A Letter to my Fellow College Students 

Author: Claire Gault

Receiving a bipolar diagnosis is difficult in any stage of life, but as a senior in college, I can testify to the challenges of balancing priorities between mental health and school. College culture often encourages unhealthy habits, and consciousness of ourselves and our mental cognition are so important in making it to graduation. With an intentional balancing of priorities and practices (along with the correct medication), moods can be manageable and personal success after graduation lies within reach. 

1) Prioritize Sleep 

A heavy homework load can encourage late nights, and with peers complaining about their all-nighters, sleeplessness appears to be normal and a given reality in college life. Be wary of this! Lack of sleep doesn’t only lead to bad moods and a lack of concentration during the day, but also is a red flag seen in hindsight of a hypomanic/manic episode. If insomnia becomes an issue that all the usual remedies can’t fix —​ medication, essential oils, meditation, etc — ​then the best solution is to not dwell on it during waking hours. This is easier said than done, but obsessive thoughts and conversation about an inability to sleep often does more harm than good. If this fails, remember that consulting with a doctor is always an option. Good sleep is vital for every person with bipolar disorder, but especially those under extreme stress. College should be a time for learning and growing as an individual, so prioritizing sleep is a headstart in a positive direction. 

2) It’s Okay to Take Breaks 

At the beginning of my freshman year, I didn’t foresee myself taking a gap year and transferring to a smaller school. For a long time I saw this as a step backwards, and I failed to recognize all the benefits I reaped from prioritizing mental health over graduating as quickly as possible. If a major crisis occurs in your life, no matter if you are a student or not, it’s completely okay to take a break for as long as needed. Pushing ourselves beyond realistic capabilities can lead to burnout, and can cause more damage in the long run. On a smaller scale, knowing your limits could mean taking a day off school, communicating your thoughts/feelings with a professor, or even settling down with some popcorn and Netflix in the middle of the day. People with a bipolar diagnosis can spiral into believing worst case scenarios (I’ve definitely been there), so taking time to rejuvenate is essential for mental health and success in college. 

3) You Have the Potential for Greatness! 

College can be overwhelming and scary, especially while dealing with mental illness, but remember that we are smart and capable of handling tough things. Bipolar disorder can build mental equipment to face challenges in creative, resilient, and strong ways, even though we don’t always recognize it. As I mentioned earlier, breaks are vital to success,

but maintaining hard work and tenacity despite challenges we face are so important. Take chances in fighting for leadership positions, advocating for a cause you believe in, and/or commit your best self to showing up for school. Although online school presents unique challenges, persevering will only lead to a brighter future. You have every right to chase rewarding opportunities —​ do not lose hope!

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