The Hopkins Doctor Diagnoses Me by Ann Bracken

The Hopkins psychiatrist glances up at me,
then looks at my chart.
“I remember the first time—and the second—when the depression lifted
I felt like a party girl.”

How long did that last?
“A couple of days…three, maybe.”
That’s a couple of days too long.
You have all the signs of bipolar II.

“What’s bipolar about feeling great for a few days
when a year-long depression finally lifts?”

I list all the symptoms I don’t have—
No overspending, no sleeplessness, no trying to fly off the roof.

Without looking up at me,
the Hopkins psychiatrist writes the new diagnosis on my chart.

Months later, the depression finally lifts after four years,
But the migraine rages on.  My doctor
loads me up with Prednisone for three weeks.

I hear the swishing of blood rushing through my veins
my thoughts fast-track through the looping tunnels of my mind

my heart pounds like I’ve run up ten flights of steep stairs.
I’ve never felt so out of control. The doctors decide

It’s time for mood regulators.  I try to reason with them.
The large red block letters on the Prednisone label shout:

Mania Can Be a Side-Effect of Long-Term Use.
“Look at the side-effects. I’ve never been like this in my entire life. Ever.

I’m having a drug reaction,
not a manic episode.”

But the Hopkins doctor put the diagnosis in my chart
and now I’m a patient locked in a psych ward.


This poem was published in the collection The Altar of Innocence by Ann Bracken, 2015.

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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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