Thursday, 19 October 2017

Peer Support with Type 1 Diabetes

Ever since I was diagnosed, talking to someone who understood what was happening and who was going similar things helped. I met other Type 1 Diabetics at my school, but it wasn't until I attended a Diabetes UK care event (now called Type 1 Events) did I notice the real benefit. Everyday at this camp, I was surrounded by people who also checked their blood sugar, who also had hypos, who also struggled Day to day with type 1 diabetes, and it almost normalised these things. For once, I felt normal, not ill or different. When we went swimming, I wasn't the only one with a cannula in or with scars from countless needless. It felt amazing.

After this event, I still had a network of people who understood. We were connected through Something that could be considered a bad thing, but it had connected us . If I had a question or had a bad day, I had a bank of people I could ask, people that I trusted and who I knew.

I don't believe the first couple of years with Type 1 diabetes would have been as bearable if I hadn't received this peer support. Although most of the time we were connected through social media, I didn't feel as alone or isolated. I didn't feel like I was in it alone.

I have noticed that there is a massive gap in peer support in my area, and it is a gap that is present in a few areas throughout the UK. It is important that peer support is available to Type 1 diabetics, as it may stop isolation and feelings of difference. There aren't a lot of mental health support available and this is needed as Type 1 diabetics live with a chronic disability, which can often be debilitating. Although peer support isn't a substitute for mental health support, it can help quite a bit!

I decided to set up a group at university (with help!) for students in the surrounding area. University is a tough time for people living with type 1 diabetes, and I know the benefits that having a support network brings. I'm hoping that even if only one person shows up to the group, that one person benefits. The whole premise is that it is informal, not so much a support group where everyone talks about diabetes, but where we can all have fun, become friends, who all happen to live with Type 1 Diabetes.

A picture from our first meeting of the group!

I want everyone to have the support that I have. I have people to turn to if I have a bad day, and I want everyone to have that. People shouldn't have to suffer by themselves when there are so many people that understand.
I do now have contacts that act as peer support, both local and all around the UK (not to forget the international people!). They help me so much if I am having a hard day. Some aren't as lucky as myself, and have to deal with everything alone, and that needs to change. I appreciate that it takes a lot of organising, however it is essential that these things are organised. I want everyone ot have a support network like I have, because there are so many people out there that understand, they shouldn't have to go through it alone!

If there is a group near you, attend it. It is nerve-racking making that first move and attending when you don't know anyone, however for the people you meet it is worth it!