A teaching assistant from Wales believes there should be more awareness of diabulimia raised after the eating disorder almost killed her.
Gwen Edwards says there needs to be more information about the condition, where people with type 1 diabetes skip insulin injections to lose weight.
The 22-year-old, who has type 1 diabetes and lives in Rhydwyn, Anglesey, has shared her story to raise awareness of diabulimia to help others because she said it was hard to get help due to limited knowledge about the condition.
She said: “It’s really not okay – it’s a horrible thing to go through. The fact that I’ve been struggling for so long, but not knowing that I had diabulimia – I could have prevented all this months, years ago. But because there’s not enough information about it, I had no clue that I was suffering from such a bad illness.”
Gwen has urged people with type 1 diabetes who have concerns to: “Find support, find information, go to your doctor – get help.”
It was almost five years ago that Gwen began her battle with diabulimia, which charity Diabetes UK describes as potentially deadly and an “invisible condition”.
She said: “It’s a voice in my head that tells me I don’t need injections,” said the teaching assistant. “It’s a vital medicine that I need to keep myself alive. It’s a shock to me that I haven’t made myself worse than what I am now.”
Gwen has visited A&E at least six times in the last five years and at Gwen’s lowest point, she said: “How on earth am I still here, because I have made myself so ill?”
Having realised the impact diabulimia was having on her own health as well as the worry and terror it was causing her parents, Gwen decided it was time to seek help. She said: “Seeing my parents upset really breaks my heart. My mum – she used to wake me up twice, three times in the middle of the night, just to check if I was still alive. She was so scared that I wasn’t going to wake up in the morning.”
Gwen’s recovery journey has been aided by cognitive behaviour therapy.
Diabetes UK Cymru is taking on Gwen’s cause. A spokesperson for the charity said: “Diabetes UK Cymru is calling on Welsh Government to ensure everyone with diabulimia has access to specialist services, and receives the help they need to overcome this condition. With the right treatment and support, people can recover and lead healthy lives.”
The Government in Wales said £1.75m a year is invested to support people eating disorders. A spokesperson added: “We have set out the actions we expect health boards to take to improve eating disorder services and we are providing an extra £700,000 to support these improvements.”