Memoirs of a Bipolar Soul


By John Zurn

ISBN: 978-1-84747-784-2
Published: 2008
Pages: 122
Key Themes: prose, poetry, bi-polar disorder, manic depression, empowerment



The book Memoirs of a Bipolar Soul is the true story of the authorís unique experience as an adult with bipolar manic depression. Based on his experiences over a thirty-four year period, the book chronicles the many difficult, sometimes dangerous situations that he has faced because of his disorder. Not only does the book describe various living situations and personal relationships, it also portrays the inner struggle of an individual overwhelmed by a major mental illness. The book also describes the role creativity and spirituality play in understanding and treating bipolar manic depression. Ultimately, however, the book offers hope, as the author gains wisdom in managing symptoms and understanding the world.

About the Author

John Zurn has been faced with the challenge of bipolar manic depression for his entire adult life. Despite this disability, he has still managed to work and write for over thirty years. As a teacher and rehabilitation counselor, he has helped others find a sense of hope and purpose. As a poet and seeker, he continues to describe the promptings of the human spirit. Zurn credits his long term recovery to symptom management and the willingness to learn from his mistakes. Zurn is fifty-four years old, and has an M.A. in English from Western Illinois University. He lives in Geneva, Illinois with his wife, Donna.

Book Extract

In some ways, this isnít a story about me at all. Instead, itís the story of an old friend of mine, who has stayed with me like a half-forgotten memory over the years. Heís a good companion in a lot of ways, and he has helped me through some very difficult times. But if the truth be told, he has a little of the rebel in him. Heís unpredictable, sometimes surly, and generally has the knack for making people feel uncomfortable. Whether he has changed over the last few years and turned some corner in his life, I canít say. But fond memories often drift through my mind whenever I remember our time together.

Yet, despite our friendship, Iíve often tried to ďditchĒ him because he continually seems to get me into some kind of trouble. After awhile, he crosses some line or breaks some rule, and then, inevitably, some crisis erupts. So, eventually, I always desert him and find my own way. By moving around and leaving no forwarding address, my deepest hope has been for him to leave me alone. But no matter how often I try to deceive him, he almost always appears at my front door complaining bitterly about my lack of gratitude for his many years of loyal friendship. So, after a few moments of awkward silence, I have always ended up apologizing, and we then usually rummage through the past and slug down martinis. But now you see, once again Iíve ditched him, and he seems to be gone for good. His name is Robert Porter, but I just call him Bob. My name is John.

Of course, there is really no way of telling Bobís story without relating my own because we often worked, played, and struggled as one. Over the years, whenever we were together, we worked at a lot of minimum wage jobs that were often nasty and tedious. Perhaps that was one of the reasons we got into so much trouble during those years. The drudgery of factory work and the constant demands of fast food restaurant customers made it hard to stay sober for long. Still, there was one kind of trouble that Bob and I just couldnít seem to avoid. Any time we hung out together, Bob almost always ended up with mental health issues. Throughout our relationship, I watched him become ill repeatedly, and he often dragged me down with him. Because of this unstable situation, we were often forced to live in temporary placements as we coped with the day to day problems of living.

Yet, in these same unconventional circumstances, Bob and I often learned about the thoughts and feelings of others as well as our own. Whenever we were with other patients and residents, we almost always learned something about life. So, in some ways, Bob was also a kind of blessing for me as well. He led me to the people and places I would never have found without him. So this story is not just about Bob and me, it is also a story about those fellow sojourners who often crossed our path. The triggering event that set my whole story in motion was an acute appendicitis attack that occurred when I was twenty. By the time I had surgery, I was in serious trouble. I woke up in the recovery room with no complications, but the fear of death soon became an obsession.

Over the next few years, this fear of death began to spread through my consciousness and poison my relationships. Every day brought only meaningless work and boredom. At night, the loneliness and despair were as palpable as a foul breeze. Before long I was severely depressed.

When I first met Bob, we were both patients at a private hospital called Ridgeway. I was there for depression, and Bob was there for being completely incoherent. When I first saw him, he was tied in a hospital bed with his thoughts racing so fast that his speech was wild and unintelligible. But slowly, as I watched him over the next few days and nights, I heard him slow down his speech although the words were still crooked and broken. After about a week, as my depression began to lift, I noticed Bob pacing around the unit. I decided to follow him, but I also decided to take a good look around.

Ridgeway Hospital was a modern facility with clean, bright hallways honeycombed with double occupancy rooms. There was a dayroom that was also a dining room, several psychiatristsí offices and both an art and group therapy room. Adjoining the day room was the prominent nursesí station. This was the central hub of the entire hospital unit. Patients wandered up to the chest high counter to take medications, find out about relatives, and often just to get attention. Most of the patients at Ridgeway were a mix of alcoholics, the seriously mentally ill, and drug addicts, so the atmosphere was sometimes frightening with an odd combination of staff cheerfulness and patient despair.

As I mentioned, Bob did get better by degrees at the hospital, and we soon became friends. Whenever we could, we met for meals and chatted during the day. We also talked about finances and discussed the possibility of sharing an apartment. It wasnít long before I trusted him as a loyal companion. Since I didnít make friends easily anymore, I felt really encouraged.

Anyway, since we were ďnew,Ē we observed as much as we participated; but as Bob became more lucid, he also seemed more self-confident. He was more eager than I was to get involved and before long, he was giving advice. For example, at a morning group therapy session, he listened intently to a woman who was almost catatonic. Somewhere, lodged within her struggling mind, she had come to believed that she had committed the Bibleís unforgivable sin. The tangled rollers in her hair and her food stained nightgown painted a portrait of fear and despair. She really seemed to believe that she was going to hell. Sadly, Bob couldnít resist the temptation to talk to her about other relevant Bible passages suggesting that the woman could be helped. Unfortunately, Bobís enthusiasm sounded more like anger than compassion, so the group moved on.

Later, in the same group, Bob also engaged a heroin dealer in a heated discussion about the manís future. The man, who was taking methadone, told the group that he had decided to stop taking heroin himself, but would still sell it to others. Bob responded with a kind of mini-lecture that nearly deteriorated into a fistfight. For a time after that, Bob kept his opinions to himself.

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This product was added to our catalog on Tuesday 25 November, 2008.

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