Bipolar + Nursing School

  1. I'm Bipolar 1 and have been probably all my life but wasn't officially diagnosed until around age 20. I'm 28 now. I was diagnosed with major depression as a teenager and prescribed Paxil, which made me manic as all get out (think carrying around a blow-up doll at school) but my parents didn't see anything wrong with it because hey, at least I wasn't slicing open my arms and legs anymore. I've had symptoms since early childhood but back then, they didn't really know about childhood bipolar and since it runs in the family my parents thought I was normal for the longest time because I was/am just like them. I have a psychiatrist who I see every 6 months, sooner if I need to, and take my meds religiously. I'm on 150mg of Lamictal and have a PRN order for 1mg of Ativan, which I take maybe 4x/month max for panic attacks.

    I'm worried about applying to nursing school because of my disability. I know how people view those of us with mental illness and while I'm certainly not ashamed of it and speak freely about it to those who ask, I don't want it to keep me out of pursuing my career. I'm currently taking my last year of pre-reqs and should have been finished last year, but I work and have 3 kids so I can only go to school part-time. I'm normally very good about recognizing the symptoms of an oncoming mania or depression and can get myself under control before it comes on full blast, but last summer I didn't catch it in time. I went manic at work and was pretty much forced to tell them what was wrong with me, why I had to take immediate medical leave, and why I was acting so bizarre. At first they were mad because I didn't tell them ahead of time, but got over it right away and were supportive as I took time off and returned to a normal frame of mind.

    I'll have a job with my current employer when/if I graduate the ADN program. They're willing to give me references, along with my psychiatrist and family practitioner. If I have good references and proof that my illness is under control and I'm med compliant, it shouldn't keep me out of nursing school right? They do a psych eval before admitting you and I'm sure I'll be able to pass but I'll have to tell them about the bipolar, right? They also do a urine test and I'm sure the Benzos and the Lamictal will come back in the urine. I'm not "crazy" despite what the general public seems to think of those of us with mental illness--when my meds are working I'm just as "normal" as anyone else.
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    About Commanderzoom

    Joined: Jul '09; Posts: 98; Likes: 78
    Specialty: 2 year(s) of experience in Geriatrics


  3. by   Jules A
    Hi and welcome,
    Please just take this as my two cents but if there is any way you can fly under the radar without disclosing this information to your nursing program that would be the way I would handle. it. We had a couple of ADHD students and the one that asked for accomodations was put under a microscope and ended up failing out. If I am way off base I hope others will write in but my nursing programs (LPN and RN) were not in the slightest bit nurturing. It was sink or swim and they were pretty brutal, imo. Good luck with whatever you decide.
  4. by   tothepointeLVN
    Lamictal doesn't show up in a standard tox screen and if you only take the benzos sparingly then most likely that won't show up either unless you'd taken a dose with a few days of the tox screen.

    I have bipolar. I got through nursing school. I discussed my experiences when we were studying MI's. No body said anything that was less than encouraging but I think a lot had to do with the fact that I'm so steady and even keeled. More so than the rest of the class
  5. by   rachelgeorgina
    I have bipolar and it's not something I prefer to disclose to faculty / clinical staff, however it often goes without saying that there is something wrong with me because I have very obvious (very old) self harm scars in very obvious places, especially all up and down both arms, which are obviously always on show at work (long sleeves = infection risk.)

    Has your school got a student services support team thingo? At my uni (in Australia) you can meet with the student disability services, have your info registered with them and then if you need help (like an extension, e.g.) the disability service facilitates it for you through the faculty without having to disclose personal information, like your diagnosis.

    I'm certainly not ashamed of my diagnosis, and I don't hide from it. Yet I am very aware of the stigma that many people still associate with mental illnesses. No point creating more trouble for myself.
  6. by   jessallen
    did you have to dislose it to the board?
  7. by   hpcat
    My daughter's nurse practitioner has bipolar disorder. She also has 2 MSNs (nurse practioner) in behavioral and peds, and is considered an expert on children with ADHD. You can do this.