code and the oracular

Studying with a mental illness

with 2 comments

I have been learning to study for years with my illness. I hope to achieve a masters degree in Mathematics, and am also developing a career as a writer. Over the years I have developed some good key advice that has worked for me, and that i hope will help you if you are trying to do study with a mental health problem. Here are my key points:

You may need more rests between study sessions than others.

There is a tendency to judge yourself by the standards of fellow students who aren’t ill with any condition. This is a bad idea. You can do it ! and the secret to doing it is a skillful and wise approach to all the hurdles. If you take care, and use a little bit of crucial judgement you can equal and better people who aren’t suffering from a condition.

Try to get good at ignoring mental distractions from the illness, like voices

I often notice that intrusive thoughts and voices come just at the wrong moment, when i am struggling with a concept or method. This is tough, but you need to get good at ignoring, or prioritising stuff. I actually made it in to a game. Some people have also reported that if they set a special time aside to talk to their voices , that the voices stay away when they need to focus on study.

Give yourself marks for every small achievement – you are doing well

Given the obstacles facing you you are doing well even to have started your study. Don’t have impossible standards, rather it is good to award the little pat on the back according to effort. If you had to try to do it then you deserve the old pat!

Start with manageable basics and only move up to hard stuff when you have mastered them

If confidence is an issue then you need to build your house on strong foundations. make sure you know the stuff from the current stage before you move on up.

Don’t be scared to go back to basics and work back up slowly knowing you have each stage clear

If a problem or concept seems too hard then backtrack to a stage where you are clear you understand, and think about moving sideways to a connected idea instead of upwards to the more complex one.

Use the microscope and the wide angle lens, too, for rounded understanding

We diagnosed people have many unrecognised gifts like a view of the big picture. Specialised knowledge is the miroscope, but it’s the wider view that helps you integrate what you are learning into the whole pictre of your life and worldview.

Don’t be afraid to mull things over and soften the time pressure

Deep thought takes time, if you let yourself simmer what you have learned in your mental cauldron, then you maye be surprised at how you have enriched your understanding and allowed yourself to come up with new ideas. Admittedly the pressure involved in exams, where time is (very) short will be hard if you have a mental health issue, but the better you prepare the better your chances.

Separate times for study from times for relaxing and socialising, so you get in the “mode”

You may find you are slower to click into study mode, so it helps to have set times and routines, or even to hang a busy sign on your door. I had to do it !

Respect you errors and dont self punish for them – errors are inevitable and also learning experiences

Again, don’t be hard on yourself, and did you know that most creative ideas come from the lateral thinking that arises from the same source as errors

Don’t study too close to bedtime if you have a problem “shutting down” thoughts and getting to sleep

Make sure you get good sleep for freshness the next day. Many people i have spoken to get buzzing thoughts that stop them sleeping. If you wind down any difficult thought a coupe of hours before bed this can help.

Give little rewards for every achievement

If you have all the barriers and difficulties of a mental health condition and are still managing to study, then you are already doing well in my book. appreciate that !

Mix analytical thought with creative thought for a good balance

Once again, many diagnosed people are already well on the way to becoming philosophers anyway… creatively expanding on ideas, even in a “crazy” way is going to deepen and broaden your understanding of whatever it is you are studying.

It’s supposed to be fun !

go for it !!


Written by Luke Dunn

April 26, 2009 at 4:08 pm

2 Responses

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  1. May I ask what type of mental illness you have? I may have some advice for you (if you want) from personal experience. . .Either way, I commend you for speaking about openly.

    Chris Kavanagh

    December 24, 2012 at 10:03 am

    • Schizophrenia, but I am quite high functioning and have insight. I would be all too happy to hear your views, so thank you. I have to speak about it openly for my own sanity, although sometimes the responses are unkind, but I sense you probably won’t be like that so fire away…

      Happy Christmas

      Trip Technician

      December 24, 2012 at 10:08 am

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