Note from Quinn: This week I’m honored to have a guest blogger contribute to the important conversation of eating disorders and diabetes. Read her story below…
Imagine the following: In order to live a long and healthy life, you must become somewhat of a pharmaceutical mathematician; a walking, talking, carb and calorie counting, nutrition facts memorizing pincushion. You have a chronic illness called Type 1 Diabetes. Numbers and food are precisely calculated every single day for every single meal. In order to live with type 1 diabetes, you must walk the fine line of control and obsession. Recent studies suggest that potentially one in three women living with type 1 diabetes may be struggling with an eating disorder.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when I was 5 years old. I grew up with this all-encompassing chronic illness and I barely remember my life before the click of the lancet, the beeps from the glucometer, and the hypoglycemic episodes that still, after 23 years of living with this disease, scare me.
My eating disorder didn’t start overnight. Besides the daily rollercoaster ride of living with a chronic illness my childhood was wonderful. But something changed drastically after 6th grade. Middle school was a challenge and high school was even harder. No one else had to worry as much as I had to worry. No one else had to eat a snack in the middle of class, and no one else had to stop in the middle of something because they were “low”.
My inability to cope with living with type 1 diabetes, and with all the challenges and complications living with that chronic illness creates while trying to just be a teenager, ignited a deep resentment and sense of anxiety inside of me. I felt that I was trapped inside a failed body that would not allow me to ever feel truly free. What started out as an attempt to avoid having low blood sugars (mostly while performing on stage) and an honest desire to just not have to “worry” about my diabetes for a few hours became a dangerous eating disorder that nearly cost me everything; my career as an actress, my marriage and my life.
I lived in a self-made hell for almost ten years of my life.
Four years ago I took my first step toward living my life fully again when I accepted treatment at The Park Nicollet Melrose Institute in Mpls, MN; one of the very few Eating Disorder Treatment Centers that offers a program specifically tailored to type 1 diabetics with eating disorders. It was the scariest (and yet probably bravest) thing I have ever done.
Living with my diabetes today is very different after finally coming to terms with my eating disorder. There are still challenges in navigating my diabetes management through my daily life, and there always will be. The difference is that that now when an unexpected challenge arises, I am not afraid to do whatever is necessary in order to take care of my type 1 diabetes and protect my strong recovery.
Helping other type 1 diabetics who struggle with an eating disorder has helped me stay strong in my personal recovery. In 2012 I founded the organization We Are Diabetes to help diabetics find the unique support and resources that they need in order to live a happy, healthy life. Recovery is possible no matter how long you have been struggling and no matter how “lost” you may feel. There is always hope!
If you or someone you know is struggling with living with Type 1 Diabetes while also battling an eating disorder or is even just exhibiting some of the signs and symptoms of diabulimia please visit the We Are Diabetes website for more information.