How do you reach those that need help the most?
A better question may be: how do you reach those same people when they have no idea where or what that help is, or that it could help them in a meaningful way?
When I say "help", I'm not referring to therapy (in the conventional sense) or rehabilitation. I'm thinking of the people out there who live their lives with diabetes, yet without an awareness of how much lighter that burden could be.
Over the last year, I've had the opportunity to read and interact with a variety of views on how living with diabetes affects people. I see accounts from people of all varieties, in all walks and stages of life. I see the good, the bad, and the very ugly. Because I'm a responder for an online diabetes support resource, I interact with some of the concerning, devastating and sometimes heart-wrenching situations that are only shared under conditions that ensure the comforts afforded by anonymity and confidentiality.
For those same reasons, I can't say exactly what I've been alerted to recently.
What I can say is that my heart feels heavier today.
A family member of someone with type 1 diabetes contacted me recently. The T1 is experiencing a lot of the burnout, frustration, complacence and outright depression that so many of us have faced. Reading through this email with blurry eyes, it felt as though I was reading what someone could have written about me ten years ago, with a few different dramatic twists.
These aren't new issues to our online community - they happen. But when they do, we rally. We sympathize. We relate. We check in. We motivate, and we encourage, and we support.
We do this as a community because we all know the power of what this brilliant sum of kind hearts and strong voices can do. It's what we're good at, frankly.
But how do we reach the ones outside of our mostly-well-adjusted bubble? How do we reach those who need us in ways they may not even realize right now? The ones who may be resistant to accept any kind of help?
How do we reach the unreachable?
My imagination likes to write its own stories. (Maybe you've noticed.) I often envision these folks as living in some sort of alternate yet parallel version of themselves - of the person they could be. As the saying goes, "they don't know what they're missing". I can remember what it's like to be that version of yourself; the lonely frustration coupled with a bit of self-reliant defiance. Me, need help? Oh no, no. I've been doing this for ____ years. I don't need "help". It sucks, but I'm doing the best I can with it.
In fact, that version of myself might be a little pissed at me for writing this, and for insinuating that she didn't have herself as together as she thinks. She's be a little put-off by the fact that I claim to know what she's going through - because no one gets what it's like.
I want to hang billboards for these people. I want to flood the airwaves with PSAs. I want a freaking Superbowl commercial. I want people in sandwich boards walking around the downtown of every city in the world. I want people in chicken suits. I want blimps at sporting events. I want a sheet with online resources shoved into every damn test strip box on the market right now.
And I want to give all of these people a huge hug, without me looking like a totally crazy idiot.
That last part might be totally unavoidable, but I'm willing to take that risk considering the potential payoff.
This Sister- and Brotherhood of the People With a Broken Pancreas - we have an amazing ability to help people live better by being open and honest about life with diabetes, and there are so many more that can be brought into the fold. We ourselves are proof of the power that community has, because of the changes we've seen it bring to our own lives. We have all felt that void - or recognized its existence only after having brought to light and sealed up - before.
Let's find a way to share this, folks. We need more rooftops to shout from.