We Are Survivors - Ella: To hell and back.

May 26, 2012

PLEASE NOTE: This personal story gives an account of certain self-harming behaviors. We Are Diabetes generally believes in censoring as little as possible. Life is not censored, so we try not to be either. However, We Are Diabetes cares deeply for the well-being of its readers and we respectfully ask that you do not read this particular story if you are currently prone to being triggered by eating, health or body-related themes.

I was brought up loved and cared for, well nourished and given every opportunity that my parents could offer and provide. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1998 at the age of 3 and some things probably changed. I say probably, because I canít remember life pre-diagnosis. However, I know only too well what it means to grow up fast and put childlike dreams and play time to the side when itís time for an injection or blood test. I had no control over my food as a child, what my mother bought and cooked, I ate. End of story. Besides, this didnít matter as a child, food was food, injections were medicine, and how you looked was irrelevant. I grew up with good friends, and a happy outlook on life, often the quiet girl, but always working hard and enjoying life.

I remember the Summer of 2009 and the annual family trip to Wales; the stay in a sardine tin of a caravan, and the forced smiles as we all scream inside about the lack of space and horrible weather. Iíd never been one for small spaces, and despite it being a large caravan, I felt trapped and claustrophobic. I was too far away from anywhere to be able to contact my friends, and I was starting to feel that my family understood me less and less as I approached the awkward teenager stage. My trapped feelings led to arguments, often resulting in me locking myself into the tiny bathroom, as it was the only place I could lock the door on the world and escape. One day I did so, and found myself suffering from a weird compulsion. I wanted to hurt myself, not just wanted, needed.

I didnít know how; Iíd never felt this before, and I considered my options. I reached for my insulin pump, as if I knew what I was doing. I set it to flush the tubing, automatically sending 25 units of fast acting insulin into my system. That amount of insulin would more than counteract the carbohydrate content in a Christmas dinner, so already I knew it was dangerous to pour into my relatively little body without having eaten anything. Far from being scared, I buzzed. I wanted more, I needed to feel my blood sugar hit rock bottom, to scrape myself up off the floor in a dizzying sickness that would destroy me slowly. For some reason this made me feel in control.

After years of trying to control my diabetes and my blood sugars to no avail; seeing doctorsí faces as I failed to meet their targets, and fell off their charts, finally, there was something I could do. If I clicked those buttons, if I sent that much insulin into my body, I could feel crippling low blood sugar, and I had control. The irony is that when my blood sugar was that low, I have never been LESS in control in my life. But by this point, things in my head were screaming at me that I was the powerful one, I could control my body. That was all I needed.

Returning home changed nothing, and I continued with my newly formed habit. No one knew, it was my secret, and it gave me a buzz. My family saw me in the paralytic mess that followed every overdose, but must have had their own reasons in their minds for why the daughter was becoming so consistently ill. I pushed my body further every day, stepping up how much insulin I took, feeling a sense of achievement every time I took a little more on board. One night, my blood sugar was already low, and in this instance I should have consumed sugar and long acting carbohydrate. But I didnít. I dosed up 300 units, and my secret was out.

The hospital stay was for a few days, the week before Christmas 2009. Only one friend knew what was going on. My parents were distraught, and my younger brothers seemed confused by the situation. I met a psychiatric nurse, Leanne. She made me feel crazy. Not because of whom she was or how she treated me, not at all. But her job title, the fact that i was attending twice weekly appointments with her Ė that made me feel like there was something wrong with me. It convinced me there was.

After the hospital admission, I stopped overdosing. I thought things might get better, my regular appointments seemed positive and I didnít feel the need to act on any impulses. As January progressed, this changed.

I hit a point; kind of like when youíre running and your whole body screams at you to stop because you burn all over. A point that wasnít quite tangible, but it shook things up. I was a bad person. I knew it. Somewhere within me, I had the instinctive feeling that I had done something wrong, that I was a vile person. I loathed myself, and I needed to be punished. January 2010 was when I first began cutting myself as a method of self harm. Before, my self-harm method of overdosing provided me with an adrenaline rush that became addictive. Now, I was using self injury to punish myself for the bad I was so convinced Iíd committed. There was one distinctive counselling session I attended, where I was asked to draw up a Ďbadness scaleí. Leanne and I put Hitler on 10. We put Mother Teresa on 1. She asked me to put myself on the scale. I felt repulsed by myself; I couldnít sit with my legs crossed or arms folded because I couldnít bear to touch myself.

