In the years I’ve attended CWD’s Friends for Life conference, I always came away with this appreciation for what the conference provides for kids with diabetes, and their parents. Kids – a whole bunch of them – running amuck and clad in green bracelets with pump tubing flapping from underneath their t-shirts … it’s a place where these families hopefully feel normal, and safe, and understood.
But I’m not a kid with diabetes. I’m an adult. (I checked, and it’s true: adult.) I always felt welcomed at past FFL conferences, but people constantly checked for the kid at my side, because the “child with diabetes” surely couldn’t be me. (And then there was that time that the registration lady thought Sara(aah) was my child with diabetes, wherein my head exploded.)
Growing up with diabetes isn’t hard. It isn’t easy. I can’t assign adjectives to it because it’s all I’ve ever known, so growing up with diabetes is exactly synonymous to “just plain growing up.” My friends didn’t have to take injections or chase NPH peaks, but we were in the same classes and rode the same bus and went on the same field trips, so we were “the same.” The difference, at that point in my life, was in what my parents had to do.
Adulthood with diabetes is challenging, sometimes. I had the support of my parents and my PWD friends at Clara Barton Camp when i was growing up, but once I was spit out into the real, grown-up world, things got more complicated. I was on my own, following my own path, but I needed to bring along this bit of pancreatic baggage on the journey. Even with my parents, and my friends, and my significant others along the way, I still had that nagging feeling of loneliness.
Except there are those moments when I’m surrounded by “my own kind.” And those moments are incredible.
This past summer at Friends for Life, there were a lot of us. A whole pile of adults with type 1, found in sessions together, and strolling through the exhibit hall together, and corralled around a table into the wee hours of the morning; talking and testing and BEEEEEEEP!ing and despite our difference in opinion and background, we are all “the same.”
We felt normal. And safe. And understood.
It feel so good to talk about depression. It felt so good to talk about the stress and guilt of aiming for, but rarely reaching, those goals set by healthcare professionals. Even though I couldn’t stop crying, it felt good to talk about parenting with type 1. When someone’s pump or CGM beeped, it felt good that fifteen different people reached for their pockets at once (only to realize it was – gasp! – just a cell phone). Empowerment comes in many forms, and at the Friends for Life conference, for me, it came in the form of my fellow grown ups with type 1. They are doing this, and I can do this, too.
Children with diabetes grow up. That’s the point, right? – to have your child grow up happy and healthy and safe. Children with diabetes become adults with diabetes. There are already discussions in place about what adults with type 1 want to hear about next year. Adults with diabetes finally have a place to call home.
Thank you, CWD, for not letting your name limit your reach.
*This blog post was originally published at Six Until Me.*