These are the first words that I read when I googled 'Diabulimia'. Diabetes UK had asked me if I would make a film with a young woman who had battled with this particular addiction.
Omitting her insulin left Lynsey with reduced vision and damaged kidneys. Incredibly, she had dealt with her condition on her own - avoiding her health care team for years, as she felt they weren't understanding. Though she had reached a more stable place - she hadn't talked publicly about her experiences. But now she wanted to speak out - so others like her wouldn't go through the same thing. VERY brave.
Omitting insulin to lose weight left Lynsey with reduced vision and damaged kidneys. Incredibly, she had dealt with her condition on her own - avoiding her health care team for years, as she felt they weren't understanding. Though she had reached a more stable place - she hadn't talked publicly about her experiences. But now she wanted to speak out - so others like her wouldn't go through the same thing. VERY brave.
The charity were also being brave in their proactiveness with this issue. The condition isn't even medically recognised yet. There's a lot to learn about what people like Lynsey are going through. But their research showed that what Lynsey was doing was very common - particularly with young people. Being Type 1 and not taking your insulin is extremely dangerous. Diabetes UK felt a responsibility to talk about this. They also thought (rightly in my view) - that a story from someone who had been though it would be the best way to to inform people who are worried about themselves... or their loved ones.
Here's the full film:
Potential for harm
Usually when I make films with people who are 'over the hump' - it's emotional, but positive. They've overcome something very difficult - usually a thing they couldn't control. If there condition was to recur - that's not in their control either. This was not as true for Lynsey.
The problem with addiction is that you're never really 'over it'. The best you can say is you're not doing the 'thing' at the moment. You could always slip back. Which meant making this film with Lynsey could potentially harm her.
To help viewers understand her journey - I'd be asking why she felt she needed to lose weight. This, and other questions might trigger the very part of her that would want to go back to her 'old ways'. But not only trigger Lynsey - the viewers too. It was safe to assume many people watching the film would also be in 'that place'.
Knowing this, I worked with Diabetes UK's excellent clinical team to plan how to work with Lynsey as safely as possible. What should I be most careful of? Apparently, numbers are the worst subject. Weight, blood sugar levels, etc could be interpreted as goals, not plot points. The charity also worked with Lynsey to ensure as much personal safety as possible. Between them, they acknowledged that this project was definitely brave - but that Lynsey was ready to undertake the challenge.
For my part - I made sure Lynsey - knew what kind of filmmaker I was, and how I work. It would just be me - no scary crew, or lights. This was her story and she would have as much control of the film as me. I sent her some other films I'd made.
"I’ve looked at your website.. and thought your films captured peoples’ individual experiences so well... It's nice to see how authentic your videos are. I know you’ll do a great job with this!" Lynsey
Meeting of minds
Originally - the idea of the project was to have Lynsey's film - but also a separate film, featuring a clinical expert on diabetes mental health. But once it became apparent Lynsey had never met a clinician with experience in diabulimia (remember - this condition isn't even medically recognised yet) - I was keen to take Lynsey to meet Khalida. Having Lynsey confide in an understanding health care professional might encourage concerned viewers to do something similar.
I love it when I see the patient vs doctor barrier breaking down. It was a joy to see Lynsey light up once she realised there was at least one person who truly understood. This is always the dream for me - the filmmaking process itself helping the participant directly.
Through that first meeting - Lynsey and Khalida combined personal and professional experience to really explain to the viewers the mindset of someone who is omitting their insulin for weight loss.
Owning the launch
"I just wanted to say thank you for making the filming on Saturday as easy and comfortable as it possibly could be. It's not an easy thing to talk about, but you really helped me to feel a bit more relaxed than I thought I would be! Thank you so much for making this as easy as it could of been. Very nervous about them being launched... (but) I feel like you've captured my experiences perfectly and I think people will relate to that, I hope!" Lynsey
I'm super in favour of the participants being a big part of the film's launch. It connects them with the very people they are trying to help - directly giving them the positive feedback they deserve. Diabetes UK did a great job of facilitating this.