Type 2 Diabetes: The College Years, Or How I Ended Up in a Car With My Roommates and T-Pain’s Backup Dancer

One of the cooler things I did in college. I managed to stay awake through this lab.

One of the cooler things I did in college. I managed to stay awake through this lab.

Going away to college is always going to be one of the most interesting events in our lives. Suddenly we are thrown into this crazy, new situation that’s exciting and terrifying all at once.

All of a sudden no one is going to tell me what to eat, where to go, what time to get there. Damn, we feel so grown up. If I want to wake up at 2 PM and eat a Snickers bar for breakfast, then I’m going to effing do it, and who’s going to tell me no? You? You just wandered in here at 4 AM high as hell with a bag of McDonalds apple pies. (“You” meaning my roommate. This is a true story)

Yes, I’m still awake at 4 AM. I’m on Facebook instead of writing that chem lab report. I think it was another IR spectroscopy lab. Whatever. I’ll do it an hour before class.

That was when Facebook was still interesting enough on its own to peruse for hours.

I don’t give a shit, I’m going to eat Hot Pockets for every meal today. You know that shady hookah bar downtown? Let’s go, I know it’s a Tuesday night and we have a quiz in the morning, but it’ll be fine. You brought vodka back from that frat party in a Ziploc bag? Sounds legit. (Another true story)

For one, glorious school year I got to be that college kid. That stupid, reckless, naïve college kid.

Okay that’s not all that I did, I did actually go to class and do homework, but that’s not that interesting to talk about. I can send you a myriad of proposals, literature reviews, research papers, and badly written poetry if you do want to talk about it.

And to be fair my experiences were definitely not as reckless or extreme as some of my classmates, but nowadays I think eating French toast with a side of fries and drinking OJ at 2 in the morning is pretty reckless.

Freshman year of college was the last time I was free, maybe the only time I was free. I was away from my dysfunctional and difficult home life and, to my knowledge, had no health problems. The world was a bigger place back then.

I didn’t have to test my blood sugar every few hours. I didn’t have a box of pills to take every day or give myself, sometimes very painful, injections several times a day. I didn’t have to be stressed about the fact that medical expenses and the need for health insurance would chain me to my parents until I turn 26.

I had dreams, I made plans. I had a very real attachment to that idea of what things were going to look like in the next 5 to 10 years.

As you can imagine getting diagnosed with diabetes was not part of that plan. Getting diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes was DEFINITELY not part of that plan. Honestly, I figured I might develop it someday. I knew the odds were against me with my family history, but damn 18? Fresh out of my first year of college? Good lord.

And I know, children with Type 1 diabetes will eventually grow up to be young adults in college with diabetes. Having screwed up blood sugars in college isn’t new.

But there’s something kind of depressing about having that one type of diabetes no one else on campus had. I knew some Type 1s. My boyfriend knew them all somehow.

But it wasn’t really the same. I still felt alone sometimes. I didn’t take insulin yet so when I had a high blood sugar I had to go for a run, drink a liter of water and wait. I had to simply stop eating most sources of carbohydrate since I had no way to prevent a spike.

Emotionally it was difficult. I felt like I had something really shameful, something that I needed to hide. I just couldn’t bring myself to be open about it since it wasn’t as “normal” to have Type 2 as it is to have Type 1 at such a young age.

Now, I get it, it’s not really normal or better or worse to have any kind of diabetes, but back then I still had some weird thoughts about the whole thing. I was new to the game.

Also, it was really embarrassing to tell classmates that I had the type of diabetes their grandpa/grandma/uncle/mom/cousin has.

Yes, that one, the one who had his leg amputated and then promptly died. Oh and they went blind. And their kidneys LITERALLY fell out. And they loved that sugar free chocolate you get in those plastic bags near the pharmacy counter in the grocery store. No I don’t want some, thank you…

Sometimes it was rough, sometimes my blood sugar would stay in the 400s and I’d be falling asleep in lab, hovering precariously over the fetal pig I was supposed to be dissecting . Or in class, falling asleep in the FRONT row. It was always the days I decided to sit front and center in my 20-person class that my body would decide it wanted to spike reaallllyyy high, no matter how few carbs I had that day.

Thankfully as I start grad school I have insulin to help keep everything steady. No such luck back then (no one thought to test my c-peptide I guess).

So what have I learned?

Well, aside from a load of plant bio I will never, ever use (if I’m lucky), I learned that you get through it. You’ll make mistakes along the way. You’ll deal with some pretty shitty circumstances, but you will survive. You will learn that it’s risky to eat cereal (or any really complicated bolus-y food) on the morning of a big exam, or that banana smoothies you can’t bolus for aren’t a good idea for a study snack.

Trust me about exam-food. I fell asleep during my World Civilizations ALL ESSAY midterm. It was kind of the worst.

You will also learn that there is living to be done OUTSIDE of diabetes. Sure, things are complicated and you have to manage to test your BG, get your workout in, count your carbs, take your meds, blah, blah, blah, but you’ve still got a ton of awesome experiences to be had. You can study abroad, you can go out for the intramural field hockey team, you CAN be a college student. You’ve just got to manage it a little differently.

Maybe go easy on the pizza and beer.

Rc

Oh right, T-Pain. Well this has actually nothing to do with diabetes since this happened my freshman year before my diagnosis. Sorry for the bait and switch.

One weekend T-Pain came to my university and did a show, and I went with my roommate. Because who turns down a free concert? Seriously.

There was one backup dancer that everyone was really interested in, he was topless, had clown makeup on, and was totally ripped. And my roommate was totally enamored. After the concert she SOMEHOW gets his attention, and he, she, a friend of ours (our future roommate), and I ended up in her car. Driving around the night, listening to his tales as a backup dancer. I’m not sure what happened after I decided to get out of the car, but I guess it’s one of those things I’m better off not knowing.

College is a crazy ride.

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