We’ve all heard the phrase, “there’s strength in numbers.” Numbers can be powerful, but to be clear, I’m not referring to blood sugars…yet (although holy moly, can those ruin a day!)
Every year I help facilitate a retreat for people with diabetes and their partners up here in Seattle. One of the most memorable moments for me from last year’s weekend took place right before lunchtime on day one. It was the first meal we’d shared together and there were people whipping out needles and meters left and right, myself included. I happened to look up at the woman sitting next to me and her jaw was on the floor. We made eye contact and I tipped my head quizzically. She whispered, “I’ve never seen anyone else do that before.”
“Yes, we exist in the wild,” I said. “You’re welcome to join us. You are safe here.” I saw a smile twitch on her lips, then quickly fade. “What is it?” I asked. She shook her head and looked away, but I had a feeling I knew what had crossed her mind. It was probably something along the lines of, “what if I check and my number is bad? I held up my meter. “324” it read. Her eyebrows rose but I just smiled and said, “Time to take insulin!” I have totally showed everyone when my number was good and hidden my meter when it was bad for fear that I would be judged. Sucky, right? Well, this is where it gets juicy.
Many of us struggle to feel empowered if we don’t have “perfect” diabetes management but yikes, if the only time I felt empowered was when I was “perfect”, I’d be in a lot of trouble.
It’s a lot easier to feel empowered when things are going good. The life-changing stuff happens when we can step into our imperfection and know that we are still okay, awesome even. As Brene Brown, research professor of social work concluded from her years of studying shame and vulnerability said, “I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” Talk about power and strength!
This task is usually easier said than done, but that’s why there is power in numbers. When you cultivate relationships with compassionate people who get you, you get access to a whole other source of strength and support. They can remind you that BGs are not good or bad; they merely provide information for next steps (take insulin, have a snack, etc). When you can’t hold hope or speak kindly to yourself, it’s perfectly fine to ask someone else to help (and vice versa!)
I don’t care how many beta cells you have, no wo/man is an island. There is power in numbers, but I encourage you to look at which ones. So instead of letting a BG tank your mood or determine your worth, tap into your group/pod of diabuddies who are in this with you. As we all well know, “Me too” is a powerful thing to hear!