Being in school and staying cool with your T1

It’s that time of year again everyone! That time just before fall when Target releases a new commercial that is catchy at first but then gets really annoying. That’s right kids! It’s Back to School season!

Now since I am no longer in school, It just doesn’t seem right for me to be checking out all these fabulous deals all the department stores keep singing at me. I mean I could use a matching set of One Direction notebooks just like every other red blooded American male BUT given me very rational fear of being misunderstood as a creeper, I’ll keep my back to school-ing to the internet blogosphere. SO I thought I’d dole out a few suggestions on how to approach the up-coming school year: betes style!

Now I know I’m going to get a lot of flak for this from all my MANY elementary, middle, and high school readers (I’ll have you all know I have a very dedicated following in the 3rd through 6th grade Japanese and Norwegian demographics. What can I say? They just get me) but I’d like to reach out specifically to all those who are making their transition into college life. It’s a crazy, exciting, nerve wracking time for just about everyone who goes through it, insulin-ically challenged or not. But because you MUST bring your T1 with you, your college experience is going to be that much crazier and nerve wracking-ier than everyone else’s. SO with all of you in mind, I sat down and really thought about what I wish I had known before I decided to do what I did with my T1 during my college years.

(***DISCLAIMER: I feel that I must state that I am not a medical doctor and as such do not have what is known in the biz as Malpractice Insurance. So I would just like to make note that the following are just SUGGESTIONS. Ideas, based on personal life experiences, on what you can do if they were to strike your fancy. Please consult your doctor if you feel like making any drastic changes to your diabetes management. He’s/She’s got the insurance. Oh and he/she knows about medicine and science and junk. The only thing you are going to get if you sue me is college loan debt, some very strange fan mail from 3rd through 6th grade Japanese and Norwegian children that I can’t read, and a collection of used One Direction notebooks.***) 

3. What does YOUR Diabetes mean to YOU?

As we all know, Type 1 Diabetes is a very personal disease/disorder/curse. It may affect us all in the same basic ways biologically but we all react and adjust to it VERY differently, both physically and emotionally. Transitioning to the college world is an emotional roller coast in and of itself so you don’t want any of your unresolved T1 demons mucking that up any more than they already will. That’s why getting all your little diabetes duckys in a row early on will not only help you adjust to college life that much quicker but also allow you to enjoy yourself. A by this I mean acceptance.

I know what some of you may be saying, “Easier said than done d-bag!” And I completely agree with you. To be completely honest, this tid bit of advice makes me a little uncomfortable because I was one of those T1s that did NOT accept my diabetes going into college. I didn’t have a roommate my freshman year and every year after that I was an RA which again left me roommateless. No reason for me to explain my “collection” of butterfly strips or to have meetings with RAs about suspicions that I may have an intravenous drug addiction. INSTEAD, I had manic outbursts/lashing out from highs and bouts of depression/moments of stupid from lows that were even more difficult and embarrassing to explain

Ashley: “Hey Walt. Why did you pass out in the middle of the basketball game last night?”

Me: “Oh, that…That was…nothing…GottaGetToClassBye!

Ashley: “But it’s Saturday!?!”

I guess my point is don’t do college AND diabetes all on your own. Save yourself the trouble I was too stupid/hard headed to save myself from. By understanding yourself and your relationship with T1, you’ll be able to approach those real human relationships with a clear head. And never forget that your T1 (as much of a tool as it may be) is an automatic pass into a HUGE community of people who are or have been exactly where you are. The Diabetic Online Community is pretty big and growing every day (Yea that internet thing isn’t just for cat videos). There will always be those days where your T1 is just being UBER difficult, but don’t fear! You are always just a click away from millions of people who will understand.

2. Have betes, will travel

So this part is all about DEALING with the betes. As all of us Americans who didn’t fall asleep during history class know, freedom is NOT free. This is doubly true when you are T1. That’s right people, your new found freedom in college will come at a price: responsibility.

