The Diabetic-Celiac College Existence Tornado–and how to escape it.

I don’t like going to the “Student Disabilities Office” to get a form just because I may need a juice box during exams.

I promise you, test proctor, I did not in fact hide cheat notes in my water bottle, nor did I look up answers when I needed a bathroom break.

Yes, I know it’s just down the block, but today I’m going to need a taxi there. Yes, I’ll pay whatever the fee may be that you’re requiring of me.

Oh, you have a cabinet of gluten free products in the dorm dining halls? What’s that? You can’t do any better about the obvious cross-contamination issue? You want me to call the day before and tell you when I’ll be there for a “should be” gluten free lunch?  Mmmm, enticing, but no thanks.

Diabetic-celiac life in college sucks. It just does. I hope thus far I’ve convinced you of my optimism, and the importance of taking perspective, but there’s also a time to be blunt. For me, the time to be blunt with all of you is now.

As with every other part of my existence, there are ways to alleviate the difficulties, but by no means does it mean I’m left feeling like my existence in the college-sphere is fair, or equal to everyone else, but I can only try. And I don’t think that diabetic-celiac college students will feel that way for at least another 5-10 years, when universities finally recognize the need to catch up with the rest of the world that has jumped on the strictly gluten free bandwagon, and hopefully diabetes is cured [because I’d really trade any food intolerance in the world for a diabetes cure]. None of this “it should be okay” B.S. when I ask if my dinner is definitely 100% gluten and soy free.

Since my first day on campus, I’ve lived in an apartment. At first glance, this seems like a dream come true—a centrally located, new building. My own room, a clean shower. A kitchen, a gym in the building. No rules. As a freshman, at that. While, yes absolutely this is all true, and I have so much gratitude for my parents who worked so hard to make my difficult situation as easy as possible by putting me in a building right by my classes and the bus stop, getting me a Zipcar subscription to make groceries easier than taking the Ann Arbor Transit busses, and finding me a place [and furnishing it!] that I could feel at home in, as a freshman my world was, in yet another way, very different from my peers.

Apartment life is time consuming—part of the reason why I always want to share quick recipes. Saturdays I normally spend about 2 hours cleaning my apartment, and it’s just a small studio space. Every two weeks I have to schedule my Zipcar and brave whatever weather conditions hit me, and the added difficulties of my building now preventing me from unloading behind the building with my flashers on, to be sure I have enough to eat. And obviously, a diabetic-celiac college kid isn’t about to eat Easy Mac for a multitude of reasons.

Hopefully I’ve painted an accurate picture of my challenges. I think it’s important that I’m realistic about this topic, because I went into the whole “diabetic-celiac in college” life without any idea of what to expect. And hey, maybe there are other campuses that have more than one or two casual restaurants [that are centrally located!] for strictly gluten free food, like is the unfortunate case in Ann Arbor. Sure, I can always go for a great meal in the downtown area—about ¾ of a mile from my place—but as a college kid, I’m not about to go spend, spend, spend on a simple dinner with friends, and neither are they for that matter!

So here’s the deal. It’s tough. I never realized how much the rides to the doctor’s office or school from my mom alleviated my stress until I’d taken on making/driving to the doctors appointments, walking to pick up prescriptions from the CVS on the other end of Central Campus, trudging to class through the snow and ice of the arctic winter [or maybe a cab day here and there for those messy, dizzy blood sugar days], driving to the grocery store, unloading groceries and praying your raspberries didn’t get squished and that your ice cream didn’t melt, making time to study, doing research to bulk up that resume and determine what you’re going to do with your life…and WHOOSH. You’ve been sucked right into the diabetic-celiac college existence. At least as it is for me. Here. At the University of Michigan. As a sophomore biomedical engineering, pre-medicine major. Who chose to do research in the Neuromuscular Lab on technologies for bionic limbs in the future. And be vice president of the Jewish Engineering Association. And coordinate a Peer Mentor Program in the College of Engineering. And join the Ballroom Dance Team. And manage to have some crazy definition of a social life, with friends flying in and out of my apartment, grabbing a Hershey’s Kiss or Jolly Rancher from the glass bowl I blew in the hot shop over break on my living room table.

There will be a moment, hell there will be many moments, where you’ll probably feel like you’re destined to drown. It’s happened to me many a time. But, never, ever forget that you’re doing things for you. The extra five dollars for the cab means that you’ve chosen to prioritize your class over your intolerable diabetic mess. The late nights cramming a last minute allocations form for bagels you won’t even be able to eat at the next Jewish Engineering Association event means that you’ve chosen to take yourself outside of your diabetic-celiac bubble and involve yourself in things that are greater than the micro-existence. And that, right there, is how to survive as a diabetic-celiac in college.

Take it easy, but take it.

Brianna

First visit to Michigan!

First visit to Michigan!

First football Saturday!

First football Saturday!

All geared up for football!

All geared up for football!

It's true, nearly everyone wears Michigan stuff at least once a week. More often, it's daily.

It’s true, nearly everyone wears Michigan stuff at least once a week. More often, it’s daily.

IMG_1197

One of my “braving the weather” pictures I’ve sent home…

Waiting to watch the basketball championship game--sophomore year.

Waiting to watch the basketball championship game–sophomore year.

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First Michigan hockey game! Thanks for taking me, Nate!

{So, for someone who barely attends UM sports games…I realize I have quite the impressive photo lineup. I officially determined I can pretend to be that cool UM sports fan to my children someday.}

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