Diabetes with Roommates

Contributor
Meggie Green, Seattle University '18

Diabetes can seem like a huge burden sometimes, and even worse, it can make you feel like you are a burden on those around you. No one likes feeling like they have to be taken care of, but here’s the thing- Diabetes doesn’t make us any less able to take care of ourselves, it just means we might need a little love and support to keep us going through some of the highs and the lows (diabetes pun intended)! You’re not a burden- you’re a bundle of sugary joy and you and your roommate are going to have a really educational and sweet year. 

I was diagnosed with T1D in my sophomore year of college, and my biggest support system throughout that was my roommates. In my 3 years of college, I have lived with 11 different roommates. Beyond teaching me a thing or two about how not to burn pizza, how to manage homework all-nighters and how to sleep through a hair dryer (basic life skills), living with roommates has taught me how to make the most of a built-in support system with my diabetes. Whether you go into a roommate situation with your best friend forever or a complete stranger, here are some things I have learned about how you can make the most of your situation:

1. Talk to them. Tell them about your diagnosis (if you feel comfortable). This can feel a bit weird, especially when it’s one of the first things you talk about. Here are a few things you can do to make the situation just even a little less awkward. You can go for the subtle conversation starter by leaving your supplies in a very communal area, prompting the roommate to ask about it. Or you could go casual: Say “hello, I’m _. I’m a dia-badass, dia-beauty, dia-boss, dia-babe, (enter your own)”. Or you could do what I did and place your CGM in a super visible area, or bolus in front of them, in which case they will definitely ask about it. There are a number of ways to bring up this conversation (be as creative as you want with it, or just do it casually, whatever makes you comfortable)! But definitely make sure they know this is an important aspect of your life. Having people close to me know about T1D (literally very close while living in the dorms), has been extremely comforting.

2. Make sure your roommies know what your needs are. Have them help you with it even! I buy a huge bag of candy at the beginning of each quarter of school and give a handful to each of my roommates to keep on hand for me in case I start looking off. My advice here: make sure you buy candy that you don’t like if you’re going to use candy to fix lows. If I like a candy I buy as a precaution for lows I just snack on it. And snack and snack and snack and wow now blood glucose =300.

3. At some point, maybe after you get to know you roommate a bit, give them a tiny lesson on how to recognize your symptoms (if you want to- I love giving these mini lessons!). I always let my friends know I get grumpy when I’m high, kind of intoxicated-feeling or dizzy when I’m low, (and when I say I’m low that does not mean I need insulin!)

4. For roommates that you have a problem with: Out of all of my roommate experiences so far, I have only had one bad one in terms of how they dealt with my diabetes. This roommate refused to learn about my condition or try to understand it, but was adamant about telling me what I could/should do or not do because of my diabetes. After several attempts to explain to her that no, I can eat bread if I bolus for it (because that’s what insulin is for), and that actually I can go out and do things on my own because I can take care of myself, I finally moved into a new dorm room. In that rare situation where a roommate closes themself off to you and your condition, GREAT NEWS: You can switch roommates! You don’t need that negativity. And the housing directors (if you’re living on a college campus) totally understand that.

5. Finally: Hang up a picture of good old Nick Jonas or Halle Berry because they’re diabaddasses too. And you’re a diabadass. And your roommate has to love them. And you.

Editors Note: Did you know CDN has brand new Off to College Booklets for parents/caregivers and students. They cover everything from what to pack to how to talk to your roommate about T1D to managing T1D on campus. Check out a preview of the parent one here and the student booklet here. You can request you copy by filling out this form.