Talking to my first college roommate about my T1D

We have a new member on medical team! Raegan Perkins was a dietary intern for Camp Kudzu for 2020 and has now joined our community as the new Medical Coordinator. She is a registered dietitian and has been living with T1D since she was a teen. She has wealth of knowledge on food and nutrition and first hand experience with the peaks and valleys of dealing with diabetes. Here, she shares a story about transitioning into college and talking to her roommate about her T1D.

My name is Raegan Perkins. 16 years ago I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes—a month before my 13th birthday. It changed my life and everyone’s life around me, to say the least. This is a story about how my mom helped me communicate my disease to my first roommate.

I did not like my diabetes being a main topic and preferred it being a cliff-note in college related conversations. This was a big hurdle when it came time to talk with my roommate about T1D. My mom had to figure out how to work with me to improve how and when I discussed my diabetes, to put her own mind at ease and develop me into the successful, independent adult I wanted to be.

After I received my roommate’s contact information, my mom and I discussed how and when to talk to my FIRST roommate about diabetes. I didn’t want to lead with diabetes, and instead preferred to be viewed as someone who happened to have diabetes. So, my mom and I decided to wait a little before telling my roommate. My mom did specify I would need to have ‘the talk’ well before move-in day—just in case there was any discomfort for her about it.

My roommate and I connected and hit it off right way, so it was easy for me to have ‘the talk’ with her by our third conversation. Luckily, Kendra was awesome and was thankfully not freaked out (my biggest fear). We were discussing the fact we both had a mini fridge, which was an easy transition point since mine would be a storage place for insulin. I started with “just so you know, I want to be up front about the fact I have type one diabetes…” followed by a short explanation of T1D and ends with “…but I’ve been managing it with minimal issues for years.” Since she was going to be my roommate, I followed up saying “we can discuss this more, I know you’ll have questions and there are a few things I’d like you to know about my diabetes. Please let me know if you are not comfortable living with me because of this.”

Key things from my perspective: First, my mom gave me a deadline but let me lead the conversation. She even roleplayed some scenarios with me in preparation. This helped me gain more independence and take on responsibility for my care in a constructive manner. Second, bringing it up casually made the conversation not feel forced, which made all involved more comfortable. Third, stating facts without overwhelming a roommate and leaving the conversation open gave my roommate time to digest the information and ask questions as she was comfortable. Finally, after answering her initial questions, my mom helped me draft an email to recap important points and provide my roommate and her family with resources to review at their leisure.

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