This photo really touched me so I am sharing it with you all!
A video from me to you. About who you choose to share your story with.
Excuse the crazy hair!
I wanted to leave you all a brief message.
Due to our move tomorrow, lack of internet access for the first few days, and generalized chaos: Then The Rising Blog will experience radio silence for a few days. I am working on several new posts and cannot wait to share them with you.
Keep fueling your fires- and burning bright !
P.S. I have enclosed a cute photo of my cat for your enjoyment.
Before we begin:
I would to give a special “Thank You” to We Are Diabetes for featuring my last post (“Five Things…”) on their homepage! This happened at the start of Eating Disorder Awareness Week – which to me is a pretty huge honor. So thank you Asha, and everyone at WAD. Not just for the recognition but for all the hard work and dedication you give to Diabetics struggling with Diabulimia. I love you guys!
There has been a ton of craziness going on in my life since my last post. Devon and I are preparing to move into our new apartment – our first time living on our own without a roommate.
Also: something very special has happened. Last Monday, during a VIP event in Portland we watched our favorite band, sing our favorite song, and during our favorite part of the song Devon asked me to marry him. It was amazing to say the least – after all he even got the members of Starset in on it! An insanely awesome evening of music, a proposal, meeting our favorite band in person, photo shoots and a concert we would never forget.
This post was inspired by the thoughts and realizations I have experienced within the last week.
I have looked back at the pictures from the night of our engagement at least five hundred times. With family, friends, my cat, and by myself. After the first few times I realized something had changed.
I no longer looked at photos of myself and picked them apart.
We’ve all done it.
With a selfie, or a picture a friend has just taken. Before enjoying a photograph I would always look for flaws in the way I looked. Did my chin look fat? Were my cheeks looking too chubby? Was I sucking my belly in enough to look as fit and skinny as possible?
But not any more.
I can’t tell you when it started happening, but it was very obvious over the last few weeks that I am finally comfortable in my own skin to look at photos and properly ENJOY them for the moment they captured and the people who are in it. No longer obsessed with my own self image.
This “picture realization” was a pretty big moment for me in big part due to the fact that I live on the opposite side of the country from all of my family and a lot of friends. I send pictures to my mom every day – and now I am sending her whatever I want! My face doesn’t have to look perfect, I could be wearing a sweatshirt, no makeup, and yesterdays socks.
The outfit I wore to the concert that day is a HUGE deal for me. Like.. a really really big deal.
Alert the presses…
When I was in the grips of a distorted self image and self destructive behavior the word crop top would have been worse than any swear word.
A shirt that shows off my stomach? Are you fucking kidding me? I used to hate my stomach. Of all the spots I would pick apart and wish I could change, my belly was number one on the hit list.
Years of insulin injections and pump infusion sites had left me with a pretty good amount of scar tissue. Throughout the years no matter what I did I could never really get muscle to develop there. My belly had lumps, spots, and scars on it. Ninety percent of the time there is a infusion site stuck on it somewhere and an insulin pump clipped on my waistband. Every year I would have anxiety attacks as bathing suit season crept closer and closer.
When you hate yourself on the inside – you struggle to find anything positive on your outside.
When I began recovery and started to really appreciate my body for how it looked and how much work it does for me every day – the swim suits were easier to wear. And last summer my mother convinced me to buy a crop top while visiting her in New York. It took about two months but I finally put it on… and loved it.
When I was picking out an outfit for the Starset show I found this plain black crop top, and an amazing galaxy themed skirt. It was perfect. When I tried it on I knew my confidence was finally high enough and i was ready to wear my most daring outfit yet… not only in public, but when I would meet my favorite band.
Anyone who saw me that day would see my belly in all its glory, insulin pump on my waistband, pink infusion site and every lump and scar. And I was TOTALLY OKAY WITH THAT.
***Please note: Some people may never feel the way I did about exposing my belly. AND THAT IS OKAY!! As long as YOU can appreciate and love your body for all it contains. Self love will always come before any external confidence.***
Before leaving for the concert, I took a good look at myself in the hotel mirror.
I FELT AMAZING. And it had nothing to do with my outfit.
I looked in my eyes and saw a strong, confident, smart woman. Someone I had to search really really hard to find. She beamed with light and love and confidence. It wasn’t my hair, my outfit, my makeup, or anything else. IT WAS MY INSIDE. GLOWING.
(And to think I had no idea I was about to become engaged!!!!!)
