So, as I mentioned at the end of my last post, somewhere around the age of 20, my relationship with my diabetes began to change. Well, to be honest, a lot of things changed around that age. I transferred to a different college after my first year. Up until this point, I did not struggle very much with body image. Or at least, not any more than the typical teenage girl. Sometimes I wished I looked more like my favorite celebrities, but mostly I was too busy having fun with my friends to waste too much time worrying about that. But when I transferred to this new school, I felt like I was Cady from Mean Girls in the scene when Regina, Gretchen, and Karen all stand in front of the mirror and pick themselves apart. As Cady expresses: “I used to think there was just fat and skinny. Apparently there’s a lot of things that can be wrong on your body.” She had never thought about her hips, shoulders or hairline. My new roommate not only introduced me to all the ways my body could be flawed, but she also showed me all the ways that I could change it and make it better.
My experience living with that particular roommate was only the beginning of my journey down the slippery slope of negative self-image. For the next several years, I became increasingly more determined to change my body, get skinnier, look fitter, and just be better. I started to see diabetes as the enemy that was holding me back from attaining my best body. As hard as I tried to go on elimination diets, there were times I would get low and need to have sugar or gluten. I would feel like a complete failure whenever my workouts resulted in a low blood sugar, dwelling on the calories I had been working to burn off that I was just being forced to consume right after.
Needless to say, I started to feel like my dad and I no longer shared our diabetes. He had no problem prepping for a long walk with a good snack in order to prevent a low. I hated the idea of eating right before exercising and tried instead to manipulate my insulin dosage. Diabetes had become such a source of frustration for me but I didn’t feel like I could talk about it with my dad the way we used to because my struggle with it now was more related to my body image, and I was afraid he wouldn’t understand that. I also had begun to allow my blood sugars to hold so much value. A high could ruin my mood for the entire day. My dad had always taught me to let it roll off my shoulders, but suddenly I felt incapable of that. As I obsessed more and more over my blood sugars, exercise, and diet, I fell deeper and deeper into a dark hole I had dug for myself.
I knew that I had gotten caught up in a very negative and potentially dangerous spiral when a friend of mine was struggling with an eating disorder and I found myself feeling jealous that she had been “able” to get so thin. I felt that diabetes was a curse that prevented me from losing as much weight as she had. I confided this to my mom who reminded me that my friend was sick and I should be grateful to my diabetes for keeping me healthy. Grateful?! For DIABETES?! Clearly, I had never thought about it that way.
Since then, I have sought counseling and I have been redefining health and wellness for myself while also slowly shifting my perception of my body and diabetes. I have read about diabulemia and, while I never got to that extreme, it has made me realize that there are others out there who struggle with the same complicated relationship between their bodies and their minds and their diabetes. It is the 3rd party at a table that is normally set for two: body image is hard enough without adding in the complication of diabetes, which actually forces us to constantly be paying attention to our food and exercise. If we aren’t careful, it is easy to fall into a negative spiral.
Now that I have shared my history with diabetes, it’s time to move forward! In the future, I plan to share with you some of the ways in which I am seeking a more balanced life as a Type 1 diabetic. I hope this can be a helpful resource for you as you navigate your own relationship with diabetes.
I would love to hear from you if you have a similar story to share or if there is anything particular you would like to see on the blog in the future!