This is a contributing post by my sister Ana (also a type 1 diabetic). Look forward to hearing a lot more from her on this site in the near future :)
Back in January, I wrote about the food aspect of college in Diabetes and Food: A University Perspective. Now that I’m back at home on summer break, my eating habits have improved significantly. I drink less soda, eat more organic (organic) foods, and cut back on the processed foods.
Looking back, I can’t believe how quickly I got through my freshman year at JMU. Nonetheless, I remember the roller coaster of emotions I endured during that time. At the time, I felt that college took a significant toll on my level of sanity. In other, less dramatic words, it stressed me out a whole lot at times. This was expected, but it’s different when it’s actually happening…
It was mostly a matter of trying to get work done, taking care of myself, getting enough sleep, going to church (in my case), keeping in touch with family and close friends, and learning to live with a stranger who was very different from me, all while trying to maintain some kind of a social life and getting involved in clubs and other activities.
The definition of a “social life” for most of the college students I know involves partying. While I enjoy having a good time, my idea of a fun party differs from my peers’ ideas of one. The major difference is alcohol. I don’t go to parties and drink not only because I’m underage and simply don’t like alcohol, but also because I know it’s more of a risk for me, as a diabetic, to drink. I don’t know how my body would react to too much alcohol, and I don’t want to find out when I’m among people who aren’t even aware of my diabetes. I wouldn’t expect anyone to take care of me when they can’t even take care of themselves if they’re under the influence. I consider myself fortunate for not having the desire to drink, because it allows me to take better care of myself. Since most of the parties consist of people drinking, I just chose not to go to any.
As a studio art major, I was constantly working on some type of art assignment or project. It was a whole lot harder than I thought it would be to dedicate a sufficient amount of time and energy to each of my five classes. Being more interested in my success as an artist, I made my art classes my priority. While I still worked hard in my other classes such as literature and macroeconomics, I know that if I had more time to do so, my grade would’ve more clearly reflected that. This obstacle, in which I had to balance different challenges in different classes, was a major cause of stress for me, and my inconsistent blood sugar levels were proof. I found that going to sleep early, eating well, and remembering to stop and breathe were the best ways to decrease how stressed out I was feeling at times.
- one of my 3D art projects—consisted of roughly 1000 rubber bands
Fortunately, I rarely had cases where my blood sugar dropped while going to class or while I was sleeping. One time, however, my blood sugar dropped down to the 40s when I was alone in my room close to 2 am on a weekend. Normally this wouldn’t have been a big deal since I always had food and/or juice in close proximity. Always, except for at that moment. I started panicking a little because I could feel my sugar dropping fast and I knew I had to run down 3 flights of stairs, through the study lounge, up another flight of stairs, and across the TV lounge in order to get to the vending machines. But I had no other choice so I grabbed my ID card and my phone and ran out the door. A seemingly drunk guy called out to me as I darted past him in the stairwell, but I just ignored him. I could barely feel my legs and I was shaking and sweaty, but I finally reached the vending machines and bought a bottle of apple juice and some fruit snacks and mini muffins just in case. I drank half the bottle of juice, walked back to my room, and collapsed onto my bed. I didn’t feel okay till about half an hour later, but I was relieved to be back in my room with food. After that incident, I made sure to always have some source of sugar close by.
Even though I was away at school, my family, especially my parents, still checked up on me and made sure I was taking care of myself. Although sometimes I wish they would leave me alone to deal with myself, I’m really glad they don’t because it helps a lot to have that kind of support system. Hopefully everything I experienced and learned during my first year at college leads to an even more successful second year with consistent healthy habits, normal blood sugar levels, and (crossing my fingers) less stress! Wish me luck! And good luck to all you students who are starting your first year at college this August ?