To My Professors, From Your Student With Bipolar Disorder

I’m a student. I have been for the better half of my life, and I love it. Well, I love most of it. Being a student allows me freedom to explore, to learn, to test my abilities and challenge the self-imposed limits of my life. It’s an incredible thing really.

I love attending your classes, leaning forward in my seat, pen in hand, soaking in the words that you, my professors, spill forth. All that learning, all that knowledge, I feel like a sponge. Yet, I grow afraid, timid and tentative. I walk on the edge between debilitating depression on my left and devastating mania on my right. In the middle is my passion, my love of learning and my longing to achieve something in my life of real substance. In the middle is the healthy part of myself.

You see, as much as I love learning, that love can be the exact same thing that will trigger either side of me, which I fight daily to keep at bay. I am a student. I am your student. And I have bipolar disorder.

My days as a student have a distinctive cycle. I have grown adept at recognizing the change of events, the slight shift in mood and the ever increasing speed of my thoughts. With school starting in just over a week, I am hesitant to dive in, which I know is what is required of me when I take your classes. You have an expectation of me, and you should have an expectation of me.

Please know if I dive too far, I will end up out in the ocean, drowning. Some days, I hope I can reach out to you to tell you I am dedicated, I am intelligent and I am a student you want to bet on. I will try my hardest in your class. I promise.

Yet, I may not always be in class. I may not always do well on my exams. I may not be the face you will recognize, but this doesn’t mean I am not a good student. It just means some days I simply can’t step foot out of my front door without crumpling with panic. Some days, I will have lost even the motivation to take another breath. On some exam days, I may be so riddled with self-doubt I can’t stop shaking, I will be sick to my stomach and the tears will be streaming down my face as my mind goes blank. I will want to run and give up on it all.

Some other days, I will be going so fast, speaking to you so rapidly, filled with so much excitement and my words all in a jumble. You just might think I am the most hyper student you’ve ever met. I probably am, today. Tomorrow… I really don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

Please know I will be inconsistent. I can’t help it. My inconsistencies have no reflection on you as a lecturer, professor or mentor. It has nothing to do with the class, the schedule or the content. It has everything to do with fighting my own balancing act between dangerous depression and maniacal chaos.

What I want you to know most about me is I am not alone. I am one of thousands of students who attend your classes, year after year, who are too afraid, too ashamed, feel too guilty or too lost to approach you. I am one of the students whose seat you see vacant, perhaps for weeks. I am one of the students who is sitting at home, trying to keep her life together, while you are spilling forth the knowledge she is yearning to learn.

Please know I am still your student. But also know when you do see me in your class, leaning forward in my chair, pen in hand, that out of all the struggles in my life, all the hospitalizations, the medications and therapy sessions, I have chosen to spend my time with you.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Image via Thinkstock.

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