I absolutely cannot believe that as I’m sitting here, I’m about halfway through the second week of my second semester in college. The first semester truly flew by, but I can’t say that I miss it all too much.
Coming to college, older friends and family kept telling me how college would be a learning experience, and that I would just learn oh so much about myself. I definitely did not believe them, nor did I anticipate just how much I would learn about myself and college life. For instance, my first semester taught me how important consistency is, as well as having a real schedule and a daily list indicating what things need to get done. (That goes for academics and diabetes).
In high school, most of my friends and I were in all honors and AP classes and managed to get by in some of our classes with the minimum effort required; that is to say, cramming the night before for exams and writing papers the night (or sometimes morning) before they were due.
Unfortunately for me, I didn’t quite eradicate that mindset coming in to college. I assumed that I would be able to get by with the same habits I had adopted in high school. Big mistake. I won’t get too into it, but let’s just say that as expected, college is way different than high school and requires an intensely mature and committed mindset (especially here at Bryn Mawr!)
Not only did my flawed mindset affect my academics, but it affected my diabetes as well. As I found myself constantly on the edge trying to complete papers and other assignments on time and of adequate quality, the stress started to affect my blood sugar levels. In some ways, diabetes fell on the back burner and was not my main priority. Another big mistake. It turned into a vicious cycle where stress made it difficult to maintain steady blood sugar levels, and that in turn only created more stress.
Coming into this semester I was much more prepared and had a list of ways to keep myself on track both academically and in regards to my diabetes. I’m actually really excited about how well it’s been working and can’t wait to see the positive outcomes in the future. The main way that I’ve been making sure my blood glucose levels stay in control is by making myself an official diabetes binder. I know, not the most innovative idea, but it really, really works. Here’s a look at the binder I’ve actually grown quite fond of:
I’ve preprinted one month’s worth of log sheets, and throughout the day when I’m in and out of my dorm, or sometimes just at the end of the day, I go through my meter and jot down my readings from the day. Not only is this beneficial in terms of seeing patterns, but for me constantly seeing how few — or how many — times I’ve checked in a day motivates me to either maintain checking that often or to check more frequently.
For some reason when I don’t write my numbers down, it’s easier to justify not checking or holding off until my next snack, meal, etc. There’s something so concrete about writing numbers down that really makes me feel like I’m totally in control of my diabetes.
And if those reasons aren’t convincing enough, we all know how miserable it is the day of an appointment with your endo or CDE having to write down at least three weeks worth of numbers. Lighten up that load and just do a small amount every day. Trust me, it’s not nearly as daunting as it sounds. If you prepare the materials ahead of time it becomes habit. (Not only do I record my sugar levels in the binder along with extra notes regarding my blood glucose that day, but I also record my exercise regimen. It helps motivate me to keep going to the gym every day!) There’s a lot to be said in terms of how you feel and the way you go about your day and how that in turn affects your sugar levels.
A lot of this post has simply been about my life at college in ways that may seem irrelevant to diabetes. But another lesson that I’ve learned is that I can’t just magically make my diabetes work if I’m not consistent with everything else I do. I’m seeing so many parallels in the way I’m changing how I manage my diabetes to the way I’m managing every other aspect of college life.
It’s all about taking small steps to achieve big goals. Think of diabetes as a massive amount of laundry you need to do (which I feel like I’m always trying to accomplish). Since initially getting back to school and accepting the massive pile of laundry I needed to do, I forced myself to do one load a day rather than try and accomplish it all in one day and take up a ridiculous amount of time and energy.
Eventually, I caught up on all of my laundry and could move on to the next task. Same goes for diabetes. Start by saying you’ll check one more time a day, or you’ll record your sugar levels once a day. Soon you’ll find that it becomes much less of a burden, and you’ll be able to move onto the next task. Setting a new target range, perhaps, or maybe a new A1C.
The best lesson I ever learned regarding Type 1 is that you control the diabetes, it doesn’t control you. Once you make the conscious decision and real commitment, you’ll see that perhaps it’s not as bad as you thought. It takes time and effort, but if you stay on top of it every single day, it’ll be really tough for diabetes to get the best of you.