During one of the lunch breaks amidst the whirlwind of presentations, panels, and breakout sessions during this year’s Medicine X, Dr. Ann Becker-Schutte joined us to talk about…us. The central theme of our conversation revolved around knowing when to take a break from our advocacy efforts and disconnect. The core idea of “know your body” was repeated throughout the lunch and through the rest of the conference.
This is where something like the Wellness Room came in handy. Having an opportunity to spend just a few minutes in a room dedicated to calm is a saving grace when there’s so much happening on the other side of the door.
The big problem is that knowing when to disconnect and actually disconnecting are two completely separate actions. It’s easy to get lost in the tweets, retweets, status updates, reblogs, hashtags, comments, hipster photo filters, pins, and…I think you get the idea. There’s a lot out there. Maybe too much. Especially for those of us engaged on multiple social media platforms (or the few of us with seven Tumblr blogs), just trying to keep track of everything can get exhausting. If I can barely keep track of all of my social media presences, how can I realistically know when I need to step back and put the phone away?
For someone like me, most of my online efforts revolve around non-serious, potentially silly topics, but for the thought leaders attending Medicine X this is an entirely different matter. Community leaders are looked at for advice, guidance, support, information, and more – and that’s on top of their own social media endeavors (and their actual lives). For the ePatients living with chronic pain, for example, there are never enough spoons in the day to carry out a list of ordinary tasks but if you factor in the weight of an entire community that sees you as a leader (and maybe even role model) the pressure can get quite overwhelming.
That’s just one example of a situation of knowing when it’s time to walk away. Maybe it’s for an hour. Maybe it’s for a day. Maybe it’s for a week. The point is that you have to know when your body is reaching its limits and adjust accordingly. Your community will still be there when you get back. And a true community of likeminded individuals (living with chronic pain, or diabetes, or die-hard sports fanatics) will understand and respect your need for rest and recovery.
Which brings me to this:
I sent those out in the middle of our lunch-time discussion.
(This is going to sound self-congraulatory, but I did what I could to remove the humble brags. I’m not trying to be “that guy” right now.)
I realize that attending conferences like Medicine X put a spotlight of sorts on me and my peers with mutinous pancreases that are representing the diabetes community. I understand that standing shoulder to shoulder with people whose opinions I value more than my own in the diabetes community (like Kim, Scott, Kerri, and Cherise) means that people may put me in a similar ‘thought leader’ group from their perspective. I get that if I’m going to be this vocal and enthusiastic about diabetes, it’s going to attract attention. I’m not saying I don’t want any of that. I’m saying the reality that it’s kind of working is scary.
Early on in my blogging adventures I had a number of people from the Talking About Games community say that everything they learned about diabetes came from my blog. I don’t know about you, but to me that’s terrifying. It’s not that I’m publishing misinformation, but that I might have been a primary source of information about some diabetes-related topic. I don’t want to be the first in line for things like this. As much noise as I make, I don’t necessarily want the spotlight.
I realize that last sentence is contradictory to my entire social media presence. As therapeutic as blogging has been for me, I’m comfortable admitting there’s a bit of ego in all of this. The challenge is trying to balance the ego, the therapy, the community, and my personal life at once. Some days I’m better than others at keeping all four plates spinning than others, but I need to continue to improve my recognition of when the balancing act is too much to maintain and it’s time to take a break.
It’s for everyone’s good.
Disclosure: I was awarded a partial scholarship to attend Medicine X this year. All other expenses, including the remainder of the registration was paid out of pocket. In case there was any doubt, I’m writing about this stuff for me.