COLLEGE AND CROHN'S DISEASE
By Natalie Hill
College comes with increased freedom but also increased stress. I quickly realized that I was no longer able to rely on my parents to solve my problems for me. I had to balance all of my responsibilities. I had to learn to grocery shop, pay rent for my apartment and balance my classes with involvement and a social life. Freshman year I was very focused on the social aspects of college. I went out almost every weekend to one of the local bars or to fraternity parties with my friends. I also kept up my involvement and ended first semester of freshman year taking 17 hours with grades I could be proud of, even while I was involved in four campus organizations. I felt great and was proud of myself for finding a balance that "worked" for me. Truthfully, what I was doing was not really working. The reality was going out with my friends every weekend was not sustainable. I was spreading myself way too thin. I was in classes or meetings twelve hours a day. I was not getting enough sleep and I certainly was not 'crushing it' like all of my friends and teachers thought. I had to learn to take a step back and evaluate what was important to me. I had to prioritize my health instead of a social life. One of the biggest lessons I have learned from having Crohn's disease is that I have to put myself and my health first. I only get one body and one life and I have to spend time making myself the healthiest I possibly can.
Overall, college has been wonderful. I have incredible friends and I am very happy. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) changed my life and my career path. I decided, before entering college, that I wanted to pursue dietetics as a major so that I could become a dietitian and help children treat their diseases through diet like I did. My biggest advice is: listen to what your body is telling you. If you're too tired to go out at night, stay in. If your friends are really your friends, they will understand and help you pick a movie. If that organization you are involved in on campus is not bringing you joy, quit. You have to invest in yourself and your health and you will feel so much better giving yourself what you need instead of pushing it.
Natalie Hill grew up in Atlanta and is now a senior dietetics student at Auburn University. Natalie was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease in 2013 and has managed it through both medication and the SCD diet. Natalie plans to work in pediatric dietetics after her postgraduate internship.
This article, as well as all others, was reviewed and edited by a member of our Medical Advisory Board.
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