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Apr. 18th, 2012 | 01:32 am
posted by: maenads_dance in crazy_academics

Brief bit about me: 22, bipolar, inconsistent college student. When I'm "fine" I get straight A's; when I'm not I drop out of school because I'm trying to jump off bridges. Currently I'm rapid-cycling, what fun.

The situation:

Although I have more than a hundred credits, because I'm constantly transferring schools due to my illness, I've currently found myself in a situation where my new school is requiring me to fulfill some gen ed requirements I don't have before I start this fall. For Californians, it's some random IGETC stuff. I'm currently enrolled at my local community college in Intro to Psychology, Public Speaking, and Pre Calc (lol, I have some Calc but not any credits that will transfer). Public Speaking and especially Pre Calc are great and I'm having a blast.

However, Psychology? Not so much. The professor is some kind of masters-level clinician who worked at the local hospital in the 70s and since then has been teaching. He likes to tell "funny stories" about the patients at the local inpatient floor. Since I was recently on that inpatient floor, I find this less than amusing. However, success is the best revenge - I'm doing very well in the class.

Big project is coming up: give a 20-minute lecture to the class about a topic of your choice. I selected the history of deinstitutionalization in America for my topic, as it's a topic I know something about and am passionately interested in, for obvious reasons. Much of the literature on this topic is highly pessimistic, and is written almost exclusively from the perspective of the clinician or social worker, rather than the patient. It gets a bit wearing to read about the severely mentally ill living on the streets or being in prison when I've come very close to that myself at my worst and craziest.

I'm considering disclosing, at the end of my presentation, that I am bipolar, have been severely ill, have been hospitalized multiple times - what it's like, why people are noncompliant, why autonomy and civil liberties are important to the mentally ill (even though civil liberties laws have had the side-effect of making treatment inaccessible to many of the severely mentally ill who do not have the ability or the understanding to pursue treatment). I want my classmates to be forced to see that the mentally ill live and walk among them, and aren't just grifters begging for change at intersections, but can be relatively high-functioning, successful people too. I want to do my part to decrease stigma.

There are some obvious reasons not to do this. The professor has hardly created a welcoming environment for the mentally ill. I could put myself at risk of bad treatment by revealing my diagnosis. I could flunk the presentation. On the other hand, I'm only at this college for a single semester - I'm transferring at the end of the semester, and I'll be giving this presentation in the last two weeks of class. I don't have any friends in the class, and no acquaintances where I'd be deeply hurt if they stopped talking to me.

What do you think?

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Comments {8}

in_excelsis_dea

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from: in_excelsis_dea
date: Apr. 18th, 2012 05:56 am (UTC)
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Oh, IGETC is annoying. I don't know ~exactly~ what system your CC is on, but I'm taking classes at three and am also enrolled full-time at a CSU, and you're either half or 3/4 done with the course. So just dealing until the end of the semester should be possible if you don't have any problems disclosing it, at least on a social level. Now, grade-wise... is it possible to record the presentation? That way you have proof if he marks you down for it. Also, I'd take a look at what class work is coming up: if you just have a written final and he flunks you, it's a lot easier to go to the department and complain than if the rest of the semester you're just going to be doing oral work. And do you really think he will mark you down? I don't know, I'd weigh the risks and decide if it was worth it.

Personally, I've got huge anxiety issues, so unless my impulsiveness makes me blurt it out, I keep that stuff really hidden from pretty much everyone. But I have identified as disabled, back when I had a physical disability along with the psych ones, and I found that a lot easier to do...even in online classes where it was far from obvious. *shrugs*

I guess it comes down to what you're comfortable with. And to be honest, from what I've read in your post, you seem okay with it. If you don't want to risk your grade because you really feel he will dock you points off for it, then have a game plan or don't out yourself. Otherwise, well, have fun. I imagine it will be quite interesting (in a good way!).

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Lucreza Borgia

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from: lucrezaborgia
date: Apr. 18th, 2012 05:57 pm (UTC)
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Ditto on recording it!

