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Women with diabetes – own your strength and lift each other up

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BY CHRISTEL OERUM (DIABETES STRONG)

I am a woman living with diabetes, and if you read this, there is a high likelihood that you are too.

Aside from living with diabetes, we might not have much in common, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t or shouldn’t support each other. Living with diabetes as a woman comes with a tremendous number of challenges, and there is no reason why any of us should have to face those challenges entirely on our own.

Christel Oerum of DiabetesStrong with three friends in local square

Strong women lift each other up

In a world where social media can easily leave us comparing ourselves, I believe it is even more important to remember we aren’t in competition. Instead, we as women have the power to support each other!

We all need different degrees and types of support when it comes to our diabetes. For me, finding support for those everyday moments is priceless. When I struggle with high blood sugar due to my menstrual cycle (like most women do as our hormones fluctuate), I find the comments and encouragement from other women going through the same thing helps me endure those trickier blood sugar days. It is also a good reminder that I am not alone in this, that not everything can be controlled, and that I am doing the best I can.

In addition to everyday women like myself that I have met in real life and online, I have also found several diabetes superstars to be inspirational — Sonia Sotomayor (US Supreme Court Justice), Theresa May (UK prime minister), Salma Hayek (Actress), Patti LaBelle (Singer), Sonam Kapoor (Bollywood fashionista), and Billie Jean King (former tennis player).

If you don’t already have a handful of strong women with diabetes in your corner, I want to help you find them.

Finding your network of strong women

You would be surprised how powerful a friendship that exists merely through the internet can be. The diabetes online community has opened up the opportunity for us to connect and find support from anywhere.

My three favorite places to find my community of strong women are Facebook, Instagram and local support groups. Each platform offers different types of connections, and I personally use all three to get the support and inspiration I need as a woman with diabetes.

Facebook

Facebook can be a great way of connecting with others living with diabetes. There is an abundance of Facebook groups dedicated to everything diabetes, including groups dedicated to women living with diabetes. Simply open Facebook and search for “diabetes and women” and you will be presented with a long list of groups that you can join.

My advice is to become part of a few groups and lurk around for a little while until you know if it is the right group for you. You want to make sure that the group’s approach to support aligns with your needs, and not all groups will. For example, you may find a diabetes group that is very focused on eating low-carb, and if that doesn’t feel like a good fit for you, that’s okay! We all approach living with diabetes differently, and we have different needs when it comes to the support we are looking for.

At the end of the day, you can absolutely find great connections here, maybe even lifelong friendships, no matter where you live in the world.

Instagram

Instagram is another fun way to connect with others online, and probably my personal favorite! It is easy to find others living with diabetes by simply searching hashtags like #diabetes, #t1d, #type1diabetes, #type2diabetes, #pregnancywitht1d, etc. You can also find a likeminded group of people by following a certain profile and connecting with others who follow and comment on that profile.

On Instagram you will see stories and pictures, but you can also interact directly with others through comments and messages. That is how strangers can find support and understanding and become friends.

You can find me (DiabetesStong_IG) and many other women sharing our lives living with diabetes! For me, it is a very uplifting interaction. While many also share their challenges (because we all have things we struggle with when it comes to our diabetes), some people are more hesitant to share those aspects of their life. What is most important is to ask yourself: am I putting something positive out into the world with this comment or post? I can post about a day of difficult blood sugars in a way that is still positive by simply expressing my struggle, or even asking others how their day is going, or if they have had a day as challenging as mine.

When I comment on other people’s posts, I try to make sure my words are going to lift them up, rather than ever leave them feeling judged or alone. (And hey, if you come across someone who isn’t a source of positivity and support, you have the ability to block that person if necessary.)

Local Support Groups

Meeting others online is a fantastic feeling, but meeting people in person is even better. I often look online for local groups. My favorite is Diabetes Sisters, a US-based group with plans to go international. I have met many women living with diabetes of all ages - women that I wouldn’t necessarily have met otherwise, who need support or are able to give when others are in need.

There are different ways to find local groups and that search often starts online. I look to my local diabetes association and have even found arranged meetups through Instagram and Facebook. Many diabetes associations will have yearly calendars where you can see planned events, and if you follow other people living with diabetes in your area on social media, it’s pretty easy to stay up to date with local activities.

If no one is arranging meet ups in your area, why not reach out through your local diabetes association or social media and create your own?

She thought that she could, so she did

While we can look to others for inspiration and support, our own attitude towards life with diabetes is up to us. Others can listen, they can give advice, and they can lead by example, but if we don’t embrace it and put it into practice in our own life, we will get the same results we’ve always gotten.

My mother-in-law once complimented me by saying that, “I’m fearless.” What she meant was that I do a lot of things with my life and continue to challenge myself. She mentioned my travels, moving from Denmark to the US, switching careers, entering fitness competitions, and all that while living with diabetes.

This was a very sweet compliment, but I don’t think I’m fearless.

However, I do believe that I have the power to create a healthy life for myself — and for others — and that is what drives me.

As women living with diabetes, we can all lift each other up through positivity and kindness. If we believe we can, nothing can stand in our way.

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