We Are Survivors - Nicole Lewis and determination!
January 28, 2012
When I was first diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 14, I took very good care of myself. I ate well, exercised, took all of my insulin and tested 3-5 times as recommended. Eventually, after 6 months, I got an insulin pump so I would no longer have to do injections 5 times a day. I thought it would be good for me, but in high school people like to tease. ďWhy does she wear a beeper in school? Why does it beep all the time?Ē I was embarrassed. Just as quickly as I got my pump, I took it off, never to be seen again. However, I still took my insulin shots as needed.
Finally, it was time for college. I was ready to be independent, live on my own, and take care of myself without someone asking, ďDid you take your insulin? Did you test?Ē Or without someone saying, ďHey maybe you shouldnít eat that Nicole.Ē I was finally having my chance to prove I could do it on my own. I was 17. In the beginning I was doing great, but then for some unexplainable reason, I started to obsess about my appearance. I was never overweight. I was never fat. This is why I am not sure what triggered my Diabulimia.
During college I was working full-time, taking four courses, enjoying spending my extra time with my friends. My grades were excellent, but in the midst of all of this, I slowly put my diabetes on the back burner. Not on purpose, not because I wanted to lose weight, but because I was busy. Sometimes I would forget a night time insulin shot, sometimes I would forget to test, sometimes I even forgot to eat during the day. What I did find out was that if I missed a shot here or there I would wake up in the morning with a flat stomach.
As time went on I would push it. What happens if I donít take my shot for dinner and skip my nighttime? I soon came to find out that I would literally pee all day, sometimes 4 times an hour. I was constantly thirsty and tired, but I didnít care. I was losing at least 3 pounds a day, just from purging through urination. Little did I know, this was just the beginning of it all, and this wasnít even the worst of it.
I never told my roommates what I was doing to myself. They couldnít believe their eyes how much weight I had lost just within a few days. They also didnít notice that I havenít taken all of my insulin in the past week. But they did notice I havenít gone to work or class in the past few days and I was literally sleeping all day. Then they heard me vomit. My roommates finally said they were taking me to the hospital. I was put in ICU for a few days to get my body back to a stable condition, and put right back into the real world to deal with it all again. I was hospitalized another 2 times while in college. Still, keeping it all a secret with myself.
The doctors put me as non-compliant, in denial about having Diabetes. Iíve been through a bunch of doctors because they all would write me off. ďHow can I help someone who doesnít want to help themselves?Ē And then on to the next doctor. They would get irritated with my Hemoglobin A1Cís over 15 every 3 months. They gave up on me. They never once questioned why I didnít want to take all of my insulin, and why I kept doing this to myself. The truth of it all, I was screaming for help. My body was screaming for help. I just kept it all inside. I put on a fake smile and continued my days drinking soda, sleeping, peeing, drinking, peeing some more, but I felt my hip bones, my face was shrunken in, I went from a size 8 to a size 4, and that was all that mattered. The more I ate, the higher my sugar would go, and the faster the weight would fall off. My friends couldnít understand how I could eat so much, and such awful foods, but still lose 5 lbs in a week.
To be honest, I didnít know the consequences then. Of course I would hear the occasional, ďWell you will see when your toes fall off or when your leg has to get amputated.Ē But I brushed it off. That would never happen to me. Iím invincible. I even remember saying to myself, ďI donít care if Iím 50 with no toes, at least I look good now.Ē Once again, my image was all that mattered to me.
Eventually, I graduated college with a bachelorís degree in Criminal Justice, and did my internship working at the coronerís office in Harrisburg. I even did an autopsy on a Type I diabetic who killed herself by taking an extremely high dose of insulin before she passed away. She was missing a leg, but even that didnít scare me.
I moved back home, got a full time job as a TSS worker, and applied to Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine to get my Masters degree in Forensic Medicine. At this point in life, I roughly had been in and out of the hospital 2 more times for DKA. Throughout the year I promised myself I wanted to get better. I could no longer do this to myself. I needed to change. That would last for a day until I gained back all the weight I had lost, and ended up repeating the vicious cycle again. ďTake your insulin once a day and you will stay out of the hospital.Ē That was my motto. But even one insulin shot a day doesnít help, especially if your sick with bronchitis.
Bronchitis put me over the edge. I ended up in DKA again. The mixture of not taking most of my insulin, plus being sick sent my blood sugar soaring. ICU for a few days repeated by being on a regular floor for another few days. Two weeks later I got pneumonia. Back into the hospital with DKA. AGAIN. I eventually lost my job. I had no money, I took school loans out to support myself, and even those couldnít keep me afloat. I lost my car because I couldnít afford it, and I failed out of my Masters program from missing so much time. My life was spiraling out of control. I had no control over it. But I did have control over my weight, and I obsessed about it.
