Would you do this?


A tricky question. As most of you know, I suffer from bipolar disorder. Now because of the medication I am on I am experiencing a lot of other problems because it affects my thyroid which affects loads of other things. Basically I'm not feeling too well right now. My supervisor has been speaking to one of the admin staff who deals with teaching allocations, and she has managed to get me out of doing any teaching in the next academic year in spite of the fact that I am contracted to do some every year and have done so far. Basically she has said that she is worried that taking so much on might affect my health and thus my PhD progress. Now in one sense I am chuffed because I am so busy and the teaching can be very time consuming. But in another way I feel very bad about taking the easy option out. I have never used my bipolar as an excuse for anything before, and I am not entirely comfortable with doing this...what do you guys think? Best, KB

Avatar for sneaks

I'd say take the opportunity to get the PhD work done without the teaching distraction. My Supervisor banned me from teaching for the first two years and I haven't got bipolar! I wouldn't feel guilty, you are still working on your PhD.

If you've done teaching for the last year or so then you should have enough for not-teaching this year to affect your CV in any way. I say go for it. Otherwise bipolar or no bipolar, you may have to plead for some time off later to recover from burnout.


As sneaks says, it's not the easy option, you're still working really hard. Regardless of any other issues, doing a phd is hard work and can drive us all into the ground, so any options they give you that will help to give you more time and take some pressure off, I'd definatly take.

best wishes xx


Hi KB - like the others have said, you are certainly not taking the easy option out, doing a PhD is difficult in itself without additional academic responsibilities and a long-term health condition. You have managed brilliantly so far with what comes across as quite a high teaching load, publications, conferences etc, but as you said the side effects of the medication you are on can be unpredictable and quite bad, and so you are working around them as best you can. I suppose you are coming to the end of your PhD as well now so it is even more important than before not to take on too much and stress yourself out.

I'm sure that other students have their teaching responsibilities reduced for all sorts of reasons, probably often less serious than yours so I wouldn't feel bad, I think your supervisor is just looking out for you - I'm sure she doesn't think you're taking the easy way out at all!

Take care, Nx


Seconded, thirded and fourthed!

I sometimes worry that my accommodations are an easy way out. And then I tell myself to get a grip. As mentioned below, a PhD is enough of a slog at the best of times but health problems, whether they are neuro or physical, makes the whole experience not dissimilar to trying to wade through treacle.

I think the fact that your sup has done this for you is great. Yes, your PhD progress will reflect on her, but she could have easily decided that is wasn't anything to do with her and sent you off to find support yourself (I may be speaking from experience!).

Don't worry about it, don't stress about accommodations being made for you (if it helps, legally they have to give you 'reasonable adjustments' if you have long-term health problems/disabilities), and don't feel that you're using your health as an excuse because you're not, you're being a responsible, upright member of the academic community!


I agree with all...

My health issues prevented me doing teaching experience at the early stage of the PhD...and also concentrating full time on the PhD.

But, while PhD is important, your health is more so. Don't put yourself under unnecessary pressure.
Just doing a PhD is a full time job....and some would argue that coping with a serious health condition can also be a full time job. So, as I see it you are already doing 2 full time commitments....you don't need a third!


Thanks guys, you have made me feel a lot more at ease with the idea. I had a mini-meltdown in front of my supervisor today (combination of a lot of pressure and not feeling well and a disagreement with supervisor...very embarrassing) and I think the decision to take me off teaching was probably a good one. I just feel bad because all my mates will have to do it and we're not paid extra for it- it's part of the funding conditions- and they'll know I've got away without doing it. But it is a huge relief, even more so after my meltdown today when I realised how on the edge I am at the moment. Cheers all, KB


hi keenbean, I'm glad you're feeling better
love satchi


Hi Keenbean,

although the issue seems to have been resolved and you seem to be happier regarding not having to do the teaching, I still wanted to add this little posting.

