Dinner, Drinks and Discussion (& Upwards 125 Years of Diabetes)

I've been struggling with diabetes burnout lately, feeling as though I have to talk and think diabetes all day long. Thanks to that, it's been tough to keep my interest in wanting to do what I should when it comes to my own diabetes, or even interacting more personally within the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) because again -- it's all about diabetes taking away from the rest of my time.

But a local D-Meetup recently gave me a refreshing boost, as I was able to sit and chat with friends about so many things -- and although we came together due to diabetes, our meetup wasn't necessarily about diabetes and it didn't have to come up. The D aspects weren't forced, they were natural and helped me once again actually feel that I'm not alone.

We met for a Thursday night event at Granite City Brewing in downtown Indianapolis. Six of us came out, from longtime Type 1s who are at our 40, 30 and 20 year marks, to those within just the past several years. I unfortunately forgot to ask just how many years we all had under our D-belts, but I'm guessing it somewhere upwards of 125 years between the six of us.

From left to front: Michael, Tricia, Aaron, Me, Daniel, Alex.

Per the usual, we shared some good food and great beer, while chatting about so many different things that weren't necessarily D-related: jobs, how the states got their names, beer and vacation spots, diabetes tech and local bicycling and how our diabetes does or doesn't fit in. Even DSMA Live came up, as did a conversation about putting infusion sets on our legs or "side butt" (as Jacquie defined it for us).

I had a blast, just being a part of that conversation with these good friends for a few hours.

Toward the end, we talked more seriously about what we want this Adult D-Community to be -- especially now that it's a number of years old.

You see, the Indy Adult D-Community has now been meeting up since August 2010. Two fellow adult type 1s here in the area, Pat Kinder and Aaron Walton, were the first to get this idea off the ground after the JDRF Indiana chapter started embracing "adult inclusion." Remember that JDRF rebrand? Yep, this was part of that, and it was the national org's way of responding to many of our gripes through the years that they didn't seem to offer much for those of us grown-ups. They gave a directive and many chapters began responding, before the official rebranding campaign kicked off.

In the beginning, this local meetup group was a JDRF thing. But after a while when life got busier for all of us and the local JDRF chapter seemed to lose interest, I agreed to take the reins to make sure we could still have this group come together. It's the most informal of meetups -- just at a restaurant or bar after work, a Panera or Starbucks on a weekend morning for brunch, Saturday night bowling, or a World Diabetes Day dinner and advocacy every once in a while. We have had up to a couple dozen people, to just a few of us.

Of course, there's no obligation to be at one of these meetups, unless you want to be. Work, family and life priorities change often and vary for everyone (just like diabetes does), and so my aim is to just let fellow D-peeps know that this community is around, if and when it's needed.

There's no organizational ties, no fundraising pitches -- unless someone chooses to talk about that, and in the past we've laughed and complained and also talked up various orgs and initiatives. Because it's about us, not the orgs.

Since every diabetes org seems to do it's own thing and not play together much, I've taken the liberty of culling all of their calendars to create an Indy D-Calendar that includes activities and events that may be of interest to our local D-Community. From meetups, fundraisers, galas and other things -- along with some notes about DSMA and any upcoming DOC initiatives like Spare A Rose, Diabetes Art Day, and World Diabetes Day. That gets posted and emailed to the groups, along with the local pump reps and some educators and docs who are hip to connecting us.

That's been well-received, from what I have heard.

We have an email list (that only I and one other person maintain) of about 72 people with diabetes (98% type 1s), and a private Facebook group with 55 PWDs. And while I've certainly not had the honor of meeting everyone in person, I've managed to hear from a good number through the years to just know that they appreciate knowing this group exists.

So, that is why I turned to this community recently. Is this a "support group"? Hell, no. I hate that term and despite the idea of it. Because it's not about griping about diabetes, but rather meeting up to hang with friends and -- if diabetes comes up (which it probably will) -- then that's OK. When it does, it's a natural part of our lives and not something we're "forced" to talk about because it's a "support group" setting.

 It's all a work in progress, like everything. But one thing I've enjoyed the most is just getting together to talk as friends, whether D comes up or it doesn't. That's what I hope we can all continue.

So, what's next?

 Is there a need to make these meetups a more regular, scheduled occurrence at a set time? Do we want them to be "events" or just casual get-togethers? Is there a day or time that works better, or should we keep mixing it up to get the after-work crowd and then also the weekend brunch or bowling event audience?

I've strongly believed since the start, as I do now, that there shouldn't be any organizational or company ties -- because that defeats the purpose. We agreed that our next meetup will be in mid-August (likely the 23rd) on the southside, for a Saturday brunch time.
I'm also hoping we can work more closely with the Indy area doctors and educators, letting them know that we have this group and it's a great way to connect diabetics. It's about all of us, working together to connect each other.

Personally, I'm grateful to have a community like this locally. Because fundamentally, it helps me see that I'm not alone and no matter what we do in our daily lives, D doesn't have to be a formal or forced aspect of how we live. Sometimes I forget that, thinking D all day long professionally and then going through the routine every other minute of the day and night. No, these meetups help remind me that diabetes doesn't have to dominate, it just is a part of the natural flow of things in our lives.


StephenS said…
That photo says it all-- a cadre of life expertise! Thanks for being a champion for your group... it appears your hard work is paying off.
Wow, you don't LOOK like PWD's!
Rhonda B said…
Hey! I'll be in Indy for GenCon this August. Hoping to spot some d-friends in the wild there :)

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