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sadandprophetic

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from: sadandprophetic
date: Apr. 18th, 2012 02:03 pm (UTC)
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First of all, congratulations on the success that you have had because I understand how hard it must be sometimes to just...exist, really. I'm glad you're doing well. Second of all, and this is my opinion/experience: Don't do it. On the one hand I understand why you want to do that because aside from the fact that it may make a point to the professor, it is who you are and it definitely isn't fair to have to hide that all of the time. However, what does it accomplish for you? Sadly, (I'm a psych major, too) the stigma associated with various mental illness' is still rampant and you may end up discrediting yourself in the eyes of most people there. On the brighter note if you do decide to do it, you may make some new friends that value your ability to be truthful. Good luck!

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evilgerbil

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from: evilgerbil
date: Apr. 18th, 2012 09:01 pm (UTC)
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If you do say you are bipolar, I think you should make it a rather casual mention at the beginning of your speech, tying in why this topic is important to you. Doing it at the end feels kind of like dropping a bomb. and it may be what people take home from your presentation instead of your message. There's no legal way the professor can mark you down for having a mental illness, but it could create a real awkwardness between you and the professor, who, as you said, has been sharing stories in an insensitive manner, probably because he thinks he's the only one who has seen such things. Then again, he may not feel guilty for being insensitive after your disclosure. It's your call.

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a plena calle

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from: aplenacalle
date: Apr. 18th, 2012 09:24 pm (UTC)
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Oh man this is amazing.

I think you should do it, IF:
1. Your presentation and all the material you had in after this have to be impeccable so, if he does turn out to be a massive asshole about your condition, he's forced to give you a good grade anyway. It seems like you're already doing this.
2. You can be totally professional and collected (I probably couldn't.) This goes with not giving him an excuse to dock points, but also so no one can brush you off emotionally.
3. You can handle a few people (even the prof) thinking it's just an attention grab/stunt to disrespect the professor and ignore any baiting about this.

I get why you want to do this (I HAVE done this, although spontaneously when I was really angry: not the best way), and I think you should go for it as long as you can take the covering-your-butt. It might not be worth it. But I don't think your professor can flunk you if he doesn't like it; at my school there are really rigid rules about what merits certain grades, and disagreeing isn't a valid reason. This is why I'm saying your material should be, like, flawless. You're not attached to your classmates so I'm not even worried about them; I bet sadandprophetic is right and someone will thank you for your presentation. I did that in my psych class when a guy talked about his antidepressants.

Reposted because I can haz proper html AND NOT BE MARKED AS SPAM? Sorry about that.

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Christine

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from: kisekileia
date: Apr. 19th, 2012 03:20 am (UTC)
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Agreed.

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Scarlet

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from: rosetearaway
date: Jan. 8th, 2013 05:12 pm (UTC)
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reading this nearly a year after you wrote it, i am wondering what you decided to do, and would like to sincerely say that i hope you have been well since. i think that this idea of yours has a lot of merit.

xx

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jaymieellen

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from: jaymieellen
date: Jan. 16th, 2013 06:09 pm (UTC)
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Maenads,

First, I want to applaud you for your bravery. Many people long to be where you are with your illness in your ability to speak openly about it. I too find myself heavily stricken with feverish passion in regard to psychiatry in general and in-patient conditions specifically. I think your desire to curb the stigma is admirable. This is a long and violent battle but each win is a small victory for all of us. Any step you can make in helping people understand that which is deeply misconstrued with often painful consequences is a major contribution in my eyes-so- KUDOS.

Secondly, from your description of your stand in the class and your lack of peer connections, it sounds like you have nothing to lose in speaking your mind. If anything, your teacher should be proud of the amount of thought and effort you have put into this. I look forward to an updated post!

PS: I too suffer from rapid-cycling BPD-often times it cuts the legs out from under me. Know you are not alone. Stay strong.

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