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Interview 41

Age at interview: 27
Age at diagnosis: 17
Brief Outline: Since diagnosis and until she was sixteen years old she was on a two daily injections of insulin. Until her early teens she had well controlled diabetes, but then it began to slip. She found her insulin regimen oppressive and limiting so when it was changed to short-acting and long acting analogue insulin she had a sense of freedom that she has never experienced before in relation to food and mealtimes. The problem was that around the same time she started to be concerned about her weight and de
Background: Shares a house with a friend. Her advice to other young people who are not doing their insulin injections is to find the courage and to seek help as soon as possible.

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Describes how restrictive her insulin routine was and how it became a problem when she reached...

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Describes how restrictive her insulin routine was and how it became a problem when she reached...

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The insulin regime I had when I was younger was more or less two injections a day at certain times. As an example I'd have to have my breakfast at 8 in the morning and I'd have to have my lunch at 1 in the afternoon, have my tea at 5 o'clock, have my snack at half 10, have a snack at half 3, have a snack at half 9 before I went to bed. And that's pretty much what my life consisted of. Obviously no sugary foods. Low-fat, low-calorie, long-term carbohydrates, very healthy things. Which was very, very restricting, especially as a child. Luckily my mum had brought us up with a healthy diet anyway. So it wasn't too much of an adjustment. And I was allowed the odd chocolate bar and things if I did a hundred skips. You know, if I did a hundred skips and bring, brought my sugar level down, I was allowed a chocolate bar. So there was ways around it. But there was one particular time when I, the class went swimming, and obviously for exercise you had to boost your sugar levels up. And my teacher couldn't open my sugar box. It was stuck. So I wasn't allowed to go swimming. And I absolutely loved swimming. So I had to sit out on the side of the pool and watch all my friends playing in the pool. Which, it really did devastate me. And obviously I remember that incident because it hit me so much. So that's an example of what I had to do. And another thing that I had to do, which was adjusting my diet. You know, you couldn't just jump in the swimming pool and go swimming. You had to have sugar before you went.
 
It's probably, definitely the age of, of say 12 or 13, when I was in middle school, getting slightly older, becoming more aware of my figure. And then moving on to high school. And I hadn't really thought about it very much until that point. But obviously when you go to high school and you're going through adolescence, your body's starting to change and develop. You become very aware of it. Especially when there's girls looking at gorgeous pictures of women and saying, 'I want to be like them'. And, and boys are doing the same thing and they're checking you out and criticising people. And like kids do to each other, like teenagers do to each other. But obviously for me there was nothing I could do when girls around me were not eating a lot because they wanted to be thin or slim. I had to eat. And they'd sit and pick at things and I'd have to eat the full meal. With hindsight, this, I think this is, this is probably what caused my develop, eating disorder to develop. Because my life had been so focused around food it was the only thing that I could control. I became depressed because my sugar levels were starting to slip.
 
Then I actually spoke to my diabetes nurse and I asked her, I said, 'Is there a different insulin regime that I can go on that, that can help me with my new lifestyle as a teenager? With, basically not, so I don't have to eat at set times. So I can go out and eat later on if I want. So if I don't want to eat as much lunch, I don't have to eat as much lunch. I can eat a little bit'. She put me on a new insulin regime that allowed me to be a lot freer with my food and the times of food. And for the first time in years I discovered that I didn't have to have snacks. I could actually reduce the amount of food that I ate. I could eat, as long as I knew the carbohydrates and things, I could more or less eat what I wanted. And I guess it, in an ironic way it was a new sense of freedom. But also it's quite a dangerous thing. Because I was becoming so self-aware, I was able to use that to control what went into my mouth. I decided to go on a diet and lose weight.
 
And it just spiralled. And I almost went anorexic. But with an eating disorder it can go one way or the other. You can, you can end up wasting away to nothing or you could end up bulimic. Because you end up not being able to do it anymore, and you end up bingeing because you're so hungry. Which is what I did.
 

Describes how her binge-starve and not doing insulin injections started and how she felt...

Describes how her binge-starve and not doing insulin injections started and how she felt...

