, because when something like the health care bill gets thrown around like a dryer sheet, we all feel it.

My advice? Don’t read into someone’s post or comments so much that it drives you nuts. Just accept them and be on your way. Some stuff just isn’t even worth thinking about. Remember your passion and continue to search out like-minded people.

And if they fall short, just let them be. The people I trusted and let into my community weren’t always ready or equipped, and that’s ok. I’ll keep it moving. Forward always. Always forward.

But you really should hear about this one Facebook friend of mine who…

Nope. Not going there. But it is funny, though.

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Chelcie is an Atlanta-based diabetic comedian, speaker, and diabetes advocate. He was named as one of Diabetes Forecast's "2012 – 14 People to Know."