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Beyond Your Past
Podcast - Ep. 85 - Depression, Bipolar, and College Life, with Anja Burcak
August 27, 2018 Matthew Pappas, CLC, CPNLP
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, a

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