Injecting life: a century-old discovery is still my lifeline

Charlie Granby

2021 marks 100 years since the discovery of insulin, which is incredible! But how do you manage diabetes and your mental wellbeing?

Speak your mind

In March 2019, I was invited to showcase my work in a mental health focused exhibition called ‘Speak Your Mind’. My idea was ready, the concept planned out, however days before I was due to begin shooting, my health declined rapidly after being ill for quite some time. I was given two days to live and a life changing diagnosis of type 1 diabetes on April 4th 2019. 

Prior to my diagnosis, photography and filmmaking had always been my outlet. It is quite essential to my mental wellbeing. I have always struggled with anxiety since childhood, and my mind races so often, it can be hard to focus. Photography gives me a focus, it stops moments in time to allow those fleeting moments become something to appreciate and process. 

Mental wellbeing, photography and type one diabetes

With type one diabetes, your brain can never switch off, and anxiety is ever present. And so photography once again saved me. Everything I shot was on my iPhone, from my bed in the days/weeks after I was diagnosed. Looking back, it feels both strange but also right that I did that. When you are faced with imminent threat to your life, your brain reacts in many different ways. I needed an outlet, and this was it. I was capturing this very raw, uncertain time in my life and I’m glad I did.

The idea initially came from how smothered I felt; a sudden loss of independence. Bed bound at my parents house at the age of 23, now faced with what felt like a death sentence. But also the idea of life and how I was now given a second chance. As time progressed and I had a little more strength to move from my bed to my cupboard and back again, I started experimenting with flowers.



The insulin I inject keeps me alive, my body can no longer produce it naturally so I have taken on the role of manually doing it myself. Without it, I will die in a very short space of time- days, like a flower without water, and this is where the concept of ‘injecting life’ came from.

The flowers represent both the life I’m being given, but also they are a sign of progress and process. Progress that I’m keeping myself alive every day, and the process that I am taking to battle this in my brain 24/7. In many ways the flowers also represent the beauty in life. There’s always light in the darkness, no matter how overshadowed and smothered you may feel.

What’s next?

Since my diagnosis, I have been at the absolute depths of places in my mind I never thought I could get to, and I’m still fighting, still injecting, all for this pretty amazing thing called life. No one can ever really prepare you or be prepared for life with a chronic illness. With type one diabetes, every single day is a literal fight to stay alive and it’s not to be taken lightly. It is exhausting. But we go on. So here’s to the next 100 years of insulin, and hopefully a cure.

Keep up with Charlie’s latest blog: Meet her favourite diabetes team

Charlie Granby