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What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?  (Part 6 of 7)

Sometimes I feel as if I have offended everyone I know and lots of people I don’t know. I replay moments from yesterday or years, even decades, and rehash conversations that perhaps should have gone differently.  I see the impact of grandiose bipolar actions and misplaced arrogance that masqueraded as confidence. God has either blessed or cursed me with a sarcastic, quick-witted burning mind that sees things differently.  Fortunately, for the most part, I have learned to curb my remarks, filter my thoughts and censor my stream of consciousness.  Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Those afflicted with bipolar disorder experience unusually intense emotional states that occur in distinct periods called “mood episodes.” An overly joyful or overexcited state is called a manic episode, and an extremely sad or hopeless state is called a depressive episode. Sometimes, a mood episode includes symptoms of both mania and depression. This is called a mixed state and unfortunately it is where I spend most of my time.

Let me again say I am speaking from my own experience and understanding of bipolar disorder and yet as I read the clinical aspects as stated by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), I see me, pure and simple…me. I see me, a statistic in Washington, California and Arizona where Psych Wards offer little more than colorful crayons broken more often than yesterday’s promises. I see faces of empty people, medicated and wandering, some with wrists wrapped some with a bleeding scalp where patches of hair once grew…all without shoe laces or belts. Faces still haunt me sometimes in the night, never names; I knew none, only faces and hands, wrists, bruises from self-inflicted wounds driven by self-hatred. This is where the clinical aspects of bipolar crash head-on with the reality of an unsettled mind, this is where one inflicted with bipolar faces the battle of life verses death; there under the watchful eye of doctors and nurses who come and go as quickly as the fleeing thoughts they have bled from the minds of those who walk into and out of interviewing rooms.

I wandered through the open spaces of emptiness, looking at nurses sitting idly at their stations, watching them watch me. I am the study written by NIMH, accurate and concise, a statistic, a number hidden deeply within the boundaries of bipolar disorder. Inside, I weep, wondering where my mind went in its journey to bringing me to this place.

open only on monday

words wrap around my tongue
like a cellophane wrapper, wrinkled and crushed
while copper pennies group together
after being spent too many times in too many places

i never cared for the smell of root beer or licorice
in the corner candy store where i filled my pockets
with round striped peppermint slash chocolate pieces
that nobody else wanted anyway

that’s how the excuses started
and validation was easy when dealing with penny candy
on a saturday when nobody was in school anyhow
and the grocer overcharged for bread

monday was coming, it always did
and emptied pockets were comforting and warm
when repentance was behind me for another day
of solitude and peace and promises that i would never do it again
i did

and now i can only hear you on mondays
and even then its only in my head
where your words wrap around my hungry tongue
like a cellophane wrapper wrinkled and crushed

i hear your smile calling to me
while copper pennies group together
after being spent too many times in too many places
just like the memories i used to open
only on monday

The following list of Signs and Symptoms of bipolar disorder is from the
Mayo Clinic:

Manic phase of bipolar disorder

Signs and symptoms of the manic or hypomanic phase of bipolar disorder can include:

  • Euphoria
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Poor judgment
  • Rapid speech
  • Racing thoughts
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Agitation or irritation
  • Increased physical activity
  • Risky behavior
  • Spending sprees or unwise financial choices
  • Increased drive to perform or achieve goals
  • Increased sex drive
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Easily distracted
  • Careless or dangerous use of drugs or alcohol
  • Frequent absences from work or school
  • Delusions or a break from reality (psychosis)
  • Poor performance at work or school

Depressive phase of bipolar disorder

Signs and symptoms of the depressive phase of bipolar disorder can include:

  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Sleep problems
  • Low appetite or increased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in activities once considered enjoyable
  • Problems concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Chronic pain without a known cause
  • Frequent absences from work or school
  • Poor performance at work or school

I will add these comments to the list.  First, it is not all-inclusive and probably could never be all-inclusive. Second, not everyone who is bipolar has every condition listed.  As a personal test, I read the two lists to my wife and she told me whether or not the condition applies to me.  She hit the points right on and the outcome was just as expected; my world is made up of quite a large number of symptoms from the Manic phase of bipolar disorder while concurrently I also live in a world that is derived from the Depressive phase .  My problem, as my wife pointed out, is that the two worlds have merged and are stationary; leaving me trapped inside.

I noticed that there were conditions (such as Euphoria), that I have experienced some time in the past but not recently while almost all of the other conditions have taken up residence within me and now I could have my mail delivered there.. It occurred to me that this is the reason the condition worsens as we age. The luggage of my life is overstuffed and there is room for no more.



you had a suitcase
packed and ready to go
brown, like the hallway
like the minds of those who tried to hold you back

there was so much of life to live
so much packed in your brown suitcase
strewn like tight jeans and wrinkled shirts
cracked belts and fractured memories

i wished for a promise to give you
a rose and a poem wrapped in pink ribbons
on parched paper
written by hand and erased twice

hungry for words and short sentences
i crawled into your life
as easily as i envisioned crawling into your suitcase
it was more narrow than the hallway
and the soiled, dingy walls reminded me of my life

as the lid closed
and the music stopped

3 suitcases png


The amazing thing is that in writing this I feel that I am opening up old wounds and yet in my heart of hearts I know I am holding back.  I hope you will join me for the seventh installment of this look into the mind of a bipolar man.  Thanks so much for reading my words thus far.

The seventh part is appropriately entitled “Comfort”

Thanks so much for reading my words thus far.