Advice for the Bipolar Hearted

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Bipolar affective disorder might be one of the most common afflictions among some of the most productive members of society. In fact, much of what we find most exciting about our civilization owes some measure of debt to the accomplishments of talented people who happened to inherit a disordered genetic trait. Unfortunately, the cost of this elusive illness is higher than its apparent benefits.

Somebody you know or work with (or for) probably has bipolar illness. You know famous people who have the illness. Every once in a while you hear about a suicide that seems to have come right out of nowhere. It most likely was due to manic-depression.

Successful people that you look up to have the disorder. Sooner or later, however, that person’s illness will take a nasty downturn.

Contrary to public mis-information, most people who have some form of bipolar illness are functioning, productive and otherwise healthy contributors to our world

Still, the illness is lethal. It crashes career parties. Bipolar illness has demolished good, hard-working and intelligent people’s lives. The stigma that our society loves to stamp around is just about as dangerous. (More on that in a future post, so subscribe here for updates.)

So, what do you do if you’re a successful lawyer or neurosurgeon or entrepreneur with bipolar disorder?


Well, if you have bipolar disorder, or know someone who does, I’d like to share some pointers about how to live a good life in spite of the illness. Having worked a bit in psychiatric nursing, I learned a few things from some amazing patients. Here’s some advice to those of you have have bipolar disorder and would like to remain healthy and productive:

  1. Sleep. Lack of sleep is both a symptom and a cause of hypomania
  2. Keep taking your medications, especially when you think you no longer need them
  3. Keep up with psychotherapy if only to get feedback on your mental status
  4. Don’t glorify hypomania: depression always shadows hypomania
  5. Don’t over-pathologize your illness: accept it, treat it and keep your life in perspective
  6. Attend support groups and include your family or most trusted friends in the loop
  7. Don’t get discouraged by setbacks: it’s an illness, not a punishment
  8. Keep a mood chart up-to-date and show your doctor and therapist
  9. If you find yourself suddenly dabbling into religious or alternative philosophies, be suspicious and talk to your therapist
  10. Understand that you and your illness are two different things
  11. You don’t always have to be productive: accept the fact that you will need downtime
  12. Know your pressure points (aka triggers): determine what sets you off and develop simple tactics for cooling off

This list can go on and on. I’ve missed a lot, perhaps you can add your suggestions to the comments below.


Some of the brightest, most successful people I have met in my life turned out to suffer from the disease. Some of them went undiagnosed for decades. They spent most of their lives in a mild form of hypomania and never experienced depression. For them, when their illnes caught up to them, their depressions were utter hell.

When people who have bipolar illness enter depression, it’s a much more hellish experience than it is for most people. Imagine: you’re sky high, everything in life feels to be going for, your libido is fully charged and satisfied. Then: slam, the door shuts, the lights go dim and life conspires against you. Could you handle that? Could you go on? Of course, you could: but most likely, without help, without knowledge, without hope, you could find yourself right in the center of Dante’s Inferno.

So, to you who have this illness: don’t give up. Don’t kill yourself. We need you. You, and your ancestors who carried the genes that you inherited, have made this world so much more interesting, in spite of the illness. If you’re up: be careful. If you’re down: be kind to yourself and get help.

To you who don’t have this illness: be aware that the manifestation of bipolar illness is all around you. Traces of it are in the art you view; the movies you watch; the music you love; the books you read. You need to start caring for these peoples’ lives. You have much to learn and much to lose when these beautiful people leave our world out of painful desperation.

These days, fortunately, we no longer have to let good people die from a bad disease. Bipolar disorder is not a character flaw, nor a punishment, nor a justification for ignorant stigma. Neither is it something to glorify. Hendrix said it best: Manic depression is a frustrating mess. But it doesn’t have to kill you or end the beating hearts of those you love and who love you.

Learn more at NAMI and become a hero. If you think this post is useful, please use the ShareThis button below to email or otherwise share it.

