As I approach what would have been my mother’s 68th birthday this week, I’m reminded of the loss I felt growing up without her. The women in my family and of my community certainly rallied to support and raise me, and I will forever hold my personal Secret Life of Bees experience as a tremendous gift.

But there is something broken in a woman’s identity when she is missing a connection with her mother (living or dead). There is a soft underbelly to my otherwise strong self where being a motherless daughter is concerned. And, while it makes me vulnerable, it is also a vital component to my strength in the world.

I’m guided to anything involving the empowerment of women and the expansion of their choices because of it. I’m a powerful mother because of it. I’m a fierce woman in business because of it. I’m a compassionate friend because of it.

And, this year, I’m a better diabetic because of it. I used to say “My biggest fear is that I will die young and not be able to raise my daughters.” Now I say, “I intend to watch my daughters grow up and raise their daughters, so I am managing my diabetes everyday.” This mindset is as vital to my wellness as any insulin.

With this in mind, let’s rewind to last Saturday. I exercised more than usual, and in helping out at a friend’s party, grabbed a slice of pizza without taking any insulin first. I came home to find a very high blood sugar reading, and attempted to correct it with an insulin dose in response…completely forgetting that the morning’s excessive exercise was still working in my system.

At 2 a.m., I suddenly woke up, feeling very strange. Exhausted, I rolled over to go back to sleep, but something forced my body out of bed. I went into the living room and tested my sugars, but I couldn’t read the meter because I was sitting in the dark, and I was too confused and weak to turn on a light. I remember thinking “I just have to get to a light,” and this moment of lucidity led me into the kitchen where we keep a small light on during the night. My sugars were 45.

I grabbed a soda and a straw and sucked it down. I was too weak to rouse my husband, so I just sat in the kitchen, holding the soda can, reminding myself that I was awake; I could still swallow; I did not have to call 911. I thought about how illogical it was that I woke up at all. If I had continued to sleep, my blood sugars would have continued to drop, and I very likely would have gone into a diabetic coma.

This was my scariest diabetic moment to date and it brought my greatest fear right to the surface. How would Diane navigate the betrayal of a friend? How would Megan survive her first broken heart? How would they ever know the depth and intensity of my love for them? If I hadn’t woken up, would they have traveled the same road I did?

But I did wake up. And the experience proved an unforgettable reminder (as frightening experiences tend to do) that managing my diabetes requires comprehensive treatment that factors in all aspects of the day’s activities. Wellness is not a patch job.

I don’t know what woke me, but I have a pretty good guess.

Thanks, Mom.

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