During this time I lived on my own and to this day still do not think that was the greatest idea. It just meant I could dedicate more time to eating as much food as possible without anyone seeing me, and purging through urination constantly. I didnít have anyone around to judge me. Sometimes I would just eat a row of Snickers bars because I knew in the morning that meant another 3 pounds down. But as much as I got high off the fact that I was losing weight, I was depressed. Yes, I was skinny, but I felt like shit.
At this point I still did not have a job, my hair started to fall out in the shower, my skin was dry, I had thrush in my mouth, yeast infections, I would sleep, eat, and pee most of the day, if I got up from my bed the whole room would turn black, my muscles ached for some water, and if I walked a flight of stairs my heart would race and I would have to sit to take a break. I didnít care, I sat in my own self pity for months between the diabulimia and the debt up to my eyeballs. I couldnít take it anymore. I didnít even want to live. I stopped taking any sort of insulin and within two days I was in a coma.
I knew what I was doing to myself but I couldnít hold on anymore. I hit rock bottom. I called my mom because I was vomiting all night. She picked me up and rushed me to the hospital. We were finally in a room after about an hour of vomiting in the waiting room. They had me set up to the monitors because my heart rate was 160, and that was while laying still on the bed. I remember my mom getting wet paper towels to rub on my lips because they were dried together and shut. I remember vomiting all over the floor because I couldnít even get up to the bathroom that was in the same room as me. I even remember when I started to hallucinate. I was calling my mother my exís name, and told her I was going to Tuesday night bingo (I never play bingo.) I remember saying I was playing a video game and from that point on I was out. My mother told me that I began ripping my IVís out of my arm, saying I was going to my friendís house and that I couldnít be there anymore. She said I peed all over myself and they had to strap me to the bed.
Eventually I went into a coma. I remember seeing a bright white light. I remember the nurses talking to me, but I couldnít respond. After a few hours, and what seemed like a few minutes to me, I came out of it. I looked to the right of me and all I saw was my mother crying and saying, ďSheís up, oh my god, sheís up.Ē My heart sunk. What have I done? How could I do this to my mother?
I woke up to a catheter in me, nurses surrounding me, and my mother crying. My mother told me everything that happened and how they had to take her out of the room because I became so violent. The scary part was I donít remember anything. Another set of nurses came in to put a line right next to my collar bone because they couldnít take blood from my veins because I was so dehydrated. I was in ICU for a week, then transferred to a step-down unit for a few days and eventually a regular room for the last 3 days. I promised myself again I would take care of myself, not for me, but for my family because I never wanted them to experience that again.
I was doing well, but I was gaining weight. The doctors explained to me the water weight would go away within a few weeks but I didnít believe them. I was blowing up like a balloon and I couldnít fit in anything I owned. I started to omit again. I did take my night time insulin and about 2-3 shots of insulin a day. Although I wasnít doing everything perfectly, I was still taking insulin, and just enough so I wouldnít get nauseous and I was maintaining my weight at a reasonable weight to me at the time.
A year after I had failed out of my masters degree, I applied again and started to gain a better outlook on my life. I was still omitting, but I could focus just enough to get good grades. I started to be more sociable with my friends and began to go out with them on the weekends. I finally started to enjoy life again. It wasnít just me. But, although I was enjoying life now, I was still omitting. I was skinny, and I was getting attention. People noticed the weight loss, asking how I did it? I just told them I went to the gym. I was. I was omitting and going to the gym which meant I would lose weight even faster.
One night, while out with my friends, I ran into Ryan. I had gone to prom with Ryanís brother Kevin, and Kevin always knew I thought Ryan was cute. After a few words were exchanged, some Facebooking, and agreeing to hang out, Ryan and I officially were a couple, and I was the happiest I had ever been in my life. He was perfect. He treated me with love and respect, unlike past boyfriends, and he was so sweet. However, he had no idea what I was doing to myself. He knew I was Diabetic, but to be truthful, he didnít even know what that meant.
As time went on, I got another TSS job, got another car, and slowly started to pay off my debt. But I was still omitting. My skin always itchy, I had constant yeast infections, acetone breath (tasted like metal in my mouth) and sometimes I wouldnít even be able to get out of bed in the morning, eventually I ended up in the hospital again. Ryan never saw me like this, in ICU, hooked to IV needles, he was scared and I could tell. I realized I needed to tell Ryan. ďI have an eating disorder and I need helpĒ. It was the first time I ever told anyone. But by telling that one person it felt like a million bricks off of my back. At first, he didnít know how to respond. But with a heart of gold he pretty much said that he didnít understand but he wanted to know all about it. He wanted to help me, and he wanted me to get better. I also wanted to get better, I never wanted to see that look on his face again. He had millions of questions and kind words to say, ďWhy canít you just take your insulin? Youíre beautiful just the way you are. I donít care if youíll gain weight.Ē I just told him that itís hard for him to understand because heís not in the grips of a mental eating disorder. Something upstairs isnít right. I have this dysmorphic view of my body and I wish I could change it but I canít. Iím fat, Iím a slob, and I know that if I skip my insulin shots I can lose weight.
