It’s taken me a few weeks to get back into the swing of things (and by things, I mean life), but I wanted to share my takeaways from the most recent HealtheVoices conference in Chicago. There are some other blog posts that will talk about what happened, but I’m going to give you my perspective. And you know that it will be honest and forthright, because that’s who I am.
Not a wallflower.
HealtheVoices is designed to bring advocates from different health conditions together to learn about how to amplify our voices online and create deeply rooted connections. (In fact, the tagline for this year’s conference is “Deeply Rooted Connections.”) I attended last year and was honored to be asked back to be an advisor for this year. (Disclosure: Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Everyday Health paid my travel, lodging, and compensated me financially for my brilliant mind. They did not ask me to write about this and didn’t pay me to do so. I don’t do that. )
There were over a 100 of us (which is almost double the amount from last year) and we spanned a wide range of conditions: HIV, Mental Health, RA, MS, IBD, Psoriasis, Cancer, HepC, AFib, Blood Clot, Diabetes, and more. We were there to connect and learn – from each other and from experts.
People talked. (Yes, that’s me.) I was able to share my story and my passion about my community, ending with what I believe: “Find your tribe. Love them hard.” And my tribe got bigger that weekend. I wanted to hear what other communities were doing and how we can support each other.
I’m so impressed by what many of these individuals have done with their own passions. Some choose to share their lives out loud in public to help others get the information they need, others to help create safe communities where shame and stigma do not exist, and others to make sure no one feels alone.
It Was Like Inside Out
There was joy in seeing friends and meeting new people. Sadness when it was time to go. Fear from some on how to take all we learned and apply to to our own lives and communities. Disgust at a TSA officer who questioned an individual about her handicap. There was anger at some of the things that keynote speakers said during presentations.
OK, a lot of anger.
Jamie Heywood and Dr. Kevin Pho, MD were our keynote speakers and reflecting back on their presentations, they weren’t really geared to a patient advocate audience, which made for some contentious moments. (I’ve given some suggestions for keynotes next year. Stay tuned.)
One of the awesome takeaways was the visual creation happening during the sessions. I’m sharing a few that I thought are worth examining further:
We have it. Any of us who care for someone else, even remotely and online, can experience this. (It can also be called burnout, which is more real to me than just “fatigue.”) I had a wake-up call with this and I know I’m not alone. I love: “No is a complete sentence.”
Keeping It Fresh
How many times can you talk about a low blood sugar? How can you create a content calendar that you can live with? How do you define your writing and what content you share with others?
I loved Amy O’Connor and Rose Pike’s discussion on headlines. Big time. That’s another post in itself.
While this was one I couldn’t attend because it was being offered at the same time as Everyday Health’s Keeping It Fresh session, I was able to get great insights and ideas from this visual representation. (And I’ve already started to incorporate some of the Top 10 rules.)
We will be making our own journeys this year. But we’re not alone.
Ask questions. Connect with people who may be outside of diabetes how they do it. How they live? What they do to advocate for themselves and others? What can we do together? How can we make it better, easier, or if nothing else, more exciting as we all travel our own health journeys.
I’ve got my bags packed. And my traveling buddies. Let’s go.