Like the others have indicated I believe it is best to look after yourself. Even stronger I think that your health is the most precious issue and as such would see this as your main priority. Once your health / bipolar disorder / thyroid is under control then it may be best to concentrate on the PhD.  What is the use of teaching if it goes at the expense of health and or PhD? And it seems your department really cares, which is actually quite a nice thing to read. I would not feel guilty about it.:-)


Hi Keenbean,

I agree with everything that's been said. But in case that's not enough to reassure you - I've been in a similar situation, and I didn't take the advice I was given (as I was paid for teaching, and I needed the money. But also, I felt the same about not wanting to be given special treatment), and things went badly wrong.

I subsequently crashed, and had 2 unpleasant BP filled years, rapid-cycling like billio (incapable of much at all, and making life hell for my family); and now, years later, I'm still in a rather 'weak' position, susceptible to pressure. It not only put my PhD at risk, it's seriously affecting the work I can now take on

Everyone's different, but in general, it's not worth the risk: BP is a medical condition - putting too much pressure on the mind is comparable to asking a footballer with hamstring issues to play too many matches - maybe things will be OK for a while, but when it snaps, they're metaphorically b*ggred for much longer than if they'd been sensible!

This is no easy option - but the most sensible one.

Take care of yourself! (And good luck with the PhD!)


Hi Keenbean,

As I've posted on here previously, I've had similar issues, although not BPD specifically. Anyway, you wrote something which jumped out at me - "I have never used my bipolar as an excuse for anything before". I don't think for one moment that you're using it as an "excuse", as it's more a mitigating factor, or a reason not to do the teaching. If you had BPD/any other condition, and used it to get out of something despite the condition not actually affecting you, that would be an excuse. But this is a fully proper reason not to teach - after all, if you teach and it exacerbates things, you may end up doing no more teaching and no more PhD!

I understand about the feeling of "getting out of something", but believe me, when something involves your health, it's best to do what's best for YOU, however it might be perceived.


Thanks guys, I really appreciate your support- you have made me feel a lot better about things now. I feel really on the edge at the moment and had a bit of a breakdown last week (I'm fine now, was just exhausted from all the thyroid problems) and I can't afford to let things get back to how they were with the bipolar...the recovery time from that would be months. The extra pressure of teaching might well push me over the edge if I'm not so good, and given that I spent an hour of Friday bawling over my supervisor I probably need to avoid all stresses as far as possible! I suppose in one way I just want to prove to myself (okay, and others!) that actually you can suffer from a severe mental illness and still do everything just as well as everyone else can...I find it hard to admit to my limitations sometimes! But thanks a million for your replies, I really do feel much better for having read them. Best, KB


"I suppose in one way I just want to prove to myself (okay, and others!) that actually you can suffer from a severe mental illness and still do everything just as well as everyone else can..."

Keenbean, I don't really know you at all but that really jumped out at me: in my perception you are proving that you are, just by doing a PhD. I know an awful lot of people who use extremely minor reasons to stop them from doing the things they want to do. I have absolutely no idea what bipolar feels like, but I have suffered from severe depression in the past and know just how incredibly proud I am of myself from going from a state where I essentially spent several years of my life hiding under a duvet to someone who is strong and confident and able to start a PhD. Suddenly I look back and see friends and colleagues who have never suffered mental health issues (and in many cases, no major stress or adversity) give up completely at the tiniest hurdle, whilst I'm here withstanding twenty times as much pressure.

You ARE doing things just as well as everyone else can. I know several PhD students who reduced or stopped their teaching committments for several different reasons. Every single person who works hard will, at some time in their life, will have to stop doing something because doing it would be unhealthy to them. And I know people with no mental health concerns at all who think it is far too much pressure to take the kids to an art class after school... you are, without a doubt, doing amazingly.


Thanks Cornflower, that's really kind of you. The depression has been the worst part of the bipolar for me and I know what you mean by spending years under the duvet (in my case one of those special ones in the psych ward that you can't suffocate yourself with!). I do know what you mean, I am proud of coming back from death's door (which is literallly where I was) and getting this far, and I am very determined too, like yourself. Sounds like you have had a hard battle as well so congrats to you for getting through it and moving on- it's such a tough thing to do! Best wishes, KB