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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.