Tuesday is triumph day during this College Diabetes Week! I talked about the hardest part of college in my blog post yesterday; today, things will have a positive spin. I’ll write about how I tackled the challenges I faced relating to my diabetes in college, as well as how my experience in college as a T1D helped with my personal growth.
Despite having diabetes, I accomplished much that I’m proud of in the three-and-a-half years that I attended college. Here’s a (short) list of the most challenging obstacles, and how I overcame them:
- Registering my CDN Chapter with the Student Government Association. I had no idea how difficult it was to become a registered student organization at my school until I was tasked with the responsibility. Soon after I joined the CDN, I learned that the president of the UMass chapter was frustrated and overwhelmed with both running the chapter and finishing grad school. I wasn’t exactly seeking to take leadership over from her, but it was clear that she was feeling defeated and needed my help. Once I became chapter president, I made it my mission to get the group the registered status it deserved. I knew that this would lead to the longevity of our chapter, seeing as registered student organizations receive certain privileges from the university. It took longer than I expected it to and involved reading and editing a constitution, setting up meetings with members of the student government, and emailing all sorts of people. Essentially, it was a huge time-sap and I was worried that at the snail’s pace it was going, I would never be able to get my group registered. But because of my persistence, I overcome this obstacle and registered my group by the end of my sophomore year. This resulted in an uptick in meeting attendees and more chances to spread the word about our chapter.
- Graduating sooner than anticipated. The thought of graduating early never occurred to me until I was in my junior year of college. Some quick calculations showed that I’d accrued a solid number of credits. If I were to take a few extra during the fall semester of my senior year, then I’d have enough to graduate. It was daunting to me: Graduating early meant saying goodbye to my college friends and freedom. It also signified that my last semester wouldn’t exactly be enjoyable as I loaded up on courses. It was a stressful time, exacerbated by the fact that my beloved dog, Zuzu, unexpectedly passed away a few weeks out from finals. I spent my last month at school in a zombie-like state, fueled only be a desire to return home and be with my family. Even though I was in a poor emotional state, I managed to do exceedingly well on my finals and graduate, saving my family and myself an entire semester’s worth of money. Within a week of graduating, I was also working full-time—a triumph, indeed.
- Lowering my A1c (over the course of my time in college). I was not proud of my A1c going into college. I was in the upper 8/lower 9 range, which makes me cringe to think about. I accept blame for that, but I also attribute it to my then-phobia of insulin pumps. I had a CGM, but I wasn’t ready to go from shots to the pump at that point in time. Plus, other college lifestyle factors—loading up my plate in the dining hall and drinking alcohol without knowing how it would influence me, to name a few—certainly didn’t help matters. It took diligence, but by the time I finished college, I was in the upper 7/lower 8 range. To some, that might not seem like a big difference, but it was a major accomplishment for me: Especially since I did it without the aid of an insulin pump.
As I thought and wrote about these three triumphs, I realized that people with diabetes should take more time to acknowledge and be proud of what they excel in when it comes to their diabetes care and management. Too often, we dwell on the negative: I shouldn’t have eaten that for dessert because now my blood sugar’s too high, my A1c should be better and it’s my fault for not improving it. Focusing on the “bad” and blaming ourselves for the most trivial mistakes draws attention away from the good: I tested my blood sugar 6 times today, I bolused perfectly for that meal, I have a great post-workout blood sugar. The power of positive thinking can perform wonders on not just the mind, but the body as well. Taking the time to recognize and celebrate triumphs is something I’d encourage anyone with diabetes to do, in addition to other non-diabetic individuals who may need to be uplifted in the face of any kind of challenge.