A common bipolar 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 personal experience, as many people do, that I do not perfectly fit into this textbook definition.

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This morning on the Today Show, I saw a segment on a mental health advocate, Kevin Breel. I learned that, as a young adult, he too suffered from depression. He became a mental health advocate, and today he has become especially inspirational and popular, and has even given a TED talk (Trip from Mental Illness to Mental Health Advocacy).

Like so many of us, Kevin Breel masked his depression. By hearing his story, I began thinking about how, even in our day and age, the stigma surrounding mental illness is still highly prevalent, and this is not acceptable.

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I’ve experienced a fear of failure for months now, as my final semester of university quickly approaches. I have been freaking out about taking my most dreaded (and difficult) class during my last semester. If I didn’t do well, my graduation would be delayed, and to me, I would have succumbed to my fear of failure (How To Overcome Your Fear Of Failure). It would be the end of the world to me.

For days I felt as if a huge rock was sitting on my chest, pressing down and preventing me from breathing. I felt guilty and inferior to everyone else – no one else seemed to have the same difficulty as I did with this class – and I began fearing the worst. I just knew that I would soon fall into that usual pattern of procrastinating any work for fear or failing, and staying in bed because I just couldn’t face real life.

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Sometimes I look down at my to-do list or at an assignment that I’ve been trying to work on for ages, and I just feel like I’m inadequate, stupid, and why am I even in college? I always feel like no one else ever feels this way. I look around at the people in the library, and they’re writing diligently and reading with seemingly no problem. So what’s wrong with me?

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On Monday, Aaron Alexis went on a shooting spree in a Navy yard in Washington D.C. So far, we know that he killed 12 people and wounded 8 others, and the rampage ended with the death of Alexis. While watching the news coverage, all I heard about was Alexis’ mental health history and how he could have “slipped through the system.” Why is our mental health system always to blame? Why is it that many people automatically turn to the perpetrator’s mental health as the only explanation to these heinous crimes? Are we just looking for someone or something to blame? Could it be that this person is just mean or evil? He could have had a perfectly healthy mind.

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While brainstorming ideas for this week’s blog, I kept noticing that all of the tips and suggestions that our doctors and support groups give us throughout our bipolar recovery are repetitive, and can become frustrating to hear over-and-over again. I always think to myself I do those things! I’m trying! but I always seem to find myself stuck in that rut of hopelessness. I try my best to maintain a regular sleep schedule, I exercise, I track my moods… But while in school, I still feel completely overwhelmed and hopeless as if I haven’t learned any coping strategies at all (Bipolar Disorder and the Pressure to Get Better).

So this week, I’ve decided to do something a little different. While waiting to fall asleep the other night, I created a mental list of little things that may seem silly to some, but that I have realized have helped me throughout my time away at school and during tough times –things that a lot of doctors never really think of or mention to students with bipolar disorder.
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Bipolar symptoms can cause us to do dangerous things (Bipolar and Managing Extreme All Or Nothing Behaviors). Although not suffering bipolar symptoms, a family friend was killed yesterday morning in a work-related accident. He was admired and loved. After learning of the accident, I felt my heart breaking.

I live my life as if I am invincible. I drive maniacally and participate in potentially dangerous behaviors, and I do it all while thinking that nothing can possibly hurt me, that I am too young, and that I have so many things to accomplish. Are bipolar symptoms a part of that thinking? Just yesterday, though, our family friend, who was loved and always helping others while doing the things that he loved, was gone in a split second – taken away from us. I’m sure he thought the same things as I do, that nothing could possibly happen to him. That he was too young and had so much to live for.

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I could feel the mania of my bipolar disorder begin, irritability bubbling up, about to explode, and I wanted to cry (Bipolar Mania And The Impact of Manic Symptoms). At 8:30 in the morning, my commuter parking deck on campus was already packed. Once stepping foot outside of the parking deck, the entire campus was crowded and packed with people and cars racing around the city.

I’ve been at this campus for ages, and this is only the third day of the fall semester. Of course it will be packed. It’s time for incoming freshmen to get acclimated, explore, meet new people… Time for football (or basketball at VCU!), city festivals, and trying new restaurants… This should be exciting for me, but instead I feel the Bad Mania of my bipolar disorder coming on.

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It’s that time of year again; time to put together our bipolar survival guide and head back to school. There are only a few weeks left until this fall semester and the beginning of a new school year arrives. For many of us, this little vacation has been a brief reprieve from the stress, emotions, and hard work, but it’s now time to return and we all need to be mentally prepared. Here’s a bipolar survival guide for your back to school stress. Take a look.

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When bipolar disorder’s irrational thoughts occur, how does one even begin to make friends? In public, I feel as if everyone is watching me and talking about me, or making internal judgments. I’m acutely aware of every person in the vicinity; watching their movements, noticing any eye contact, listening for whispers. Cognitively, I know that this is irrational (Co-Occurring Bipolar and Anxiety Disorders). I know that I am not the center of everyone’s attention, that there is nothing wrong with my physical appearance and actions. In all reality, the majority of those people haven’t even given me a second thought. But when you experience bipolar disorder’s irrational thoughts, it can be difficult to make friends.

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