My Deck of Cards – Anonymous Senior (’19)
Life is hard for everyone; no one will argue that. But everyone is handed a different deck of cards. Some people have aces that make it easier for them to handle things, while I and many others don’t.
I don’t like saying I am bipolar, ‘cause that makes people forget who I am. They never seem to forget what I am though. But that’s not to say that I’m ashamed. It’s a part of me, but it’s not who I am.
When people hear “bipolar,” they think of someone who goes hot and cold randomly and is, for lack of a better word, crazy. While this is a generalization, it has some basis in the real traits of bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood shifts — usually between manic, hypomanic and depressed. These are not your teenage mood swings; they are far more extreme. Before I sought treatment, I often felt completely at the mercy of these mood shifts. I would go from happy and wild to hopeless and ready to end my life. But while bipolar disorder has common characteristics, it’s a unique experience for everyone.
Being diagnosed while in high school explained a lot of my difficulties. Struggling with deadlines, lacking motivation, extreme emotional instability, insomnia, you name it. But the school system hasn’t been overly accepting of these difficulties I face. I have been told by teachers that I need to work harder, that I don’t care enough, that I’m not trying. When I’m manic, that makes me angry and likely to lash out at them, getting myself into trouble. When I’m depressed, this kind of talk can seriously damage my sense of self-worth and send me on a spiral towards self-harm and suicidal thoughts and actions.
However, I don’t blame the school system; I blame the lack of understanding of mental illness by individual people. The Cherry Hill School District, with its many flaws, does try its best to understand mental illness and aid those whom it affects. With my recently instituted 504 plan, given to me due to my struggles with the symptoms of my bipolar disorder, I have felt much less debilitating stress and emotional instability. I thank the district for that.
That is not to say that there is not room for improvement. Sending kids to crisis before sending them to a counselor is a failure to those children by the system. It makes ignorant parents angry and blame the school. It scares already vulnerable kids. Instead of doing this, the school should have a counselor/therapist on hand to talk directly to the child and then take action based on their recommendations. Unfortunately, East doesn’t have personnel on staff who are permitted to assess a student for ideations.
In general, I’ve still been struggling daily to control my symptoms. I get manic, and I get depressed, despite my medication and therapy. It’s an uphill battle, but not one I can afford to give up on.