As many of you know, I have just graduated from college, and it’s time for me to begin my journey into “Real Life.” I’m not quite sure what this means for me quite yet, but I can feel many, many changes coming my way.

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Every year, I make a list a couple weeks before New Year’s of the things that I want to accomplish in the upcoming year. I tell myself that I will start working on my list on January 1 of the new year, and that this year will be my best one yet.

Come February, I’m back to my old ways.

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I’ve always read and heard about how journaling can be beneficial and therapeutic, and even more so for those living with mental illnesses. I’ve always loved the idea of journaling; the book itself, the pens, the prompt, but I could never seem to keep up with it. I never knew what to put in it once I got started. Over time, though, I realized that there isn’t a right or a wrong way to journal. I think of it as a “stream of consciousness.”

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A professor of mine died last week after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. I had him during my first semester at university for a “human spirituality” course, and even though I didn’t know him well, I thought he was amazing and admired him very much. He was brilliant and charming and funny, and during the service, so many of his students and colleagues, former peers, and other experts in his field spoke of how caring and gentle he was, how he could shrug off anything and just be at peace.

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This time of year is supposed to be special and joyful and full of fun. We all have our own ideas of the perfect holiday, the perfect family get-togethers and conversations, the perfect meal. But then life gets in the way and we’re all wrenched from our little festive holiday bubble.

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Regardless of whether or not you’re experiencing a state of depression or in a crisis or feeling pretty positive, it can be hard to love yourself and practice self-compassion. A lot of times, I hear other people who live with bipolar disorder and other mental health problems say that they hate themselves or feel ashamed of the things they feel. (read: My Irrational Bipolar Brain Makes Me Hate Myself) For me, personally, I can tell myself, cognitively, that my feelings aren’t my fault, but it’s very hard to believe that emotionally.

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Sometimes, I think about the people I went to school with when I was a kid and a teenager and I wonder where they are now, what their lives are like. Are they successful? Do they have their own homes? A nice and enjoyable career, or have they moved away?

Many of us view our young adulthood years as the time when we find some of our first jobs and apartments and having the freedom to begin “Life.” But some of us aren’t so lucky.

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For those of us in college, the end is almost here. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I can already imagine the feelings of relief and gratefulness. This is a scary time. The end of your academic life, the preparation for “real life” after college. Many, many college students and young adults feel inadequate and lost when entering “real life,” and this is undoubtedly one of the most, if not the worst, stressful time in one’s life. There are so many things to do. Find a job, save up money (while paying off those student loans), living with parents and finding your own place. But what about those of us with bipolar disorder?

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Every October, I participate in the suicide prevention walk hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and every year I raise money for them, feeling as if I’m doing my part to somehow prevent all of these suicides that happen every day. Lately, though, it seems as if I’ve been hearing more and more about suicides that happen daily.

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In bipolar disorder, a common symptom that often occurs in manic episodes is that of grandiosity – having an inflated sense of self, believing that one has special powers, spiritual connections, or religious relationships. This is a simple definition of grandiosity, but I find that in my own personal experiences, as many, many people do, that I do not perfectly fit into this textbook definition.

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