Let’s try to understand life of a college going Diabetic.
She is full of life, a dazzling smile always spread across her face. She was also diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 12. For National Diabetes Awareness Month, I spoke to her about how she cares for her health in a college environment and what she wishes people understood about the disease.
What is the culture around diabetes in a college environment?
In college a lot of people don’t necessarily care or take notice to diabetes unless they themselves have it, or if they have a loved one [who has] it. I think it is something that can easily get swept up in the busy daily schedule of college students. I mean, as a diabetic, sometimes I [even] forget about it!
What are some things that people say or think about diabetes that make you uncomfortable?
A lot of people think that I can’t eat or drink anything with sugar — which gets annoying because I totally can. In fact, I have a huge sweet tooth. People also expect me to be overweight, and are often confused that I have diabetes because I am a small person. That gets annoying because anyone with any body type can have diabetes. It gets uncomfortable having [a disease with] such a weird stigma.
Often, people go into college with the misconception that if you have diabetes, it’s your fault. How do you address attitudes like this?
I try to call people in instead of [calling out or] getting annoyed or upset with them…I know it is more about not having a proper education on this disease. I try to explain the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and [explain] how as a type 1 diabetic, my pancreas never functioned properly.
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. What do you wish young people — like college students — knew about diabetes?
I wish people knew more about how I have to manage the disease and how annoying it is. That there are constant pricks to test my blood sugar, and that with an insulin pump I constantly have a port in my stomach with a plastic needle. This stuff is really annoying and can hurt. It takes a lot out of a person physically and mentally. It is a lot more than just counting carbs; it is something I have to constantly think about.
Do you think we talk about diabetes enough?
We definitely do not talk about it enough. A lot of my friends have no idea about the disease and what it entails until I talk to them about it. It would be great if more people had a more general understanding of the disease.
What can we as allies — as friends, romantic partners, and fellow college students — do to be better allies to diabetic people?
Support is a huge thing for all allies. I know personally that I love when my friends are interested in my disease and about learning more… I love when my family asks how I am doing, and I rely a lot on my romantic partners for reminders and moral support when changing my insulin pump sites. Support is key with this disease because managing it is a full time job.
Any closing thoughts?
I think, as a diabetic, sometimes it is hard to forget how fortunate I am. Diabetes is so annoying, but I am so thankful with the cards that I have been dealt. There have been so many advances in devices and supplies that help make it easier and easier to manage. I am also thankful for all of my friends and family that are constantly there to remind me, love me, and support me!