Disclaimer: none of this is medical or other professional advice. It’s just some chicken soup. If you or someone you know is in crisis, just dial 911. Thank you.



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Are We Going to Get Social Media Right?

New, Improved *Semantic* Web!

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As social media tools proliferate and as a global social cloud forms, there is a question about what it all means. Is it a good thing? A bad thing? A bit of both? Where’s it all heading?

I’m envisioning the future of the entire social media cloud. There’s ample talk about what’s going on right now. More than enough in fact. Don’t you want to know what’s going to happen? Do you hope, as I do, that we get it right?

By right, I mean that we expand democracy and shrink tyranny. By right, I mean that we become collaborators and not rivals. We will be both, but the cost of rivalry in a nuclear world increases as knowledge proliferates through the future social medium.


Perhaps we need to step back for a peak at the past and where we stand. For this post, I’ll break up the web into three phases:

  • Phase 1 (version 1.0): computer-to-computer connection (FTP)
  • Phase 2 (version 2.0): document-to-document connection (WWW)
  • Phase 3 (version 3.0): data-to-data connection (Semantic Web, Cloud)

For simplicity, we’ll say that Phase 1 began about 30 years ago, while Phase 2 began about 15 years ago.

We’re at the beginning of Phase 3. Phase 3 will transpire during a sharp technological inflection. Computing will evolve away from desk and laptops toward mobile devices and other portals. What we call the web, and are starting to call the Cloud, will become a global device into which we will all be plugged.

Social Media will be completely different in five years or so. Today there are thousands of tools, some of which win in popularity and others just die. What we call Social Media is greater than the sum of its tools. The tools might change, but the medium will grow. But just as Google pretty much won the text-search war, another entity (or small group) may ‘win’ the social media platform war.

We’ve gotten used to the idea that the web is just an invisible connective tissue for disparate points in a big fishnet. We have gotten acclimated to one model for the web. The web is rapidly evolving. Today’s model won’t work tomorrow. Ten years ago the model was TV. How wrong we were!

What’s going to happen when we are perpetually plugged into what will inevitably become a global supercomputer? Right now the web is a network of devices. That will change. The web will congeal into a dynamic mass of interactivity.


So, if we get this wrong, if we don’t address fundamental problems, we’re going to have big problems on our hands. The barbarism of the 20th Century hasn’t passed: industrialized nations are still waring, and economies are faltering. We cannot possibly think that what happens in the real world will be washed away by social media parlor tricks, can we?

Oh, and I forgot about RFID technology (or its future equivalent). When we’re inextricably embedded into the Cloud, who or what do we turn to if things are dystopic? Each other? Well, if we get it wrong, ‘each other’ might be the core of the problem. Phase 3 will bring unprecedented opportunities and dangers. It’s time for reviving science fiction exercises; we need intelligent and imaginative discussion.

Whatcha think? Are we getting it right? Are we discussing what matters most? Or are we so narrowly enthralled with the latest social media tools so much so that we’re forgetting about the future of the social media cloud?

Are we clear, or foggy?

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Violent Voyeurism in the Snow Field

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It’s a madding election season. There’s a lot of emotion. A lot of personal attacking from all sides. It’s loud. It’s pornographic. It’s violent.

I have no idea how anybody can think among all the noise. We aren’t reasoning together. How does anybody establish government policies without reason?

I don’t believe in bipartisanship: if you’re right, why should you move from your position? On the other hand, I don’t believe in illogical arguments, in the butchering of language, in ad hominem cliches. Passionate reasoning is what I believe in.

Most of what we see and hear about what’s happening in this election amounts to pathological voyeurism. There’s a violence in all this voyeurism: an assault on our reasoning and a devastation for our passions.

It’s easy to tune out all the noise, to abandon social responsibility, to lose faith in the goal of good government. Perhaps that’s the (unconscious) intent of our current system: to beat us all down and fracture our attention until we consent to our own undoing. Mass duress. Problem is: I don’t think there’s a grand master. We are victims of ourselves.

