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What's the hardest part about being a MI student?


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I'm starting up college again in the fall. I have a degree that I finished in 2004, but that was accomplished in a huge two year long hypomanic episode before I was diagnosed. This time I am being treated with meds and am mood stable (ATM, anyway).

But I'm nervous. I have been on disability for four years now, and haven't used my brain for much more than cooking, the occasional cleaning, surfing the net, and watching tv. I also haven't been around people (a major source of paranoia for me) in that timeframe. Unless you count me and the family going grocery shopping once a week for an hour, anyway.

I'm going to be taking two entry-style classes online, but I'm also taking an algebra class (online) and a biology class with lab in person. This means that on Mondays, I will be in school from 9:30-2 and Wednesdays from 9:30-10:50.

I am very excited, but very nervous. I worry that my cognitive abilities have went down the tubes, and that I won't be able to grasp the concepts being taught. I worry that I will get flustered and not be able to focus to complete the homework and assignments. I worry I will fail tests and get poor grades. I worry that I will do poorly being around so many people for so long after basically becoming a recluse for the past four years.

So I ask: what is the most difficult part about being a student with a mental illness? Is it the stress of the classes, the social interaction, the pressure to do well? I'd like to get feedback from those who are in the trenches, so I will know what to expect when it starts happening.

Also, do you feel that being a student has helped you overcome some of your negative feelings about having a MI? One of the reasons I wanted to go back to school is that I felt useless and worthless on disability, and that I was fading away into nothing but a person who had BP. I thought that the structure of school, the need to complete assignments and study, would enrich my life and give it more meaning. As in, school would give me a purpose in life.

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With everything youre worried about, you sound like me. Ive been attending classes for a year now and hopefully will finish in the fall. I am doing really well right now mood wise and no psychosis, however with past psychosis, severe ADHD and hyperlexia my cognitive abilities are less than par. What really kills me though, is my attention/concentration and motivation. I get to the point where I really dont know what I am doing anymore, because I dont want to be doing it. I get it every semester. But it leaves after the break, and comes back during the middle of the semester. All I can really do is fight through it. In reality, I know what Im doing and why I am doing it. So If I keep pushing on everything will (most likely) fall into place.

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Thanks sweets. I have recently started on stimulants for other reasons relating to my MI issues, and I had such a unexpected positive reaction to the meds that my pdoc told me it was likely I had ADHD - inattentive type all along. It was just masked by the mania and hypomania. See, last time I went to college, I had a huge two yeal long hypomanic episode where I went to school full time, worked full time, took care of my family (including two small children), cooked and cleaned all the time, and still managed to get a 3.88 GPA. And I couldn't understand why everyone couldn't do it "because it was SO easy!"

But now the stimulant I'm taking has allowed me to focus on reading and studying, where before the stimulants, I couldn't read five pages in a fiction book I was dying to read. I spent two weeks studying college level math practice sheets to take a placement test - and it all sunk in. So I'm hoping the focus thing won't be a factor anymore in my school - except for at night when the med wears off, anyway!

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For me the hardest part about being a MI student is interacting with my classmates. I often have paranoia that my classmates are talking about me behind my back. It can be pretty crippling.

Another hard part is constantly being worried that if I encounter too much stress I will get psychotic and have to drop out of my program. I think that is a constant fear, that I will have to be hospitalized and I won't be able to finish school, or I will have to drop out a semester and will graduate behind my classmates.

I do find school helpful for giving me structure and making me feel like I have a purpose/ that I am being productive.

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I had all the worries that you have right now. I have social phobia, so the thought of being in a classroom with other people bothered the hell out me, to put it lightly.

But once I got there, it was different than I thought it would be. People mostly kept to themselves and didn't hassle me. I ended up with a couple of classmates that actually liked me that I felt comfortable talking to. I actually completed a communications class! Standing up in front of all those people was hard, and I was told I was obviously shaking "like a leaf" but I did it! I really think that HELPED with my social phobia. It forced me to do things I didn't think I could do- and I did them.

That's the whole thing with college for me- all this shit I thought I could NEVER do, I'm doing! And it's a great feeling.

Before I started going back to school, I was very worried about the entire process. Like you, I hadn't been entertaining my brain very much prior to going back. So I was worried I'd be too dumb, too easily distracted, all those things. But it ended up not being true and school has been easier than I thought it would be.

Now, the first time I went back, I had some kind of breakdown and had to go to the hospital. I think I put myself under too much stress(and the Prozac probably didn't help) and that's part of why I ended up there.

So go easy on yourself!

I was worried about going back again after that, but I just took it easy and only took two classes at a time because, let's face it, I obviously can't handle any more than that. So I had to know my limits.

If you can, get in contact with the school's disability services. This is something I have yet to do, but I probably will this semester, just in case I land my ass in the hospital again. Unlikely, but possible.

The hardest part to me has been knowing my limits. Scheduling time for things. . .etc.

But it's okay. It probably won't be as hard as you think it will be.

And for what it's worth, you come across as very intelligent and able-minded to me, I think you can do this!

Good luck! I'm around if you're having trouble and need someone to talk to!

