In this monthly column, Sweet Life co-founder Bridget McNulty discusses something that’s on her mind in the diabetes space. This month, she talks about telling all the stories of diabetes.
Telling all the stories of diabetes
I’m not old (I’m 40), but when I talk about the diabetes space in the olden days (5 or 10 years ago), I feel pretty ancient. The reality is that when we started Sweet Life 11 years ago, there wasn’t that much of a diabetes space, unless you were going to real-life support group meetings. There certainly wasn’t a digital community the way there is now.
I am so delighted by the vibrant South African online diabetes community we now have! Not just Sweet Life’s community, but all the voices speaking up about living with diabetes, and what that looks like for them.
I think we have come so far in such a short space of time – and I think we still have a long way to go…
Representation in the diabetes space
I’m talking, of course, about representation. And what that means, at the most basic level, is that different people in our community will ideally be able to see their experiences mirrored online – from people who look like them, or have a background that’s similar to theirs. I know that when I was looking for an online community, it felt so alienating that the only ones that existed seemed to be American, where they not only live in a very different culture but measure their blood glucose a different way!
Now, thank heavens, we have plenty of South Africans sharing their experiences, but we need more – particularly men, particularly Type 2s. This is difficult, I know, because there’s often stigma attached to men with diabetes, and those living with Type 2 diabetes, but the most powerful way to overcome stigma is for more voices to speak up about the real, lived experience, in a supportive space. I believe we have the supportive space, but we still need more voices…
Culture is so important
Culture is another aspect that we need to be aware of. While two people might look the same on the outside, the way in which they were brought up – their customs and food and traditions and habits – may be vastly different.
All the stories of diabetes
I suppose this is what I’m getting at – the more stories we can tell of people living with diabetes, the better. We all carry around unconscious biases, and we need to be aware of those – one of the best ways to realise we’ve held a bias that isn’t true is to read, first person, about someone’s life with a shared experience (like diabetes). Diabetes can be the great unifier.
Another essential element to this, of course, is being real. If you can be who you truly are – and tell the real story of your diabetes (with all its inevitable highs and lows), it opens up space for others to feel comfortable sharing their stories.
I hate the word influencers when it comes to diabetes, because really, who is being influenced to have diabetes?! But people with an online presence – let’s call them diabetes voices – play a huge part when they’re honest about their experiences.
Would you like to share your story?
Not everyone wants to share their story of diabetes, and that is – of course! – totally fine and 100% right for you. But if you would like to share your story, we’d love to tell it. Either as an interview on Sweet Life (we have a whole section of Stories), or simply by sharing your post on Instagram or Facebook. If you’re interested, please email us, or tag us (South Africans with Diabetes on Facebook, @sweetlife.org.za on Instagram).
The more stories of diabetes we can tell, the more people feel represented, and seen, and heard, the easier diabetes becomes to live with. I truly believe that.
What do you think? Can reading and sharing stories about diabetes help with daily management, or not so much?
What to read next?
Let’s talk about… The difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes: Bridget McNulty, Sweet Life co-founder talks about something personal related to diabetes… This month she’s tackling the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
Please share Sweet Life Diabetes Community: One of our big goals for 2023 is to share Sweet Life Diabetes Community with anyone who needs it. We’re South Africa’s largest online diabetes community, but we have so many more people to reach.
New Dexcom G7 launches in South Africa: Exciting news for all Dexcom fans in South Africa – the brand-new Dexcom G7 launched this week! We’re one of the first countries to get access to this exciting new tech, so we thought we’d find out a bit more about it