Being a Bipolar Student

I have been officially diagnosed as being Bipolar I for a little over three years. As I have gotten older my symptoms and cycles have continually progressed and become more difficult to control or recognize. Luckily, I have an amazingly supportive family, and I have been able to mold my disorder to succeed in life. It has definitely not been an easy journey, and I am in no way "cured". It is a day to day struggle. My worst experience with bipolar disorder was two years ago when in a raging manic episode I believed I could fly and actually attempted to jump off of a building. I am currently a UCLA student on the verge of graduating, and I really want to help other individuals that feel their lives are essentially over because of this, at times, debilitating illness because there were definitely times I felt I was destined to live a crippled life in and out of institutions.

Mental illnesses may interfere with your ability to function at school -- or they may have no effect at all. If your mental illness is affecting your ability to do things such as concentrating or communicating effectively, you're probably aware of it. Then again, you may not have made the connection between your disability and your problems functioning. Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA, educational personnel only need to provide accommodations for limitations that can be directly connected to your disability. You should document the types of functional limitations caused by your disability to show your need for academic adjustments.Here's a list of some of the limitations you may be experiencing. If you have a psychiatric disability, you may have trouble doing some of these things.* Please remember that since that are many different types of mental illnesses, this isn't a complete list -- and that not everyone experiences all, or even any, of these limitations. Here's how you might cope:


Inability to screen out environmental stimuli.  Stimuli such as sounds, sights, or smells, which distract you. For example, it may be hard for you to pay attention to a lecture while sitting near a loud fan or to focus on studying in a high traffic area.
Possible solutions:  Move away from the fan; ask the professor to shut off the fan during the lecture; ask someone to help you find a quiet study area.


Inability to concentrate: You may feel restless, have a short attention span, be easily distracted, or have a hard time remembering verbal directions. For example, you may have trouble focusing on one task for extended periods, reading and retaining course material, or remembering instructions during an exam or a classroom exercise.
Possible solutions: Break large projects into smaller tasks; ask permission to take short, frequent breaks to stretch or walk around; ask for a tutor to help you with study skills and information retention; ask for assignments to be given one task at a time or in writing.


Lack of stamina. You may not have enough energy to spend a full day on campus, carry a full course load, or take a long exam in one sitting. You may also find your medication makes you drowsy.
Possible solutions: Enroll as a part-time student; schedule your classes during your high-energy hours; ask to take exams in sections.


Difficulty handling time pressures and multiple tasks. You may have trouble managing assignments, setting priorities, or meeting deadlines. For example, you may not know how to decide which assignments to do first, or how to complete assignments by the due date.
Possible solutions: Break larger assignments and projects down into manageable tasks; ask for a course syllabus detailing class topics, assignments, and due dates for the entire semester.


Difficulty interacting with others. It may be difficult for you to talk to other students, get notes or discuss assignments, participate in class, meet students outside of class, chat with other students at class breaks, and make friends.
Possible solutions: Ask for help finding a mentor or "buddy" who can introduce you around and help you fit in.


Difficulty handling negative feedback. You may have a hard time understanding and interpreting criticism. For example, you may get defensive when someone tells you your work isn't up to standards. It's hard for you to figure out what to do to improve. You might want to withdraw from class or even drop out of school because of a poor grade.
Possible solutions: Ask your professor to talk with you about your performance and suggest specific ways to improve; find out whether you can make up for poor grades with alternative assignments or extra credit projects; ask your professor to meet with you and your school's disability services counselor to facilitate feedback.


Difficulty responding to change. Unexpected changes in your coursework, such as new assignments, due dates, or instructors, may be unusually stressful for you.
Possible solutions: Ask your professor for advance warning of any changes in the syllabus; ask your school's disability services counselor to be sure to tell your new instructor about your needs.




I wish everyone strength in finding their path to success.


*Adapted from Mancuso, L.L. (1990) Reasonable accommodations for workers with psychiatric disabilities. Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal, 14(2), 3-19


themanicmind themanicmind
22-25, F
12 Responses Mar 2, 2009

Haha, "I believe I can flyyyy" On a more serious note, Congratulations, you have achieved something most any "normal" person can do. Just because you accomplished a simple task does not mean you are going somewhere in life, what was your major? This is basically a slap in the face to everybody else on this forum who is having obviously more trouble then you. Congratulations on putting everyone down.

I feel for you..glad you're moving on fine..

If you have any other ways to help in school please tell me! I don't want to be a high school dropout freshman year due to my bipolar nos.

I'm bipolar also and starting my 3rd year of college.<br />
I've had some weird thing with writing.<br />
I won't get into the details, but basically I've failed almost every class that has anything to do with writing. In fact I'm in the process of failing an online calculus class because participation is determined through writing 100-200 word posts on a forum : P<br />
I'm not sure if this is due to bipolar, but I wish i can find some way to get over this. I feel so useless. I can't even answer emails anymore.<br />
"Oh! you might have a disability? well, why don't you go get some written letter from some psychologist and from the school, we'll find a way to accommodate you!" yeah.. : / how am i supposed to do that? to me that's like saying "Oh, you're injured so you can't climb that mountain? well why don't you go to the hospital on top of this other mountain? they'll fix you right up!"<br />
well..<br />
thanks, you help me push on and keep trying.<br />
I'm glad I can still write on EP every so often so long as I don't think about it too much.

I was diagnosed as bipolar a couple of years ago. I'm supposed to be graduating highschool this year, but my absences are effecting me so negatively I may not be able to do so, and it's really stressing me out. So much so that my episodes are becoming increasingly intense. I have increasingly been thinking fthat offing myself would be better than living the rest of my this way. It's just nice to see that someone with bipolar disorder can live a succesful life.

I'm back in school now and am bipolar, so I'm glad you posted this. Thanks!

This was so helpful to hear. Sometimes it feels like you're the only person struggling with these issues. My therapist doesn't really help when I ask her for suggestions on how to cope with my everyday life she just expects me to figure it out on my own, but how can I when I can't even concentrate! Thank you again for writing this!

I am encouraged you are finding a way to deal with Bipolar and it's side effects. Am a sufferer 12years and have been institutionalised a few times due to manic episodes. I recently had another due to meds i got for my common cold in August 2009 which had an adverse affect on my bipolar and brought on a manic episode.<br />
<br />
I started working again but find it hard to concentrate or be creative and being in radio that is essential to my work. It's rather demotivating but your message gives me hope that THIS TOO SHALL PASS

The first thing I did when I started my masters in September was to go to the Head Prof. and tell her about my disorder. Nobody else knows, but I felt like I had to give her a "warning" just in case.... So far I haven't had any depressive episodes - It's been 6 months without one, thanks to the new meds i'm on. I have no difficulties with the course, but I feel someone at uni shpuld know - BPD can affect every aspect of our lives, and I'm not letting it get in the way of my education.<br />
Loved your text.

Thanks this really helped in lot's of ways, like how to cope for one. Much appreciated :)

I have to say you helped me in many ways. I had no idea what I was going to do to help my cousin out when she moved in with me. I had done countless research on bipolar disorder and reading this story you have helped me understand a bit more. THank you.

That is great that you are finding a way to deal with your problem. Its great that you are helping others out. There are many people out there that could use help and they have no one to go to. My cousin was diagnosed with bipolar disease. She is 7 years old and no one in the family want to deal with her. I have to say that it is not easy, but I have been helping her through it. I am so glad you have a loving supportive family who are there for you to help you through this. You are truelly blessed. It is wonderful what you are doing. Good Luck on the rest of your journey. :)