Once upon a time, I thought I was going to be a teacher. College changed that, but it wasn’t a very pleasant learning experience. I learned the hard way that there is a great deal of stigma about mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder. I was thrown out of my practicum because my supervising professor believed that bipolar disorder made me a threat to children, and that I would hurt one of the children under my care. I was heartbroken and devastated.
From my LiveJournal, dated November 25th, 2004:
*deep, heavy sigh* Alright, where to begin?
A few weeks back, on a Friday, my cooperating teacher had to fill out my evaluation. Fine. She explained it to me, I mentally made the changes, all is good, though I cried all weekend.
A few days after that, Tuesday, I get cornered by my supervising professor and another prof. They sit me down and explain that I’m not doing very well. I reply with, “Hey, look, some of this is due to the medical condition I explained to you waaaay back when.” We agree on how things need to change, I bawl some more, and it’s all better, right? I’m working harder and getting things changed.
Throughout this entire semester, one of my Professors has made my life a living HELL. I don’t say these things lightly, as the lot of you know. Over that horrid weekend, the culmination of stress from the nameless prof and the bad evaluation led to suicidal thoughts on my part. Now, I’ve lived with bipolarity my ENTIRE FREENING LIFE. I have good coping strategies in place, and I was never in any danger of actually hurting myself. The thoughts were just there.
I told this to my supervisor- I wanted him to understand just how frustrated and upset I am about this professor. I told him I’d had the thoughts. When I explained my condition to him, he never asked me to clarify, and since I’m expected to be somewhat trained in psychology, I figured a man who’s achieved his doctorate in teaching would know some, right?
Boy, was I wrong.
Next thing I know, I’ve been pulled out of practicum and sent to every counselor on campus. To make a long, frustrating story short, I’ve been put on a sort of medical academic probation. All because I chose to be honest with my professors over how I felt. So what has this christian college taught me?
I’ve been ordered to see a psychiatrist, and since I can’t get in to see one until February, (or maybe Christmas break if mom plays the cards right,) my doctor put me on mood stabilizers. Whee. Now I’m on even MORE medication. So I’ve been playing with THAT… that stuff about ripped my innards clean out. If it feels like destroying my female parts, it’s welcome to them, but I would appreciate it if it would kindly leave my intestines alone, thanks.
I was never shy about my illness, and made sure my professors knew, because I figured it was important that they know that I occasionally struggled with it. None had said anything about it, though the nameless professor mentioned in that entry was particularly hard on me afterward, which makes me wonder now what she thought it meant.
The main issue my cooperating teacher had was that I always appeared tired. At that time, I was on Zoloft, which had the strange side effect of making me yawn constantly. I explained that to her, and to my supervising professor, and that’s when things went from bad to worse. I was thrown out of my practicum and essentially put on academic probation. I fought it with the school, but the other deans said that the Education department had control of it and they couldn’t change what the Education department did, even though they agreed it was unfair. I was to complete the following semester and prove that I was “stable” enough to be trusted in a classroom, despite having been in the education program for two and a half years at this point without any problem. Only then would they allow me to re-take my practicum and start back over again, setting me a year behind my classmates. I had to load my schedule up with electives and intro classes to fill it, and because I was forced to withdraw from my practicum, I had to take on an extra three credit hours the following semester to keep my scholarships.
From my LiveJournal, dated March 22, 2005:
So, spring break was horrid. My stepdad was feeling particularly PMSsy and was angry with me from the moment I walked in the door. He started right off with, “Alright, here are the rules. You can only be online from ten pm to midnight.”
“That’s a bit short…”
“It’s all you need!”
“I don’t have anything to do all week. None of my friends are here. The internet or the phone is the only way to contact any of my friends, and the internet is better because then I can talk to all of them at once.”
“You can call them.” *gritting his teeth, setting his jaw*
“…you’d rather I rack up the long-distance phone bill than talk to them on the internet that’s already paid for?”
“You can call them within reason, and then pay for your phone time.”
“What is it with you about me and the internet? Why does it bother you so much?” This is when he about exploded… I could see the veins in his forehead popping out.
“You obey my rules or you get out!”
“Okay, okay! Ten to midnight!”
He stormed off, and I went about my life.
I tried- I really did- to keep within that minimum, but you all know how hard that can be. I seriously lost track of time the first night, and was on until 1:30, when he stormed out of his room and yelled at me. The next night, I was downloading something to fix the computer with and was on until one something, as well. The third night, I got off somewhere between 12:30-12:45. The following morning, there was a note on the computer that said if I didn’t follow his rules I could find somewhere else to live, and he claimed I’d been on until 1:30 the night before. I had still been up, yes, but I was in my own room on MY computer, and if he thinks he’s limiting my time on my personal laptop he’s got another think coming, and I’ll whack him upside the head with it.
Needless to say, the week didn’t go well. My stepdad was being so petty he’d get up and leave the room when I came in. I wanted to discuss it with him and try and figure out what the HECK his problem is, but he wouldn’t even stay in the same room, much less talk to me when I tried to initate a conversation! I had already been increasingly depressed, and this did not help. I went back to school more stressed than I had been when I left- and as those of you who talk to me regularly know, I had been VERY stressed. The Sunday I got back was the best day of my spring break, sadly enough.
The next morning, I found myself in the deepest, darkest depression I’ve been in since I first sought help for my bipolarity when I was twelve. I somehow dragged myself to Physiological Psychology and then my counseling appointment, which helped somewhat, but after meeting with my counselor at eleven, I went back to bed and didn’t emerge until four. When I woke up, I felt worse than before, and caught myself thinking the most morbid thoughts I’d thought in forever. At seven, I asked my roommate to take me to the hospital, because I knew my medication was too off to manage to survive until my scheduled psychiatrist appointment in May. I admitted myself Monday, and was kept until Thursday morning.
During my stay, I had various tests done, and they discovered that I have hypothyroidism, which means that my thyroid doesn’t really work right- it doesn’t produce enough hormones. This explains a LOT of my depression and listlessness, as it means I’m tired all the time and depressed. Some of the depression is from the bipolarity, yes, but this explains why I’ve always had far more severe depression than mania. They also discovered that my body no longer responded to the Zoloft I was on, and that my Depakote wasn’t even at a therapeudic level, so I was switched to Lexapro and Lamictal as an antidepressant and mood stabilizer, respectively. I also have been put on Synthroid, which is for the thyroid problem. So, by the end of the summer when the Synthroid is completely titrated, I should be a whole new person.
I finally feel human, and I finally have a desire to live. Things seem brighter because I finally feel like I’ve got my life in order. It took a rather drastic measure, but now I know I’m on the right medications and I know why I’m always so freening tired, depressed, and cold, and why I can’t lose weight. That right there is what makes me the happiest- I’ll finally be able to lose weight!
After that hospitalization, I had to medically withdraw from one of my classes that I had been failing due to the depression. I can’t believe I didn’t fail out of all my classes that semester, to be completely honest. The Education department took my hospitalization as proof that I was not stable enough to be around children and refused to allow me to finish the program. I thumbed my nose at them and switched to psychology. After all, I’d taken several psychology courses to fill in the space that semester, and realized I loved it. I think I came out the winner, after all that.