If any of you were like me in high school, you had your parents handling all things diabetes, at least in terms of supplies. I didn’t have to worry about running out of anything. I always had vials or pens, strips, boxes of lancets even though I only ever used one of them. The D life was easy; again only in terms of supplies. In college however it was all on me. I couldn’t tell you how many times I ran out of stuff and found myself without. Struggling with pharmacists because I was a couple days early on my refills, which made my insurance suspicious, because of course I was trying to make meth with it, not just trying to not die or anything important like that. Yea, your parents can, and most undoubtedly will, blow up your phone like it’s the 4th of July but that don’t mean you HAVE to do what they say (even though of course you probably should).

SO take the way of the Boy Scout: BE PREPARED! And I don’t just mean stay on top of your supplies. The betes is a terribly fickle and unpredictable thing and because of this it is important to be a step ahead. Figure out the easiest and most comfortable way to carry all your necessary supplies. Figure out what all those necessary supplies are! Try and keep track of how your sugars are affected by your classes. Stress is a fairly decent sized monkey of a wrench so knowing which classes bring it on and how to prepare is good to know. You can schedule classes based on when your sugars are best so you actually learn something. Map out all the bathrooms and nooks/crannies on campus so you always have a place you know you can go to when you need some private d time to change a pump or test your sugar. Keep a steady supply of your favorite low snack. Or, if you don’t like carrying food around cause it stinks up your bag when you forget about it, figure out where vending/soda machines and coffee shops/snack bars are and always keep some cash or plastic on hand.

Your T1, while endlessly annoying and inconvenient, IS manageable. Of course it requires some forethought and planning on your part but in the end it’s worth the effort.

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I tried to think up an even cleverer headline title for this last suggestion but I just couldn’t. My little baby superman friend says it best. Life is absolutely chalk full of epic shit to do and I am entirely convinced that the most epic of shit happens during college. The last thing you want to be worrying about is your T1 when you’ve got countries to study abroad in, sports games to paint body parts for, and spring breaks to go wild during. THIS is why I think that the above tips are so important. If you don’t have a grasp of your T1 you allow it to limit you in ways that it shouldn’t.

There are more times than I care to remember where I didn’t do things that I wanted to because of how I THOUGHT my T1 MIGHT ruin it. Instead of taking the time to plan out how I would manage my T1 I just gave up.  The thing that really chaffs my rear now as I look back on all those times is the fact that so many T1s of the past didn’t have it nearly half as easy as I did.

Many of you may already know that in the days before insulin, T1 was a quite literally a death sentence. Because the bodies of T1s were unable to process food, due to lack of insulin, they would literally starve to death. A LONG and VERY painful process. Before insulin was discovered, kids that were diagnosed were expected to die within the year. And there I was, IN college, a fridge full of insulin, a glucometer and test strips to last me for months, and I would CHOOSE not to do things because I didn’t want to have to deal with the T1 side of it. I didn’t go on that weekend trip to D.C or sign up for that study abroad in Australia because I didn’t want to have to deal with my T1. What a douche! I wish I could’ve kicked my college self in the nads and told myself to grow a pair. A little harsh, and ironic, yes, but y’all know what I mean.

I did do SOME epic shit during college. I wasn’t a COMPLETE pansy. But I definitely didn’t do as much as I should’ve. SO learn from my mistakes people. Do not let your T1 take the blame for things that you just aren’t willing to do. It’s the easy way out. And epic shit is never easy. When it snows, go sledding on lunch trays you stole from the cafeteria! Start a band with your other T1 friends and call yourselves The Sweet and Lows (dibs on that name!!!)! Go streaking in the quad! Get a radio show at 3 in the morning that only plays Hungarian folk music. Do one of those alternative spring break things if you’d rather do good instead of keg stands. Cross dress! Do everything and anything. Yes, college is about learning and going to class and crap but it is SOOO much more. It’s also about having fun, finding out what you like, and, of course, doing epic shit!

Well, that’s what I think you should do. Like I said I’m no doctor, and by no means was doing any of these things easy for me. Just don’t let your T1 get in the way of you living and enjoying your life. It’s not a death sentence anymore. We really don’t have any excuses. SO, be fun. Have safe. And do some shit!