I’m back with another edition of my Ask Allison series! Have a question for this diabetes journalist and nearly 20 year veteran PWD? Because if I don’t have the answer, I know someone who does!
Brea writes: Any advice for getting through high school with diabetes? Specifically on dating and guys? Also, how not to let my blood sugars affect my tests and quizzes and grades? Thanks :)
Coincidentally, this weekend is my 10th high school reunion. While I’m not exactly a fresh out of high school graduate, I still remember how complicated diabetes can make the growing pains of high school.
So let’s break this down and start with the easy stuff: guys. What? I didn’t date in high school, so it’s easy for me! Just kidding. Dating and diabetes is hard at any age. Actually, dating is hard at any age, let alone with diabetes. As I wrote in my two year wedding anniversary post a couple of weeks ago, I think it’s very important to keep a few things in mind. First, you will find someone who loves you for you — all of you, including diabetes — and that if someone isn’t interested, it’s their loss. It is not your responsibility to convince someone of anything. Guys are inherently immature compared to girls, and so they’re more likely to get stuck believing stupid misconceptions.
That being said, there are also a ton of awesome guys out there who won’t bat an eye at diabetes because, hey, a girl likes them! That alone is pretty powerful stuff, no matter how old you are. You didn’t specifically mention if a particular guy was doing or saying something to you about your diabetes, but if they are, I’m a huge believer in being upfront and honest about your diabetes. Don’t overdramatize it, but don’t downplay it either. It’s important, but it’s not the whole Brea package either. Find someone who understands this. You want someone who appreciates you, while also knowing that appreciating you means accepting and taking care of your diabetes properly. Don’t waste your time with jerks.
I know you’ll roll your eyes at this but, seriously, you’re in high school! You have the rest of your life to worry about boys! Go do your homework!
And on that note… Diabetes definitely can impact your academic performance. If you attend a public high school, do you have a Section 504 plan or IEP (Individualized Education Plan) in place? That can help protect you if you have a high or low blood sugar that makes it difficult to take a test with everyone else. Work with your parents and your school’s administration to get it set up. If you need extra help, the American Diabetes Association is a pro that this kind of stuff. They have all sorts of resources on the subject.
When you get to college, make sure to talk to the Student Services department. They can often help make certain accommodations for students with disabilities, and diabetes definitely counts as a diabetes. Certain accommodations may include extra time to finish an exam, changing the date of an exam, or allowing food and/or drink into the classroom.
I met with my Student Services department when I first started college at the University of Oregon. They drafted up a letter based on what I felt my needs were, and then gave me a copy that I could send to my professors at the start of every term. It was very useful because there were a couple of times where I had a low blood sugar right at the beginning of an exam and I needed extra time to finish.
Edit: Sara at Moments of Wonderful coincidentally posted her own personal story of accommodations in college. Very good and important read!
Getting through high school is sadly a lot like getting through life with diabetes. You’ll deal with people who don’t understand or will say stupid things. You’ll have diabetes emergencies that get in the way of what you want to do. And you’ll have to juggle all the commitments with diabetes along with your “real life.” But you’ll hopefully discover that there is a huge support system out there ready to help. That your parents, your friends and your teachers all want you to be healthy, happy and successful. That they probably feel badly that you have diabetes, and they just aren’t sure what to do. That they want to hear from you about what you need.
The Diabetes Online Community is also here to help support you, so if you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to ask!