The incredible, unbelievable value of having a friend with diabetes.
Guest article by Christel Oerum.
Have you ever imagined having a best friend who also lives with diabetes? How wonderful it would be to meet the perfect "diabuddy" who truly understands what it means to live with diabetes and relates to what you deal with every day. They wouldn't have to guess at what you're thinking—they'd know because it's their life, too.
The fact is—you are not alone. There are so many of us living with diabetes around the world. If you're open to it and willing to share your experience with others, the chance of meeting another person with diabetes is pretty high. But it means you can't keep your diabetes a secret and you have to be open to different ways of managing diabetes.
Your ideal diabuddy friendship
Simply having diabetes might not be enough of a bond for a long-lasting, genuine friendship. So, think about it, what do you need from a friend?
I am fortunate to have quite a few diabuddies in my life. And by now, I have formed a clear idea of what works for me and what doesn't. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when making friends with people who also live with diabetes.
Question 1: Can you accept that there is more than one way to manage diabetes?
I believe in choices, and I believe we should all find the type of diabetes management that suits us. For example, if you use an insulin pump, that's great—let's talk about the benefits. But if someone wants to push their solution on me, and can't accept that I prefer insulin injections, that would be a difficult relationship for me.
In turn, I try not to push my routine on others. Over time, I've learned what works for me, but that does not mean it's right for everyone. I get that, so I strive to respect others' perspectives.
Similarly, you might be vegan, swear by a low-carb diet, believe that high-carb/low fat is the way to go—and that's great. For you. The last thing anyone needs is another member of the diabetes food police.
Question 2: Can you listen with empathy?
Do you know how to listen without offering answers or solutions? Sometimes people just need an ear to listen, instead of a dozen ideas to try or hearing how things could be worse. This can have such a positive impact on a relationship. When talking to another person living with diabetes, you start with a basic understanding that things can be tough and that sometimes you just need to vent.
Sure, it can be hard to listen to someone who might be struggling and not offer solutions—I might have a hard time with that, too. But I always try to be a great listener, because that's what friends do.
Question 3: Can we talk about something other than diabetes?
Of course, friends will talk about diabetes, but I hope to bond over other things, too. For a lasting friendship, people need to have more in common than diabetes.
If you can't have a conversation about family, hobbies, nature or something else, is it a true friendship? This is about being more than part of a diabetes support group. Spend some time figuring each other out. While some friendships feel like love at first sight, some friendships need a little time to bloom.
Get to know people beyond their diabetes diagnosis, and hopefully you'll be a great match. And if not, you can still be part of each other's diabetes support group.
Question 4: Can you be supportive no matter what?
If a friend calls you because of stubborn high blood sugars or forgotten diabetes supplies, try not to lecture. Provide support, if you can, and work to find a solution to the problem.
There is a fine line between meddling and offering constructive diabetes suggestions and wisdom. Meddling, for example, might be looking over my shoulder at my meter and commenting on my blood sugar numbers, or suggesting changes to my diet without my asking for input and advice.
Constructive suggestions, on the other hand, can be as simple as having a conversation about an issue. You can ask me if I find something challenging (like dosing my insulin for pizza) and if I say yes, you can give ideas.
Not everyone has to be your best friend
As with friends who don't live with diabetes, you can have more than one diabuddy. Some may be closer than others, but that's okay. However, friends with diabetes bring unique insight about what you go through every day. Finding that friend who not only gets you but also gets living with diabetes can be an amazing experience.