What I Wish My Professors and Classmates Knew About My Mental Illness


To my dear professors and classmates,

First of all, I am diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1 with psychotic features. It is an illness I cannot just “snap out” of. I have extreme mood swings and my emotions are uncontrollable sometimes. I experience panic attacks. I am taking medication, but it doesn’t give me rainbows and unicorns. These medications just stabilize my emotions and help with my psychosis. I experience both visual and auditory hallucinations and no, I am not “crazy.”

Being a college student is hard enough. Being away from your loved ones with tons of work to do and trying to actually learn something that could potentially help build your future. However, it is much harder to survive college if you have an illness. The most important thing I have done for the past semester and this semester is surviving. My life feels like it is hanging on a thread sometimes. It feels sad and rewarding at the same time that the most important accomplishment of my everyday life is that I am still breathing after a long, tiring day. I never knew being able to last the day would be so tiring. I actually need to convince myself a couple of times a day I am loved and can get through this.

I am writing this letter not to make excuses but to tell you what I am feeling right now. I am ashamed, embarrassed and sorry. I am ashamed of myself for not doing a great job in class compared to the previous semesters you had me as a student and a classmate. I am ashamed that I already used all of my allowed absences even though the semester is not even half over. I am ashamed of myself because I cannot even finish a paper or review for an exam or a quiz without breaking down. I am ashamed because I am not the same straight A student I used to be. You barely see me in class and whenever I am in class, I’m either asleep or not focused. I am embarrassed of my poor performance.

I am sorry I fall asleep in class. I am sorry. My medications are making me feel sleepy. I try my best to focus but my mind and body won’t cooperate. I cannot focus in our lectures and I don’t think I am actually learning. I am embarrassed because I feel like I am being left behind. I feel like everybody in my classes is learning except me. I am embarrassed every time I suddenly walked out of our classroom. I am having a panic attack and most of the time, I go straight to the comfort room to cry.

I am sorry for failing to show up on exam and quiz days. I cannot help being anxious. I find it hard to get out of bed. I would spend most of the days sleeping and crying. I am sorry if I do not show up for class or if I show up unshowered. It is a marathon for me to get up and take a shower. 

I am sorry for the all the make up exams and quizzes. I thank you for your support and patience. I am sorry that despite your support, I still think of killing myself. I am sorry that one minute I am laughing in class with you and then another minute later I am bursting into tears. I am sorry.

What I am actually saying is this: I would like you to know I am struggling and every day is a new challenge for me to stay alive. I would like you all to know I am sorry for all my shortcomings but I am trying my very best, even though it may not look like it sometimes. I am asking you a favor. Please do not pity me, but instead try to understand me.

Thank you.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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