The ‘Highway’ of Campus Life

Many of us take our meal options for granted. We look at a hearty sandwich or rich piece of chocolate cake and don’t think much of it. But for diabetics, carbohydrate counting and accompanying insulin calculations are mixed into their daily recipe of food choices.

November 14th is World Diabetes Day — the perfect time to acquaint yourself with some of the unique challenges those living with the condition encounter.

By Sean Cousins 

The fast-pace lifestyle that comes with the territory of being on campus is an experience open for all students but how it is experienced presumably differs in a remarkable way.  Imagine, for instance, being confronted with food choices that offer rich amounts of carbohydrates; where options to select a particular meal are mediated through a fast-food menu or based on choosing items in a vending machine filled with soft drinks, energy bars, candies and sweets.   This hypothetically constructed scenario may not sound like a troubling one for many; however, for someone living with diabetes the situation of choosing a particular meal or drink is always a consequential affair that plays out on the body and mind in particularly visceral ways. 

It might be useful to consider the specific case of deliberating upon a selection of alcoholic beverages.   In this instance a person living with diabetes is likely to be thinking strategically.  For example, how much carbohydrates are in this drink or that one?  Should I just go with the regular, everyday, diet soft drink instead?  How will others think of me giving so much thought to this situation?  Will the company I am with think of me as having a strange persona if I decide to drink the beverage at a slower than expected pace?  Do I need to share that I live with diabetes?   How will others relate to me afterwards?  There are many more pressing questions that form in the mind of persons living with diabetes; I know, for I have been living with diabetes for 26 years and also share my passion for advocacy and education with the Canadian Diabetes Association. 

A simple miscue in carbohydrate counting means that later I will be paying for it in a lived way.  Fatigue, irritability, and shortness of breath if I am short of insulin; dizziness, blurred vision, and sweating if I took too much of insulin.  Aside from the short-term physiological complications, there is the added dimension of experiencing the effects of being involved in social relations.   I do not like to “show” to others what it means to have diabetes through the performance of a disabling experience, such as having a “low” or “high” blood sugar.   I would much prefer to talk about my relationship to diabetes by explaining how an invisible disability becomes visible through forms of engagement in the world around me.   Thank you for taking the time to understand a bit more about diabetes and for allowing me to share in a constructive way what it is like to live with an invisible  chronic metabolic disorder.