Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My Take On The Diabetes UnConference

Big thanks to Christel for turning advocacy into action and making The Diabetes UnConference into reality!
The 2015 Diabetes UnConference attendees~
It’s taken me a while to wrap my head around The Diabetes UnConference and write a post for many reasons. 
  1. It was emotional in all dimensions - And for some reason, it’s really hard to articulate those emotions
  2. I wanted to make sure not to divulge anything remotely private because we as a group/collective (see what I did there,) decided that there would be a Social Media blackout/moratorium so that the people attending had a place to share their most private diabetes thoughts and fears 
  3. There are so many wonderful posts have already been written on the subject, what could I say on the subject that hasn’t already been said?  
But every experience/voice matters - So, here's my post.  

The Diabetes UnConference was a weekend filled with rapid fire discussions on topics and emotions that all of us have have when it comes to living with diabetes.
The agenda was created by every PWD in the room and the list of topics stretched out across the wall - I kid you not. 
I tried taking notes, but early on I put my pen down and focused on listening to who was speaking and what what being shared, while observing the amazing that was happening all around me. 
 I met people who had lived with diabetes for over 50 years and I met people who had lived with diabetes for only a few months - and folks who ran the gambit in-between and I learned from every single person in the room.
FTR: I even wore my Lilly 25 year medal for the first time ever, during the sessions because if I was going to wear my diabetes bling anywhere, it was going to be in a room filled with PWDs!
And there was a hell of a lot to learn, because collectively, our group had damn near 2000 years of diabetes experience. 
Things bubbled up and came to the surface and we were able to share; listen, learn and support one another in a safe and protective environment. 
I observed people who had never been in a room with another PWD before find their tribe and their voices. 
I was able to meet people in real life that have had my back online for years and who I already considered friends. But to meet life, to hug and to hold them, to laugh with them -THAT WAS AMAZING.  
More amazing, watching friendships form and diabetes confidence bloom exponentially. 
I wish I'd had the chance to talk with everyone - but it seems that each and every conversation I had was so engaging that there wasn’t enough time! 
(Special shout out to those folks I've had some really heartfelt conversations with since the conference!) 

And every once in a while, my mind who travel back to the 2014 Medtronic Diabetes Advocate Forum, where I literally saw the light bulb go off over Christel’s head, or maybe the light bulb went off earlier, but it was the first time I saw it glimmer.   
Anyway, I was sitting in the row directly behind Christel during a discussion about peer support - and I’m totally paraphrasing here, but Christel said something like: We need to have conference for people with diabetes, and then quietly she said - An UnConference. 
And now there I was, sitting in and being part of, the first inaugural Diabetes UnConference - watching people with diabetes engage, learn, share and support one another - and my eyes started to leak, but in a really wonderful way. 
Because I had witnessed advocacy into action and was watching strangers become allies and friends and I was participating in it - talk about overwhelming!
I cried on the plane ride home - And like many others who attended the conference, I blamed the “vegas dust™,”Mike Barry. 

Here’s the thing: I keep the Vegas dust close to my heart and every once in a while, I take it out and sprinkle it like a diabetes Tinkerbell and her fairy dust when I need to feel all warm and fuzzy and to reminded myself of what went down at The Flamingo Hotel not so long ago. 
Bottom line and without giving anything away, the Diabetes UnConference was a place were people with diabetes and regardless of the type, found support in one another. 

Where everyone in the room spoke the language of diabetes fluently and with understanding - And regardless of the dialect.
And I want our dialogues to continue and I want to create/ be a part of new discussions in the process. 


StephenS said...

Wow... what a great perspective, watching the seed get planted, watching the green shoots as they came up out of the ground, and then watching the idea in full bloom.

I am so glad you shared that, and I'm thrilled you were there in attendance. All our voices matter. But I'm a little bummed that I didn't see your 25 year medal. My bad. Next time!

Unknown said...

So powerful to meet others in the same boat! I went several years before I met my 1st pwd in the wild (sort of, we worked together but I didn't know she had d too) then once I met the doc and then some of them IRL my world changed!!! :D

Araby62 (a.k.a. Kathy) said...

Someday I hope to attend - and wear my medal too, in front of people who actually "get it". BTW my annual eye exam is tomorrow so even 32 years into this thing, I'm the usual bundle of nerves :P Sprinkle some Vegas dust in the general direction of Houston, will ya? :)

Scott K. Johnson said...

Thanks for helping make the magic happen, K2. You are amazing. :-)