Professional Dancer and Student Stands to Lose it All

1/9/16
WRITTEN BY: Shaye Price
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Thinking of college, I was nervous about meeting new people, living in a new environment and managing a whole new lifestyle with my diabetes. I was excited though to go off on my own, live in a dorm room away from home and my parents with people I’d yet to meet. I was ready for a new adventure and couldn’t wait to study things that I was actually interested in like art and dance. By end of summer, I felt confident; I was healthy, glowing, happy, and full of life. My parents and I packed up the car and headed to California Lutheran University; I was ready for my new life to begin. Little did I know, that first semester would be the hardest of my life.

The rocky start began as I was trying to find my rhythm like every other first-year college student. I tried to find the balance between maintaining that lifestyle that I loved so much, while still eating in the food hall, handling late night study sessions and lots of dorm room junk food, etc. I was putting far too much pressure on myself to be perfect, to eat perfectly and workout everyday, so I wasn’t enjoying the little things that can come with a wonderful new life experience. I was losing a lot of weight from not eating due to stress, and that caused me to not have to take as much insulin. Both of these things left me struggling with health issues that I had never struggled with before.

After the thrill of newness wore off, I began to feel a little lonely. I called my parents more as the time passed; I missed the comforts of home a little more each day. I’m somewhat shy when it comes to opening up to new people, so I tried to manage my diabetes on my own at first. I never was a big partier or socialite, which left me feeling like a bit of an outsider in the college scene.

I found myself eating less and less, trying to avoid the cafeteria food and maintain a healthy lifestyle. That was at least one thing I could control. Everyday, I spent a lot of time in the gym to keep myself occupied. I kept busy, but I wasn’t happy. I found myself crying uncontrollably. I was emotional and could not mentally concentrate on anything. I called my parents more and told them I wanted to come home. I could tell they were worried.

In an attempt to regain control of my emotions, I found that restricting my food and calorie intake helped. It was almost as if I could manage that, I could manage the uncontrollable breakdowns. Then one day I weighed myself in the gym for the first time. I was 103 pounds. Never before had I ever imagined being that thin in my life. Never before had I considered myself sick.

I began to notice how unhealthy I looked. I felt weaker than I’d ever felt before. I was frail and fragile and freezing all of the time. For parents’ weekend, my dad came to visit me. I could tell how worried he was. My body had begun to look “skeleton-like”. Here, began one of the biggest struggles that I’ve ever had to deal with.

I visited the doctor and knew that I had to put on some weight so that I could feel and look healthy again. My period had stopped for four months, my insulin intake dropped immensely with little food intake and my emotions were completely out of control.

During Thanksgiving break, my dad begged me to eat more and I eventually was able to give in. As I finally allowed my body to have the things that I restricted it from having for almost six months, I began to crave every kind of junk food and sugar that you could possibly imagine.

After break, I headed back to school and I found myself binging on thousands of calories a day in the cafeteria, eating 24/7. It was as if I had gone from one extreme to the other in a matter of two months. Not only was I eating more food than one could possibly imagine, I was also trying to manage my diabetes and blood sugar as well. While I got in the habit of eating as much junk as I possibly could until I felt sick, my blood sugar numbers were going through the roof, and my insulin intake began to increase immensely.

While everyone was telling me I was looking stronger and much healthier, I felt absolutely terrible about myself. By the time Christmas break was over I had gained 30 pounds and felt huge. I became so utterly frustrated with this constant cycle that I had now gotten into and I found myself not wanting to get out of bed in the morning and became extremely down.

Christmas came and I noticed that I was becoming extremely exhausted and ill and ended up spending a night in the ER. I was told that I had some sort of viral infection and that my liver levels were high. I was struggling so hard with not feeling well, and not knowing exactly what was going on. All I wanted was someone to simply tell me what to do and help me become healthy and feel better again. I never wanted to be down on myself, but all of this was happening in a short few months, and I felt like I couldn’t control it any longer. I needed help.

Despite all this, I went back to school to take finals, and at the same time, found myself booking the job of my dreams, dancing on the show Glee. Of course, the rehearsals and shoot days were during my first college finals ever, and my body and mind were as confused and exhausted as ever. I noticed a spot on my back as I was taking a shower at school and ended up going to health services as it began to turn into numerous spots.

I had gotten shingles, caused by extreme stress. I can not explain how painful those were as I would get sharp shooting pains throughout my whole back all day during rehearsals and finals. The doctor ended up putting me on five pills a day that made me extremely drowsy and my blood sugars go through the roof. I found it very hard to focus or stay awake. I could not give up the Glee opportunity though — it was a chance of a lifetime. I also couldn’t jeopardize school. Both were so important to me. They defined me; dance and school kept me going.

I ended up studying whenever I got the chance in between filming and drove back and forth late at night and early in the morning in order to take my finals in between working. It was one of the craziest and most amazing experiences of my life and although I am not quite sure how I made everything work, I know God was watching over me.

I was lucky enough to have the chance to go home for a month where I was able to truly focus on my health and diabetes. Now, I can’t say that this was a fast and easy process. It has taken me quite some time to get back to a healthy and normal state, especially mentally. However, I have learned again the importance of self-love, and my passion for the arts, yoga, health and wellness, an active lifestyle, have all played a huge part in that.

I have been able to continue my passion for dance throughout college, all while managing my blood sugars during those long days of filming and activity. I have worked with CBS Television as an intern in their Publicity and Events department, and traveled all by myself to help put on events such as ComicCon in San Diego and movie premieres around Los Angeles. If I could change anything about my time working on shows like Glee and ABC’s Suburgatory, I would have told staff about my Type 1 diabetes. I tend to think that I can handle everything on my own without the help of others, and I never like to ask for help or feel like I need special treatment. Actually, most of the people that I have met in college don’t even know that I have diabetes, but I am working on getting better at that. After all that I have gone through, I have learned to not shy away from expressing what I need when it comes to my health.

shaye_price_2I sometimes worry that too often, our generation is far too hard on ourselves, especially young women. We are constantly bombarded with these ideas and images that make us feel unworthy or small. I want to be able to take a stand against this type of criticism. I am so happy to be able to type this now, at 20 years old, and more than three quarters of the way done with my college education. I want to express to you all that these little hiccups in life are nothing that we cannot get through, even with Type 1 diabetes.

My love for healthy and whole foods, as well as a far more balanced mindset, has allowed my blood sugars to go back to normal and my diabetes to be so consistent and controlled. I have been able to do great in school and have been on the Dean’s List all throughout my college career. I have made so many amazing friends, I laugh everyday, I feel so free again! I feel so much like myself.

If I could give any advice to fellow Type 1 diabetics, especially those who are getting ready to experience their own lives, away from home, and away from their usual comfort zones, I would tell them to remember that you are not alone, and you are extremely special.

I also want to thank my family for always being there for me and loving me unconditionally. Nobody has to feel alone with this disease, and if you can’t find the support you need, there is always someone out there who is willing to listen.

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More stories about mental health and T1D here.



Shaye Price

Shaye has lived with T1D for 11 years now; it really has become second nature to her. While, it has not always been easy with her active and busy lifestyle, she's never feared her future with Type 1. She's built such a strong positive mindset, because she's discovered the things that make her diabetes more comfortable to live with. She believes that there are so many beautiful ways to live that make managing your body a seamless act, and once you discover these activities, foods and stress-management techniques that work for your own body and mind, then living with T1D becomes your own perfect rhythm.