7 Things I Want My College Classmates to Know About My Gastroparesis

It’s a new school year at the College of Charleston. Things are exciting and happening so fast. You’re probably feeling anxious, excited, and perhaps even a little bit nervous. You’re excited about living away at school and being able to experience everything college has to offer. And if we are living together, I know you didn’t sign up to be my roommate and you’re going into the unknown, just like I am with you. But here are somethings that can help adjust living and going to school with someone who has chronic illnesses, such as gastroparesis.

1. I know seeing all this medical equipment can be kind of frightening, but don’t be scared of it. It’s helping keep me alive and it’s not going to hurt… unless you stub your toe on the IV pole.

2. Don’t be afraid to invite people to do things because you aren’t sure if they are able to do what you’re planning on doing. I can still do everything that people with non chronic illnesses do. I don’t let my illnesses limit me. I can still go out with everyone, go shopping, etc. But on the rare occasion I can’t do what you, I still appreciate you inviting me to go with you. I might not be able to eat, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to go to the dining hall with the suite or classmates. I go for the socialization aspect of it.

3. It might be weird seeing me carrying my medical backpack around campus, but please remember that it is helping me survive. I will be the girl bringing two backpacks to school because I may need my feeding tube during the daytime if my feeds do not finish overnight. Please don’t stare. If you don’t know what it is attached to me, please talk to me! I would love to explain to you why I have the machine and feeding tube. I would rather have you ask than continue staring. I am more than willing to answer any question you may think of.

4. I will have a weird nap schedule. I might take a nap at 5 p.m. and then wake up and go back to bed at 9 p.m. Going to classes and experiencing college life can be exhausting for everyone, but having chronic illnesses, can make it even more exhausting. Please be courteous if you see me napping at strange hours or sleeping in late some mornings.

5. If my feeding tube pump goes off in class, please don’t be alarmed. It sometimes goes off because of various reasons. I do not intend on it going off during class time, but it might.

To my professors: I might have to get up random times and excuse myself to throw up. I am not trying to get out of doing classwork or an in-class assignment. I will be back and I am not leaving to use my phone. I enjoy going to class.

6. Please remember I am a person just like you, and I want to be treated just like everyone else. I don’t want any special treatment or to be looked down on because I am not exactly like you and everyone else. There is a lot you don’t know about me and I want to be given a fair chance, without any sympathy.

7. Lastly, please remember that just because I have chronic illnesses, it doesn’t mean I don’t belong here. I belong here just as much as you. Please don’t judge who I am by just looking on the outside.

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