Non traditional Applicant with Bipolar disorder

Hi guys, do any of you have bipolar and how has having this particular disorder affected your goal of being a med student. I myself am bipolar but have been episode free for three years and have held a good state job as a social worker for the past year and a half. I believe I have overcome major adversity, and would like to to hear other’s personal experiences and comments.

I don’t have bipolar disorder, and although I suspect that a couple of my med student colleagues do, they haven’t come right out and said so. I know anecdotally about one or two others–friends of friends.
From seeing other folks with bipolar work with other sorts of challenges, I’d say that the difficulties you’d want to think about would be:
1. Some people with bipolar disorder like situations/careers where they can decide when they will be more on and when they will be more off; medical school and residency is not a place where this kind of flexibility is so easy. So, the question is, when you’re low, can you keep going at a good clip? When you’re up, can you keep it together and not totally fly off in a million directions? If not, getting through will be more difficult because in much of school, your circumstances are not under your control and you will just have to push through.
2. What triggers highs and lows? If stress is a catalyst for lows, for instance, you may want to consider medical school as kind of a minefield. There is lots of stress, and again, you can’t control when it’s going to come–it comes flying at you at high speed.
Personally, I find medical school to be a challenge to my mental health. On the other hand, I also found being bored to be a challenge to my mental health in another way. I don’t regret coming to medical school; on the other hand, I’ve had some low lows and some high highs, and I’m not bipolar, so… you might want to go with caution and/or with a lot of support and contingency plans in place. I realize that this is sort of the gamble you’re contemplating, and with three years stable, I can also see why the gamble looks better than it might have for you in the past.
Good luck–


Hi guys, do any of you have bipolar and how has having this particular disorder affected your goal of being a med student. I myself am bipolar but have been episode free for three years and have held a good state job as a social worker for the past year and a half. I believe I have overcome major adversity, and would like to to hear other’s personal experiences and comments.

Hi there,
Like Joe, I am not bipolar but I had a little “sib” (freshman medical student advisee) that was diagnosed as being bipolar during his first year of medical school. It also did not help that he was also diagnosed with multiple sclerosis during that year too. There were so many problems with medication adjustments that he ended up dropping out of school. It was a pity because he had everything that a good physician needs except the proper medication combination that would let him get through medical school.
If your medications are working for you and you feel that you have this disorder under control, there is nothing wrong with pursuing medicine. As with depression, as long as you are taking your meds, you should have little trouble unless you develop a tolerance or a particular medication does not work for you. In my friend’s case, the lithium gave him a fine tremor.
Another student that I knew with bipolar disorder went on to graduate first in his class and is now in a Family Practice residency. He was able to get his medications lined up and really did a great job when he rotated on my surgical service.
Since you have been episode-free for three years, I am betting that you are in the category of the second student that I described above and will do fine with medical school. You can only give it a try if medicine is truly your goal.
Good luck!

Looking back on my original post, I’m not fond of its instructive tone. And I like Nat’s conclusion.
I think that there is always a balance of “you can do it!” and “beware the pitfalls” that this forum tries to collectively strike… and only you can know what side of that balance will be right for you. So: beware the pitfalls… and, you can do it!
good luck

Hey Whirling Dervish!
It was great to see your post, and trust me you are not alone. I have schizoaffective disorder with bipolar type II and generalized anxiety disorder. I swear I am like Damien from the movie The Omen in the sense that on the back off my head I was born with “DSM-IV” etched in my head(rather than what Damien had)" LOL. I have had my illness all my life which I think is a benefit because it is all I know and I have just learned to adapt to life with it and be successful. I have been an RN for 6 years, worked med-surg floors and the ICU. I now work disease management, took that job because of a divorce I went through and the stress of it. I have vascillated often about whether to pursue medicine and would it be good for me. I have not come to a solid decision yet but I find this site to be very helpful in attaining the knowledge I need to make a good decision. My suggestion is also to talk with your psychiatrist and therapist if you have one. What concerns me the most is the medical field’s seemingly lack of support for employees with mental illness. And the support of colleagues too. now I do not mean that as an all encompassing judgement nor a paranoid/persecutory thought. I have worked at the Mayo Clinic and they were awesome when I ended up in the hospital for 3 days. One hospital I worked at made it near impossible, I had to consult a lawyer because my American w/Disability Act right were violated, but I am not the type to sue so I just quit. It was the mostdisheartening experience I have had. So, my concern is what happens if I get into a residency and nee to spend 2-3 days in the hospital and maybe 2-3 days additional off before returning to work? I know when I need to get help and I know my warning signs that the depression is getting severe so I nip it in the bud as quick as I can. maybe 1-2 times a year I go to the hospital to get meds adjusted and get re-centered and in a few days I am back to top condition. The hardest part for me has been dealing with colleagues. If only I were diabetic or pregnant then they would be supportive I would think. But I try my very best to not let they’re insensitivity or lack of knowledge affect me, that can be hard at times for anyone though. again, I don’t mean my statements to encompass everyone I have worked. I am just giving some examples from my life to maybe help you. You just have to find the strength in yourself to manage your illness as best as you can. Do a search on the web for something like ‘health professionals with disabilities’. I found a site one time(can’t remember it now) that listed resources for health professionals with disabilities. You are covered under the Americans w/Disabilities Act so you should be eligible for disability services at school and work. From that website I found the name of a doctor that practices here in Minneapolis who has bipolar and is open about it. I lost his name but I could try to find it for you. Anyway, hope this helps! P.S. Are you by chance interested in Sufism? Your name Whirling Dervish is indicative of the Dervishes in Konya, Turkey who were led by the Islamic/Sufi poet Jelaluddin Rumi. I converted to Islam a couple years ago an am interested in Sufi life, Rumi is my favorite poet. Just curious, would love to chat with you if you want, private message me if you like. Take care!