Managing School While Feeling Depressed or Manic

By: Sydney Batt

Students living with Bipolar disorder have challenges not many people see or understand. Features of bipolar disorder make it tough to thrive in school, so it may feel like a lonely battle in the classroom. School stressors can contribute to triggering episodes of depression or mania. What happens when you are having a serious mood swing and still have the pressure of being focused in school?

When that does happen, the idea of sitting down and focusing on school work is the last thing you want to do. It is very important that during episodes you get sleep: that is vital. Without sleep, the process of learning halts; therefore, you cannot absorb important information in school which often leads to more stress. During times of mania it is possible to utilize that energy to your advantage and put it towards school while using it to focus on school related tasks. In the moment that might seem difficult, but as long as you keep track of your sleep on a daily basis, it is possible.

Here is a personal list of ways I stay on track as a college student living with Bipolar Disorder:

Attempting homework in the mornings: This starts my day off being productive which helps decrease feelings of depression. When I procrastinate doing homework all day, when night hits I am usually too tired and lose motivation.

Keeping an organized schedule: Making a detailed schedule on the time frames assignments will get completed helps create a positive mindset and helps motivate me to have a productive day. An organized day and overall schedule increases my mood stability.

Combatting stigma: One huge motivator for me is to combat the stigma behind mentally ill people. I want to combat the thought that I cannot be successful in my studies because I cannot “control” my moods. This is completely false. Combatting the stigma lights a fire inside of myself that motivates me to get out of the bed when the depression is trying to run my life or when I am in a manic state and fail to focus on anything.

Remembering my end goal: School requires dedication. In college, the overall arching goal is to graduate. The commitment that comes along with school is intense; if people gave up on their education every time an episode creeped up, there would be no success stories for students with mental health problems.

It is important to have communication with your teachers about possible stressors in the classroom. It is always beneficial tell your teachers in advance about possible moods swings you may have, and how that might affect homework and class attendance. Reach out to your college’s disability office for additional protections and support.

When lack of motivation occurs and the stress begins to hit, it is essential to remember that you are not alone. Others living with Bipolar Disorder have experienced similar times of stress and being unmotivated but have accomplished their goal of graduating.

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