I felt strong. I wasn’t dizzy or weak. I wasn’t tired. I was AWAKE. Mentally and Physically.
My blood sugars were not perfect that day but they were stable. As I have said before sometimes we don’t get those “perfect” numbers. Some days I just hope for a low 200 number and an arrow on my Dexcom that says I am steady.
I gave myself a nod and a smile in the mirror.
Then a wink.
As I emerged from the bathroom Devon looked at me in awe.
“You look amazing.”
Instead of blushing, or getting embarrassed I replied:
“Thank you” and smiled.
It was beautiful, and fulfilling. Being able to walk around in public and be comfortable enough to be myself. To go up to random Starset fans and say hello. To shake hands and hug the lead singer and the rest of the band. To wear my crop top and eat Domino’s pizza as we listened to the private acoustic songs being performed.
It didn’t rain that day.
In Oregon that is a blessing in itself this time of year.
When it was time for the final song Dustin Bates (lead singer) spoke into the microphone:
“We weren’t going to do this song, but this is a special request from Devon, to Ash.”
I looked over at Devon and hugged and kissed him. A dedication for me! How amazing!
Totally oblivious and lost in the song, I heard Dustin sing our favorite part:
“You’re the Sun. You’re the day. The light that guides me through.”
A tap on my bare stomach.
The stomach that would have been covered up had I not found love and confidence in myself…
I turn to my left and there is Devon – on one knee. And with the sound of our song loud and clear in my ears, I read his lips.
“Will you marry me?”
Yes. Yes. A hundred time yes.
Because I love myself.
I love my life and the hard work I have put into making it the life I deserve and desire.
Because now that I love myself… I give love completely. Honestly. And without hesitation.
I can give Devon the love he deserves.
And together we can build a life to be proud of.
Crop tops and all.
Today’s tip: Remember – Recovery takes PATIENCE. Taking it slow is never a bad thing. Remember to be patient with your body as you nurse it back to health. Easier said than done, I know…(trust me I’m a New Yorker, patience is not my strongest quality!). Progress takes time. Be kind to yourself – enjoy the journey. ❤
Have you ever had one of the moments where you are doing something very mundane, like brushing your teeth or doing the dishes, and all of a sudden a thought pops in your head?
Two years ago on on December 18th, 2016 I decided I was FINALLY ready to begin recovery from Diabulimia and self destructive behavior. Since then, there are multiple things that have cross my mind.
Although I never attended a recovery center SPECIFICALLY for Diabulimia treatment, I have had five stays in a inpatient unit, completed two outpatient programs, attended support groups, and am active in therapy. Hearing about other experiences of recovery was helpful in its own way, however there are some things I learned on my own.
I have narrowed it down to five things but trust me – even after two years I am still discovering new, surprising, hilarious, intense and beautiful things about my new life every day.
Ten years of Diabulimia left me feeling hollow, weak and exhausted. Mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally I was barely alive. I was empty through and through.
Mirrors were not something I looked in very often. I had a habit of covering all the mirrors in my apartment when things got really bad. I just couldn’t bear to look in the mirror – because when I saw my reflection I didn’t recognize it. Hollowed out eyes and a pale face would look back at me. I didn’t know this person. I couldn’t stand it. The sight of my body, and my face made me want to vomit. On more than one occasion I was so sick that when I glanced in the mirror I swore I saw a smirk on the face looking back at me. My ugly side. Telling me I deserved this suffering – and that it would never end. I was dying. Very slowly. Fading away.
When I moved to Oregon and began recovery I began very slow ( emphasis on VERY SLOW) steps of gently nursing my body back to some form of functionality and stability – I stopped spending time in front of the mirror. The more days that I gave insulin, ate regular meals, and went for walks, the more I began to FEEL changes in myself before even seeing them. I could climb the stairs to my bedroom without stopping, I was getting RESTFUL sleep! My heart wasn’t pounding and racing all the time anymore. But most importantly… I WAS FEELING STRONG.
My walks down the street turned into walks into town, which turned into short hikes, which turned into longer hikes, which turned into me hiking through A FREAKING cave and REALLY HIGH suspension bridges (I am afraid of heights). When I began really looking in the mirror again I would put my hands on my hips and think… “My body has shape! There is color in my cheeks! I have hips now, and my butt looks great in these jeans!” (I am all about positive self talk).
