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When You Have to Box Your Way Through Rapid Cycling Bipolar


I have symbols tattooed on my arm. In case I forget. In case, one day, I wake up in a strange place, in a strange mind, sans words or weapons, behind the guise of the mental health system. These symbols represent stages, tenets, of a very large thought. Mental martial arts, if you will. They keep me boxing; they keep me sane and functioning. I worked hard to formulate these ideas. Many brain cells were sacrificed over the years in the name of progress, many before I was ever diagnosed with anything.

Steve's tattoo of symbols
Steve’s tattoo

The institutions of intervention, official and familial,¬†never did much for me in terms of, well, intervention. So I fought and learned. Boxed and studied. Sacrificed and trained. It’s been a never ending journey back and¬†forth to the blackboard from my seat. I have¬†formalized the conditions of severe retribution and retaliation for my natural¬†state.

It sounds like a little much. It is. It’s necessary.

Rapid cycling bipolar doesn’t ruin my day anymore.

But it tries.

No one has any clue that I cycle randomly throughout the¬†day at work. The medications stifle it to a¬†certain extent, yet my mind is essentially a random idea generator. Don’t be fooled, by ‚Äúidea‚ÄĚ I just mean a¬†stream of thought. They can be helpful,¬†harmful, distracting or the ever popular all of the above. I’m not sure if anyone can appreciate what¬†this means. My mind never stops. Ever.¬†It’s a constant stream of associative thought and imperceptibly swift¬†mood changes. This is not particularly¬†useful at work.

It’s a condition of constantly having 12¬†to¬†15¬†thoughts on the tip of one’s tongue. It’s¬†a condition of the three stooges all trying to cram through the door at once¬†and ultimately failing upon all three counts. So, enter the training. I’ve spent the requisite 10 thousand hours¬†to master the craft of meta boxing, of essentially bullfighting this¬†associative stream of madness. It¬†streams. I wouldn’t say I ignore it, but¬†I just don’t actually engage it. Through¬†detachment, I kind of let it dance by itself in the corner like that friend who¬†has had too much to drink.

Unfortunately, that dancing companion is my main consciousness,¬†which means I’m not left with a ton of weaponry to deal with my¬†surroundings. My tattoos and the¬†invisible scars from a lifetime of conscious battle cling to my mind as I¬†interact on various levels, without the use of most of my available brain¬†power. It seems to work well enough,¬†though. Aside from certain idiosyncratic¬†behaviors, I manage. My speech can be¬†stunted or stuttered on occasion, though, as I sometimes struggle for the¬†correct words to reflect thoughts on that secondary platform. Sometimes I just can’t get ahold of them at¬†all and must remain silent. Writing is a different story, so I try to express as much as possible that way.

No one at work¬†has any idea, to my awareness, that I’m not speaking¬†to my capabilities, that I’m sacrificing brain power in an effort to control¬†myself. It’s been a struggle, from time¬†to time, to accept that many of the people I know don’t actually know me very¬†well. I have thoughts, ideas that go¬†beyond casual conversation. I walk around,¬†and I see the angles, I see the subtleties of situational dynamics. Through the process of controlling myself,¬†through all of the symbolism on my arms, I have learned how operate within¬†those angles.

Every day is a boxing match. Every day is an opportunity to demonstrate the skills I have acquired. Detachment is but the first of seven symbols. Overt associative streaming is but the first opponent. Every day I practice my martial arts, and every day no one has any clue. Perhaps one day I will speak my mind.

In the meantime, I box. It’s what I do.

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