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 (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? Rarely do I consider whether they have a severe mental illness.

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. Our severe mental illnesses take an enormous toll on living (Living With A Mental Illness And Self-Stigma).

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I am a college bipolar student, but graduation is almost here. I can already imagine the feelings of gratefulness and relief – and anxiety. This is a scary time, filled with graduation anxiety. The end of my 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 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 bipolar students and our anxiety? What can we do to reduce graduation anxiety?

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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 the suicides that happen every day. Lately, though, it seems as if I’ve been hearing more and more about suicides and less about suicide prevention.

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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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