Diabulimia and recovery, by Georgia Thomson
I was diagnosed with Type 1 at nine years old and have always considered myself incredibly lucky to have been so young, because I don’t remember anything else.
I had my ups and downs with my diabetes through school, with a good lot of faked BGs (blood glucose levels) in my diary along the way. I got over that phase as I got older, and when I was 18 I set off on the trip of a life time to South America for three months during my gap year. It was incredible and I met people who will stay with me for life.
I think it was during this trip that I really learnt how to look after myself. I’ll admit I’m very proud of my 18-year-old self for handling my diabetes the way I did during that time. I went from injecting 20+ times a day because my sugars just wouldn’t come down, to having six hypos a day and sugar having to be helicoptered into the Patagonian National Park. Yup, well done George!
Coming home was hard. I’d put on about 3 stone and was miserable for a good 9 months. I tried every diet and exercise DVD under the sun to lose the weight, but just as I was losing all sense of self, a nurse handed what I thought was the “answer” to me on a silver plate. I’d lost a few kilograms and she just said, ‘You’re not skipping your insulin are you?’… and that’s how it all began.
In all fairness to her, she just thought she was doing her job. I started skipping my insulin and was going longer and longer without injecting by the time I started university in the September. Then I’d panic, take an injection, feel better but then panic about putting on weight. And so the cycle would start all over again.
In the end I was so weak I could barely get out of bed. I was freezing cold all the time, my whole body ached and I was losing all of my hair. My eyesight started to dwindle; my breath had that constant tell-tale smell of ketones, i.e. “pear drops” and I had this thirst that could not be quenched no matter how much liquid I drank – some days it was as much as 10 litres.
Writing this and looking back at what I went through it’s very easy to see how stupid and selfish my 19 year old self was, but hind-sight is a wonderful thing and I can only learn from my mistakes.
It took a while to admit I needed help, and even after that it was still a huge struggle to actually get back on the straight and narrow BG line, as it were. However, it taught me to have a different outlook on the way I handle my diabetes. I now view it as something that has taught me patience, resilience, confidence and to not sweat the small stuff. Yes it can be exhausting, but it can also be managed to the point where I live a very normal life, and a life that I choose.
With my recovery I first told my sister who was amazing in the way she handled it. I couldn’t have done it without her. Then my parents were told and once it was all out in the open it kind of forced me to get better. I did go and see a counsellor on the NHS but I felt they knew nothing about type 1 diabetes and I left feeling worse than when I had gone in to be honest.
My family and friends played a huge part in my recovery but at the end of the day it was only myself who could physically start testing my blood sugars and doing my injections again.
Diabetes is definitely a part of me, but it doesn’t define me.
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