Starting college means being on your own for the first time, for better or worse. It’s great to feel independent, but you can also feel alone. I remember meeting my floormates in college and knowing right away that we were going to be great friends. We excitedly shared all the things we had in common, like our taste in music and movies. But diabetes was something I felt I had all to myself.
It was such a change to be an adult completely in charge of my Type 1 diabetes. There was no paperwork to fill out that warned people that I was diabetic. My professors didn’t know to look out for me like my teachers in grade school did. When people asked me what the purple thing with the tube was, I showed them it was inserted in my body. They didn’t know what to say. And then I didn’t have a response to that. Conversation died.
So I didn’t talk about it to anyone except my roommate. She eventually got the hang of living with someone with diabetes and she started acting like my mother, which I hated, even though I needed it. Thing was, she could research online about diabetes as much as she wanted, but this was my fight. It was like she was providing support from a distant island; it was nice to have her there waving a flag in the distance, but I was still alone on my own island, fighting a fight that was bigger than me.
And I was slowly giving up. I fell into this system of pretending like I was “normal.” I had a pump, but I kept it hidden from others. It became out of sight, out of mind for me, as well. Soon, not putting in a bolus for a meal turned into not putting in a bolus for a lot of meals. And wearing fashions that didn’t fit my pump meant just not wearing it.
Then in my senior year, 2 girls with diabetes joined my sorority. It was instant community. There was something so powerful about comparing A1C numbers over a breakfast of pancakes that we should not have been eating. We held each other accountable because we spoke the same language. Research shows that having a support system of true peers helps people follow medication regimens better and live healthier and longer lives. Having those two girls in my life and knowing that they were taking shots 5 times a day encouraged me to take my shots 5 times a day.
I still seek out other people with diabetes after graduation. This disease is not our lives, but it controls a major part of our lives in a way others can’t understand. We learn to live with it, but even after 12 years with diabetes, even after 50, we can’t do it on our own. You are a part of a group of people that makes up 8.3% of the United States, and we’re all in this together.
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