College, Diabetes, and Self-Care

October 25, 2017
Madison Lambert
Simmons College '19

My name is Madison Lambert, I am 19 years old and a first-year student at Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts. Being a social work major, the topic of self-care comes up just about every day. I was diagnosed with type one diabetes at the age of 18; less than a year ago on August 6, 2015. I was diagnosed during a routine appointment at my pediatrician’s office with a blood glucose of over 600 and immediately sent to the emergency room. I found myself having to fine tune and create new self-care techniques within the next few days of my diagnosis. I believe you can never have too many methods of self-care, and find myself learning new ones every day.

Here are some self-care methods that I found work well for me:

· Humor: On the car ride to the emergency room, I could tell my mom was panicking – neither of us were familiar with type one diabetes and were unsure of what was next. My method of coping and self-care, at that moment, was to make jokes and laugh at billboard advertisements we passed. I continue to use humor everyday as a self-care technique, if you don’t laugh you might cry.

“I believe you can never have too many methods of self-care, and find myself learning new ones every day.”
· Learning about T1D: I did not want to think about what might be happening when I did not have any of the answers. I didn’t know what I could eat or how to control my blood sugar yet. So, I began researching… reading stories and blogs that people wrote who also have type one diabetes. I found much more information than what was given to me in the hospital, as well as tips and tricks you only learn from fellow T1D’s (like how a box of lancets actually last for a lifetime for me). I find comfort in learning about other peoples’ experiences and stories. Staying calm and taking care of myself is being able to learn about the topic at hand from other people.

· Finding connections and talking to other T1D’s: I didn’t know anyone with T1D and I wanted to find people to relate to. I found the connections that I needed by fluke. It was during an orientation field trip and my friend and I were talking about diabetes; one of the orientation leaders turned around and said “my friend is looking for a diabestie!”. I quickly met with a junior at Simmons named Hannah and her two other diabesties: Alison and Meghan. I am fortunate enough to have also met a handful of other T1D’s along the way. In my experience, being able to talk to other people in a similar situation helps me keep control of my diabetes and well-being.

· Taking Action: Alison, Hannah, Meghan, and I wanted to connect with more T1D’s, so we went to work becoming an official organization at Simmons and to become a chapter of The Diabetes Link. With our efforts, we are able to create further connections with T1D’s and allies. Being able to educate others about diabetes by holding events and raising awareness gives me a sense of empowerment and control over my diabetes.

· Eat!: One important self-care tip is remembering to eat. Debating on whether to get up an extra 30 minutes early for my 8 A.M. class to eat breakfast or to get every last minute of sleep possible was something that went on in my mind many mornings last semester. But I knew that I’d feel (even) crummier if I didn’t eat breakfast before class, so I would somehow find the energy to get up earlier to get breakfast.

· Taking time for yourself: Living in dorms, surrounded by your friends, does not always provide for the most alone time; but for me, finding that time is important. Sometimes, it is best to disconnect from your friends for a couple of hours and spend time collecting yourself; whether it be watching Netflix or taking a nap. Spending an hour watching cooking videos on Facebook is not the most productive thing I can be doing, but it is something I enjoy doing to destress.

“In my experience, being able to talk to other people in a similar situation helps me keep control of my diabetes and well-being. ”
· Sleep: I’ve discovered that setting a bedtime at college is beneficial. Without one, I found myself up late when I had an 8 AM class the next morning. Whether it was studying for an exam, doing homework, or being with friends, I found myself staying up very late. By setting a bedtime for myself (most nights), I am able to get more and better quality sleep.

Self-care in general is imperative for anyone to practice, but becomes even more important for college students, and more important still for students with T1D. Life is stressful, college is stressful, and managing T1D is stressful. With that combination, T1D students have a lot on their plates. Without self-care, I would be a big ball of unproductivity. With self-care techniques and incredible connections to other T1D’s and allies, I am able to manage my diabetes and college more effectively than if I did not have these supports in place

It is important to remember, while my experiences with these methods of self-care work for me, everyone is different and may have a very different way to take care of themselves. Spend some time thinking of what would work for you – and make time to do it!

Editor’s note: Lexicon is a Corporate Member and is dedicated to bringing awareness to the relationship between T1D and mental health. Watch our Mental Health and T1D Facebook Live event, which was made possible by funding from Lexicon.

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