Overcoming Bipolar Disorder at University
The Bipolar Burble welcomes guest author Daniel Bader, Ph.D of Bipolar Today for today’s post on dealing with bipolar disorder in university. Bader proves again that you can do anything you want to do with bipolar disorder, you may just need a bit of help.
I was a student for a very long time, having just finished up my doctorate after nine years of study, not counting my two years of parental and medical leaves. It was quite a challenge, and most of those challenges came not from the program, but from my bipolar disorder.
However, having gone through it, I wanted to discuss some of the challenges of being a student with bipolar disorder and some of the tricks that I picked up along the way. Hopefully, it can help others who might be presently in university or considering going there.
Challenges as a Bipolar University Student
There were a lot of challenges with being bipolar as a university student, but there were definitely three issues that dogged me through most of my program:
- Isolation: Studying is an isolating experience. There’s endless research, reading and writing that is done entirely by myself. I found being alone with my moods was rarely a pleasant experience.
- Fluctuating Self-Esteem: It’s hard at the best of times to evaluate the quality of our writing. With bipolar disorder, my work would often seem incredible or terrible, making it hard to do revisions.
- Depression: Depression is awful, and it just crushed my ability to work efficiently. As a result, I often found myself falling behind.
My Strategies as a Bipolar University Student
Over time, however, I was better and better able to deal with these problems, ultimately finding my experience a satisfying one.
- Finding Ways To Be Social: For my entire university experience, I never once lived alone. I lived in residences with shared meals, with a good friend, with my parents and ultimately with my wife and children. This kept me from slipping into the infinite regress of self-reflecting moods that isolation brings.
- Finding Someone Whose Opinion I Trusted: I was able to develop a good rapport with my dissertation supervisor, who would help me see what was working and not working in what I was doing, when I wasn’t able to get the proper perspective. Before my dissertation, I would often show papers to friends to get their opinions.
- Getting Help: It took me a while to get proper help as a student, in part because I kept being put on the wrong medications (long story). However, once I had a proper regime of medication and therapy, I found that my depression improved significantly, and I was able to zip through the last few years of my doctorate, even while teaching half-time and starting a family.
Being a student with bipolar disorder, especially a graduate student, provides a lot of challenges. The isolation and fluctuating moods can wreak havoc. However, by figuring out what those challenges were and finding strategies to deal with them, I found I was able to complete and even often enjoy my experience.
Daniel Bader, Ph.D., is a recent graduate and works as a university instructor. He now runs his own website on bipolar disorder called Bipolar Today.