Bipolar Screening - People with Bipolar Know It When We See It

Psychiatrists and people with bipolar both have told me that my book captures what the manic experience is like.

Reviewers tend to say either, She must have written it when she was manic. Too bad her editor didn't fix it. One star. Or: She must have written it when she was manic. So glad her editor didn't fix it. Five stars.

Which gets me thinking: Doctors say bipolar is really hard to diagnose. But if people who have it know it when we see it, what if we wrote a screening tool? Bear with me here. I'm thinking something like this:

They say: A distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood.

What we hear is: Are you abnormal?

To which we answer: No. I mean, duh.

So what if they said: Has there ever been a time when everybody around you just didn't understand why the world was so great or why you felt so good? Or has there ever been a time when everybody around you was massively irritating?

That is the core symptom of mania. Moving on to the others:

They say: 

  • Increased self-esteem or grandiosity.
  • Decreased need for sleep.
  • More talkative than usual, or pressure to keep talking.
  • Flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing.
  • Distractibility (attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli)
  • Increase in goal directed activity (socially, at work or school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation
  • Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences

How about instead, the way we would put it: 

  • Despite how shitty you feel right now, have you ever understood just how special you really are?
  • Yeah, the decreased sleep one works okay.
  • Has there ever been a time when you had to keep trying to get your point across because others were too dense to get it?
  • Has there ever been a time when others couldn't keep up with your ideas? Has there ever been a time when your ideas flowed like out of a spigot?
  • Has there ever been a time when you recognized that nothing is unimportant, when everything needed your attention?
  • Have you ever worked so efficiently that you were your boss's favorite employee or your teacher's favorite student? Have you ever had so much to do you couldn't waste time sitting?
  • Has there ever been a time when you knew that life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death?

I mean, it's a matter of perspective, isn't it?

People with bipolar go seven and a half years on average from first manifestation of symptoms to an accurate diagnosis. A third of us are misdiagnosed for ten years or more. Would somebody like to turn my list into a research project, find out if it does indeed produce better screening results than what they do now? Go for it. Just mention my name.

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