Increasing numbers of people are turning to diabetes support groups, both locally and online, to find others that can relate with the difficulties of living with diabetes. Here are just five of the many benefits you might derive from being in a diabetes support group.
Feeling less alone
Because living with diabetes is so challenging it can also be lonely. One of the most common reasons people seek out a diabetes support group is to be with people who understand what it is like to live with or care for someone who has diabetes. Because the diabetes management routine is so rigorous, it can place an enormous burden on those people involved in the direct care, such as parents of children with type 1.
But, being in the presence of others who go through the same challenges you do can quickly form a bond. There is an implicit understanding of blood sugar checks, insulin injections, food issues and fears around low blood sugar reactions. When that bond forms you no longer feel so different because others help to normalize your everyday experience.
Gain diabetes management insight from others
When you first are diagnosed with diabetes you typically go through some training from your doctor on basic diabetes management skills, such as how to check blood glucose, draw insulin and inject, how to count carbohydrates, treat hypoglycemia, and so on. However, there is always more to learn and better ways to approach the same task.
Diabetes support groups can provide a wealth of information from other participants about what they have learned, tried and gained from both their successes and from the mistakes they’ve made. These are the practical types of information you may never see written in a book or magazine but are valuable all the same.
Freedom to express real emotion
Living with diabetes inevitably causes a wide range of emotion. Some days you seem to handle the challenges diabetes presents and others days you are angry that you have this condition or anxious about potential long-term health problems. On some days you might feel helpless or overwhelmed by your condition. These are all normal but difficult to cope with when you experience them.
In a diabetes support group there is freedom to express your real emotion. In fact, in most groups you are encouraged to be honest about your emotional struggles. This will not only help you to verbalize your true feelings but it will also help others to know that they are not alone and validate their emotional battles.
Though there are a variety of different experiences living with diabetes, there is one common goal in a diabetes support group: to encourage each other. Diabetes support groups exist for the purpose of creating a safe place where people can be authentic and yet not be judged for their struggles. Most people hesitate to share their real feelings with their healthcare providers, even their diabetes health team, either due to lack of time or because they are not invited to do so. But this type of sharing is the primary purpose of a diabetes support group.
Learn about latest research and treatments
There is a vast amount of research being done to advance the technology designed to treat or even cure diabetes. In fact, some people who attend diabetes support groups would say that they gain the most reliable and immediate access to this type of information through members of their group. Some are even participating in various clinical trials to test the very research that is being discussed. It can be very exciting to discuss the next possible breakthrough in diabetes treatment.
Diabetes support groups work best when you enter them with a dual purpose. First, you seek support for your needs. But it also helps a great deal if you look at the group as an opportunity for you to share your experiences and knowledge with the purpose of encouraging and supporting others. When each person has this dual purpose in mind, a diabetes support group can be a vital connection that helps you and others manage diabetes and life far more effectively.