Tuesday, January 24, 2017

College and Mental Illness

I started my second semester of college yesterday. I'm incredibly excited for it. I got to move back into my dorm and I actually genuinely love to learn (unless we're talking about Chemistry, because who really needs Chemistry--not me).

As much fun as college is, it is also undoubtedly tough, stressful, and busy. College can be difficult for anybody, but struggling with a mental illness makes it that much more difficult.

It is only the second day of my second semester so I have not perfected these steps by any means, but I have found some ways that work for me to make going to college with a mental illness just a little bit easier.

1) Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD)
The very first thing you should do is talk to your schools disabilities department. They have measures put in place to help you succeed. This will probably need to involve getting a note signed from your doctor. Then you can meet with their accommodations representative who can help you get the extra help you need. I go to Cal State Bakersfield and they personally have an amazing SSD department. Everyone has been so great at getting me the extra help that I need. I personally have time and a half testing, I get to take my tests in their quiet testing center, I can have a notetaker take my notes for me if I need, and I am allowed to tape record lectures. I highly suggest going to see your disabilities office as early as you possibly can.

2) Know Your Teachers
Last semester it was vital for me to know my professors. It even came down to whether or not I passed a class. This is something that should be done at the beginning of the semester. Go introduce yourself, give them a copy of your SSD report, and let them know what's going on if you feel comfortable. They will be much more inclined to help you if you talk to them earlier rather that when you're struggling or already behind.

3) Counseling Center
Every school has a counseling center that should be free to all students. It is one of those costs that are covered under your tuition. I highly suggest that you make an appointment with a therapist and work with them, especially if you are struggling. Even though I see my outside therapist I meet with one in the counseling center about every other week or so. My outside therapist is wonderful, we just often don't have time to go over all of my personal issues and then add school on top of it. The therapist I see at the counseling center covers my school needs and problems. They know the school extremely well and can be a huge benefit.

4) Get Enough zzzzzzz's 
This is so important as I know that for me and many others I know with mental illnesses if I don't get enough sleep it exacerbates my symptoms greatly. It may be very tempting to stay up and do homework, hang out with friends, or go to that party everyone's talking about, but your mental health has to be placed above all. For me, I know that the absolute latest I can stay up if 11pm and that can sometimes be pushing it. You know what's right for your body. Take a minute and listen to what it's telling you.

5) Get Plenty to Eat and Drink
My therapist has pointed out to me on more than one occasion that when I am experiencing a rise in symptoms I need to evaluate three things: how much I'm sleeping, eating, and drinking, because it is likely one of those three areas are suffering. If you are not taking care of the vital needs of your body it will affect your mind. I've tried to make excuses before like I can't go to sleep yet I need to study, or my hips hurt I don't want to walk all the way to the dining hall, but in the long run if you take care of your body then your body will take care of you.

6) No Alcohol
College is a time where a lot of people start drinking for the first time. For those of us with mental illnesses this is a bad idea. I personally don't drink anyways, but I have seen how it has affected people around me. Especially if you take medications they should not be mixed with alcohol. It is still possible to have fun without it. You're friends will understand.

7) Find What Works for You
These are just some of the things that work for me; however everyone is different. Experiment with different techniques and different coping skills and you will find some that work for you. Above all else listen to your body, and prioritize your mental health above everything.

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