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Sometimes, you see as a diabetic, although I was controlling what I ate you can't always control your blood sugars. Obviously if I have a, if I have a hypo, a hypoglycaemic attack I have to eat sugar, otherwise I die, you know, simple as. When you have an eating disorder, you have a hypoglycaemic, attack and you have to eat something sweet and sugary, it's disastrous, because you don't want to eat it, because you think it's going to make you fat. And in actual fact this is what spiralled my first binge off. I had a hypo. I ate some fudge that was, because I had nothing else at hand. And then that was it. I just wanted to eat and eat and eat and eat and eat. And I couldn't stop. And like any bulimic knows, once you've done that you feel terribly guilty. But I actually have a really bad phobia of vomiting. That, it's something that I could never ever ever do. I just didn't know how to get rid of this binge. So I exercised and, and I starved myself for the week after. Hence the cycle, which started off with the starve-binge, starve-binge.
 
About a year or so after that, funnily enough, ironically enough it was a diabetes nurse who put the idea into my head. It had got to the point where I was so ill that everybody around me was worrying. You know, I'd lost a lot of weight, I was thin, I was not concentrating on anything, I looked very ill.
 
I wasn't realising the damage I was doing to my body. It's not something that was at the forefront of my mind. It was the fact that I was fat. I needed to be thin. Especially to be a singer and to be an actor, I had to be thin. And that's the only way I was going to make it. So as soon as she said that, this kind of light went on in my head and I thought, 'Why didn't I think of that? I'm a diabetic'. That's when the starve-binge and not injecting myself regime started.
 
And when you don't inject for the binge, if you don't inject for a few days after, you can actually, I mean I've lost sort of over half a stone in a few days doing what I used to do. I lost weight again. And it got to the point where I wasn't doing my injections about three or four days and my sugar was so high. I remember being, and by this time I was, I'd left school and I was in work. I left school at 16 with a view to working and then going to drama school when I was a bit more sorted out. Because you can't learn lines and you can't sing when your sugars are so high and you're so dehydrated all the time. And mentally you can't focus on anything.
 
I actually remember being in my workplace and being in the toilet. I remember sitting at my desk, thinking, 'I have to go to the toilet because I'm going to keel over and I'm going to go in a coma'. And I went into the toilet. And I actually sat in the toilet and I just, I was looking at the floor thinking, 'I can fall on the floor now and go into a coma. But if I do that I might not ever wake up again. I can't do it'. So, I don't know how, mentally I managed not to collapse. I got home and I did an injection. And it was a really hard thing to do. Because in the back of my mind was, 'If I do this injection I'm going to be so fat'. But also in the back of my mind it's, 'I have to do this injection. I'm going to die if I don't do this injection'. My sugars weren't even registering on the, in fact at that time I was using BM sticks with a, matching up with a colour chart. The sugar was just, it there wasn't a colour on the chart for what my sugar was. It was so high. It had gone off the scale. And I think that was the point when, when I said to myself, 'Right, I need, I need help. Because it's got to the point now where I will probably die. If I go in a coma and I don't inject myself with insulin, I'll probably die'. I was getting pains in my body, pains in my joints, I was getting pains in my kidneys. My eyes were hurting and the vision was blurred in my eyes quite a lot. So I was persuaded to sort of get help. I mean there were a few times when I was suicidal, you know, because of the state that I was in, and the, mentally with the high sugars I was just a complete mess.
 

She explains that her therapy consisted of taking small steps at a time. Says that when she lost...

She explains that her therapy consisted of taking small steps at a time. Says that when she lost...

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What did the psychologist teach you?
 
Every individual is different. So for every individual it would be a different thing they need to focus on when they have that negative thought. And you start with very small steps. Like one of my, one of the things I started to do was, instead of thinking, to think that I'm not going to binge, that's too big a step. Because if you've got the thought where binge, you're going to binge, there's no way you can't if you've got an eating disorder until you, you've come through on the other side and can fight it and when you are strong enough. So one of the small steps that I took was that I'd binge on healthy food. I tried to binge on foods that weren't as sugary, because I'm a diabetic. So that would make me feel, it would make my sugars less high. Which would make me feel a tiny bit, a tiny bit better than had I have binged on all of the things that I used to do. So that was like a small step that I did. When I was further down the road…
 
