A Rollercoaster Ride Through College: From Bipolar Mania to Master’s Degree

My Journey With Bipolar Disorder From Diagnosis to College Dropout

Diagnosed with bipolar disorder before college, I had to drop out due to a manic episode.

woman sitting on the couch with her reflection facing her Image source: Getty Images

Once upon a time, in the land of Arizona, I embarked on a rollercoaster ride through my senior year of high school. Little did I know that this ride would take me on an emotional journey filled with mood swings, shopping sprees, and a diagnosis that would forever change my life.

Let’s rewind to my senior year. I was at the top of my class, ready to conquer the world. Armed with Ivy League viewbooks and dreams of a grand college experience, I believed that attending a prestigious university would be the magic potion to cure my mental health struggles. Oh, how wrong I was.

Fast forward to March, when I received the coveted acceptance letter from the University of Michigan. Little did I know that fate had other plans for me. Sitting nervously in a psychiatrist’s office with my mother, I was hit with the bombshell: bipolar disorder. The doctor explained how this illness of extremes would need to be factored into my future plans. Well, there goes the dream of a carefree college life.

Undeterred by doctor’s orders, I decided to go off my medication once I arrived at my college dorm. Who needs lithium anyway? I didn’t want shaky hands and unwanted weight gain. I just wanted to be like everyone else. So I hid those pesky pill bottles in a desk drawer, promptly forgot about them, and embarked on a manic adventure.

Instead of attending classes, I found myself on shopping sprees, my credit card taking a serious hit. I couldn’t keep track of my racing thoughts, and I talked nonstop to anyone who would listen (or pretend to listen). My college campus became my frenzied playground, and the campus bookstore my mecca of spending. I might as well have had a personal assistant exclusively for carrying my bags of college merchandise. Bipolar mania: an expensive and exhilarating shopping experience.

But no mania lasts forever. Exhausted and sleep-deprived, I realized it was time to seek help. Suicidal thoughts were starting to creep in, and I desperately craved the “normalcy” of a good night’s sleep and attending classes like a regular college student. This led me to the counseling center, where the clinical psychologist immediately sensed the urgency. Off I went to the psychiatric emergency room, tearing magazines to shreds in the waiting area as if they were a representation of my tumultuous state of mind.

After a brief conversation, I was informed that a stay in the hospital’s psychiatric unit was necessary to bring me down from the clouds of mania. And so, I spent a week in that solemn ward, grasping the reality of my mood disorder and its impact on my education and life.

But the story doesn’t end there. Far from it. As I returned to my dorm room after my discharge, a dark cloud lingered. Depression settled in, and the realization that I couldn’t continue my college journey hit me like a ton of bricks. A call to the psych ER’s crisis line led to my readmission to the inpatient psych unit, and the devastating news that I had to withdraw from the university.

In the dead of night, my mom rushed to my side to help me pack up my belongings. It was a heartbreaking moment, leaving behind the dreams I had once held so fiercely. But life is unpredictable, and sometimes we must navigate the unexpected turns it throws our way.

Back home, I sought solace in the same psychiatrist who had diagnosed me. It was a humbling experience, accepting my illness and realizing that starting fresh at a local college might have been a wiser path from the beginning. With my medication and newfound coping skills in tow, I persevered through mood swings and the challenges of living with bipolar disorder.

And here’s the delightful twist: I not only graduated from college but also went on to earn my master’s degree. Yes, you read that right. Despite the rollercoaster of emotions, setbacks, and detours, I triumphed.

Life may have thrown me a curveball, but I swung back with determination. My journey through college might not have been the typical tale, but it birthed resilience and the drive to overcome adversity. Bipolar disorder may have altered my path, but it didn’t define me. I embraced my illness and forged ahead, claiming victory in the pursuit of knowledge.

So, dear reader, remember that life’s unexpected detours can lead to beautiful destinations. Embrace the bumps, twists, and turns along the way because they just might be the ride of a lifetime.