By: Quinn Nystrom

I had been so comfortable in the past to stand up in front of an audience and tell my story of living with type 1 diabetes. I had been traveling around the United States since I was 16 in fact talking about it. But after I completed residential treatment for an eating disorder (ED-DMT1), I didn’t feel that same comfort to grab a mic and tell about THAT story.

What was the difference?

Looking back I think my own insecurities of body image and believing that people would think I had failed at even having an eating disorder because I wasn’t “that thin” or whatever pre-conceived notion I believed they would have paralyzed me. The only time I heard people talk about the type of eating disorder I had been diagnosed with, they described it as “diabulimia” and you’d hear people speak about the patient just not being a good or compliant diabetic. Well as a recovering perfectionist I can tell you the last thing I wanted to do was raise my hand high and admit to being bad at anything. I had to defend myself enough as it was with diabetes.

“Why are you eating that?”

“Is it a good or bad blood sugar that you have?”

“Did your parents feed you too much sugar as a kid to get diabetes?”

“Have you heard of that cure for diabetes?”

“Can’t you just exercise and eat healthy and not have diabetes anymore?”

“Can a woman with diabetes get pregnant? Have you seen Steel Magnolias?”

But what I realized from staying silent for so many years about my struggles was it was hurting me the most. By staying silent about my journey I continued to believe that it was shameful and that it should be something hidden. It’s taken me time in recovery to get to this different place now where I feel comfortable speaking about it.

Next week I’m traveling to Washington, D.C. for the American Diabetes Association’s Call to Congress event. Diabetes advocates from across the country will descend on Capitol Hill to tell their story to their elected officials. I will get the opportunity to talk about living with type 1 diabetes, but also the very real fact that we’re at a much higher risk for developing an eating disorder in our lifetime.

Brene Brown once said, “When we deny the story, it defines us. When we own the story, we can write a brave new ending.” I’m thrilled to get the opportunity to serve as Center for Change’s National Diabetes Ambassador this year. I’ll be traveling around to conferences and various events telling my journey with type 1 diabetes and an eating disorder. I will also be blogging monthly. I hope that I’ll hear from many of you, or get to meet you in person at one of the upcoming events.

I believe there needs to be an open dialogue about the many people who live with an eating disorder, or other mental illness. Will you join me in having this conversation? I want to hear your story.