- Have trouble picking a major, or even have trouble committing to classes in general
- Find yourself struggling to build friendships outside the classroom; or if you are making friends, you find that the friendships are short-lived
- Have trouble making school a priority, i.e. If your friends are going to see a concert, you choose to go with them and then find yourself scrambling right before tests and papers are due
- Find your commitment to school really starts declining as the semester or quarter rolls on; or perhaps you’re overly committed and can’t focus on anything else – until you start feeling overwhelmed by the need to get everything just right and it starts to fall apart
- Have some pretty high standards for yourself, and if you don’t meet them, you just give up on the class altogether, i.e. You missed one assignment, so you miss class the next day. If you miss a quiz, you decide your grade is doomed and stop going to that class completely.
Most students want a quality education but quickly discover that earning a college degree can be tough. College applications are grueling and finding classes that fit your schedule & interest can be frustrating. Then, once the semester starts, keeping your attention on books instead of friends can be a struggle. For college students with borderline personality disorder, the struggle can be all the more intense. You probably struggle to keep yourself together through the stressors of late night study sessions, long lectures, and three weeks of midterms – and that only gets you halfway through. Then, after all of that, you’re supposed to tough it out and get through the end of the semester. Sometimes you can’t even bring yourself to make it to all of your finals. Sound familiar?
Having BPD makes the pressures of school feel almost insurmountable. Sometimes our desire to achieve good grades battles our desire to turn inward. When you aren’t sure about anything, being an excellent student can be challenging.
An area you might notice you struggle with as a student with BPD is a distorted sense of self. When you struggle with an unstable self-image, decisions are harder, things are constantly coming up, and you decide you will “get to it later.” Sometimes it feels like too much and you choose to avoid thinking about it instead. If you have borderline personality disorder you might notice that you:
These are all things that students struggle with who have a hard time defining who they are, what their goals are, and, mostly importantly, struggle to keep the commitment to get there. Students with BPD have a difficult time negotiating what is going on inside: emotions are constantly changing and some days feel impossible, making it hard to keep a solid grasp on what’s happening around them. There are some days where you wake up and can’t remember why you even agreed to attend school in the first place.
At OPI, we work with students on grounding themselves first and foremost with DBT skills. Learning how to incorporate mindfulness, self-respect, and effective communication allows our students to fully participate in their own education. When emotions come and go, self-image fluctuates, and energy wanes, DBT helps students remain effective and consistent.
Next, we start by identifying the things we do and do not have control over. We recognize smaller, meaningful goals that will help guide us down the correct path. Where are your areas of success so far? What has been the most interesting thing you’ve ever studied? What was happening in that moment when you excitedly signed up for courses?
Being mindful of emotions, combating those impulsive moments, and creating stability allows students to renegotiate their relationship with school. Yes, college can be stressful; and with the right skills to regulate and cope ahead, success and consistency is possible. There are ways to get through difficult moments without dropping courses, changing majors, or giving up your dreams of pursuing a degree.
By Katie Caldwell, Assistant Director of Education at OPI