I can be a pretty emotional gal. I have been known to cry at Telco ads, and the other day found myself tearing up at my daughter’s school concert. Cute kids singing Aussie classics will do that to me! And I can’t watch the opening scene of Love Actually (the one in the airport) without reaching for a tissue.

So, when I walked into diabetes camp today, it’s not surprising that the warm glow of diabetes love swept over me. OK – I don’t even know what that means – diabetes love? Huh? Maybe diabetes camaraderie is a better term.

Anyway, in the room were about 60 kids aged 12 to 14 years, all with type 1 diabetes. Most hadn’t met before camp check-in three days earlier and for many, it was the first time they’d been away from home since being diagnosed with diabetes. The beyond-amazing volunteer staff, many with type 1 diabetes themselves, were doing a sterling job getting everyone excited about the day’s activities.

There is a connection that people with diabetes have. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we like everyone with diabetes. It isn’t that at all. In fact, I’ve met some people with type 1 that I don’t particularly get along with, and probably wouldn’t have a drink with. And I’m pretty sure that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea either! But undeniably there is something there that connects us.

I never went to diabetes camp. I was diagnosed as a 24 year old and here in Victoria our camps run for four to 17 year olds. This year we ran a camp of 18 to 25 year olds, but it was the first time that it’s been done here.

Whilst I haven’t organised my own camp, I do have regular catch up with friends with diabetes – FWD. I’ve met these people through work, at diabetes information events and in one case at the supermarket.

I know how lucky I am to have FWD. And even luckier that they live nearby, so we can have a quick coffee. I even manage school drop-off and pick up chats with my beautiful friend Jo. Sometimes –most of the time – we don’t talk about diabetes. Sometimes there’s a cursory curse at a late-night hypo or a comment about a recent HbA1c. Sometimes there’s not.

But the understanding, the knowing looks, the complete, utter, total lack of judgment that is there cannot be measured. I find myself drinking it in and leave all encounters with FWD feeling that diabetes is back in its place.

In the last couple of months, I’ve been getting to know more about the Diabetes Online Community (DOC). I have taken incredible delight in uncovering layer after layer of positive interaction and supportive people. My only previous use of an online diabetes forum was negative – it felt cliquey and exclusive and if anyone dared challenge what the core users of the site said, they were attacked. I backed away and decided it wasn’t worth the angst.

But what I have found in the predominantly American DOC is a welcoming and encouraging group who are prepared to reach out. The unselfconscious, frank honesty and sharing is refreshing. Blogs tell stories that are familiar, different and liberating; Facebook groups invite opinion, ask tough questions and provide refreshing answers; and Twitter allows rapid-fire discussions.

Peer support should be a part of diabetes care for everyone diagnosed with this condition. Those six to eight hours a year we get with our HCPs are incredibly important, but being able to share with other PWD provides unlimited possibilities. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t recognise the value that peer support offers, which means that unless you go looking for it, you won’t have it handed to you.

So go looking! If you are not lucky enough to discover a group of people with diabetes in your suburb, you needn’t consider yourself alone on the diabetes road. Look online, call your local diabetes organisation and see if there is a support group nearby. You may need to do the legwork, but the benefits will be worth it!

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