This didn’t happen right away. But it did, and it was worth the wait. My confidence has allowed me to wear clothes I would have never looked at in the past. And I sincerely wish that during all the different stays in hospitals, therapy groups, and treatment — SOMEONE would have said to me “Ash. One day you will love your shape the way it is.”
When I went into recovery – I dove head first into it. I was dying.
My health had become so poor that I was fading fast. So I got rid of all my crap, left everyone I knew and loved behind, got on a plane and moved from New York to Oregon.
It’s a little more elaborate than that of course but we will leave it at that for now. After I began to take control of my health I started to take control of other things too. More specifically what made me happy. I questioned everything. Does where I am living make me happy? Is the guy I’m dating making me happy? Am I happy with the direction of my life? The list went on. In the past I didn’t wholeheartedly believe that I deserved happiness. Diabulimia used to rule my life. Neglecting my diabetes had become the norm and I was in a persistent state of punishing myself for it.
My blood sugars started stabilizing and with that so did my emotions. I wasn’t moody all the time, my thoughts weren’t jumbled, I could focus! Which in turn changed how I engaged in relationships. Not just romantic ones but friendships, family and professional relationships.
I was able to hold a job for more than a few months. I communicated with co workers and had the energy and focus to succeed with my job. I started being more honest and open with family and friends. I was able to listen closer to them as well and be a better support for them without being codependent.
And when it came to romance… that’s a WHOLE OTHER ARTICLE (coming soon).
Once again I was struck with the thought that I wish someone would have told me just
how much BETTER my communication and connection with other people would be once I finally started listening and loving myself first.
SAYING “I AM SORRY”
This part did not happen right away for me. It recently happened after my two year mark.
Recovery was the first time I was taking care of myself and no one else. I had spent almost my whole life caring for other people – never me.
Now I was making good choices for my body and my mind.
But recently I was having a rough day – which is inevitable (this is real life after all). At one point I found myself looking at myself in a mirror, right in the eyes. I wrapped my arms around myself.
I said: “I am so sorry I treated you so poorly. I love you.”
I was apologizing to myself. I was making amends with myself for the abhorrent treatment my body endured at my own hands. (This is a profound “holy shit I’m doing this” moment)
Unicorns did not jump out of the mirror.
The sun did not come out from behind the clouds (because it always rains in Oregon)
The Earth didn’t shake with the revelation.
I just took a deep breath, placed my hand over my heart and closed my eyes.
No one had told me it would be so difficult to forgive myself.
Nor did they tell me how peaceful it would be when I finally did.
By going into recovery I didn’t get super fit, become a professional bodybuilder or compete in the Iron Man Triathlon.
But I did get stronger.
Slowly and with purpose.
When my blood sugar is high I feel like my body is filled with wet sand. My brain feels like a car engine running on toxic sludge rather than a full tank of gas. Getting healthier for me meant getting stronger both physically and emotionally.
No one had ever told me how EMPOWERED I would feel inside and out.
I do not have a perfect A1c and there are still trips to the ER every few months to get fluids when I get super dehydrated.
But I feel strong. Every single day I wake up and do THE BEST I CAN.
I want to stay as close to “on track” as I can no matter what. I have a strong will to survive.
I believe strength is found through the desire to survive.
There is a fire inside us all. It is up to you to decide how you will build up the flames.
I always thought fear was the most complex and complicated human emotion. Fear can trigger fight or flight. Fear can fuel anger. Fear can be a catalyst for change.
Justin Furstenfeld of Blue October wrote a song called fear, and in that song he sings:
“Fear in itself, will use you up and break you down, like you were never enough.”
Fear still happens once you enter recovery.
For me, Fear feels different now…
- I am afraid that the complications I now experience from poor blood sugar management are irreparable.
- I am afraid of going blind due to Diabetic Retinopathy.
- I am terrified of low blood sugars while sleeping.
- I fear that I may never have children.
The list goes on…
Re-read #4. STRENGTH.
In recovery you WILL have the strength to take your fear and control it that too. You are in control.
You are IN CONTROL of whether or not you do that bolus for lunch, or correct your high blood sugar, or refuse to step on that stupid scale.
Fear is a human emotion.
And news flash! If you are experiencing human emotion YOU ARE ALIVE.
No one told me once I got healthy – I would feel emotions much more vibrantly and intensely. Because I was no longer too sick to process it.
Take your emotions and embrace them. Then use your new found strength and confidence to conquer any fear that comes your way.
