There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.
– Margaret J. Wheatley
The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.
– Coretta Scott King
I am writing this last of four blog posts about my experience with Type 2 Diabetes on the last day of November, World Diabetes Month. November is also Caregiver and Gratitude Month.
As mentioned in my previous articles, a chance electronic encounter with Jon McMahon, through his launch of iThrive a docuseries on ways to reverse Type 2 Diabetes, happened when my husband was recovering from heart surgery complications. It was a wake up call from my Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis a decade earlier. Faced with uncertainty around my caregiver responsibilities, I knew I could no longer hit the snooze alarm on my unhealthy lifestyle choices. I had to put on my oxygen mask and be my best self to care for my husband when he was finally released from the hospital.
When faced with difficult situations in life, I am most comfortable isolating myself. My sense of overwhelm begs me to retreat to solitude to recover. Over the past year, I’ve learned that this isolation is probably not the healthiest way to cope. All the programs for preventing lifestyle disease that I’ve studied have emphasized community as an important criteria for making and maintaining change.
Last fall, as serendipity would have it, my long time yoga teacher, Rixie, invited me to join a gratitude gathering of local women. We met monthly to focus on a specific practice that we would do over the coming month and then reconnected the following month to share our experiences. Discovering gratitude and sharing it in a group of like minded, but not well known individuals, was new for me. I found, that despite my shyness and sense of overwhelm, this compassionate group of women carried me through tough times and allowed me to openly count my blessings. I felt less stressed and better able to cope with the changes as a result of my husband’s chronic illness.
Had it not been my positive experience through this monthly gratitude gathering, I probably would not have had the courage to engage in the iThrive Facebook community that Jon launched in January after the airing of his docuseries. This FB community of likeminded individuals shared their successes and challenges as they made dietary lifestyle changes to reverse or prevent Type 2 Diabetes or other chronic conditions.
I joined the group as soon as it was launched but took a “voyeur” position. Reading posts, but not commenting. My skeptical, judgmental, isolated self was wary of interacting with a virtual community. I followed challenges, but took a long time to weigh in when I experienced success. Perhaps, it was because I had tried and failed so many times before to make lasting lifestyle changes.
As I followed Jon’s success and that of other participants, I grew bolder. One day when I was feeling really positive, I posted what my experience had been over the past months. I didn’t expect it to be read, after all, there were thousands of people in this community. Later, when I was struggling, I posted that I was having a tough week. Over time, different women reached out and connected with me.
One woman, in particular, Linda, reached out at a time I was feeling really low and ready to give up on adopting this new healthier life style. “What a loser, I am.” I thought, “Putting my miserable self out there in a virtual platform. I’m not my diabetes!” My rebel self retorted. I learned to ignore this voice and engage in a caring community.
Linda was diagnosed with pre-diabetes and managed to reverse her condition through dietary changes. We connected and she invited me to join a smaller group of like minded people. The sense of overwhelm felt less. I started to feel positive again. I got back on track as we all shared our successes and struggles with healing what ails us.
My point in this last November post, is that community, in whatever form it takes, is important. Even a stoic, loner can feel her heart melt listening and learning from others. I leave you with the thought that as you follow the mantra of folks like Dr, Dean Ornish –
1) Eat Well, 2) Move More, 3) Stress Less, 4) Love More
a community, whether it’s virtual, spiritual, or local, can help you achieve and maintain healthy objectives. Don’t try to do this alone. In the meantime, I wish you all a happy, healthy and connected Holiday Season.