My Diabetes Gave Me an Eating Disorder
When I was seven years old, my life changed forever.
My own immune system attacked the cells in my pancreas that were responsible for creating the insulin that I, along with every human being on this planet, need in order to live. I started losing weight dangerously quickly, and nothing could satisfy my constant hunger and thirst. I had no energy left to play outside as most of the other kids did.
As it turned out, I had type 1 diabetes.
Because my body could no longer make insulin, I couldn’t turn the food I ate into energy unless I injected myself with insulin. After about a year, I got on an insulin pump to help make this process a little easier, but not before seriously bad habits had already been set in place.
Essentially, I had to count carbs for the rest of my life and give myself insulin accordingly. Every single gram of carbohydrates had to be accounted for by the amount of insulin I gave myself. Because of this, I had to keep track of every little thing I ate.
My parents were massively supportive throughout the whole ordeal of my diagnosis. At first, they basically did all of the work for me, measuring my food and doing my insulin shots, but eventually, I wanted some independence. So, I learned how to handle things on my own just a few weeks after being diagnosed.
Or so I thought.
I started out meticulously planning out my meals and snacks like I was supposed to. But I soon got sick of it. All the other kids got to eat whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. Why did I have to be so different?
My insane jealously of other people soon got the better of me. I wanted to be able to eat like everyone else, so I sort of…did.
When my parents weren’t looking, I began sneaking extra bites of food, particularly sweets with a lot of carbs. I had been a bit of a spoiled child up until this point and had rarely been told no when it came to food. However, I knew that getting caught with this extra food would get me in trouble, so I hid it as best I could.
Sometimes I would remember to give myself insulin for the extra snacks, but since I was a child, I would forget more often than not. As a result, my blood sugar levels would spike.
My parents would wonder why my sugars were so high, but I just played dumb. I think they may have suspected my secret eating, but if they did, they never called me out on it.
They should have.
If they had, I probably never would have developed my eating disorder.
Binge eating disorder (BED) is characterized by frequent occasions of overeating and feeling like your eating habits are out of control. You eat and eat, barely even tasting the food, only noticing the dwindling supply and dreading the empty feeling that comes when you have no more food left.
Little did I know that my secret snacking was the beginning of my BED. When I would go on these binges, I would consume as much food as I possibly could before there was a chance that my family members could see me. Then, when I was done, I felt like I had lost control and allowed a hungry monster to overtake me.
I would tell myself that I’d never do it again, but the next time the opportunity arose, I would take it.
And I was only seven years old.
My BED only worsened as I got older and more independent. I’d have more chances to go out and stuff myself with junk food away from my parents’ watchful eye.
Because of my prolonged experience with this disorder, and my constant overeating, I have been overweight since I was about ten years old. That wasn't so bad in and of itself (well, unless you count my family and every medical professional I ever encountered body-shaming me). What was worse in the grand scheme of things was my ever-present high blood sugar.
As I said, I felt like I lost control when I went on a binge. The desire to eat would consume me and I would forget to dose myself with insulin. Sometimes I would remember, but usually only after the binge was done. But by that point, it was too late. My blood sugar was already high and would take a few hours to come back down to normal.
I have dealt with chronic high blood sugar for years and years now. Pretty much ever since my BED started at age seven. And now I’m twenty-four. No adverse health consequences of having serious hyperglycemia have arisen yet, but I know it's only a matter of time.
Recently, my BED has settled down. It still rears its ugly head every once in a while, but flare-ups are few and far between. I have also gotten my blood sugars under better control in the past year or so, thanks to a continuous glucose monitoring system that automatically checks my blood sugar every five minutes.
But my average blood sugar is still higher than I and my doctors want it to be. I’m still overweight. Not to the point where it's unhealthy, but to the point where my internalized fatphobia tells me I’m a lazy slob on a near-daily basis.
Luckily, I have almost recovered from my eating disorder. I think getting my first “grown-up” job and moving into my first apartment last year helped me become a little more responsible.
I have recently started writing more about my diabetes in the past year or so. Recently, I have begun to get over this internalized shame around my condition. As a result of my becoming more comfortable with this chronic illness, I’ve also become more cognizant of my BED.
I’m more aware of how it affects my day to day life. I can tell when an urge to binge is coming on, and I'm getting better and better at shutting it down. It's not all the way gone yet, but it's getting there.
I think that recovery, in general, starts with awareness. Figuring out the name of what’s “wrong” with you is step one in the recovery process. Once I learned about the term BED and what it was, I nearly wept with relief.
There were other people like me. People who binge ate like I did. I wasn't the only one. I wasn't this hungry, soulless monster who let the desire for food overtake them.
There was a whole community for people like me.
No matter what form of mental or physical illness you may suffer from, know that there is hope. Thanks to the Internet, there is a community for people out there who suffer in virtually the same way you do. Even the rarest of diseases or combinations of diseases afflict someone else in the world in a similar way. You just have to do your research and find them.
Only then can you truly start to get better.