It’s been almost two years and my heart still aches for a person I never actually got to meet.
I met Ish online in a Facebook group for people struggling with diabulimia. Immediately, I was attracted to her quick wit, irreverent sense of humor, and beautiful blue eyes. This girl was the definition of a spitfire but in the absolute best way imaginable. I respected her honesty and treasured her ability to lighten the mood with a single quip or clever remark. I’ve never met anyone quite like her and I honestly doubt I ever will.
Within the diabulimia community, there were several girls, including myself, who hit it off seemingly instantaneously in a special way. I’m not exactly sure how to pinpoint the manifestation of this particular friend group but I do remember realizing that I had found that sense of belonging I had been so long searching for. With a mutual appreciation for all things Harry Potter and Mean Girls related, it wasn’t long before we had a nice little circle of ladies all looking out for each other. It became more than just about diabetes or our similar struggles with disordered eating behavior patterns. We talked about our dreams, our fears, our families, and our relationships. Our lives became entangled and it was that common experience of struggling that solidified the bonds we shared. Even within that group of girls, I felt a particular kinship to Ish. We were absolutely meant to be friends despite our geographical limitations and we often romanticized about meeting up someday.
Hailing from Scotland, the land of my ancestral roots, I felt pulled to her like a magnet, even though I occasionally needed the help of Google to figure out what the heck she meant with all the slang she used. We had a mutual appreciation for each other’s “accents”. I think the fact that she swore more than a sailor balanced out the lack of “R’s” in some of my words and also my occasional utilization of the word “wicked” in true Bostonian style. Her and I even shared the same middle name, Anne with an E. I loved that Ish wanted to pursue nursing, an interest I had once shared with her as well, and I found her determination to rise above her illness and work hard towards her future to be so admirable.
The day I found out that Ish had died, I remember getting a message from our friend Chelsea. I had just moved back home after living away for some time and was downstairs in my basement bedroom. The message said to send her a text and let her know when I was awake. When I responded, she told me that Ish had passed away. In that moment, I felt like all the air had escaped from my lungs and I wasn’t sure if I would ever remember how to breathe again. I wailed loudly and climbed the basement stairs on all fours barely able to make it all the way up. My mom found me on the kitchen floor at the top of the stairs and was concerned thinking I had hurt myself or that something was wrong with me health-wise. The words could hardly escape my mouth to tell her what had happened. It was as if someone had taken a knife and gutted me like a fish. My mom reached out and pulled me close trying to absorb some of the hurt that was making my body shake so much I could hardly stand. The tears flowed heavily and I couldn’t comprehend how things would ever be okay again.
Over the next few days, we learned that Ish had had a heart attack while in the hospital awaiting a regularly scheduled, utterly-ordinary knee surgery. I’m still unsure if I know every detail correctly, but it is my understanding that she had an infection from an IV, and it caused her to become septic which led to the heart attack. It pained me deeply to know that she had actually passed nearly a week before any of us friends from the diabetic community found out. It hurt worse knowing that one of her closest diabetic friends, Fiona, who actually spent loads of time with her in real life, still did not know… but I already did. Surely these friends had the right to know too. I think her family was trying to keep things private but what they didn’t understand was how important Ish was to so many of us – both online and otherwise. I can only imagine the grief they had been feeling at the time, so I slightly understand why it wasn’t made public knowledge. Yet, I hate knowing that I had been going about my life for days on end completely unaware that my friend had left this earth.
I can’t pretend to know or understand why Ish was taken from us so soon. It was a wakeup call for all of us. Those who have struggled with diabulimia understand that it’s impossible for anyone to truly know the physical damage they have already caused. Despite a commitment to self-care, none of us are exempt from the lingering issues or maladies that may strike at any moment. It was a difficult reality to be faced with knowing that her fate could easily be mine.
There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her. She was such an energy and a wonderful force in my life – even if we didn’t talk every day or ever get to meet in person. When you never get to set eyes on someone you love, really love, sometimes it feels like they weren’t ever here. However, the influence she had on my own existence is so strong and as cliché as it sounds, I really do feel like she’s with me all the time. I see dealing with her passing as one of the more important moments in my life. I think it was the time where I really began to put things in motion to create the life I want for myself. Prior to her death, I had lots of ideas and was constantly planning, but after she was gone I made a declaration to our friends that I would stop at nothing to pursue my dream of helping those with diabetes. Thinking back on the last two years, I know I’ve done her proud and that she’s somewhere watching me with love and lots of pride.
When it comes to the cost of diabetes, it’s not always money that I’m worried about. What concerns me more is that there are so many that pay with their lives. Between the missed diagnosis, potential complications associated with overnight hypoglycemia or DKA that takes a turn for the worse, it’s hard not to feel like the price we pay is just too damn much. Ish isn’t the only person with diabetes that I know who has passed but it’s certainly the one that has hit me the hardest. That’s why we must all commit ourselves to doing what we can to help find a cure. There are too many wonderful people being lost to this ruthless monster of a disease and I intend to do my part to get us one step close to a world without Type 1 diabetes.