Elizabeth has come a long way in the few years since she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 44. “I’m actually a happier person than I was before I was diagnosed,” she tells the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) consumer magazine, Diabetes Forecast, in the February 2008 issue. In this exclusive interview Elizabeth discusses her diagnosis, treatment regimen, and the ways in which having diabetes has made an impact on her Hollywood career.
Elizabeth, who has received multiple award nominations for her role in critically acclaimed Showtime series Weeds, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2005 while filming the first season of the show.
“I felt completely overwhelmed that first year on the show, and I didn’t tell anybody I had diabetes. All of a sudden I was in my trailer at work, testing my glucose, and shooting myself up, and I was really scared and felt very alone and completely in over my head … it took me a good year and a half to embrace this and say, proudly, ‘I’m diabetic and I’m in control of my disease.'”
Type 1 diabetes commonly develops in children, but can occur at any age. Although Elizabeth was already familiar with healthy dieting and regular exercise to stay fit for the cameras, having diabetes allowed Perkins to make another important change in her lifestyle.
“I really learned to listen to my body and to know what I needed. And there are times I need to rest, and before I never allowed myself to do that.” The experience of coping with the illness has helped Elizabeth to develop her Weeds character, Celia Hodes.
“I was testing my blood, learning how to draw syringes, and injecting myself, unbeknownst to everybody around me … I think that definitely translated into my character: I was just sort of out on a limb, on my own, and there was not going to be anybody to save me except myself.” And now? “I’m actually a happier person than I was before I was diagnosed. I have a much greater perspective on the world around me.”