When I was approached by recent college graduate, Anja Burcak, about being a guest on the podcast, I was intrigued not only because she wanted to share her story, but also that it would be coming from the perspective of a young adult, fresh out of college, speaking on the struggles of Depression, Bipolar, and mania. I’ve covered these topics many times in the past, usually though from the perspective of someone who had experienced similar struggles during their younger years.
I’m always on the lookout for ways to help share get the word out about what living with a particular mental health challenge is like, from as many perspectives as possible, and being able to chat with Anja is surely going to help reach so many, especially those who are young adults and parents who’s children are growing up and heading out on their own.
Anja is a blogger and advocate for Mental Health, and a recent graduate of UNC, Chapel Hill, where she studied Psychology, and is now looking to begin her career in addition to continuing her current advocacy work.
As outlined on her blog, “She often writes about mania, depression, and anxiety, from a first-person perspective. Being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (Type 1) 2 years ago has given her insight into the struggles many face with finding the right diagnosis, treatment, and providers. She hopes that sharing her story will create more open, honest conversations about mental health, fighting the stigma one conversation at a time. Lately, she has been exploring new ways to be an advocate, including getting involved in a podcast, guest posts, and vlogging.”
Her blog, The Calculating Mind, is her thoughts on living with Bipolar, Depression, and Mania, written from a unique and insightful point of view. As I read through several of her recent articles, it gives me a sense that Anja writes with the intent of telling it like it is, and not sugar coating the challenges or what she feels needs to be changed. Her blog was also recently nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award! Congrats, Anja!
Some of the topics we cover during her podcast include:
- FIRST SIGNS OF DEPRESSION: What were the first signs that what you were experiencing was more severe than a typical “low” period? How did you know that it was depression, not merely sadness?
- BIPOLAR DIAGNOSIS: When did you realize that your diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder was inaccurate? What were signs of bipolar disorder? How did you react (i.e. denial, sad, angry, relieved)?
- IMPACT OF ILLNESS ON COLLEGE: How did being depressed or manic impact your academic life (i.e. exams, grades)? –This could also be asked about impact on family, friendships, relationships, etc
- HOSPITALIZATIONS: From your experience (hospitalizations), what do you believe are some misconceptions the general public has about psychiatric wards? What did you think the hospitalization would be like (i.e. Were you scared to be admitted)? How did your perception of those with “severe mental illnesses”, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, change during your hospital stay?
- RECOVERY: What has helped you get back to “baseline” level? Medications? Therapy? Support networks? Coping mechanisms?
- ONLINE MENTAL HEALTH COMMUNITY: You are an active member of the mental health community online. What got you started? Why do you continue to be active with mental health blogging and social media? What is your overall goal (i.e. fighting stigma, psychoeducation)?
- LOOKING TO THE FUTURE: What is your outlook regarding your future and your condition? Are you concerned about relapsing? Are you keeping a more positive outlook? Given your past episodes and what you know now, do you feel better prepared for another episode, should it happen?
If you are in college, have a child in college or perhaps getting ready to head off to school soon, you’ll definitely want to check out Anja’s perspective on how these diagnoses changed her life, and affected her time at college. She shares how things were humming along in life, she finished high school, getting ready for college, and then in 2014 everything changed.
Suddenly she found herself working with a mental health professional, and not exactly having a positive experience, which lead to a search for more help, getting on medication, and then not receiving follow up support and trying to navigate life with more even more struggles and challenges that she wasn’t expecting.
Her story is one that I’m sure will be relatable to so many who have struggled in similar ways that Anja has, but her resiliency and desire to educate herself, along with finding good helping professionals has aided her during her ongoing journey of discovery about herself and her future.
-Matthew Pappas, CLC, CPNLP
All conversation and information exchanged during participation the Beyond Your Past Podcast, on BeyondYourPast.com, and BeyondYourPastRadio.com is intended for educational and informational purposes only. Nothing on these podcasts or posted on the above mentioned websites are supplements for or supersedes the relationship and direction of your medical or mental health providers.