Managing Bipolar Illness in College and in Graduate School

Graduate school from 1992 to 1994 was a time when my bipolar illness appeared to be getting more manageable.  Again, this was before the time of becoming a Project Management Professional or PMP-certified in 2002.  The mini-breaks began to subside in or around 1994, though I was still managing bipolar symptoms.  During this time my awareness of the importance of the sleep cycle developed.  If I had two nights of really bad sleep in a row, there were warning signs that instability was around the corner.  This two-night sleep rule continues with me today.  Now I can generally manage a one-night sleep deprivation but not two.  In addition to the new sleep hygiene, I gave up caffeine and alcohol at this time (though later resumed my use of caffeine only).

When I was enrolled in my master’s program, I was taking a Finance class and was having difficulty with bipolar symptoms.  The date for dropping or adding a course had already passed.  But I knew that I was not going to pass this Finance course.  I simply could not get the concepts the way the professor was teaching them.  So I reached out to the professor and asked if he could make an exception for the drop/add rule due to the fact that I was experiencing bipolar symptoms.  He reluctantly agreed but agreed nevertheless.

Later that summer I took a finance class from a different professor whose method of teaching “I got.”  I had no problems taking the course and passing it with this new professor.

This experience in academia also harkens back to a time during my undergraduate career.  I was able to drop a course associated with writing my thesis around the time I had my first break.  The college was accommodating in this regard, but did not provide any disciplinary action for the professor associated with that thesis who was engaged in trying to get me to come with him on a trip to New York.  My experience is that he was engaging in very inappropriate behavior – trying to get me to go to New York with him as well as providing cocaine to a group of undergrad students.  I have written several blogposts surrounding this experience as an undergrad so I will not go into detail about it at this time.

All in all, academia has been pretty tolerant of special needs associated with school requirements and my bipolar symptoms.  I would say though that there is still a long way to go in clarifying what type of behavior is appropriate for a college professor towards his or her students.  At the time in 1984 and 1985 there was absolutely no guidance from academia and academic ethics in this regard.

I have just discovered

I have just discovered that my blood pressure goes through the roof when I drink caffeine. For 17 years I have limited my coffee intake largely to the morning to wake up from sleepy-time meds. Sometimes I have had an occasional afternoon coffee. But my blood pressure has been giving me problems so I have been taking my levels at home several times a day.

What I am finding is that my blood pressure spikes in the morning after my daily caffeine ritual. I have cut my caffeine in half over the years making coffee with half caf and half decaf. But to be honest it sort of defies the purpose when I have four cups of this mixture a day anyway.

I have posted a message on the patient portal at my primary care physician’s office asking whether I need to curtail caffeine. I am almost sure her answer will be to cut out caffeine completely. I can do this, but it will be a huuuuge adjustment. I use the caffeine each morning to kickstart myself after a long medication induced sleep on clozapine/clauzerile.

I am not looking forward to this change in habits/behavior. But perhaps it will help with the bipolar highs and lows as well.

Anybody else have caffeine challenges? Anybody else asked to go off coffee to help with health conditions? If so, do you have any secrets for how you accomplished it?