If you are a person with diabetes or love someone with diabetes, you live with this disease 8,760 hours each year.
How many hours are spent with a medical team talking about diabetes? One hour? Two hours?
Those precious hours talking with medical professionals are usually not spent asking about how to deal with the perceived social stigma, disclosing diabetes to your colleagues or dates, intimacy issues, fears about complications, or dealing with everyday life. Most appointments talk about the numbers (lab results, blood glucose results, medication changes) and you’re left to muddle through on your own.
You may get support elsewhere: the Diabetes Online Community and all the wonderful resources found online, local support groups, but there has never been a multi-day conference where you can talk about anything and everything related to your life with diabetes.
No keynotes. No multiple tracks where you have to make a choice between sessions. Just your peers – those who live with diabetes every day like you – talking about the things that matters most to you that you can’t talk about with your medical team or those who aren’t impacted by diabetes.
We create the agenda. We decide what’s important. All of us participate. All of us learn. All of us become confidantes and compatriots.
That’s why The Diabetes UnConference was created.
I am my diabetes expert. You are your diabetes expert. And it took The Diabetes UnConference to show me how important that is and how much we need to come together and help each other.
Simply put…it was inspiring and transformative.
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. And there was a hell of a lot to learn, because collectively, our group had damn near 2000 years of diabetes experience.
There was laughter. There were tears. Hugs abounded and high fives flew. Clapping (twice). Frustrations. Hope. Fear. Unbelievable strength and dogged determination. There really aren’t enough words available to me to describe this event. So here’s what you should do. Next year, you should plan to attend.
I had been blaming myself for my diabetes and its complications. Opening up at the UnConference, I was embraced with open arms and a lot of ‘me too!’ I truly am not alone!
I actually went into this thing, thinking I didn’t belong there because I have only been a PWD for 2 years and 9 months. I was scared. I was afraid I was going to hear things like, “Oh, you’re so new. You can’t possibly need to go to an event like this.” I did not hear that once this weekend.
People shared some of their most closely held fears and secrets. People emerged stronger. People emerged not feeling so alone. People were empowered to take another look at diabetes and their friends who live with diabetes, making a collective investment in a better future for all of us. We are all in.
As we gathered in the meeting room the warm welcome was just the beginning for a day and a half filled to overflowing with respect, compassion and a deep understanding of shared experience. Lasting friendships were formed and hugs exchanged. It was a very profound experience that I will be forever grateful to have shared.
The safe space we all created and respected that allowed everyone to feel valued, respected, and welcomed. This gave people the comfort level they needed to share and listen and react and laugh and cry and swear and whatever else they needed to do.
There is an immediate bond when you meet someone living with diabetes. Words can’t describe the feeling of someone your just “gets it”. Now multiple that feeling by 80, that is what the UnConference felt like.
What our 2016 Alumni had to say about The Diabetes UnConference
An amazing weekend spent with about 100 other people who “get” what you deal with every second of every day. No doctors, no criticisms, no looks… just understanding. And it extends beyond the weekend (if you want it to).
I was overwhelmed by the inspirational, friendly, loving, caring individuals that I shared the weekend with. I learned a lot about compassion, anxiety, and perseverance.
From the first DUnConner I saw (and hugged) to the last one I cried with and hugged before I went home, I knew I was in a safe place. I have NEVER felt less judged (read: not at all) and more welcomed in ANY group that I do when I walk into DUnCon. It’s like a family…but so much better than that
The Diabetes UnConference is an open, safe haven to share your inner-most thoughts and to learn that you’re not the only one thinking and feeling that way. This … after decades of not having a space to share deep-felt thoughts, nor the recipients to hear and fully understand. At the UnConferences, I’ve been comforted by nods and words of, “I know exactly what you mean,” or “I’ve experienced that too,” and a simple, “I understand.”
This has been one of the most life affirming conferences I have ever attended.
But the Diabetes UnConference is the first conference specifically tailored for me – an adult person living with diabetes, as well as living with, as my kids might say, “big feelings.” It’s not a conference to educate about diabetes; it’s an opportunity to foster connection and feed your soul…which requires no carb counting.
There was a lot of #vegasdust over the weekend. That’s what we affectionately called the sudden onset of watery eyes/tears. It was one of the highlights of living with diabetes for 32 years. I can’t wait to see what develops with my friendships.