Here's what it's like to live with Bipolar at uni
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I can never tell when I am going to be high or low so, planning what I am going to do each day can sometimes be very difficult. If I can’t tell what mood I am going to be in then I can’t plan what I can and can’t do on that day.
My brain does not work like someone without bipolar would, when in manic moods I cannot really control how I feel and sometimes make bad decisions linked to this; these decisions can sometimes be with money or with being brutally honest with someone and hurting their feelings.
During my biggest episode, I walked miles and miles and cannot remember how I got there, whether I walked on roads, whether I was safe. Like a kind of floating feeling.
It is always super difficult to manage any kind of mental health problem when studying for a degree, mainly because the workload is a lot more than school and college and managing this alongside an illness is always hard.
My university have been supportive, as supportive as they can be - and this is great. They have helped me a lot but I really struggled with my attendance when I was first diagnosed, because when down I couldn’t get out of bed - but when on a manic episode I would do all my work in a . I always had to go through the work and check it because it’s like a mist in the mind; not being able to remember what happened or what you did – a very weird thing to get your head around. Sometimes I would hear voices and feel like I was floating.
Studying has been very tough at times, because as you would expect there is a lot of work involved and when I can’t get a solid moment of concentration because my mind feels like it’s all over the place this can have a bad effect on the coursework and exams. I also suffer from anxiety which does not mix well with the bipolar.What is the difference between Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2?
A person who has Bipolar 1 has manic episodes whereas someone with Bipolar 2 has hypomanic episodes.
You must have had at least one manic episode and one major depressive episode to be diagnosed with Bipolar 1 disorder. The depressive episode must have occurred either before or after the manic episode. The symptoms of a manic episode may be so severe that you require hospital care.
Bipolar 2 disorder involves a major depressive episode lasting at least two weeks and at least one hypomanic episode. People with Bipolar 2 typically don’t experience manic episodes intense enough to require hospitalisation.
Bipolar 2 is sometimes misdiagnosed as Depression - when there are no manic episodes to suggest bipolar, the depressive symptoms become the focus. This is what happened to me; I was diagnosed with depression as I had not had a manic episode at that point, but now have - so they re-diagnosed me with Bipolar 2.
I have Bipolar 2 as I have less manic episodes and more depressive episodes; my bipolar is mainly linked the sadness and it is very rare I have a manic episode although they do happen every so often. They probably happen two or three times a month and last no longer than a day. A manic episode includes feeling like I am floating, speaking fast, doing everything very quickly, lack of concentration or emphasised concentration, and overspending - basically having very little control over myself and who I am at that moment.What help is there for sufferers? An important thing to note is that there is help available out there. Accessing it is sometimes a little daunting, and it is sometimes about jumping through the boxes - but it does exist.
For someone who has a solid diagnosis of Bipolar 1 or 2, there is a lot of help available. If you speak to the person who diagnosed you, this may be a doctor (GP), counsellor or psychotherapist, they should be able to advise you on what is available. They may suggest medication (antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilisers), NHS counselling - although be aware there may be a waiting list, this is dependent on where you live in the UK - or other art therapies like drama or art.
There is also a national charity called Bipolar UK, which can advise you on your next steps when you have a diagnosis. This group of people arrange talking therapies and help around Bipolar and are specialists in it, so completely understand.
You also have Mind, Samaritans, Turn 2 Me and Blurt, who are all mental health charities, and can offer confidential support and advice.
My advice is tell your family and friends and doctor and they can help you find the right support.