After singing that one line I mentioned before, Justin follows with one of the most touching and truthful statements I have ever heard…
“Yeah, I used to fall, now I get back up.”
Now is the moment to begin. Time to build up that fire inside you.
-AshSuspension Bridge: Drift Creek Falls – Oregon.
When I decided I was going to start a blog I made sure NOT to pressure myself to write every day, week, etc. Instead I decided I would write when I was sure I could give each entry the passion and attention you – the reader – deserves. I want to always be real with you, to be honest about my experience so whoever is reading it can feel less alone, and/or understanding of life with Diabetes and Diabulimia.
Today I will share a abbreviated version of my story:
I have had Type One Diabetes (IDDM, also know as Juvenille Diabetes) for twenty two years.
I do not remember life without it.
When I was diagnosed at age eight I had been carried into an emergency room by my panicked and terrified mother. I was unresponsive. My blood sugar was above 1,000 mg/dl (“normal” range is usually 75-150 to give you a perspective). I had slipped into unconciousness on the drive there. I was in Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA is when your body produces high levels of blood acid called ketones. Which is caused by not enough insulin in your body. DKA can kill you. DKA can cause vomitting, dizziness, confusion, lethargy, muscle deterioation, organ damage, brain damage, coma and/or death. Imagine having the worst flu you can think up, now times that by five hundred or so. Then add rapid heart palpitations as your body tries desperately to pump thick sugary blood through your body and brain. Excrutiating muscle pain and the inability to walk or sit up. Incontinence because you are too weak to make it to the bathroom. An unquenchable thirst that no amount of liquids can relieve. Looking at loved ones and not recognizing them…
I barely survived.
I was also lucky enough to not remember going into DKA that first time. But there has been one other time where I did remember some of it. And I will tell you this… there is NOTHING more agonizing and terrifying to me than DKA. It is a special kind of hell to be sick like that. I would not wish it upon my worst enemy. Last time it happened to me, I was on a trip to Oregon from New York (where I lived at the time) and I remember thinking “Please. I don’t want to die so far away from my mom.” as doctors and nurses frantically tried to start IV lines and push life saving insulin into my body. It took me over a month to recover from that incident.
Type One Diabetes did not run in my family when I was diagnosed. My poor family had been told by my pediatrician for weeks that I “just had a virus and would get over it.” I was NOT overweight. My family ate as healthy as any other family on Long Island, New York in 1995. My life changed with that diagnosis and so did all those who loved and cared for me.
There was a brief time (often called “the honeymoon phase”) where my blood sugars were in control. But then I was put in charge of managing my Diabetes by myself for the most part. I was about thirteen the first time I experienced “diabetes burnout” which is explained as a state of frustration and somewhat “submission” to the condition of diabetes (google dictionary). I was not eating right. I was sneaking food while I was home alone or my parents were asleep. I was skipping shots because I wanted to be like my non-diabetic friends. I was angry. Very angry. And I was beginning puberty which only made things worse. My doctor threw me into the hospital for a two week stay to “help start over.” And that worked for a while. But over the course of my adolescnce things only got worse. By fifteen I had been diagnosed with depression and anxiety following my first admission to a inpatient psychiatric unit. I’ll be honest with you – sometimes the drugs they gave me worked and sometimes they made things horribly worse. Back then I was never told that if I could just keep my blood sugars in normal range then my mental health would improve. That information would come over ten years later.
When I was seventeen I began omitting insulin in order to loose weight. Body dismorphia, self-harm, depression, and anxiety had completely taken over my life.
I had two inpatient psychiatric stays in high school, in addition to medication and therapy. But never did I tell anyone that I was purposely keeping my blood sugars high in order to control and loose weight. As far as anyone was concerned my Diabetes was out of control for unknown reasons. At age eighteen I was hospitalized again for depression – at the time I was a danger to myself. No longer able to attend college, keep a job or be left alone at home.
Google Dictionary defines Diabulimia as :
“the manipulation by diabetic patients of insulin treatments in order to loose weight.”
For me Diabulimia was a dual purpose activity. I could loose weight and still eat as much or as little as I wanted, and I was actively engaging in self destructive behavior without having to cut myself or do drugs.
