As I begin to prepare for my final year of college, I begin to think about all the things that I will have to deal with as the year progresses and that final day where I will walk across a stage to be awarded the most expensive piece of paper that I have ever had in my entire life. I think about how I will juggle working in retail (especially with the holiday season right around the corner) with creating lesson plans for my teaching experiences that I will face as a senior in an education program. I try to figure out how I will pay for my books and food while I’m in school since I’m currently drowning in so many bills that I don’t know how I will be able to make it. Even through all of this, the biggest thing that I’m most worried about and constantly think about is how I will try to keep myself balanced within my head and not allow my mental illness to take over me when things start to get tough. I know that I’ve been having a lot of trouble doing that lately and I’m not even in school yet.
Being a college student and someone who suffers from mental illness is like wearing a mask. It’s funny because one of the first things that people think about when they hear bipolar disorder is the double drama masks, the overly happy, nearly manic, face and the permanent frown of the sad face. In college, no one can know when you’re having a low day because no one really cares. In my experience, I have had very few professors, so few that I can count it on one hand, that have truly cared that I have had a bad mental day. Most of the time, I have to lie and say that I think that I’m catching a bug or I have a family emergency at home, just to give myself some time to breathe because mental illness isn’t a good enough excuse to not go to class one day. Most colleges only seem to care once you’ve reached your breaking point, and you’re no longer on this earth. They send out emails telling people how much they cared about the student, even though there was so much that they could’ve done before any incidents if people cared about mental illness as they did any physical illness.
That one thought is the scariest thing about having bipolar, or any mental illness, and being a college student; the fact that no one in college really cares about mental illness like they do physical illnesses. At least, no one I’ve ever run into. Buck up, you can get through this. But, what if I can’t one day? The fear that one day, the stress could get so immountable that you feel like you’re about to become an avalanche, and everything is going to crash down and I could just break from it all. The fact that if I reach out to a professor and ask them for an extension on a paper because I had such a large scale panic attack while writing it, that I will most likely be denied it because I’m not physically in harm. Mental illness and being a college student is a constant battle. I constantly have to reach hard within myself to find the motivation to get out of bed in the mornings when my head is telling me that all I should do is sleep. I constantly have to tell myself that one bad grade on a paper isn’t the end of the world, even when it feels like I’m drowning in my own disappointment because I constantly have to set high expectations for myself. I constantly have to deal with the fear of being denied help because no one cares what’s going on in your head; that if you’re physically okay, you should be there.
I’ve never been able to find that exact balance that I need to survive the immense stress and competition in college while dealing with the fight within my own head, and I fear that I never may be able to find it. That is one thing that I constantly think about while I prepare for school. I have one more year left. I know I can get through it. I’ve done it for the past four years, and not in the best ways either. But, I’ve made it through it. I just hope that all the shit in my head and I myself can handle it all when it comes for me.