Violence can be fascinating. Voyeurism can be thrilling. The problem with all this watching is that our thrilling fascinations become us. We become the violence and the voyeurism. We cease to be reasoning citizens: sheep in need of ritalin.

Who cares? It’s just politics. It’s an election.


First snow of winter, Truckee, California, Uni...

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If I told you snow flakes could kill you, would you believe me? Would you care?

Imagine every snippet of political voyeurism dropped your way is a snowflake. The flakes keep coming, piling up around you. Winter’s coming on hard and it’s getting late. Standing there, in the cold, you’re still fascinated with the tiny falling flakes.

It’s midnight. You’re shivering. Something hungry spies you through bare branches. You’re stuck in a drift and the wind is furious.

Now do you care?

What are you going to do, now that you know that snow flakes can kill you? Are you watching? Are you fascinated and thrilled?

Just what are you looking at through your TV or desktop or laptop out there, in the white field? Does the heat of these gadgets keep you warm? Or: have they failed you, leaving you cold-blooded?

Before I leave you, out there, a pearl: each vote is a snowflake too.

Just who or what are you really voting for with every flake you let slip onto the field? You’re getting smaller and your voice is fading. Who will hear your cries in the snowy silence?

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What Social Media Can Learn From Nursing

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What? You’re kidding, right? I thought that nursing was behind the times and that nursing is supposed to learn about social media. What possibly could the Social Media elite learn from nursing?

I am flipping things around. Actually, in light of all of the online tips and strategies on how to incorporate social media (SM) tools into your life, there is one simple process all nurses use that can be applied to social media. After all, both nursing and social media are about people (right?) The process is an algorithm that all nursing students abhor and almost all nurses ridicule. It’s called the Nursing Process. It’s a fancy phrase for using common sense in practice.

It’s a simple, stepwise approach to clinical problem-solving. You all use this method everyday but just aren’t so full of yourself to actually give it a special name.

(Official historical note: A long time ago in a dimension far away, nurses who suffered from physician-envy decided to come up with their own professional method. The nursing process is the result of that complex.)

So here’s the algorithm, also known as ADPIE:

  1. Assess your patients’ (SM substitute: clients, audience)
  2. Diagnose your patient’s response (SM substitute: what does your market want/need? – what problem do my clients want me to help solve?)
  3. Plan your patients’ care (SM substitute: marketing efforts)
  4. Implement your care plan (SM substitute: execute your marketing plan)
  5. Evaluate the care you provide (SM substitute: analytics, trends, subscribers, comments, etc.)

Simple, isn’t it. Common sense, that’s all.

Work your plan. Plan your work.

Whenever you’re working on your blog, consider using this simple method. Use it at every step of your marketing process, whether it’s a profit-making business, a non-profit organization, a grassroots movement or your own personal or professional branding.

If your blogging or other social media projects are anemic, undergoing a lethal cardiac arrest or are just not feeling good, try ADPIE. Once a day or as needed.

My fellow nurses who are reading this post are probably laughing their butts off. But maybe for us this is a way to turn something that we’ve come to regard as complete BS into something useful outside of the bizarre world of health care.

For you who aren’t nurses, here’s your chance to be a great clinician for whatever social media ventures that matter to you.

This is one thing social media can learn from nursing. Are there any others? I can think of some, but I just ate dinner.

Let me know if this is a useful approach. Whatcha think?

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Success Will Never Happen For You…

Train wreck at Montparnasse Station, at Place ...Image via Wikipedia

…until you appreciate the power of failure. Let’s face it: most of use are losers. Some of us are in terrible denial about losing: we’ve got a chronic fear of failure. So we obsess over success, perhaps to compensate.

If you want to be successful, but haven’t failed, then at best you’ll have to count on luck. Luck is something that happens. Good luck happens a lot less than bad luck. In fact, most of what happens around us are the results of bad luck.

