guest post! – a matter of parallel badgers

Following my asthma diagnosis, the world of chronic disease took on a new dimension–not only was I living it, but I was now able to resonate with others who were living it too. I’ve found through these interactions that it is only in part that the same diagnosis creates friendships–however, I also have found many, many friendships with others living with a variety of chronic diseases.

Bob is one of those friends, and he is also not the Roomba (my grandma has a Roomba named Bob. Bob fully understands this reference even if nobody else does). He’s always quick with some wit, humour and support, and is one of the many people I was blessed to encounter who is a member of the Diabetes Online Community. We’ve had many discussions about the parallels between different chronic diseases, specifically asthma and type 2 diabetes–I’m happy to have him sharing his thoughts today!

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My name is Bob. I have a blog (www.tminustwo.net) in which I share stories and perspectives from my life with Type 2 diabetes.

It’s been many months since Kerri first invited me to exchange guest posts. I started a draft at that time, but it’s just been kind of cooking on the back (WAY back) of my mental stove. There’s just been something I wanted to say, but I haven’t know quite what it was or just how to say it. (This is not completely unusual for me. I recently published a post that had been in the hopper for over two years.)

Kerri and I have often discussed the parallels between life with diabetes and life with asthma. Recently on Facebook, Kerri made a comment to me on one of those parallels. I offhandedly replied, “Yeah…if there’s a badger clamped onto your butt, it doesn’t make a huge amount of difference what species of badger it is.”

Ah-ha! THAT, my friends, is what I’ve wanted to say. No matter what kind of chronic disease a person has, it’s an enormous pain in the butt. And while chronic diseases have important differences in the nature of the impact on the folks dealing with them and what managing the condition involves, there are also many things that seem to be very common among those living with these conditions.

For the five years since my diagnosis, I have been an active participant in one online diabetes forum or another. In that time, I have read the stories of many people touched by the various kinds of diabetes. I’ve also, from time to time, heard or read the stories of people with other conditions. And, as Kerri says, there are many parallels.

See if you’ve found yourself saying something like the following:

  • “Because I look normal, people don’t realize that sometimes I’m really sick.”
  • “I work hard to take care of myself, but there are still bad days. It’s so frustrating!”
  • “People say the stupidest things to me about my condition. Sometimes they act like they know more about managing my condition than I do. Even though they usually mean well, it’s annoying and hurtful.”
  • “Dealing with this day after day, year after year, is so wearying and so dispiriting.”
  • “Everybody wants to tell me about their relative that had my condition, and it’s usually someone whose outcomes were really bad.”
  • “My sister-in-law is always sending me articles about ‘cures’ for my condition that are totally whacko, and my neighbor in this marketing scheme is convinced that all I need to do is buy her products!”
  • “Even some of my family members just don’t understand what this is like. Either they don’t get that I’m sick at all or they treat me like I can’t do anything.”

Any of that sound familiar? If you or someone you love has a chronic condition, I’m guessing that some of it does.

For many people living with a chronic condition, participating in social media with those who “get it” can be very helpful. People with diabetes find that the diffuse and informal entity known as the Diabetes Online Community provides a way to exchange information (“Where do I wear my insulin pump with my wedding dress?”) and viewpoints (“I really disagree with this article!”). More importantly, though, it gives PWDs (People With Diabetes) the opportunity to interact with other people who really “get it” and to receive the powerful reassurance that they are not alone.

I don’t know to what extent people with asthma have created similar resources, though I understand that online communities are being formed by people with many different conditions.

To me, this is a wonderful thing and well worth doing. After all, we need all the help we can get – we have badgers clamped onto our butts.