Today was our monthly support group meeting. I have been leading our group here in Albuquerque for 4 years, and I previously led a group in Chicago. I have been a member of a support group for all of the 22 years since I was diagnosed with celiac disease.
Initially, a face-to-face support group was one of the only ways to connect with others with the disease. The internet was only an infant when I was diagnosed in 1995. Of course we had snail mail for newsletters and a couple cookbooks, but email and the internet were brand new. So we relied on talking to one another, face-to-face, about our shared experiences.
As a person with celiac disease, as well as a medical professional, I recommend anyone with a chronic disease become engaged in some form of support group. While I am a big fan of an in-person support group, I know that I have made many virtual friends over the years through blogging, online support forums and Facebook groups.
Our monthly support group meetings are simple - we share a potluck meal and then we have a sharing/educational session. Sometimes the sharing session becomes a question and answer session, especially if we have a person who is newly diagnosed. But mainly we share our experiences with restaurants and products, and discuss the latest news in the celiac disease world. It is also an opportunity for us to share new dishes and recipes with one another, hopefully opening one another's eyes to a new ingredient or trying a dish we wouldn't typically make for ourselves.
The most important reason why I encourage everyone with a chronic disease to join a support group is because making these connections with others through our shared experiences has been shown to improve quality of life. Not only do we learn more about our condition, the psychological connection makes us feel less alone in coping with our chronic disease.
If you live here in the Albuquerque-area, I encourage you to come to join our group and come to one of our meetings. If you live out of the area, I encourage you to look for a group in your area. And if there isn't a group, consider starting one. It doesn't have to be big, it could just be a few people, the important part is to CONNECT with others.
With those thoughts in mind, I will leave you with the recipe for the dish I took to today's potluck, a favorite quinoa recipe - Quinoa Poppyseed Chicken Salad. Enjoy!