Mental Illness is Far From Academic

NOTE: The following originally appeared on


College is just plain hard when you live with a mental illness. Yes, hardly anyone coasts through those four years but for someone like me who lives with (see: suffers from) bipolar disorder and anxiety it can often feel like a pipe dream to make it to that graduation stage. It’s great that more and more schools are allowing their students so-called “mental health days” but, to be honest, when I am at my worst I can feel like giving up on classes altogether. And indeed I have had to take off entire semesters for the sake of my health. I’ve even dropped out of all my classes mid semester because I needed to spend an extended time in an inpatient psychiatric ward. And that’s OK. I don’t know anyone with a chronic mental illness who has completed a baccalaureate (and especially a graduate) program without taking time off along the way. How long exactly is completely up to the individual. My hope is that academic counselors and professors will be understanding when you return. Sometimes they can assume that you are not taking your education seriously or “faking” your mental illness so as to avoid responsibility but that is more of a reflection on their own prejudices than your personal integrity. As a student and an advocate I try my hardest to educate faculty as well as my peers on the unique struggles one faces making it through college while also regularly dealing with depression, mania, anxiety, and even psychosis. My goal is that barriers such as insensitive professors and lack of accommodations will be removed for us in the near future. Yes, it is taking me much much longer to graduate than I ever could’ve imagined but I am not using that as a reason to give up now. Believe me, it is not hyperbole when I say it is plain hard but if living with bipolar disorder has taught me anything it is that I’m much tougher and persistent than I once thought possible. So, I should probably start planning for my graduation day party now, right?

Suicide, Prevention, and Working Together to Make It Happen

I want you to read this.

Musings of a Bibliophilic Social Worker

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. This week (Sept 6-12) is National Suicide Prevention Week. And September 10 is National Suicide Prevention Day. This is a big deal. A person in America dies by suicide every 12.95 minutes. That’s more than 110 people every day, or more than 40,430 every year. This makes suicide the 10th leading cause of death in the US, the 2nd leading cause of death for young people ages 10-24, and the 5th leading cause of death for adults ages 45-59.Further, veteran suicide deaths make up 22.2% of all suicides in this country. What makes those numbers so scary is that it is largely preventable with good mental health care (it’s estimated 90% of all those who die by suicide have a psychiatric illness at the time of death) and support from the community, family, and friends (stigma is a huge concern). In short, we need to…

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Cool For The Summer, Stable For A Day

I don’t care if I’m late, this Demi Lovato song is addicting! It helps that she also lives with bipolar and is an amazing advocate. It may look as if she doesn’t have an illness but, like me and many others with mental illness, she is good at hiding it. With all the misinformation and bias, many have too rigid of an idea of what mentally ill should look like. We may feel like shit and even look like shit many days but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun and celebrate just being alive every now and then. Let us at least have that!

Telling My Story at UC Irvine (May 2015)

In May, I had the opportunity to tell my story to students and staff at the University of California, Irvine. I talked about my bipolar disorder, my time in the Army, struggling as a college student, and how it all ties into my current successes. At nearly one hour long, it was by far my biggest challenge to date. Fun fact: the reason I sound out of breath at the beginning is because i kept running around the campus to get my blood flowing. I was completely fatigued (bipolar related)leading up to my presentation and I was definitely spent immediately after. I hope whomever finds this gets some inspiration out of it…or at least a laugh or two!