Some days were better than others. Most of the time Ryan would ask if I took my insulin, or he would remind me to take it. If I simply stated no, he didnít yell at me. He kindly said it would make him feel better if I took it because he knew I was healthy. Eventually, I started to take more shots. I also noticed what a difference there was in me when I did. I had more energy, my mouth didnít taste like metal, my legs didnít itch and sting, and my mood swings went away. I even started to get my period regularly. Before, I wouldnít get my period at all. However, I would still omit a shot here and there. I would always make an excuse up to Ryan as to why I wanted to lose more weight. ďAfter the cruise, Hunny, I promise I will start taking all of my insulin. I donít want to look huge in my bathing suit.Ē But after the cruise had come and gone, I wanted to stay thin for the summer if I had to be in my bikini the whole time, or Bevís wedding is coming and I donít want to be huge so I promise after that. No matter what, I always had an excuse.
In August 2010 I graduated from PCOM, and Ryan and I were engaged! Christmas came and went and we were going on with our everyday lives. In January 2011 I got a job as a college professor teaching anatomy and physiology. And then in the Summer of 2011, I applied to the college I graduated from and still continue, to this day, to teach there as well. I love my job and I love my life, but I hated the fact that my weight consumed every part of me. Every single thought in my head revolved around food. I couldnít take it anymore. This had to stop.
I was preparing my body in July to go through a tonsillectomy surgery. I made myself take my night time insulin every night for a week straight so I would not end up with an infection in my mouth after the surgery. Slowly during that week, I noticed I had even more energy. Oddly enough, I was still losing weight but I felt healthier. My surgery went great and I continued to take my night time insulin.
As the days passed by I slowly started to introduce my short acting insulin. I would gain weight but not as much as I used to. I told Ryan I didnít want to gain weight for our upcoming wedding in October, and after taking my night time insulin only, my weight started to fly right off. I would get a high every time I stepped on the scale and saw another five pounds gone. Although I felt a little bit better, it wasnít enough. My wedding day was absolutely perfect. The best day of my life. ButÖ. I was still a diabulimic, and I needed help, my own wedding dress was taken in 4 times and it was still big on me on my wedding day.
My next excuse was that I didnít want to be huge for our honeymoon, which was two months later. We were going to Mexico, which means bikinis, drinking and lots of sun. I took my night time insulin but never my day time. I had a blast on my honeymoon but I was always eating, peeing, and drinking. This had to stop. I was thin, but I was sick.
I know I have said this before, but this time I promised Ryan that was the last straw. I need to get better and I will get better. I would never be able to have a child with my blood sugars ranging in the 400-500ís all of the time. My body just wonít let it happen. I started to realize this isnít just about me anymore. This is about Ryan. This is about our children. This is about us. I need to do this for us. Ryan has been so patient with me through everything. Never raising his voice or getting mad. Never judging, just supporting me with every fiber of his body. Heís a saint and heís my rock. If he never came into my life, I know without a doubt, I would be dead somewhere. He has saved my life. Iím a person now. I am me.
Since committing to taking all of my insulin, I have noticed a few changes. 1) I can sleep at night without getting up to pee. 2) I am not exhausted all of the time. 3) No more yeast infections. 4) No more thrush in my mouth. 5) No more itchy skin. 6) My hair doesnít fall out. 7) My mouth isnít dry. 8) I have more energy. 9) I can think straight. 10) I feel like a person. Because I am taking care of myself, eating properly and not sucking down as much soda as I can possibly fit into my stomach, I actually didnít gain any weight. I believe this was due to the re-introduction of my insulin at a slow pace, so my body had time to get used to it. I feel AMAZING!
The road to recovery is not perfect, and it is something you cannot do on your own. Eventually, my family started to understand that I had an eating disorder and that it wasn't my intention to constantly self-destruct. I couldnít take care of myself because I have an eating disorder which constantly told me that a skinny figure was the only acceptable body to have. I am starting to see that if I gain a few pounds, who cares! I have a husband who loves me with everything inside of him. I have friends who have supported me along the way, my family who encourages me everyday to do better, and an amazing job that anyone could want.
So now I begin my journey in to recoveryÖ I will be setting up a blog so feel free to follow. I hope this story can help someone. If you are struggling, please look to someone for help. Choose your life instead of your eating disorder.
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