Diabetes Awareness Month is over. I, for one, feel very overwhelmed at times with all of the intense “diabetes-ing” that happens in November—it’s hard to keep up! Throughout the rest of the year, though, I look for a variety of opportunities to get involved in the diabetes community. Full disclosure: I’ve been involved with all of the organizations hyperlinked in this article.
Here are a few ways you can, too:
1. Get Online
If you’re reading this listicle, you already know where I’m going with this. The wide world of diabetes is open to anyone with a device that connects to the Internet, even if you don’t have a Facebook or Twitter account.
Online involvement is a convenient (and cozy) solution if you’re looking for ways to promote awareness and be a diabetes advocate during the cold winter months. It’s also a way for those of us with busy schedules to stay in the loop. The number of networking opportunities, resources offering advice, support groups, and places to do research directed toward people with diabetes seems endless.
Search for what you’re looking for (“type __ diabetes chat room”) and choose what platform you’d like to use, depending on your comfort level. Do your due diligence and make sure you’re an informed media participant. You can also send an email to your network, rounding up donations for your favorite charity. Share links to articles you find helpful. One of the best results of the online community, in my opinion, is making connections with people with diabetes from all over the world!
2. Get Outside
Before the weather warms up, do some research about local events like JDRF One Walks. You, your friends, and your family can plan to raise money together and walk as a team.
It’s worth checking out the local chapters of diabetes organizations in your area—chances are, there are a few. While I’m involved with some larger diabetes orgs, I try to make it to local events when I can because it’s a way to connect with real people, usually on a smaller scale, and get the word out about what it’s like being a 20-something with type 1.
3. Let it Out
Find a way to channel your awesomeness, whether it’s through writing a blog, planning a fundraiser, or something else you like to do. By trying lots of new things, you can find out how you can be your own best diabetes advocate.
I like to create things, so I often use my camera as a tool to share my experience with diabetes. Telling stories helps me express my complicated feelings about having diabetes and doing so makes me feel like I’m part of something bigger.
Giving my time helps, too. Getting involved with a group like Children with Diabetes connects families on both large and smaller scales and offers ways for volunteers to immerse themselves in the diabetes sphere. Other volunteer opportunities, like the IDF Young Leaders in Diabetes Programme, are designed to refine leadership skills and direct them toward the completion of a specific project.
4. Use Your Voice
Contact your government officials about healthcare issues, such as the Affordable Care Act. House Speaker Paul Ryan asked Americans to voice their opinion on the Affordable Care Act by participating in phone surveys that coincided with Diabetes Awareness Month. I called and expressed my support for the ACA because it is very important to me.
Let those who write and vote for such legislation know how it affects you or someone you care about.
5. Teach Constantly
Think about all of the times you check your blood sugar, take out your pump, or give yourself an injection in a public place. If you’re like me, you probably try to keep it on the DL (and not the mg/dL….yeah yeah, bad diabetes joke) and not draw too much attention to yourself. But sometimes becoming 100% invisible is impossible. When someone asks me what I’m doing or makes an even worse joke about how I’m on some kind of illicit drug, I frame my response with the goal of achieving a greater level of understanding.
As I talked about in my How to Handle Diabetes Questions series, only good can come of educating people who don’t understand diabetes: a more compassionate society, a more comfortable existence for those of use with diabetes, and fewer annoying, errand-pausing questions in the future. That’s what Diabetes Awareness Month is all about, right?