12 Things Every (Bipolar) College Student Should Know

My last post was pretty heavy, so we’re going to lighten things up a little with a list (who doesn’t love a good list?).

College is a time of growth and self-discovery. For some young adults, this means a few stupid mistakes and a lot of fun, but it can be harder to navigate when you’re struggling with mental illness. I wasn’t diagnosed with bipolar until I was 21, and that led to a whole lot of mistakes and missteps while I struggled to deal with something I didn’t really understand.

This list has helpful tips for everyone (not just the people struggling with mental illness), based on my (not always successful) experiences in college. Enjoy!

12 Things (New)


  1. Don’t sign up for a credit card. It feels like Monopoly money when you’re manic, and it will land you with a bunch of useless crap you don’t need and a mountain of debt with astronomical interest rates. Actually, better avoid shopping altogether when you’re feeling manic. You might very well end up with a pierced nose and a pet guinea pig. Hypothetically.

    Nose ring
    The only picture I have of the hypothetical nose ring. Turns out I’m allergic to the metal they used, so it didn’t last long.
  2. Ask for help. I know it might feel like you’re the only person who has ever experienced nearly failing out of college because of mental illness, but I promise you’re not. Talk to your parents. Talk to your friends. Talk to your significant other. And for the love of God, talk to your professors. Trust me, they want to help you.
  3. Save. If you only heed one piece of advice, please let it be SAVING your money. I know it really seems like you need matching expensive furniture for your first apartment, but you don’t. Get mismatched furniture from Goodwill and save that money to pay off your crippling student loan debt and someday buy a new couch when one of your idiot friends jumps on and breaks the one you have now.
  4. Don’t drink tequila. If you do decide to drink tequila, be prepared to regret your choices. Also, make sure no one is taking pictures, because I promise you won’t want to see them.

    Drink Pic Orig
    Don’t do it, 21-year-old me! Put down the tequila sunrise and back away slowly.
  5. Live on campus as long as you can. You might be eager to get your own place and be an “adult,” but I’m going to let you in on a little secret: being an adult blows. Seriously. You think you’re bad at feeding and taking care of yourself now? Wait until you don’t have a meal plan.

    First dinner
    First homemade dinner in my very first apartment at the tender age of 19
  6. Wear your pajamas to class. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not acceptable to look like a bum. There will come a time in your life when it’s no longer socially acceptable to wear your cozy pajamas with the cartoon sheep printed on them in public, and you will miss it. You have the rest of your life to shower and wear real pants.
  7. Go to class. I know you feel like you’ve been run over by a truck and you can barely lift your head some days, and it’s early and you’re tired and it’s cold outside and you didn’t do the reading, but go to class. You are paying a tremendous amount of money for the luxury of sitting and learning new things. Take advantage of that. Lord knows you’ll be paying it off long enough.
  8. Just because someone wants to sleep with you, it doesn’t mean they want to date you. Don’t try to make a boyfriend or girlfriend out of a person who only wants a one night stand. It will only end in tears. When you inevitably ignore this advice, you will be tempted to drink a stupid amount of tequila to dull the pain. Please refer to #4.
  9. Don’t change who you are to get people to like you. I know it’s tempting because you want to make friends and you want people to like you, but it’s not worth it. If you stick it out and continue to be your weird, wonderful self, you will find a bunch of other wonderful weirdos who will become your confidantes and partners in crime, and it will be great.

    Grad pic
    Seriously, look at this weirdo.
  10. Cut your loved ones some slack. The mental health stuff is just as new and scary for them as it is for you. Be nice to your parents, your friends, and your poor significant other. They’re doing everything they can to help you, and you can’t lose it on them every time they don’t immediately read your mind and act accordingly.
  11. Do stupid stuff. You’re only in college once. Be safe and healthy, but be okay with being crazy sometimes. Steal trays from the dining hall to go sledding. Play in the rain. Sing at the top of your lungs on the quad. Dye your hair hot pink. Drive all night to the nearest beach and watch the sunrise. Have experiences that will make for great stories when you’re eye deep in student loan debt and wondering why you didn’t just skip college altogether.
  12. Be kind to yourself. Eat well. Sleep enough. Take long baths and use some of that money you saved from buying crappy furniture to splurge on a massage. Speak to yourself kindly. You’re in for a rough road, but it will be infinitely easier if you treat yourself gently.

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