Navigating University Life with Bipolar disorder

By Tanya Sinha

Every freshman comes to the university with a set of expectations: friends, freedom and whether they like to admit it or not, romance. I was no different. When I first visited the campus from India, I was enthralled. The magnificent gardens, the clean architecture, the modern yet traditional landscaping made me fall in love with the campus almost instantaneously. Navigating life in CU, however, was not as easy as falling in love with its beauty. Like any relationship, it was fraught with ups and downs. As your professor in UGFN will teach you, life is composed of Yin and Yang. The good and the bad. The difference made even more stark with a condition like Bipolar Disorder.

I started college as a young girl full of life and energy. I attended school regularly and had a diverse group of friends. However, what no one tells you about that the first year in University is how lonely it can get. You’re surrounded by people you’ve never met, you feel the pressure to get out of your comfort zone and socialize, you put on a happy go lucky mask so as that you are liked and accepted. You desperately look for a connection beyond acquaintances. And eventually, you find one. Life in University will feel lonely, but here, you will also meet your best friends. You will yearn for home and familiarity; however, you have to have the courage to move forward and start anew.

Living with mental illness made the adjustment much harder for me. Being a part of a different culture, miles away from my homeland, I felt alienated and alone. The loneliness can get overbearing. I struggled to put on the happy mask that everyone now associated me with. I withdrew from my friends for days on end, watching Netflix in a dark room, thinking about the issues I had left unresolved back in India. Life was a struggle. I weathered on beaten and broken, wondering why I was cursed to feel the way I did. It’s incredibly hard to talk about a mental illness, despite the monumental effort made by our University to generate awareness. You’re yearning for help, but seeking help is so much harder when you feel like there is something inherently wrong with you. You seek acceptance for who you are but you feel so flawed you reject yourself.

One thing University life affords you in spades is freedom. In the absence of a rigid structure, you’re free to live your life as you please. You feel the urge to let go, to live life uninhibited. I know I did. When the mania set on, I felt godlike. I partied hard and frequently, stayed up for nights on end and aced my essays. I had peaked. I lived and I lived recklessly. I made friends with strangers at LKF, dated a series of men I never wanted to commit to and worked out at the state-of-art Uni gym like I was training for the Olympics. I smoked like a chimney, drank like a fish and studied like a scholar. My life had no balance. I knew there was something wrong with me. But I felt so powerful, what could possibly be wrong? My confidence soared during those manic episodes. I truly felt like acing my economics midterm edged me closer to becoming the next Warren Buffet.

I finally sought help in my third year of college. The medication helped my condition significantly. It eliminated the erratic pattern of my mood swings, helping me set into a regular routine. Therapy helped me regain my confidence. I learned how to trust myself. I realized I was worthy of love despite my condition. Soon after, I settled into a stable relationship with a supportive, loving man. I met my best friend, my soulmate.

Bipolar disorder affects every 1 in 10 adults. Given those statistics, someone reading this has felt the way I have felt. They have felt devastated and broken. They have felt agitated and out of control. This article is love to them. To help them understand that they do not have to suffer alone, that no matter how hard life gets, there is someone out there who understands their struggle.