A College Life for Me

collegeFor those who want to obtain a college degree, it can be very difficult. I do have a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a Secondary Teaching Certification, which I’m learning is a phenomenal achievement. I even graduated with a 3.67 GPA and managed to teach for 3 years.

Why is my story so different than most others with Bipolar Disorder?

Well, first you will have to hear my story to learn the answers.

For those of you that don’t know, I’m a twin. I’ve always been left behind in my twin sister’s shadow. She was the more renowned overachiever that teachers would remember, and I was always thought of as the “sister.” She even was known to be a better writer because she was working for the local newspaper and I was layout editor and writer for our school yearbook. When we went our separate ways for college, she went to the prestigious university and I went to the local university. I was determined to prove myself by getting a better GPA than her this time at least.

During the weekend before my fall semester sophomore finals, I had no idea I was already bouncing between hypomania and mania. I barely knew what bipolar disorder was, let alone that I was bipolar. I was very irritable and angry with the world that Friday night, got drunk on a lot of vodka, became verbally violent to my best friend which all led to my desertion. Alone in my apartment, I became severely depressed for about two hours, contemplated suicide for the first time, then suddenly I was God’s messenger, wrote non-stop, and went to my first final telling the whole class off and wanting them to help stop the impending racial world war and that Y2K would start the beginning of the end.

I was definitely crazy and tried to announce it to the world.

Even though the way I received the much needed help was traumatic for me, I clung to my diagnosis like a life raft in a turbulent ocean. I was terrified of that side of me. At least, I could take medicine to keep it away. I feared I was never going to achieve my dreams. I even felt a deep loss when I realized that I could never be the first female President of the United States…. I never said I wasn’t ambitious, but before that moment I never wanted to be President. I just wanted to be prestigious and be known for doing something to make the world a better place.

Well, I obviously missed finals, but I fully intended to return to college for spring semester. I was taking my meds and seeing and listening to my psychiatrist regularly, so I was doing all I needed to, right? When spring semester began, I made up my finals quickly. I began to form a personal hatred and insecurity for the campus and my apartment because I could not stop remembering what had happened to me, so I commuted from home. I was going to make sure I had the support I needed.

When the depressive side tipped down the teeter tauter, my psychosis slammed back with the help of lithium toxicity and antidepressants. I was flying high again but stayed home instead of going to school until it really became bad. When the television started talking to me, I packed up the van and went back for a second hospital stay. I medically withdrew from my classes and stayed home. I even worked for my parents.  For a while, I thought I was living the rest of my life. Nothing for me was ever going to change. I’d be indebted to my parents and never leave home.

As the months went by, I recovered quite well and my psychiatrist believed I could handle going back to school. I decided not to hide being bipolar and went back to use my experience as topics for my stories, poetry, and papers. After a long discussion with my father, I veered away from having a career in writing and decided to get in the teaching program. He wanted a more “stable” career for me because my writing was “obviously” a trigger for my psychosis, so I devoted my efforts to become a good teacher for my students.

I finished college in five years with extra credits to spare, so I finished a year after my twin sister. She was in medical school and I was joining the work force as an English teacher. After some advice from my teaching advisors, I kept my disorder a secret from anyone who didn’t already know. However, the hardships of my third year of teaching allowed me to realize being bipolar and a teacher isn’t a good combination. For me, teaching at the school district I was in was too demanding and almost expected a more hypomanic attitude from me than I was willing to give. 145 high school students are too much for any “normal” English teacher, let alone one who is bipolar.

Okay, so let’s be a little clearer. These are the points I’m trying to make from the story of my life so far:

  1. Determination and ambition will get you through your highs and lows. If it is hard for you, having someone to drive you forward and show compassion will also help you on your road to success in getting your degree.
  2. Learn more about how you respond to medication to find the right combination for you and stay on your medication.
  3. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  4. Find a medical support group and a hospital psychiatric ward you like and trust.
  5. Depend on your personal support system like family and friends.
  6. Learn time management.
  7. Learn about yourself and your disorder. This lesson I didn’t learn until my last year of teaching when I finally found a good psychiatrist that I never knew I was missing.

A very good article that relates and may be very beneficial for those who are bipolar interested in going to college is “Back to School with Bipolar? How College can Unleash Mania” by Michele Hoos from Health.com.

For seven years, I never realized I was flying solo in tumultuous weather with the experience of a novice. I didn’t know nearly enough about bipolar disorder, so now I’ve learned a lot. I’m even able to look back and gauge my thoughts and experiences to see that I’m not your typical bipolar.

Please comment and read the comments below! William made excellent comments that you really should read. 🙂 Thank you William!


3 thoughts on “A College Life for Me

  1. William October 5, 2009 / 12:00 AM

    Well…bipolar is a disorder independent of you. While you may suffer from it – it does not define you, but it definitely can build character. :oP

    Congratulations on succeeding with school and life…that is tough just in of itself.

    As for your twin sister. Just curious – has it ever dawned on you that your second fiddle thoughts in regards to your sister might actually just be distorted perception caused by your disorder? I know when I reached a certain level of clarity and understanding…I was able to look at things with my real eyes and see them for what they truly were and are. Just curious.

    Also, your statement – “Determination and ambition will get you through your highs and lows.” Sadly, while in your experience you find that statement to be true…for thousand of others – no amount of determination and ambition will help them…unless it is by others who are showing it along with compassion, caring and understanding. Also, some will never wake up from their episodes…so, all we can do is show compassion for them.

    You hang in there, keep up the good work and glad your in a good place.

  2. mydualities October 5, 2009 / 12:58 PM

    Thank you for your comments. 🙂
    I agree that bipolar disorder does not define you. I didn’t realize I had made it seem that way. I sometimes forget that, so thank you for the reminder.

    As for my “second fiddle thoughts,” I agree that some may be caused by my disorder, but I actually did have teachers I saw again after I became a teacher comment about how great a writer I was for the newspaper, which I had to correct them. One even replied, “I didn’t know she had a twin sister. So, what is she doing now?” That will deflate any person’s self-confidence in a hurry. I even had to respond, “She’s in med school.” She’s a doctor now by the way.

    I agree that many other people cannot find the determination and ambition because of their disorder. I love how you stated that having someone who does have that capability and the needed compassion to help when you don’t will also carry you on your way to success. That was a VERY GOOD point! I hope you don’t mind if I change the blog a bit to reflect that. Just in case they don’t read the comments.

    Thank You!

  3. William October 6, 2009 / 7:02 PM

    I shared a link with you.

    Keep up the good work!

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