Diabetes and Campus Social Life

Posted by shannon on Thu, 11/01/2012 - 15:27 in

Shannon Smith is a sophomore in college. Diagnosed at age 10, Shannon grew up taking an active and relatively independent role in her diabetes care; however, heading to college presented some new questions and challenges for her. For the next few weeks, Shannon will share some of her experiences transitioning to this increased level of independence.

If you ask anyone on the street what the first thing that comes to their mind when you mention the word ‘college’ is, they would probably say ‘parties.’ Yes, a large aspect of college social life happens on frat row or at house parties. I knew this before I got on campus, but for some reason I didn’t realize how much of a role my diabetes would play in my college social life.

shannon-smith-college-356x400How Would My Social Life Affect My Diabetes?

During every visit to the endocrinologist, starting from about age 14 or 15, the doctor drills into our heads: “Try not to drink alcohol; it affects your blood sugars.” I know the effects of alcohol on blood sugars and how people with diabetes can find themselves hospitalized from a bad night out.

However, it seems that parties in general are unavoidable if you want to have any type of social life in college. Evidently that means there will be alcohol present and it is slightly taboo if you don’t partake in the festivities. But does that mean as a diabetic, or even just as me being me, that I have to drink? College parties tend to be in dark places with loud music and people bumping into one another. Some questions I subconsciously worried about were: Would someone bump into my Omnipod? Where would I put my meter?

Now call me a goody two-shoes, but I didn’t go out partying my first semester in college. From adjusting to school work, meeting new people and getting involved on campus, I didn’t really have the time. ‘Partying’ still only plays a minuscule part in my social life, but it is fun to go out to themed parties with my friends and to let loose once in a while.

Experiencing my First Campus Party

My first on-campus party was exactly what I expected. There were drunk people, the party was dark with loud music and it was terribly overcrowded. I felt awkward with my diabetes at first, when someone bumped into my Pod or noticed that I was the only one who seemed to be carrying a small pocketbook/wristlet. (Where else was I going to keep my meter and testing supplies?!)

My uneasiness only increased when someone shoved drinks into our hands. I remember looking down at mine thinking, “What is this?”Alcohol, duh. But what kind? What type of mix was it in? What would happen if I drank it, blood sugar-wise? Should I listen to my endocrinologist’s advice about not giving insulin? If that’s true, then why was my blood sugar high after I had one drink?

At that moment at the house party, I remember thinking that I wished I wasn’t a diabetic, because I wouldn’t have these additional concerns about social norms. After the party I realized that I didn’t need to participate in those kinds of social aspects of college all the time to have a fun night.

Finding What Works Best for Me

Finding a group of friends has really been a relaxer for me when it comes to my diabetes and my social life. Now my friends and I socialize in our apartments, making party snacks, watching a game or a movie, and hanging out. This past summer I took a mixology class (because I waitressed as a part-time job) and ever since, my friends have loved me being ‘behind the bar.’ And it works out great for me!

Come back as Shannon continues to share experiences at college with diabetes.