3 Things I Wish I Knew About Diabetes in College

My blog post earlier this week probably made it very clear to you that I work for a nonprofit called the College Diabetes Network – but in case you didn’t know, now you know.

In my position with the organization, I semi-regularly interact with current college students living with type 1 diabetes. This causes me to reflect every now and then on my college experience and what I would change, knowing what I know now, about how I managed my diabetes when I was in college. I came up with 3 things that I wish I’d known then that would’ve likely made life on campus a lot easier for me – and it seems very appropriate to share these things this week, which is College Diabetes Week. Here’s what I wish I knew…

Me, almost 7 years ago, on the day that I officially became a UMass alum!
  1. I wish I knew then that an insulin pump would greatly benefit me. Hands down, this is the biggest diabetes regret that I have when I think about my time at college. I can’t tell you how many times it was inconvenient for me to whip out my insulin pen in the middle of the dining hall and inject before every meal. My rationale at the time was that there were already too many changes happening in my life (because as we all know, the transition from high school to college is huge), and that I didn’t want to toss learning a new piece of diabetes technology into the mix. Plus, I was stubborn – I figured that my then-current MDI regimen was doing a good enough job for me and my diabetes. If I’d only known that a pump would’ve allowed me so much more freedom…
  2. I wish I knew then that I should’ve asked my parents sooner to let me take over ordering diabetes supplies. All throughout college – and admittedly, for a few years post-graduation – my mom took care of reordering my diabetes supplies for me. She’d keep track of how much insulin I had left in the fridge, and my main responsibility was to let her know when I was running low on test strips or CGM sensors. I really wish I’d asked her (before I turned 26) to let me order supplies on my own, or at least walk me through the process so I had a better familiarity with it by the time I aged off my parents’ insurance plan. I had to learn a lot, and very quickly, when age 26 came around, and I could’ve avoided the steep learning curve if I’d been more proactive about it at a younger age.
  3. I wish I knew then that I could’ve avoided many diabetes mistakes by doing more research and getting more involved with the diabetes online community. Namely, I wish I’d known more about how to “party safely” with T1D. I went into college not having a single clue about how alcohol would affect my diabetes – and that is something that is incredibly dangerous. I learned a couple lessons the hard way in college, and I’m lucky that I didn’t have to pay any serious consequences. Knowing what I know now, I should’ve turned to the diabetes online community for guidance, tips, and tricks from people who could’ve helped me avoid some scary highs and lows I had after a weekend of partying. Imagine what I could’ve learned from Reddit threads, had I known they were available!

While I can’t change anything about the way I took care of my diabetes in my college years, I can say that I’m proud of myself for eventually gaining these insights about it. I may have done better had I known about these things sooner, but what matters is that I did find out about them in due course, which has led to positive changes in my diabetes care in the long run.

College Diabetes Week Day 1: Daily Life with Diabetes, in a Picture

Today marks the beginning of the 4th Annual College Diabetes Week! This week is hosted by my friends at the College Diabetes Network as a part of National Diabetes Awareness Month. They encourage people within the diabetes community to get involved and follow along throughout the week, whether you’re still in college or not! Stay tuned with the week’s activities by following the hashtag #CDW17 across various social media platforms. They will also be posting updates on their blog, so be sure to check that out, as well!

Throughout College Diabetes Week, I’ll be posting blogs that respond to prompts provided by the CDN. We’ll start with the Monday prompt:

Post a selfie or a picture of day-to-day life living with diabetes in college!

I may not be a college student anymore, but I still live an active lifestyle with diabetes. I felt that this image summed up my daily life with T1D fairly well:

IMG_4397

This is an image of my PDM (Personal Diabetes Manager), with the “confidence reminder” menu open. Confidence is a major component of diabetes care. You have to be confident in your abilities to carb count, inject insulin, and respond appropriately to certain situations. You have to be confident in yourself and trust that you can take the best possible care of yourself. Some days that confidence is there, but others it’s not. And both are okay. Unlike the “confidence reminder” option, diabetes isn’t something that you can choose to turn on or off. Daily life with diabetes is constantly trying, and confidence levels will vary.

This is why I chose to visually represent confidence in my snapshot of my life with diabetes.