Only you can decide what success means. Your culture defines success. Your parents or guardians defined success. Don’t be fooled by the standards. If you succeed on other people’s terms, you’re probably not doing what matters to you. And you will be depressed one day.

So keep an eye open on your failures. They aren’t scarce. In fact, if you look around you, all of the animals, plants and even the microscopic creatures you fail to notice have come to us through billions of failings.

Failure breeds a remarkable world, if you’re willing to value its place in it. Failure is not as much an option as it is a necessity.

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Don’t Sell Capitalism Short

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The Dow lost over 500 points today. I don’t know how big a deal it is that the market dropped 4.42%. (4.42% isn’t a newsworthy soundbite, is it?) Don’t get me wrong: today produced historic news which could signal a dark time ahead.

Time will tell how much damage the speculative project of mortgage-backed securitization does to the domestic and international markets. At the heart of our current economic dangers lies Consumerism.

Democracy depends on freedom of capital flow as much as it does on freedom of ideas. Capitalism remains the most reliable system of economic justice. The problem is: most of us are selling capitalism short.


Let’s not confuse capitalism with consumerism. We live in an age of consumerism. We want instant gratification. We have tall orders and short attention spans.

What happened today on Wall Street and on other trading floors is simply a consequence of the greed of a consumerist culture. If our system was truly capitalistic we wouldn’t be crying about today’s metrics. A system is only as good as its people.

Capitalists understand the value of discipline, focus, and long-term perspective. Capitalists understand the value of values, the payoff of hard work, the necessity of risk-taking, the soil made by failed crops.

Consumerists understand nothing.

Many of our CEOs and fund managers are consumers. There are very few capitalists anymore. We have been selling capitalism out for a long time now.

Perhaps it started when auditors became their clients’ consultants. Perhaps it started when investors rewarded executives who boosted quarterly earnings and share prices merely by downsizing. It probably doesn’t matter now. The damage is done.

The last century was infected by the scapegoating dellusions of untested Marxist hypotheses. I understand where Karl Marx was coming from: he lived in a time of catastophic socioeconomic change. We live in a time of socioeconomic change. And so his shadow, no matter how re-worded, may continue to cast well into this century.


Let’s not make the mistake of selling capitalism short.

Let’s appreciate the value of intelligent, disciplined, creative and focused wealth-building. Let’s instill in our youth the value of the time-value of money; the value of understanding opportunity cost; the value of values.

We are part of a culture war. It’s no longer a war between Capitalism and Communism.

We are now enmeshed a war between Capitalism and Consumerism. Consumerism is winning.

We’re losing our capitalists, everyday, to a consumer culture that is hell-bent on instant gratification at the expense of distant satisfaction.

Here’s what to do, now that you’ve had a rough day:

  • Work hard. Work smart.
  • Jettison despair.
  • Embrace discipline.
  • Be valuable to others.

In short: Do meaningful things and the money will follow you.

Civilization abhors a lack of focus and adores an abundance of grit.

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Seven Years: A Whole New Body Grown, A Resurrection

To You Who Died Seven Years Ago:

It’s gotten darker since you left us.

When the Towers fell in on themselves, into those two black holes, a part of us went with you down into the graves. I can’t say exactly what it was: a little light perhaps.

When the five-sided star of power burned among impossible flames, something in us went up in those flames: a little light perhaps.

When that empty field swallowed your brave hearts, something in your brilliant fearlessness entered us: a little light perhaps.

I never met you. I wish I did. I’d offer you bread and wine. Sit down with you, palm-to-palm, and share communion.

After seven years our bodies changed entirely. All those molecules in the bodies of those of us who remain are gone, gone with the dust that you became. The turning of our world replaced them with entirely new particles. We are resurrected, bit by tiny bit. Bits of you are now in us.

Our world has gotten darker since you left us. Little by little, day by day, the tiny circulating bits of ourselves are gathering together to fill the darkness around us: a little light perhaps.