I was diabulimic for ten years. I walked around, worked, finished college, had relationships, drove a car, and lived my life with my blood sugars between 300-400mg/dl. I would have a “good week” or a “good day” where it was below 300 mg/dl maybe twice a day, but I was consistently high. I was in therapy. I was on meds. I seemed happy on the outside. But inside I hated myself. There were things I could not forgive myself for, people I would not let go of, and events I was unable to heal from. A bright spot in all that chaos were the few trips I went on to Oregon. When I was in Oregon I felt free. I would take my insulin, eat delcious healthy food, and breathe deep. I was away from my “triggers”. Away from places that reminded me of horrible events. Away from the foul smell and sounds of over population. Away from co-dependent and toxic relationships. I loved my friends and family. But there was a feeling deep in my bones that said “You need to leave Long Island and move to Oregon, alone.” The longer I put off the move, the more depressed I got, the sicker I got, the farther I got from being the woman I wished I was.
It took me four years to listen to that gut feeling. When I stepped off the plane as Oregon’s newest permanent resident, all I had was a duffle bag of clothes and a suitcase full of diabetes supplies. I was pale as a ghost, weak, malnurished, heartbroken and fightened. But I NEVER thought I was making a mistake. I had hope buried inside me. Hope that I could still survive, and make a better life for myself. So I held onto that. I held onto HOPE. With the help of some wonderful friends, I got on the right track.
The day I moved to Oregon. December 18th 2016 was the first day of my recovery from Diabulimia. It has been two years and I have not once relapsed into my old behaviors.
DO NOT GET ME WRONG – my blood sugars are not perfect by a long shot. But I don’t judge myself by my numbers. I just try to do the very best I can do every day. I try to make healthy decisions and stay on track with my health. It is not easy. It is very very hard. But I know I am doing the best I can – because now I WANT TO LIVE.
The rough days are different now. In the past a bad day meant I was exhausted and too sick to go out to a bar or an event because I had not taken enough insulin to sustain my level of functionality that day. Now – rough days are due to pain in my legs, feet, and hands, dizzy spells and falls all a result of Diabetic Neuropathy caused by uncontrolled blood sugars for so many years. Sleepless nights from low blood sugars or high (due to illness or sometimes for no reason at all).
And somedays I am just in a bad mood or had a shit day at work.
Some of my bad days now are consequences of my actions from years ago. I never thought to myself “Ash you are going to develop diabetic retinopathy in your eyes and have vision loss if you don’t take your insulin today”. I knew there were complications to diabetes – but as I was in the throughs of Diabulimia and Self Destruction, I didn’t care.
I didn’t think I would still be alive today.
Now I am grateful (in a way) for the bad days. They mean I am still here, still hopeful and still fighting to stay as healthy as I can be each day. By sharing experiences and my story maybe I can help someone. I am so lucky to be alive – and even more lucky to have a partner who loves me for who I am no whatter what I look like.
Most importantly – I love myself now. Inside and out.
That is the short version. Throughout the blog I will share singular stories that may relate to what I writing about that day.
If you take anything away from what I just shared with you- take away HOPE. Hope that no matter what you are going through, hold onto hope that things can be better. Hold onto your silver lining. It gets better.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Until Next Time.
The photo on the left is my the day I began my recovery and the one on the right is my two year recovery anniversary photo 🙂
This was the catalyst.
Scrolling through Instagram a few weeks ago while at work, I stumbled upon this image posted by TalkSpace. I read it about ten times before saving it on my phone, sending it to several people, and posting it on a Facebook support page I belong to.
The words resonated within me. I couldn’t stop thinking about those words all day, and even late into that evening.
This. Was. For. Me.
Was is God?
Was it fate?
Was it the universe?
Was it an Instagram algorithm?
Who’s to say but me?
And I say it was all of the above.
First the pain, Then the rising.
Well that just blew my mind.
I have experienced so much pain in my life. Physical, emotional, psychological. I am not stupid – I know there will be more pain in my future.
Even right now I am in a decent amount of physical pain as I type this out. HOWEVER – the most important part of this whole poem is this:
THEN THE RISING.
I knew exactly what that meant for me when I read it.
I have my fear. I have my courage. I have plenty of pain. But now it is time for the rising. Time for me to rise up and find my purpose.
To help others who have suffered like me.
To spread the word about what it is REALLY like to live with Type 1 Diabetes, Diabetes Burnout and an eating disorder.
To tell people how poor mental health care, lack of treatment centers, uneducated doctors, destructive behavior, abusive relationships and environments – nearly KILLED me, before the age of 27.
I am ready to begin my rising. Ready to speak about how I saved myself. How I am still saving myself every day.
And how it is time for you to start your rising too….