You can search Twitter for #MedXHangover right now, it’s a real thing. The emotional adrenaline rush of the conference comes to an abrupt end when you must return to the real world and there’s a feeling of emptiness. Despite the exhaustion that comes with being “on” for three or four days, it’s one of the most fulfilling experiences you can ever be part of, but when it’s over, you don’t want it to end. It’s an addiction that fuels your drive to want to cross off everything on your advocacy to-do list and in the same instant create fourteen new to-do lists because your brain is overflowing with drive and conviction.
But then the conference is over, you give your hugs, maybe shed a few tears, pack your bags, and return home – wherever that may be.
This year my Medicine X hangover feels different. In 2012, I felt intimidated by the prospect of merely applying for an ePatient scholarship. I questioned my achievements and doubted my impact on the diabetes community. I didn’t feel that I deserved to be identified as a peer among the other ePatients that flew in to Palo Alto that year. Going in to the conference with the understandably limited mindset of my diabetes world, I left that conference with an understanding that the world is much, much bigger than the diabetes conversations that I have every day on and offline. I felt validated in my efforts within the diabetes community and found a determination to do more, to have more conversations, to help share more stories. It turns out applying for that scholarship in 2012 was one of the best decisions I could have made.
Last year I approached Medicine X with a different perspective, focused first and foremost on the panel I hosted. I knew I belonged at this conference, I knew I was among friends and peers. The apprehension of 2012 was replaced by an eagerness to learn from others and share what I’ve learned from the diabetes online community with the world.
After the 2013 conference I actively campaigned to join the Advisory Board, and was grateful at the opportunity to assume a new role within the patient community. I knew simply attending the conference wasn’t enough any more. I wanted to give back to the thing that helped shape the person I am today. I wanted to help build something special. I wanted more. And more I got. After all of the hangouts, and classes, and applications, and planning, and tweets, the 2014 conference came, and went.
But my hangover this year is different. I went in to 2012 with no expectations and left with a new sense of purpose. I went in to 2013 with a refined focus and left on a mission to help shape the future of Medicine X. This year I just wanted every one of the ePatient delegates I was assigned as the point of contact for to have the best possible experience.
Yes, I hosted the opening panel on Friday. I think it went quite well. As soon as the video is live, I’ll share that and my thoughts with you.
And yes, “my” ePatient delegates had a good time…I hope.
With my perspective on the conference expanded to a global view, and my concern focused externally rather than internally, it’s been difficult to quantify or qualify what I’ve gained from this year’s conference. I know I’ve gained something, but I’m not sure what. Being concerned for the health and well-being of the other ePatients didn’t necessarily take away from any of my own objectives, but I never really had any specific objectives of my own. I never really had any time to focus on myself.
So we’re all clear, I don’t have any regrets about how I approached Medicine X this year. I saw my role as an Advisor as more than just the person who you can email if you have questions. It was about offering support before an Ignite Talk. It was about listening to concerns about how speeches were delivered, and reassuring that yes, “you killed it”. It was about stressing the importance of truly gluten free food for the ePatients that deserve better than bread placed below bacon to soak up the grease (I’m glad we got that sorted early). It was about offering a hug and a Diet Coke to someone when there was no other viable solution to the problem – because sometimes the act of listening is enough.
But through all of that external support, I think I lost focus on myself. Again, I have no regrets, but I wasn’t prepared for the type of emptiness I felt once the conference was over. It will take longer than usual to wrap my head around what all of this is, what it means, and what I can use to propel me onward as my diabetes, and patient advocacy journey continues.
More blog posts on the conference to follow. You can count on that.
Disclosure: As a member of the ePatient Advisory Board, my registration fee for Medicine X was covered by the conference. I’m writing about this stuff because I’m incredibly passionate about it, clearly – not because there’s a feudal obligation to do so.