of We Are Diabetes
So often we talk about the short-term and long-term issues of high blood sugar levels. The frequent thirst, the never-ending trips to the bathroom and the fatigue. The constant warnings that our fingers, toes, and eyes are at risk years down the road. While these physical reactions to high sugar levels are important to recognize, it can be easy to forget how much our blood sugar management influences our emotional well being.
I’ve lived with type 1 diabetes since I was five years old. The symptoms of a high or low blood sugar are now so familiar to me I tend to forget most people have no idea what it's like to live in my body. From the age of 13 to 23, even I didn’t know what it was like to live in my own body. For over a decade I felt nothing--nothing at all.
I developed an eating disorder when I was 13. Over the next decade, I struggled with a variety of eating disorder symptoms, including insulin omission. I walked through this period of my life in a deep fog. Emotions could not penetrate the sweet, sticky barrier I had surrounded myself with.
At age 22, I remember sitting in bed next to my husband and realizing I’d lost myself. I had no passion or joy left inside me. I didn't have any idea who I was without my eating disorder. Choosing to seek treatment and accept help wasn't easy; it was the hardest and scariest decision I’ve ever made. However the idea of not knowing who I was and living a life that was as empty as the past ten years had been scared me even more.
One of the major realizations I’ve gained from my eating disorder recovery is the significant impact of high blood sugars on my emotional self. When my blood sugars were constantly high I felt physically and emotionally numb. I made impulsive and dangerous decisions without a second thought. Even worse, the negative consequences to these poor decisions never really “sunk in” for me during this phase of my life either. My brain couldn't fully process anything.
As my blood sugars returned to normal range during my first year of committed recovery, I was stunned at how much clearer my thoughts became. I’d assumed for years (and had become complacent in the assumption) that I was just “a little stupid” compared to others my age. While I’d always excelled in my passion of performing (even during times when my eating disorder was raging), I’d barely managed a C-average in college due to my poor concentration and inability to follow any constant train of thought.
In the early stages of my eating disorder recovery, I realized I’d made so many poor decisions in the past decade. While some of those poor choices can be attributed to my eating disorder being “in the driver's seat,” I know many of those regretful decisions were due to the fact that my blood sugars were elevated consistently; I definitely wasn't thinking straight.
Getting used to having my blood sugars in a normal range was one of the hardest adjustments for me in my own personal recovery from diabulimia. After spending over a decade with my blood sugars consistently running over 400 mg/dL, being at 200 mg/dL felt more like I was 60 mg/dL! It took over a year for that feeling of panic (both emotionally and physically) to subside.
I’ve now been in solid recovery from diabulimia for ten years. None of it was easy. I spent many months in my early years of recovery feeling very lost and uncomfortable. True change is NOT comfortable. In the beginning, it was hard for me to imagine ever getting to the “other side” of life and living without my eating disorder. It was hard for me to imagine ever feeling truly empowered and at peace in my skin, but I want to tell you it’s real, it’s possible, you can change your life.
Asha B is the Founder and Executive Director of We Are Diabetes, where she works with families, patients, and health professionals across the USA. She uses her personal experiences with ED-DMT1 to offer hope and support to the thousands of individuals struggling with this deadly dual diagnosis. She also establishes relationships with eating disorder treatment programs and diabetes organizations across the county to help connect people to appropriate care. Asha has presented at NEDA, JDRF, AADE, FNCE, among others.
Asha has been living with type 1 diabetes, among other autoimmune diseases, since the age of five. She lives with her husband in MN with their two ridiculous cats and a fridge that is always stocked full of pickles.