When I started Diabetes Counselling Online, all those years ago in 2001 when the Internet was a new idea and people had zero idea about using it for anything much, let alone delivery of health services and information, I struggled to find anything to guide me. There were a couple of Australian websites offering counselling and a number of American Counsellors offering paid e-counselling. There were no guidelines other than some International ones and so I set out into the great unknown.
Even then, the DOC or Diabetes Online Community, was quietly beginning. Yes, health services may not have grasped this new technology very quickly, but there were some people living with health conditions like diabetes who were standing up and taking notice, along with us. The wonderful Reality Check now the Type 1 Diabetes Network http://www.d1.org.au/ was an inspiration to me in the way that young people with diabetes had begun their own network of support and a place to gather. Still, nobody was offering professional counselling online in diabetes and certainly not professional counselling from people who happen to have diabetes themselves, for free.
Surprisingly this remains the case. Diabetes Counselling Online is still the only service I know of that provides free web based counselling specifically to people with diabetes. What makes us unique to the many other diabetes sites now available, is that we still provide a totally personal and individual e-counselling service, for free.
When Facebook and Twitter moved into the mainstream, we jumped before many and we have always been right in the midst of the opportunities to communicate and connect with people living with diabetes.
Of course there is now a huge DOC and many wonderful people blogging, sharing and setting up groups and places for people to connect and find the support they so desperately need. And here we sit, quietly getting on with what we do. Each new story that comes to our inbox, is posted on a Facebook group or our forums, gives us the desire to keep going. Each time a person tells us about how sad they feel at times, the many ways they are trying to make sense of diabetes, how it gets its fingers into every corner of their lives, how alone they feel, how frightened, worried, guilty and frustrated, it gives us an injection of passion and reminds us that we do this simply out of a desire to make a difference.
That is what amazes me every time I read a blog, see a post or comment somewhere in this wonderful place we human beings have created – how much people can share concern and yes, even love, via typing words on a computer screen and sending them through cyberspace, I hope the cynics who used to say a decade ago when we started “but HOW do you do counselling via EMAIL?” “How can that WORK?” have well and truly realised that it is no different to sending a love letter to someone via a boat at sea, although it is a little bit quicker! I hope people see that despite the nasty, dark and scary places that the Internet can take people, that there are many corners of the Internet that are bright, light and welcoming- where you can pull up a chair, grab a cuppa and feel connected, feel less alone, feel home.
This has been a wild ride for us, this journey into cyberspace and the world of diabetes online. We have both forged pathways and watched it blossom. We have been pushed to want to give up and then been pulled right back in by a mother asking for help as she cries for the fear she has about the future of her child with diabetes, a young man who is struggling with how he will manage his life with this disease, a woman who has spent her life hating herself and now feels the weight of guilt pushed down her throat because not only is she fat, but she now has type 2 diabetes, the many hundreds of voices from people who just don’t have anywhere else to be heard, who feel they can not ask these questions anywhere else, who feel that if they do, they will be not heard.
We do not push our barrow, we are not ones to stand up and talk about all of our achievements and perhaps, that is why we are still a small group of people trying to keep things afloat. But I can tell you one thing, perhaps because we live it, because we know what it feels like to ride the roller coaster, we have one hell of a huge combined heart. And that my online friends, is the heart of diabetes.