The D-World: When helping someone else really helps you

September 7, 2011By 5 Comments

A long time ago, I started to notice a funny coincidence. I am lucky enough to have been one of the founding members of the JDRF’s On Line Diabetes Support Team (under the helm of creators Renee, Ardy and Steve). As part of that team, I answer questions people post to the JDRF site; the kind of questions people need answered with compassion, care and speed. So the coincidence I noticed was this: every time it seemed I was feeling down and out or just plain pissed off, I’d get an ODST question assigned to me.

And every time I answered one, it healed me.

 But recently I realized something: I get ODST questions to respond to all the time. I just notice them more when I’m in some kind of funk. Because, I’ve come to realize, when you are really feeling sad, upset, scared or weak, the best thing to do for yourself is focus on someone else. Particularly in this diabetes world.

Because, look: It’s easy to get frustrated out here. Heck, its easy to get more pissed off than you ever imagined you could be. Because diabetes is a sneaky beast. Hold your gloves up to protect your face and diabetes is going to kick you in the knee. Jump around to keep your legs safe, and good ole diabetes is gonna smack you upside the head. And I don’t just mean every once and a while. I mean every single day. And night for that matter.

So how is a person to keep positive at all times with all that jostling and protecting and worrying and dodging the wrong way? Well, put simply: you can’t. But as I discovered with my ODST work years ago, what you can do is this: help someone else out trick diabetes for at least a short while.

I was explaining it to a friend the other day, how for some odd reason, when I feel really horribly awful about diabetes, I try to do something for someone else – mail them extra insulin or sites if they are short; give them suggestions on how to deal with teens; buy them a new book on D that I’ve enjoyed; find them some kind of help for a certain issue. She looked at me and smiled.

“Moira,” she said, “you are describing what every single recovering addict already knows. Getting outside of yourself and focusing on others helps you get through.”

Well, yeah. Of course my “discovery” is nothing new. And immediately, I saw the correlation with recovery.

After all, recovery, like diabetes, is forever (at least for now). There is no remission from diabetes, nor is there remission from working toward a lifetime of sobriety. There weeks we have to take diabetes one day at a time, and days we have to take diabetes one hour at a time. You know, those times when looking at the whole giant picture would just send you over the edge?

No wonder what sooths the recovered sooths the diabetes caretaker and patient as well.

It works for kids, too. I recently came across an older book called “A Million and One Ways to Celebrate a Child,” a book that featured a chapter about my daughter (Okay so the author and fact checker were a bit off — they called my daughter Lauren McCarthy. oops. But still, a nice book). The chapter on my daughter is about her hearing that a girl in her school — one she’d never really gotten along with, had been dx’d. Immediately, my daughter said she had to help her, and made plans to go to the girl’s house and help her adjust to life with diabetes. “I just have to do it, Mom,” she explained. And while they never were best friends, I still remember my daughter’s glow after helping. It helped even her little kid self.

I sometimes try to remember how lucky I am to be able to help someone out. And you can be too. Almost every diabetes organization has programs you can volunteer for, and the internet is full of sites where folks in this D world give advice, get advice and just “cyber listen” when someone needs to vent.

Feeling down, out and defeated by the D-beast? Reach out and help someone else. And see if it does not do for you what it does for me.

Heals you.

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Comments (5)

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  1. This is GREAT! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Ardy says:

    This is so right on the mark that I am sitting here with a big smile on my face and a tear in my eye…As a responder on the ODST I can say Moira is right on the mark. When responding it amazes me how I do that walk down memory lane on those very troublesome times I experienced along with my son Jeff. In reliving those episodes, while helping someone else, I realize I “made” it.

  3. shannon says:

    great post, thanks for the perspective!

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