Dealing with Celiac Disease in College.

After being diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2018, prior to transferring to UCSB,  I wondered what the rest of my college life would be like. Celiac Disease is an autoimmune condition where the body affected is physically incapable of processing gluten. Gluten can be found in not only food and drink, but also beauty products and every day objects such as the glue that closes an envelope. Coming into contact with gluten containing products or foods is very dangerous for someone with Celiac. It can leave the the small intestine severely compromised as well as cause other symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss, anemia and even depression. 

As a transfer student, I was already nervous coming to UCSB. I had so many questions about school, work, and living with roommates. However, I had even more questions unrelated to school when I realized that living with celiac disease while away from home wasn’t going to be easy. The questions of “how will I eat out if I have to, how do I tell my roommates they can’t put their food near mine, how am I going to use appliances without getting sick?” festered at the forefront of my thoughts. 

After moving to attend UCSB, I knew my life would be a lot different. I feared not having the traditional college experience because of my disease. I realized that most of my long days would need to be planned way in advance for me to be able to eat and work. I remember an instance where at the dining hall, I sat at a table amongst friends with an empty plate in front of me because I wasn’t able to eat. I realized that most of my options were pricey packaged snacks found on campus. At first I was stuck with a busy schedule and unable to have any of the go to dining options on campus; I felt defeated. I went to restaurants with friends unable to eat a single thing and went out fearing the worst if I tried to eat or drink something. 

However, after almost two quarters dealing with Celiac Disease in college, I've learned that putting your health first is extremely important no matter the consequence. I've learned to say no when my body was tired and it was evident that my symptoms were severe. I've learned that those who truly care for you, have your best interests in mind and will understand your needs no matter how ridiculous they may seem. Even if it means taking an extra rest or sitting out of some events or meals. It can be frustrating to be the odd one out or the one that plans have to revolve around, and can be sad to hear that plans have to be changed because of you. There are times when I want to speak up for myself and for my health yet I feel guilty for doing so. Dealing with Celiac in college may present itself as difficult, and at times it will be, but it just takes preparation. It doesn’t mean forgoing birthday parties, nights out with friends or living with roommates. It takes trust, research, knowledge and planning, but it's doable even when it feels impossible.