There is Strength in Numbers

Emotional Well-Being

There is Strength in Numbers

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!


I know I'm not supposed to assign emotional value to a BG number but if I'm honest, I do think of my BG's with an emotional component. I've only been along for this dance (diabetes) for just over 5 yrs but I can't help being happy when my efforts are paying off and I'm in range. But also, my heart sinks a little when an out of range number pops up despite my best efforts. I know it's just a number and I do take it in stride and act accordingly to either a high or low but I can't help it. I try not to let these feelings rule my life or decide for me how my day will go based on the BG. But i'm not always successful. I try to learn from these experiences with out of range values. I try to apply how I have dealt with these negative emotions the next time I get a so called "Bad" number. Don't get me started on A1C's!!! Luckily, I have a great endo and he's more concerned with "Time In Range" than my A1C, but I don 't know if I'll ever get over the emotional side of my numbers. I'm trying. I guess that's all that counts. Does it get easier to deal with out of range bg's and A1C's the longer one lives with D??
N1IWR's picture
Submitted by N1IWR on Wed, 03/21/2018 - 2:28am

I think most of us do a little happy dance inside (or outside) when we're in range--it's hard not to! And I totally get how yucky it can feel when you get a "bad" BG—these are normal human emotions. Heck, uncomfortable feelings can even help us take action towards problem solving. The trick is to “ride the wave” (not to be confused with a ‘dual wave’ bolus). Many of us want to stop “negative” emotions when they come up, or at least judge ourselves for having them when really, that’s kind of part of the human experience. It’s getting stuck here that’s problematic, not having the feeling itself. It may seem forced in the beginning, but think about how you would like to respond in that kind of situation and take yourself through it. Fake it if you must. And as you do this, your “muscle” or way of responding will get stronger. It sounds like you have a good 5 years under your belt of doubling up on guilt (guilt that your number is “bad”, and then guilt that you can’t just let it go), so that muscle is pretty developed. But just as that one got strong, you can absolutely tone your self-love/problem-solver muscle so that IT becomes the heavy lifter. When a baby learns to walk, do you berate her every time she falls? No! You encourage her because you know she’ll get there. It takes practice. Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you can read more about how to find strength in numbers by going to
Cassady_Kintner's picture
Submitted by Cassady_Kintner on Tue, 04/03/2018 - 2:37am