Inspire – Women of Dartmouth Stories

Bipolar Acceptance and Fortification

Bipolar Acceptance and Fortification

                                                    “And He Huffs, and He Puffs, and He Blows the House Down.”

Life with Bipolar Disorder

     My name is Audrey Marcumand I am a Dartmouth ’06(as Mengyang Jian). Dartmouth (my dorm mates, health clinic staff, administrators and First Year Dean Pfister) was the piggy that gave me shelter when Bipolar Disorder tore mine down. My last hospitalization was in 2009 and I’ve had a system in place that’s now survived two close calls.

At 18, the question was:

     ➢Can I survive?

At 37, the answer is:

     ➢Yes! You can thrive.

The dual-purpose of this narrative is to:

  1. Give thanks to Dartmouth as an institution made up of individuals aiming toward good
  2.  Empower folks who struggle with bipolar disorder or know someone who may be struggling 

Diagnosis and Struggle 

     I stumbled into the common area on my dorm after the first day of class said I needed help. My head was feeling cloudy and I was 90% sure I was poisoned. With a 7-person escort I arrived at the student health clinic. Quickly transferred to the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I. That first hospitalization lasted 5 days at the end of which my brain was mush I took a1-quarter medical leave to recover.

     Info: Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder characterized by highs and lows—Mania and Depression. Episodes are acute manifestations for some it could mean psychosis—complete loss of reality.

     It took 3 medical leaves (4 hospitalizations) to find medication that kept episodes from recurring. 

How Dartmouth helped:

     ➢Orientation week buddies continued to invite me to activities even as I trended toward hermit-hood

     ➢Admins approved my return to school after each of 3 medical leaves

     ➢First year dean helped me secure a seat in a pre-major class 

    ➢Professors graciously accepted my accommodations form at the beginning of each quarter

     ➢Referred doctor (former Dartmouth Hitchcock Resident) found a medication that kept me sane in 2004

     ➢Administrators invited me to participate in the 2006 commencement (I read 1/6 of the graduate names); I walked with the Class of 2007and graduated in 2008

     ➢Degree from Dartmouth meant bipolar didn’t kill a career before it started

Acceptance and Fortification

     Once I was convinced by my doc in 2009 that it was possible to have a meaningful life with bipolar I started building my fortress. 

  1.      Environment
  2.      Active Monitoring
  3.      Breaker Switches

     Sleep is my non-negotiable. Doc stated plainly that I have to make lifestyle adjustments—a brain disorder needs management. Daily bipolar meds is as important as food and water. I actively manage what I visualize as a “Stress Vat.” I make adjustments constantly. This “art of war” I’ve developed has seen me through 12 years of sanity and two close calls.

     Thank you for allowing me to be part of the Dartmouth story. A 40-page version of this essay with 30 pages on fortification is posted on the simplistic audrey-marcum.com webpage.

 

Referred doctor (former Dartmouth Hitchcock Resident) found a medication that kept me sane in 2004Administrators invited me to participate in the 2006 commencement (I read 1/6 of the graduate names); I walked with the Class of 2007and graduated in 2008Degree from Dartmouth meant bipolar didn’t kill a career before it started

➢Referred doctor (former Dartmouth Hitchcock Resident) found a medication that kept me sane in 2004➢Administrators invited me to participate in the 2006 commencement (I read 1/6 of the graduate names); I walked with the Class of 2007and graduated in 2008➢Degree from Dartmouth meant bipolar didn’t kill a career before it startedAcceptance and FortificationOnce I was convinced by my doc in 2009 that it was possible to have a meaningful life with bipolar I started building my fortress. 1)Environment2)Active Monitoring3)Breaker SwitchesSleep is my non-negotiable. Doc stated plainly that I have to make lifestyle adjustments—a brain disorder needs management. Daily bipolar meds is as important as food and water. I actively manage what Ivisualize as a “Stress Vat.”I make adjustments constantly. This “art of war” I’ve developed has seen me through 12years of sanity and two close calls.Thank you for allowing me to be part of the Dartmouth story. A 40-page versionof this essaywith 30 pages on fortification is posted onthe simplisticaudrey-marcum.comwebpage.

2 thoughts on “Bipolar Acceptance and Fortification”

  1. Audrey, thank you so much for sharing your story. I have so many buddies (Dartmouth buddies and others) with similar experiences. I’m so glad you are part of my Dartmouth family!

    1. It’s a long time coming. I was not ready in my last year in college to talk to a circle when the health clinic doc asked in 2007. Only years after leaving Dartmouth did I truly appreciate how a system, the Dartmouth system, succeeded with me while many others just joined the did-not-finish-school bucket.

      So many showed symptoms at that same age but were misdiagnosed and /or diagnosed only after significant damage.

      Fellow students who knew. Staff whose routine jobs secured my opportunities. I didn’t know accommodations were a thing until the health clinic doc handed me a sheet of paper and discussed how to talk with professors. Not one gave me a difficult time.

      I got moose socks mailed by my assigned first year dean when it wasn’t yet 100% I’d be back after the first fall quarter medical leave.

      So many people. Vetted and admitted or hired by a system that worked for this singular data point. Happy happy data point I am!!
      Audrey

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