Below you will find my personal statement for my psychology program applications:
One of the things so bad about depression and bipolar disorder is that if you don’t have prior awareness, you don’t have any idea what hit you. ~Kay Refield Jamison
My mind was racing and my palms were sweating as I sat down to take my oral exams at the University of Notre Dame. I hadn’t really slept in weeks. Fueled on little but caffeine and an unreal rush of energy, I would later learn was mania, I gripped the table in front of me and tried not to throw up. I knew everything, had memorized every reference, and took every outlandish studying cliché to heart. All the facts were floating in front of me just waiting to be plucked from the air. Now was the moment of truth. With my mind whirling in a ten different directions, I fought to control myself, listen to the questions being asked, and speak clearly, as speaking slowly was no longer a possibility for me. For forty-five minutes my committee questioned me about the 19th and 20th century American religious history and for those forty-five minutes I thrived. Completely un-medicated and unaware I was bipolar, I had no idea the hell the next few years had in store for me. At that moment, all I knew was that I had become a doctoral candidate. I had arrived.
Now, fast forward past a successful dissertation proposal, a flurry of fellowship and grant applications, and a fully funded month in Europe during which I discussed my work at two different international conferences to the beginning of my fifth year. I was teaching classes at Indiana University South Bend, and dissertating while attending therapy for anxiety issues when I began noticing that I was sleeping ten to fifteen hours at a time. My therapist, a young psychologist, assured me this was normal, but I knew something was wrong, just not what. I normally ran on very little sleep and, suddenly, slumber was all I cared about. By December, my problems had become more serious. A minor relationship hiccup manifested itself in what I would later learn was a dissociate episode and something close to hysteria. Combined with the inability to pull myself back together was a complete loss of my once prolific productivity. It was as if my creativity, my drive, everything that defined me had, like a light switch, been turned off. By January, I was sitting in the school psychiatrist’s office having scored a 25 out of 26 on a depression inventory. I was considering suicide, and, if I had been a little healthier and capable of rational thought, I might have wondered where the girl who powered through her exams, proposal, and grant applications had gone.
For the next year and a half, my psychiatrist saw me on a monthly basis, diagnosed me as bipolar, and found the proper drug regiment to stabilize me. Slowly at first, and then suddenly, like a breath of fresh air, I returned to myself, and yet, the person who existed prior to the diagnosis had changed. At first, I fought with the stigma. “I’m bipolar,” I’d think. “Something is wrong with the way my brain works.” Due to the embarrassment and shame I felt, for a time, I hid unwilling to share my experience with others. Until, finally, in the midst of my self-imposed exile I came the realization my brain chemistry was not a death sentence to my productivity or my ability to contribute as a member of society. In fact, in some ways, my being bipolar better equipped me to help others. Because with the diagnosis and proper medications come understanding and empathy. Psychological principles such as mindfulness and behavioral regulation suddenly took on a new meaning, and I wanted to help others struggling with mental illness which brings me to this application.
My goal now, at the age of the thirty, is to pursue a life of studying mental illness and applying what I have learned to help others. In particular my research interests center on how anxiety issues, ruminations, and obsessive thinking intersect with unipolar depression and mood disorders. If accepted into the clinical psychology program, I will dedicate myself to pursuing the mission of the University of Kentucky’s psychology department. I will communicate the knowledge of psychology to undergraduates through teaching positions, to scholars through my research, and to my patients through therapy. I will research and develop new knowledge in the field of psychology in order to better meet the needs of my community, and finally to apply what I have learned through the wisdom and guidance of my academic advisers to the needs of others. In sum, if accepted into this program, I will dedicate myself to life of service.