Author: Sophia Falco
It has been a challenge living with bipolar disorder 1 for nearly a decade (diagnosed at age 16) yet I have risen above this to have made my dream come true—a college graduate that has excelled! I have achieved the Highest Honors in the Literature Department, and the University Honors of Magna Cum Laude from the University of California, Santa Cruz this June. My Bachelors of Arts Degree is in Intensive Literature with a Creative Writing Concentration in poetry. In addition, I have graduated with my poetry chapbook The Immortal Sunflower (many poems in it inspired by the challenges living with bipolar disorder can present) published by UnCollected Press as a winner of their Raw Art Review poetry chapbook contest. I want to emphasize that I wouldn’t be in the position that I am today without the love, and support from my family and my closest friends, several very influential professors, the staff at the Disability Resource Center at both Foothill College and UCSC, the invaluable treatment from my psychiatrists, and the work with my psychologists over the years, and currently who have all believed in me without wavering—I am so grateful!
I have never let bipolar disorder 1 limit me in dreaming big or define me though to receive the diagnosis brought on some unknowns for my future. It’s difficult to put into words what this accomplishment means to me because of all I have been through, and the suffering that I have had yet that makes this moment all the more special. However, I am a poet so it is possible for me to put into words. In fact, I have written a poem about it titled “Envisioning A Clay Dove That Takes Flight”. To now reflect on this moment makes me think of so many different challenges that I have had to rise above get here. I could pinpoint many moments in time. For example, years ago the time when I was lying on the red brick patio in my backyard listening to music under the hot sun. I was listening to the same song on repeat to try to escape the feelings of a mixed episode. I recall how my younger brother kindly came to check up on me, and offered, along with my dad, to take me to the beach. I remember going and just witnessing the water that day. I don’t recall if I even made it down to the beach onto the sand, but I sat on a bench mesmerized by the waves.
Specifically, in regards to graduating, many times during my academic career at UCSC I didn’t think I would graduate in the near future because of the debilitating depression that I faced. I did an Intensive Outpatient Program before the start of the 2019 fall quarter, and during winter break I was in for several weeks a Partial Hospitalization Program. I held onto faith in myself and my goal. I used all the support and resources that I could that I am so grateful I have access to which helped me to make it to the finish with flying colors.
I would like to reiterate that bipolar disorder doesn’t mean to stop dreaming big, and to not go after your goals to make it a reality. For me personally, I am grateful to say that it is possible! I’m not saying this is an easy road or has been, however indeed I have experienced times of a stable mood, the feelings of joy, and happiness. In fact, my appreciation for life has grown because of all that I have been through. My perspective on life has shifted for the better. My gratitude has grown for moments of ease, for laughter, for innocent flowers, for authentic connections with other people, and of course for poetry. Lastly, personally I believe word choice and wording is so important. When the time is appropriate to talk about bipolar disorder, like in this blog post, I say: “I have been living with bipolar disorder” and not “I am bipolar” because that would define me. Recently, when someone asked me what I identify in life as, without a second thought, I replied: “A Poet”. I am excited to continue on my journey with the momentum I have. I am excited to keep writing poetry. I understand the times we are living in are challenging for everyone, some more than others. I know it’s not going to be all smooth sailing from here on out, however I am proud to say that I am excited for life.