Last month, I completed a Master’s degree in Medical Humanities. Handing in my final essay was a huge moment for me because I had wrestled with my BPD to get to that moment.
Doing a full time degree alongside working two days a week as a teacher and managing my Borderline Personality Disorder was really hard at times. I thought I would share four tips with you that helped me cross the finish line of my degree.
1. Disclose if you feel safe enough to do so
I disclosed my BPD diagnosis once I started the course because I was sure I would be met with support. I told my tutors, the academic department and the university support services. I didn't think I would be discriminated against, but I felt that if that happened then I was in a strong enough position to challenge that.
Disclosing enabled me to get extra encouragement from tutors in times of mental health crises and to be granted extensions when needed. The amount of time I needed to manage my mental health left me with less time to complete assignments than I otherwise would have done if I didn't have this condition.
I also wanted to disclose because the course I was on involved a lot of discussion of illness, lived experience and patient testimony. The course was a mix of medical professionals and people with an interest in health, disability and illness. I wanted to be able to speak freely about my personal experience so as to get the most from the course and the group.
2. Planning out your time
One of the key things that helped was being able to see my time visually. I blocked out time for classes / my teaching job / essay writing / DBT group & 1-to-1 sessions. I also ring-fenced time for spending with my family, my boyfriend, friends, doing blog stuff and yoga.
Being able to plan out what, where, when and for how long gave me a sense of control over my time and the competing demands. Some people love digital diaries like Google Calendar, some are more old-school with paper ones.
I have a Passion Planner and I love it because there is loads of space to plan and the paper is thick enough to use with highlighters, ink and even watercolours. Passion Planner have a free PDFs for download on their website too.
3. Having time out
Sometimes I felt like I had to so much to get done that I couldn't take a break. These were actually the times I needed a break the most! Sometimes I didn't notice this until it was too late and I was burnt out.
There were times I had to ask for an extension because I was approaching a crisis and I needed to take time out in order to regain mental stability. I tried my hardest not to feel guilty about resting and putting my health first.
4. Using student support services
If you feel comfortable enough to ask for support, I would recommend making the use of any help that might be on offer. Student support services vary a lot between institutions, but if there is something that might help you then I would say go for it. During my undergraduate degree, I spent a lot of time wondering if I was 'ill enough' or 'deserving' of help.
During my masters however, I felt like I could ask for support without feeling guilty. I think that's because I had spent four years coming to terms with my borderline personality disorder and what it means for me. I was able to walk into the disability support centre as if I had a right to be there- which I most certainly did.
Are you a student with BPD? Do you have any tips to share? I would love to hear them.