There is an indescribable feeling I have following a diabetes conference. Swirled in amongst the exhaustion, information overload, jet lag (because conferences are always in ridiculous time zones that are not AET), and memories, I come back galvanised in a way that can only happen when spending time with those in my tribe: others living with diabetes.

I returned from three days in Vienna bone-achingly exhausted. After being reunited with my family and not being able to stop hugging them, a few days of not-great-but-okay sleep and bucket-loads of Melbourne coffee under my belt, and time to process and write about what I learnt, I find myself recalibrated and ready for what’s next.

The hours of travel is a memory, the conference sits comfortably alongside all the others I’ve been too, my conference name badge is hanging in my office with all the others, and I’ve plans already underway from successful meetings.

In a lot of ways, the status quo has been restored and I am back to my real life after a few days of conference life.

But what is not the same is the level of vitality I now have, my veins pounding with the vigour that comes only from spending time with the people who are working to and for the same things because they get it at a personal level that is only apparent to those of us whose very DNA is affected by this condition.

I came to realise a few years ago that I have an invisible jar in my mind, and how empty or full that jar is depends on the time I’ve spent with likeminded diabetes friends. When the jar is nearing empty, I find it difficult to focus my energies on the advocacy and support issues that often are front and centre of my mind. I feel myself flailing and falling short because I don’t have the support of those I need to boost me up.

Of course, I am lucky enough to have others with diabetes around me even when I am in Melbourne (hello neighbour!), but it is those I see at these sorts of conferences – the ones whose minds and hearts are full of similar ideas, similar frustrations and find similar reasons to celebrate– that fill that jar right up. It is when I can simply turn to someone because they are sitting right there, have an animated conversation and high five each other with our enthusiasm that I feel capable and able to take on the world.

Those people who share my pancreatically-challenged existence, who breathe the same health condition, and struggle, celebrate and despair in similar ways to me, are the ones who fill up the jar ways to sustain me until the next time. My motivation is high, the momentum fast, my mind is working overtime. And my jar is overflowing right now with those people who may have beta cells that don’t work, but they make up for it in ways you couldn’t even begin to imagine.

Tine – who inspires me every time we speak.

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