The Internet and You (and Your New Diagnosis)
Ah, the internet. It’s a super useful tool: An entire wealth of information, entertainment, culture, news and opportunity at your fingertips. Complete science fiction only several decades ago, now a reality that many of us can quickly summon in the blink of an eye. Have a question? Ask Google.
When it comes to dealing with a new health diagnosis, whether it be allergies, Diabetes (type 1 or 2), Crohns, Celiac, COPD or any of the other many conditions and diseases that Life can sucker punch you with, the internet is right there for us. Even after your doctor has supplied you with a small mountain of pamphlets (and possibly set up appointments for you to talk to other specialists), the internet offers something different: immediate info to your specific questions, and the experiences of those in your new community.
In theory, this is fantastic! Instead of poring over pamphlets and sheets of paper, we can quickly locate that information and ask the exact questions we want answered. We also look for others online who now have the same shared experiences as us, and look to them for personal accounts and advice. How could this be bad?
Well, that which is great about the internet – the fact that so much of the world can now share information – can also present some issues. There are some key people on the internet that you will most likely encounter as you Google your way through your new normal.
There are a lot of people out there on the internet with your same diagnosis, and then there are those with your same diagnosis who are the best at having your diagnosis. These people have the magic formula, and will give you internet side-eye if you do not subscribe to their same formula. For example, this could be the individual who has achieved perfect A1Cs by joining a special diet, or garnishing every meal with cinnamon, or sacrificing a 6 month old goat on the first harvest moon of the season. Whatever it is that they are doing, it works for them, and they are very proud of it, and anyone who deviates from their plan clearly does not know what they are doing. They are smug, and they can leave you feeling inadequate.
Remember – your diagnosis is not a competition, and every body is different. Work with your health team to figure out what treatment works best for you, and go from there. And while there is nothing wrong with sharing what works for you, remember that you are not the centre of the universe, and respect that others will have different experiences.
What’s better than having someone insist they alone have the perfect solution to treating your diagnosis? The ones who are straight up full of bullshit. Maybe it is the jerk who is insisting wine has gluten in it, or the individual that insists you don’t require levothyroxine to treat hypothyroidism, all you need are some essential oils. Whatever snake oil they are peddling or myth they are perpetuating, these are negative messages that can often pop-up in the comments section or on forums of people looking for information.
I am not entirely sure what motivates these individuals: Either they themselves have never questioned these myths and continue to pass them on as truths, or maybe they are the devil themselves. It is pretty self-explanatory, but ignore these people. They will only serve to drag you down and make you feel worse about the new situation you are dealing with. Remember: when in doubt, your medical team are the people to ask. Your dietician understands what foods you need to avoid for your allergy a lot better than Sk8erBoi95.
The Straight-Up Jerks
Ah yes, we all know about this group. This goes beyond myths – this is straight up opinions, and they are often not nice. Not so long ago, I somehow ended up on a forum where a waitress was complaining about people with Celiac Disease, and how we need to stop trying to eat in public at restaurants and should stay home because clearly it is too much work to accommodate a disease. Now I get it, maybe this person just had a crap shift and dealt with a less-than pleasant customer, but posting that onto a forum, deciding that a group of people need to stay out of a public space because they slightly inconvenienced you, that is crap. Especially for those adapting to the diagnosis
Best advice: Don’t read the comments sections. Hit the back button when this comes up in forums. These people serve no other purpose than to raise your blood pressure and start an internet brawl. Don’t fuel them, engaging will not get them to change their tune or see reason, it will just feed into the shit-storm. And next time you have an awesome, accommodating server, make sure you tip extra.
The Good Ones
Of course, the last several categories are not the only people who inhabit the internet. There are normal people out there, and they want to get through this crazy little thing called Life as best as possible. As I imagine the original intent of the internet was, most of us want a free flow of information and the support of community that spans over borders. Working together, we are able to share news of new scientific breakthroughs for treating diseases and the new medications that are on the horizon. We can share the best place to find dairy-free donuts in Vancouver and how to navigate a small-town Chinese restaurant when needing to stay away from gluten.
As you adjust to your new normal, and feel more confident in contributing to your cyber community, make sure you are being one of the Good Ones by making sure you are being helpful, critical, and being non-judgemental to others who are trying their best, just as you are.
It should go without saying, but always be critical of what you see on the internet. It is so easy to get caught up with the endless flow of fact, fiction and opinion, and it can be easy to stop gauging it all with a critical eye. And remember: Sometimes the brain needs a break from the endless flow of information. You don’t need to memorize every single carb-count or every dairy-free cookie at the store (that is what ingredient lists and nutritional info boxes are for).
Your journey to adjust to your new diagnosis, and your new normal, is yours, and at the end of the day, that journey is yours alone. Take the internet for what it is, one of several tools at your disposal, and remember that you are doing the best you can, and that is amazing.
Keep being awesome.