While quarantine is over in most countries, some, like Australia, are still on lockdown. This stay-at-home period is a challenge, particularly for those who are already living with a chronic condition. The good news: the T1D community has the advantage of being connected already!
Why maintain a social connection with people living with diabetes?
Quarantine doesn’t have to mean isolation. A frequently neglected aspect of our illness is how important it is to have a community that understands us and helps us. Personally, I felt very alone when I was first diagnosed with this illness. But discovering a parallel world of connected people with Type 1 diabetise taught me how to deal with my diabetes. Online, I met hundreds of people who were like me and sharing their experiences. They inspired me to create my “type 1 advocate” Instagram page, and the Type 1 Family association. The watchword: we are not facing diabetes alone!
The challenges quarantine creates for associations that organize get-togethers!
With Type 1 Family, I organize gatherings. It’s so nice to be able to talk to people who understand us, listen to people who inspire us, and finally meet social media friends in person. The problem is, our Type 1 Family Day 4 was supposed to be held on March 21, with 110 attendees and 14 incredible speakers, but because of stupid COVID-19 it all fell apart! Making the decision to cancel wasn’t easy, but even before it was required by law, we knew we had to protect our community. The event has been postponed, but it will happen as soon as it’s possible again, because nothing can replace the magic of in-person events!
What’s the best way to support the community and stay involved?
There are lots of ways to keep in touch with our community despite the distance, and even meet new people. Personally, I’ve increased my online activity.
Private messages, phone calls & sharing
I started by making sure that my subscribers knew how to contact me and that I’m available for anyone who needs to talk. This unprecedented COVID-19 situation causes anxiety, and some of us need to talk about it to feel better. So many people have contacted me via private message, sometimes to ask for advice, sometimes to share their feelings, and often to react to my posts. I’ve even gone as far as suggesting a phone call, if someone needs more personal advice. Obviously I don’t pretend to provide actual medical advice. But I do have quite a bit of experience, and I’m naturally optimistic and determined. I want to share that resilience with my community. I feel like it’s my duty to help in any way I can, and if I can make my followers feel less alone, that’s already an important victory.
Daily stories: a shared break
I share about my daily life, with its highs and lows. I also share ideas for activities: exercising, baking, learning a language, drawing, etc. I try to talk about how I’ve been spending my time. Through these stories, I build a more direct connection with people, which inspires lots of conversations.
Group chats: the new classroom/meeting room
Whether it’s with my association, Type 1 Family, or with the League of Diathletes, I post regularly in discussion groups. It’s clear that everybody wants to get involved. We check in with each other, and talk about things we can do to stay connected and support the community during this difficult time. On the Type 1 Family Facebook group, we’ve started posting games to encourage community participation. We also get everyone to join in by asking the whole group to contribute suggestions for new sections.
On my personal account I’ve gone live to talk about my own quarantine experience. I’ve also been interviewed to share my general quarantine tips, as well as tips for diabetes management during quarantine.
The association has gone live on Instagram to talk about what we do, and answer questions from members and followers about COVID-19, diabetes, our events, etc. Our main goal is to create social connection and bring together people of all ages who are living with T1D, no matter where they live or what their interests are. All we’re doing now is adjusting our communication methods.
Posts & remote getaways
On my personal account, I post travel photos every day to create a world tour to enjoy from home. I named the section Léonor Airlines. The idea is to make it possible to travel (virtually) by offering a daily getaway.
On the association’s account, we’ve taken this opportunity to post even more portraits of people living with Type 1 diabetes, to inspire as many people as possible and spark new friendships (online, of course, for the moment).
Emails & humor
Generally, I use email when I contact association members to share the latest news and announce upcoming events. This time, I emailed each member to find out how they’re doing and remind them that we’re here to help. I also took the opportunity to share a collection of my favorite online jokes. It’s part of our job as an association to make daily life more fun!
Type 1 Virtual Cocktail Hour: version 2.0 of our Diab’Afterworks.
Type 1 Family is all about building community. We’re used to getting together for picnics, Diab’Afterworks, inspiring lectures, and more. To keep the conversation going and keep seeing each other, we’re organizing online cocktail hours to relax and enjoy a little time together! And remember, the wine and snacks don’t have to be virtual!
Even in quarantine, our connection is real!