20 Things Only Someone with Bipolar Would Really Understand

Author: Phil Cibicki

Dedicated to Ian & Annie, who would most understand what I’m talking about here. Thanks for the time I had with both of you and for showing me how to listen, to be kind, and to have an open mind.


  1. I can’t tell which drops come from my tears and which drops come from the shower I’m in.
  2. I can witness the most beautiful sunset ever, ignited with beams of gold and ruby that glow in a sooty sapphire sky dotted with diamonds.
  3. I can sleep 14 hours a night, but that isn’t enough. Neither are all the three-hour daytime naps. Sleep becomes my drug and I can find myself addicted to it.
  4. I can always be at least three steps ahead of others in conversations, finishing their words before they are ever spoken. I can predict their future and people begin to wonder how I can read their minds.
  5. I watch and do nothing as the red-bubbled numbers above my text, voicemail, and email applications suddenly appear and climb exponentially within a few days. I stay frozen in isolation.
  6. I feel enraged when I try to talk and start to stutter, realizing my words can no longer keep up with my thoughts.
  7. I drift off to bed most nights praying that I never wake up again.
  8. My journal explodes with creative ideas until they become scribbles no one will ever understand. My pages contain lines of code and strange shapes that fluctuate with my emotions.
  9. I can’t see color. Instead, I experience only tones and shades of gray like sketched charcoal.
  10. I finally understand the universe—from the theory of everything, to why my uncle remained single, to what love is all about. Questions cease to exist.
  11. I vaguely remember how easy it used to be to brush my teeth. Now it’s a conscious 17-step struggle. And that’s just brushing my teeth.
  12. I can morph into the life of the party, cracking so many witty jokes that everyone leaves with sore mouths and stiff abs.
  13. I can notice confusion crawl across the faces looking back at me because I can’t concentrate enough to create my own coherent sentences.
  14. My only remaining safe place is my bed and even that I hate with my entire being.
  15. I decide to climb Mount Rainier in less than a week’s notice and do it, despite strong reservations from my family and friends.
  16. I feel soft clothes as suffocating, warm water as irritating, and acoustic melodies as deafening. Everything becomes extremely uncomfortable.
  17. I eat more medications most days than I eat food, but it all tastes and looks the same.
  18. I realize that each day of life is now more productive than each year preceding it.
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