Swinging in college

….well, not that kind of swinging, and certainly not as fun as it sounds. I’m talking about dealing with bipolar disorder while going to school.

It’s almost been a month since I’ve started the semester, and things have been okay thus far–I’ve made it to all of my classes and have turned in assignments on time. I need to catch up on some reading, but I’ll get that done…eventually. Because of my previous experiences, there is always some fear that I will spiral into some dark hole and end up doing poorly in classes or not finish the semester. Though I suppose there’s no absolute certainly about how my moods will be over the semester, there are some strategies that I can follow in order to keep those fears in check.

In this really good article in CNN/health.com, titled “Back to School with Bipolar? How college can unleash mania,” I especially appreciated that it offered everyday strategies for managing  symptoms. In the article, there’s a little tip from Russ Federman, PhD’s book, “Facing Bipolar: The Young Adult’s Guide to Dealing With Bipolar Disorder.” Federman  outlines what he calls the “four S’s of bipolar stability”:

  • structure
  • stress management
  • sleep management
  • self-monitoring

This framework entails setting — and sticking to — a regular schedule of studying and sleep, and learning to recognize the signs that you are beginning to drift into mania or hypomania. (Thank you to my friend Becky for letting me know about this piece!)

I think these “Four S’s” remind me that  it’s important to take responsibility for what we can when we can. What’s in the realm of our control is often much more than we realize or actually do. For instance, no one is forcing me to get drinks at Starbucks, which, if consumed around night time, will more than likely cause me to not be able to go to sleep at a reasonable hour. It’s a random example, but I do believe it’s in these little things that we can change that can help us manage our illness better.

Speaking of responsibility, I really should be working on a class assignment….


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