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That hardest part for me is managing my stress levels. There's a lot of stress going into a medical profession and there's a lot of pressure to do extremely well. So, managing my time became very important. I find time management hard, it's just not my strong suit. I need to know when all my assignments are, have time selected ahead of time to work on them. I need to know when all my tests are and have organized study times. I'm very particular about study time, that's a hard part of being a student in general, finding time to study! I highly recommend getting a big agenda book, post it notes, a calendar etc, all the organizational tools you need, especially if you have trouble focusing.

Like you, I had a hypomania fuelled adventure through school the first time around. I now think this hypomania was brought on by the pressure to do well in my classes. It stressed me out so badly that I flew into an episode. So make sure you relax and take time for yourself and your family. If you study smart, manage your time well and take breaks, you will do just fine. Be kind to yourself.

This past semester I had to be inpatient for a while cause of depression, so that threw me off. That was hard for me to deal with. I'm a good student and I really wanted to do well, so it killed me to have to take time off to get better. So that's a hard part of being mentally ill, is knowing that sometimes you're going to have to take breaks (not necessarily inpatient though I hope!) and won't be able to handle stress as well as other students. Though, honestly if you're going into dental hygiene, every student is going to be stressed out like crazy!

I just realized that I used the word 'stress' about a million times. So, the hardest part is being stressed out!

Going to school definitely makes me feel like I have a purpose. It's increased my self-esteem to see what I can do, even though I have a mental illness. I've done very well, so it's just such a sense of accomplishment that I have. I took a year off school and I felt like you do, worried that I had degenerated into a stupid lump. :P But I was happily surprised to see that I had not lost all my smarts and school was not as hard as I thought it was. The things I thought I'd have trouble with, like A&P, ended up being my best subjects. The structure of school also really helps me. I tend heavily toward depression, so being in school gives me a purpose in life and keeps me going sometimes.

All in all, school has been nothing but a positive experience. School can be a haven for students with disabilities, since there are so many resources for you. I second Emperor in saying, sign up with Disability Services! They'll usually get you an advisor who you can talk to if things are getting tough. They can set you up with accomodations like extended time for tests if you're worried about concentration problems. They can also reschedule your tests and exams to better accomodate the times you take your medication for ADHD, to maximize your chances of success. As well, if you do need some times off or to miss a class for MI reasons, they can talk to your professors to make sure you don't miss things and fall behind.

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For me, the hardest part of being a student with MI is having to perform even when I don't feel like it. Basically this means studying, doing homework, taking tests, etc. on their schedule, not mine. It really hard to do sometimes when you feel like crap.

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Here is what I found from returning to school after my Bipolar dx, decades after my first adventure in University.

-Getting accustomed to taking in large amounts of unfamiliar info rapidly

-Methodically doing readings and homework (I suck at it, even with meds. My big shame. I could do all this stuff if I could just sit down and do it!!!

-Getting used to using new technology like computers, online assignments, the school's online 'classroom' features. (I'm an old fogey really dislike having things scattered so many places. Textbook and lecture notes only, please! :)

-Vicious circle of rising stress, getting behind in study and assigments, repeat.

-Realist performance expectations. Like the dog who talks with a lisp, it's not the speech impediment that matters, but that he talks at all.

Translation: Keep the big picture and take heart from the small successes. Just being brave enough to attempt school says a lot. Keeping a schedule and getting to class isn't easy, another win. Finally, school is not a contest about grades. It is about the love of learning and improving your mind.

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Guest Vapourware

I'm another who shares anxiety about performance and whether I have the cognitive ability to deal with classes and the course load. While I think I can grasp material, I also fear at times that a full load is too much. I did find I was okay last semester, when I took a fulltime load for the first time in a few years, and that gives me the confidence to try another full-time load this semester around.

Trying to get a study schedule going is hard for me. I also did my first degree while fueled on hypomania, so I've had to learn how to sit down and study.

I think most importantly, you should enjoy the process of studying and you should give yourself time for yourself. You shouldn't be worried about your studies constantly. You should take some time out to relax.

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It could be any number of things for me. But most likely I would say that it is sitting down to write an essay and not being able to think straight or concentrate or find the motivation. So many difficulties can occur when trying to write a coherent and accurate essay. But I try to do all the writing at times when I don't feel foggy, though with deadlines this is not always easy.

Next on the list would probably be interacting with the rest of the class. I am ok when it is one-to-one, but make it a group and I am not comfortable.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Being an MI student f . . . sucks. Though, I have found a great MFT to work with me. At first it was about my worries of studying, but now she's consulting with my pdoc. Wow. Moreover, as some wiseones stated before me, Being in school is an achievement, really. To paraphrase: its ok to not worry about school all the time, for me the hardest thing is to take me time. I have a whiteboard in front of my bed above my desk, post it notes about, and monthly schedules to alot time for life and to keep me SANE-I'm yelling to reinforce my advice, for me . . . As Freud would say: I've become analyrentive, through self-induced spontaneous combustion, ha. I had an English doc say: don't sweat the small stuff, easily said. Anyway, there's no method to the madness." Indeed find your shhool's resources, and pat yourself on the back~bravo. I commend anyone attempting higher education, or even just getting out of bed.

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