I put myself on 9.

Over the months that followed, I was put on antidepressants. I then attempted suicide and was swiftly taken back off them, replacing them with a different brand in the hope this could straighten me out. Throughout this period there was usual life to deal with; friends coming and going, exams, school stresses, family arguments, boy stress and also the attempt to keep my diabetes at a healthy level of control. I continued to cut myself, as well as pull my hair out in clumps every night. I found myself banging my head fiercely against the tiled bathroom walls and floor. I burned my arms on my straighteners and radiator, tears streaming as I tried to find some comfort in punishing myself. It never came, it only made everything worse, and I felt hopeless.

I was in and out of hospital as suicide attempts failed me, and I realised slowly that I didnít want to die. I knew my mind had become twisted, and I knew I was irrational. I wanted to give everyone a break; they wouldnít have to worry about me or try to keep me safe if I wasnít here. It was never a question of Ďlifeís not worth ití, but always the feeling that I wasnít worth such a beautiful world and life.

There had always been a connection between the visible self harming and my disatisfaction with my appearance. I knew I didnít look how I wanted to; there was nothing I liked about me other than my eyes. The first time I decided I was going to do something, I remember being a week long stint of eating a meal a day and going through about 4 packets of chewing gum every 24 hours. Unsurprisingly this wreaked havoc with my diabetes and health. I didnít recognise this for what it was Ė the start of something altogether more sinister and life threatening.

I stopped taking my insulin. At first this was an intermittent thing, and I would only skip a few injections a week. I knew, after 13 long years of diabetes, that insulin instigated weight gain. It seemed obvious. Iíd heard about it before, but always shunned it as stupid and something for people with a death wish. But a little known eating disorder had a new sufferer, and the evil clutches of this disease went by the term ĎDiabulimiaí, or ED-DMT1. Progressively I fell deeper and deeper into the illness, succumbing to the easy omitting o injections. I had grown to loathe injections, and the thought of giving myself one, even after 13 years, left me shaking. I couldnít sleep for the symptoms of hyperglycaemia overruling my life and everything I did. I felt too ill to go out, and spent my days wasting away in bed as I continued to think that a skinny body would be worth the pain.

I was so wrong; I have never wasted so much of my life on something that destroyed me so rapidly. Some days would be easier, and I could manage some insulin to keep me alive, to keep me functioning and awake enough to try and achieve at school and maintain relationships. In December 2011, I went for four days taking no insulin whatsoever. I should have died, that should have been it.

But I didn't want to give up. Iíd worked hard to overcome self harming, and I was sure as hell going to try to overcome this. I was home alone, and started vomiting water; I couldnít even keep that down. I knew this was a bad sign. I called for an ambulance, and was admitted to hospital in DKA, feeling more ill and helpless than ever. I was in hospital for just shy of a week, and had insulin on IV drip 24/7. I didnít think about it, I couldnít. My face swelled from the sudden nourishment my body was receiving, and I felt calm. I was safe there, I didnít have to face it alone, no one would let me, and I had to be observed with every injection and drip change. This felt okay, I wasnít in control, but for the first time it seemed alright. I was happy to give over the control; I didnít want to be alone in the fight anymore.

I left the hospital feeling positive and ready for life, and for a month I kept up my injections and felt like I was on the mend, like I had something of a life back. I slipped up a little around New year 2012, and it took me two months to find my feet again, and get myself back onto the path of recovery.

On 25th February 2012, something clicked. It was like a switch was flicked, and something had just Ďhití me. This wasnít who I wanted to be. I wanted to live, experience life, travel to other countries, and see the world. I wanted to have children and get married; to say I had a beautiful family that I was proud of. Living wasnít the same as avoiding death.
Since then I have had all my insulin. I have been in true recovery for three solid months. It hasnít been easy, but I know that I can keep pushing myself to become that healthy, happy, and beautiful girl I deserve to be.

I have wasted my life on a disease that ripped apart everyone I love. Now, itís my turn to live, I am the strong one now, and I can beat anything.

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