I remember one time, a specific time, and was quite a long way through my treatment actually. And I remember having binged. And I was starting to do my injections again and I was on a roll and I was starting to feel a lot healthier. And I remember bingeing. And I'd done, I'd done my night-time, I'd done my background insulin the day before. I'd done all my insulin up to that point of the binge. And I remember thinking, 'Oh, my God, this is, I'm going to put so much weight on, because I've got my background insulin'. Because obviously what I used to do was not even do my background insulins, so I'd have no insulin on board at all. But I had all my insulin in my body and I ended up having quite a bad binge and I really wanted to inject myself. I drew the syringe up and I wanted to inject myself. And I was sitting on the bedroom floor crying for a long time, thinking, 'Just do it. Stick it in you. Go on'. But there was a, another voice in my head saying, 'Oh, God, you're going to put, you're going to put so much weight on if you do this jab. You're going to be really fat tomorrow'. And then the other voice was saying, '[You're going to be unwell tomorrow. Please do your injection'. And it was this internal battle going on in my head.
 
So one friend who I'd talked to quite closely about it, because I couldn't keep it from every single person. I had to have one person that I spoke to. So I confided in a very, very close friend. Which took a lot of years. But she knew what was going on with me and I'd talked to her about like the psychologist and things. And she said to me that, 'If you ever need to phone me up, please phone me up, please phone me up and I'll talk to you. If you get the urge to binge, please phone me up'. And this was one of the things in actual fact that the psychologist and I had discussed, whether there was anybody that I could do that with. That if I did have these urges, could I phone somebody up and speak to them and try and change my way of thinking about the binge?
 
So I phoned her up and I was on the phone to her for an hour, just crying. And she said, 'Please, do your injection. I want to stay on the phone while you do it'. And I did the injection. And it was, it was a real hurdle for me to do it. Obviously the rest of the week was a bit skew-whiff. You know, I ended up not eating very much for the rest of the week. But the good side of it was at least I did my injection for that binge. Which was a very big step, you know.
 
So it was, it was things like that that, that, you know, that really helped that we talked about, that I could maybe do in that situation. Which is what I did. And it was very hard. But you, you feel like you've come this far, you don't want to take a backward step. You've done so well, you don't want to, because if I hadn't have done the injection I know that I was going to feel terrible. I'd feel ill; I couldn't concentrate on my work the next day. And I just couldn't bear to feel like that again. Because I'd started to feel better, I couldn't bear to feel like that again. But I also couldn't bear the thought of being really fat. And it, it's, like I say it's this, this battle going on, and you just have to kind of weigh up the pros and cons in your head, you know. And which is initially what we did. We, it's weighing up the pros and cons of your actions and thinking about them, rather than just doing it sporadically, rather than just bingeing and forgetting about it and not doing your jab. It's thinking about whether you need to have the binge, why you want to have the binge, what spurred you into feeling that you have to have the binge, why are you starving yourself. I mean normally you have a binge; you starve yourself simply as to compensate and to be, to stay thin. So that was just some of the, the work that, you know, that we did together.

And how long you stayed with her?
I stayed with her for... about three years, about three and a half years.

But when I lost my sight, obviously a lot of the same emotions that I'd had when I was younger were, had come back again, on top, along with a lot more emotions, because I've, you know, I've lost my sight, I've gone blind. So I decided and I took it upon myself, people think you've gone blind because of how you treated your body. Surely you'd never do that again? Surely you could never go back to living like that again? And I couldn't. But I'm not to know that and I'm not to know whether it might suddenly creep up on me one day. Because an eating disorder is an illness and it overpowers everything. And it overpowers the fact that you are a diabetic. It overpowers the fact that you are blind because of it. And there's not a damn thing you can do about it, you know. So I took it upon myself to go back to him and talk about how I was feeling about going blind, about having gone blind. Because I didn't want, I didn't even want to take the risk of me falling back into that trap again, you know. I thought, 'Right, I've, it's, I've lost my sight because of this. I'm feeling crap. I've gone blind at the age of 23. But there's no way I want to be blind and going through what I did before. So I'm going to go back and see this person that I saw before and talk to him about this and nip it in the bud before it's even got started'. So that, you know, that's what I did.
 
 
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