Finding Support on Campus
“I was nervous starting college my freshman year because I did not know how I was going to handle my ulcerative colitis, something that is such a huge part of my life, when I was kind of embarrassed to talk about it. However, I was lucky enough to find support through my friends on campus, and fortunately I never felt ashamed for having the disease I have.”
-Sarah Kate DelaCourt- member of the National Council of College Leaders
Starting college with IBD can be a very challenging time. Between meeting new people, starting classes, living somewhere unfamiliar, and managing your autoimmune disease- it can get a bit overwhelming! Freshman year is an exciting time, but it can also bring about anxious thoughts about managing your disease and where, when, or how to ask for help. However, on your campus there are many resources for you to check out that will be beneficial throughout your college journey. Even if you think you do not need some of these resources now, it is helpful to know what is out there just in case.
There may be resources that you already seek for support, or perhaps there may be additional help on your college campus. If your college has a Disability Services center, this is a great resource for assistance and potential accommodations.
In addition, being in a place with all new people eventually means you are going to have to tell your new friends about your disease. Talking to your roommates about your needs within the dorm can be an important step in making sure you and your roommates feel comfortable and understand how to best accommodate your living space for your needs. The most important thing is that you have people whom you can talk to about your disease, and that you feel comfortable around these individuals.
Finding Support in Friends
One of the most important things about transitioning to college with IBD is finding friends that you can talk about your disease journey with. It will be very helpful to have close people, whether they are roommates, suitemates, or newfound friends that you are comfortable enough with to talk about your IBD. Going to college can be a very lonely time, but it does not have to be. Remember, you only have to share with others what you want to; never feel pressured to share more than you would like to. Your friends are most likely the people you will spend most of your time around, so they will see your highs and your lows.
Finding Support Groups
Support groups can be very beneficial to you as a patient and an advocate for yourself. Support groups might seem scary at first because you have to go and talk about your disease to people you do not know. But, most of the time the people in the room all have IBD as well, or have been seriously impacted by IBD in some way. You might be able to find a local support group by going to the disability resources center on your campus. You can ask the employees there if they know of any IBD-centered support groups on your campus or in your area, and sometimes the centers allow for people to put flyers up so you can check those as well. Lastly, you can choose to start your own support group! Your disability resources center may also be helpful in promoting your support group, or giving out the support group’s information to anyone that may be interested in attending.
Click here to find a support group through the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.
Finding Support in your healthcare team
Sometimes travelling to college means going far away from your physician in your hometown. College students may only get to come home once or twice a semester, so establishing another GI doctor in your college campus area can be helpful. This is another great way for you to be an advocate for yourself in your new area. For starters, you can talk to your current physician about any physicians they may know in your college town to get you connected with. Another option is to use the following link to find a GI doctor that specializes in UC and Crohn’s in your new area.
Helpful tips on finding support:
- For starters, going to the disability resource center will be a great initiative for you, whether you choose to sign up for the services or not. Some centers even allow local support groups to advertise their meetings there, and the employees at the center may know of local groups as well!
- Another tip to remember is to not isolate yourself. Others may not understand exactly what you are going through with your illness, but it is important to be open to talking to someone about it!
- Another great resource that many schools offer is on-staff therapists. These professionals can be very helpful for big transitions, especially when you have to transition to a new place and you are managing IBD.
Other helpful resources: