When a student enters a University setting, they’ll inevitably come up against some obstacles that they need to overcome. For me, the greatest obstacle that faces me is dealing with my bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder can be quite a bit more debilitating than a lot of people think – sometimes I need to stifle my objections when I overhear a jaffy mention that she feels “a little bipolar today”. Firstly, there’s the soaring highs and crushing lows. They can come on without warning, and sometimes they can last for weeks. The effects are different for everyone, but they can range from wanting to have sex with anything with a pulse, to not wanting to get out of bed… or even feeling like you’re able.
Sometimes I’m forced to endure mixed episodes – situations that combine elements of both high and low, and are as difficult to explain as they are to fight through. A lot of bipolar sufferers also have related anxiety disorders, and I’m occasionally subject to bouts of social anxiety, which makes participating in the social aspect of Monash extremely difficult.
By far the most troublesome problem is broaching the issue with lecturers and tutors. Feeling incredibly depressed, depressed enough that you need extension on your assessments is bad enough. Having to physically confront your assessor to discuss the issue and face their judgment when you are feeling emotionally fragile, particularly when you can’t even begin to articulate the problem to them, is a horrifically dire situation.
You can’t underestimate how much I appreciate having the opportunity and the ability to be on campus, but I walk a constant tightrope in my life, and University life is a very difficult line to walk. Unfortunately, I can’t always trust that there will be a safety net if and when I fall. I guess I’m very lucky because I’m still functional enough to operate in a University environment, when I know a lot of other people in my position aren’t. Access Monash allowed me to pursue the degree I wanted, even though dealing with my bipolar made me fall a little below the entrance threshold, yet I am in constant fear that the University system will allow me to silently fall through the cracks if I reach a point where the stress is too great. There is an uncomfortable inconsistency in the way mental health services are distributed at Monash University; it needs to be properly addressed – and soon.