The most effective diabetes advocacy is how we live our lives as people with diabetes.
Years ago, after many years of bitterness and anger, I realized the best thing I could do for other people with diabetes was to take care of myself the best I could and be kind. I wondered if my example could set off a chain reaction of sorts. I hoped someone would meet me and find out I had type 1 diabetes. I hoped they might notice my gentle sincerity and my slow but sharp wit. I hoped they would think to themselves, “she has diabetes? gee, she looks healthy”. I’d tell them a little about diabetes and they would listen. I would then imagine that maybe some day when that same person was involved in a conversation about diabetes and someone said that diabetics were sick and lazy, this person who met me might say, “That’s not true, I met a type 1 diabetic who seemed really healthy and happy and explained to me that the disease is extremely difficult to manage. She told me that everyone struggles differently with it and that what helps people with diabetes is not to judge them but to encourage and support them.”
Yes, I am dreaming. But I prefer to dream big.
And of course I am committed to pushing for what people with diabetes deserve and for advocating for our rights. However, our greatest influence comes from our actions. The energy we spend on anger and frustration over other people is energy we could have spent on ourselves. And you know as well as I do, diabetes requires every ounce of energy we’ve got.
When you want to tell someone off for an ignorant comment about diabetes, stop and remember that telling them off will not help the rest of us in any way. Rude behavior will make other diabetics look bad and I for one don’t want that association. Be firm, be direct, be insistent, but be respectful. After all, we are all ignorant about something, right?
Instead of focusing on all the obstacles in your way, narrow your view to all that you CAN do. You’ll find there are so many mountains you can move.
Relax, breathe, and remember that change begins with you (and I) and the greatest inspiration we can provide others is to work hardest on the man or woman in the mirror.