March 9, 2012

Meredith Gruebbel's Social Media Experience

When I first read Meredith Gruebbel’s blog, "With a Side of Insulin", I felt like I was brought into her life. All of the pictures on her blog, for example, her "Almost Wordless Wednesday" blogs or her "Photo Friday" blogs, made me feel like we were having this intimate conversation with me. I just had to reach out and learn more about her experiences with diabetes, her blog, and how she uses social media.

When I contacted Meredith we started talking about how it all began. A few years back, Meredith asked herself the same questions many patients ask when it comes to social media. What the heck is social media? Is it for me? And what can I do with it? Today, Meredith is a participant in many social media initiatives. Her blog has been going strong for a year now, celebrating its anniversary in January. (Be sure to congratulate her on Twitter @fancynancymer.)

Recently, Meredith sat down with the CallingAllTypes team to chat about diabetes and her social media experience. Here's a recap of our conversation:

CallingAllTypes: Can you talk about some of the emotions you had when you were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes?

Meredith: I remember sitting in the doctor's office with my mom (I was 17, just after high school graduation), and the doctor said to us, 'It's either diabetes or a thyroid problem.' And I immediately knew it was going to be diabetes. Mom said, 'It's probably your thyroid; you'll just take a pill every day.' And I told her that it was diabetes. I just had a gut feeling. I wasn't mad, I wasn't upset, I didn't cry... I was just like, 'Well, I have this. So now I have to learn how to live with it. There have, of course, been times over the years that I get really mad or upset, but during the initial few months after my diagnosis, I was just in ‘learning mode.' I wanted to know how to get healthy and stay that way.

CallingAllTypes: For readers who may be thinking about using an insulin pump, what advice would you give them?

Meredith: I know some people say an insulin pump is not right for them, and I respect that choice. I love mine. I couldn’t imagine life without it. I got my pump six weeks after I was diagnosed. In the past 11 years, there have been a few times when I’ve had to take shots because my pump malfunctioned. When that happened, I talked to the doctor to figure out what amount of long lasting insulin to take, because I am so used to the pump.

I can do anything with my pump, it’s waterproof, and I wear it all the time except in the shower. I know some people keep it on but I prefer to take it off for that few minutes. I'd say if you are considering it, do just that. Ask if you can wear a pump for a few days (I had one for three days with saline to try it out, while still giving myself shots) and see how it is. It cut down on having to carry needles and insulin – I never had an insulin pen. Life was easier for me as soon as I got the pump. Less diabetes stuff to carry around, not such a tight eating schedule, snacks here and there without making sure I give myself a shot. I just push a few buttons! And of course, ask questions to those who use pumps! The diabetes online community, through Twitter, Facebook, blogs... you can even ask me! It helps to talk to people who live with it every day of their lives.

CallingAllTypes: When did you decide to start writing a blog? How did you come up with the name of your blog?

Meredith: My blog had its first anniversary in January. How it all began...  I joined Twitter just to see what the big deal was, because I didn't get it. One Wednesday night, Kerri, the only other diabetic I knew on Twitter at the time, was posting things about diabetes with the hashtag #dsma. I slowly started following every week. Then I started to join in the conversation, realizing there were SO many other people living with this disease on Twitter. I discovered how many of them had blogs. I'd find myself sucked into them, amazed at how I finally felt like I knew people I shared the same feelings with, something I didn't have physically because I don’t know many people around me who have type 1. I had so many thoughts based on what I read that I wanted a place to write them all down. For a few weeks, I wrote my blog, but didn't share it with everyone. And when I did, I was glad. I received comments and responses from people who understood what I was saying, and I have made so many friends because of it!

CallingAllTypes: For people who want to use social media to learn more about diabetes or connect with other patients and caregivers but haven’t yet, how should they start?

Meredith: Do whatever you feel comfortable with. Read some blogs, search a Facebook group, follow a few people on Twitter... Just be warned, when you join the #doc (diabetes online community) on Twitter, you're going to be smothered in love and support! Once you join one thing, you'll see how much it means to everyone and HOW far our community reaches. It's worldwide. (Really!)

The decision to participate is always yours and your feedback is always wanted. At CallingAllTypes, we believe finding the right online resources to better manage your diabetes should be a whole lot easier! So sign up and be a part of our growing online health movement. Once you've joined, stay connected with us through Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and YouTube.

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