The symptoms of bipolar depression are similar to those of major depression. There are different types of bipolar disorder that span a spectrum of these symptoms. The type depends on the intensity and duration of the elevated mood symptoms. A manic episode is as described above, hypomanic episodes are shorter and less intense, and mixed episodes are a combination of depression and mania or hypomania that occur at the same time. What does bipolar disorder feel like? Living through the different phases of depressed, manic, hypomanic or mixed episodes is very hard. When depressed, you may withdraw from friends and family or feel too irritable to be with people. You may often be unable to concentrate and function well at work or school. Being manic or hypomanic is like having a storm inside your head. Your thoughts and speech race from topic to topic without completing a thought. You may be too disorganized and distracted to function well without realizing it at the time. In fact, when manic, you might think that you can do anything you choose, and that you have great ideas. You may start and stop multiple projects without finishing any of them. You feel a minimal need for sleep, yet you feel energized, not tired. You may have extreme impulses and may engage in high-risk activities, such as exorbitant shopping, excessive sexual behaviors, or driving too fast. Your impulses may lead to making poor financial or business decisions. All of this has an effect on your life and in your relationships with friends, family, and work colleagues. The variety of strange things that people believe seemingly knows no bounds. Many people believe that aliens have visited the earth, psychics can foretell the future, astrology works, crystals can heal sickness, Bigfoot exists, the Bermuda triangle swallows up ships and planes, people can levitate, houses can be haunted, near death experiences prove that there's an afterlife, and psychic detectives can find murderers. In fact, a Gallup poll conducted in June 2005 indicates that the majority of us (73 percent) hold at least one paranormal belief.

We believe even though there is little or no credible evidence to support these beliefs; in fact, many are contradicted by hard evidence. Take, for instance, the so-called Bermuda Triangle. We have all probably seen or read something about the mystery surrounding the triangle. It's commonly believed that an extraordinary number of ships and planes have disappeared there, apparently because of paranormal or alien forces. However, a close examination reveals that these losses can be explained by a variety of normal causes. In fact, when you consider the increased rate of traffic in the area, there are actually a smaller proportion of losses in the Bermuda Triangle as compared to the surrounding areas. On the basis of that judgment, the tape predicts and therefore controls your thinking and behavior and thus the outcome you will have. You make decisions about the present, and predictions about the future, on the basis of the tapes. Take, for example, the judgment "I am stupid." As we've seen, tapes are based on history, so somewhere along the way, in reaction to a particular event in your life, you, in your real-time, internal dialogue, started telling yourself that you were stupid. Practice makes perfect and you repeated this judgment so loudly and so long that it got burned into your mind. Fast forward to the present. In the context of that job interview or an exam, the tape that plays at lightning speed, just below your conscious level, might be, I am stupid; therefore, I won't be picked for this job, or, I am stupid; therefore there's no way I can pass this exam. The tape anticipates an outcome and the outcome is always negative: I am stupid; therefore this [whatever the event is] will not go well for me. And remember, for every thought, lightning speed or otherwise, there is a corresponding physiological event. Just as soon as you start dogging on yourself mentally, your body and your energy quickly follow suit. With this in mind, set realistic goals and timetables for achieving them. Writing something down is the first step in concretizing an aspiration. What you put down on paper and work toward with effort will come to fruition. Every course or self-improvement group I've been involved with has recognized the importance of getting your goals down in some manner so that you can have them in front of you, be in the form of a Post-It note on the refrigerator or a reminder on the computer. The important thing is to keep your expectations in front of you so that you can start to visualize them, focus on them, and convince yourself that they are possible.

Have you ever written a list of healthy foods or posted a picture of yourself at your thinnest on the fridge for some inspiration? That's the basic idea. Once you have identified your expectations and written them down, then you can start to build your belief system. Faith is your foundation; expectations are your blueprint. Develop a game plan and work diligently every day to achieve your aspirations. It's amazing how much power and creativity you'll discover when you believe. I recommend that you commit your expectations to memory and keep them foremost in your thought processes. The most effective way of accomplishing this is to write your expectations down in some physical form so that they are in front of you (literally as well as figuratively) every day. You can use notes that you put on your refrigerator, desk, or bathroom mirror. You can also write them down in a journal or as a digital reminder on your computer screen. Use whatever method is most convenient for you. Here are a few tips for organizing your goals. What makes for a quality friendship? William Rawlins, a professor of interpersonal communications at Ohio University who studies the way people interact over the course of their lives, told the Atlantic that satisfying friendships need three things: "somebody to talk to, someone to depend on, and someone to enjoy." Finding someone to talk to, depend on, and enjoy often comes naturally when we're young, but as we grow into adulthood, the model for how to maintain friendships is less clear. We graduate and go our separate ways, pursuing careers and starting new lives miles apart from our best friends. Suddenly work obligations and ambitions take priority over having beers with buddies. If children enter the picture, exhilarating nights on the town become exhausted nights on the couch. Unfortunately, the less time we invest in people, the easier it is to make do without them, until one day it is too awkward to reconnect. This is how friendships die--they starve to death. But as the research reveals, by allowing our friendships to starve, we're also malnourishing our own bodies and minds.

If the food of friendship is time together, how do we make the time to ensure we're all fed? Despite our busy schedules and surfeit of children, my friends and I have developed a social routine that ensures regular get-togethers. We call it the "kibbutz," which in Hebrew means "gathering." For our gathering, four couples, my wife and me included, meet every two weeks to talk about one question over a picnic lunch. The question might range from a deep inquiry like, "What is one thing you are thankful your parents taught you?" to a more practical question like, "Should we push our kids to learn things they don't want, like playing the piano?" Having a topic helps in two ways: first, it gets us past the small talk of sports and weather, giving us an opportunity to open up about stuff that really matters; second, it prevents the gender split that often happens when couples convene in groups--men in one corner, women in another. Having a question of the day gets us all talking together. Some women's depression symptoms worsen in relation to changes in their female hormones: estrogen and progesterone. This may happen at certain points in the menstrual cycle or at other times when hormone levels fluctuate, such as during the transition to menopause (peri-menopause) or after the birth of a child (post-partum). The relationship between mood and hormones is not well understood, but research is progressing. A valuable resource where you can learn more about current thinking and research on psychiatric issues throughout a woman's reproductive life is the Web site www.womensmentalhealth.org. There you will find a library of information, a blog, and a newsletter of up-to-date topics on depression and PMS, peri-natal and postpartum depression, fertility and mental health, and menopausal symptoms. To find a potential association between hormone levels and your depression, use the Mood Chart on page 46 to track your moods. Make sure that you include the days of your menstrual cycle and other important dates on the chart, such as the birth of a child or your last menstrual period. Then share the completed chart with your doctor. Weird beliefs are found in every segment of our society. Our federal government, for example, has made a number of costly decisions based on faulty beliefs. The Pentagon has spent millions trying to develop weapons based on ESP and psychokinesis (the ability to affect physical objects simply by thinking about them). The Defense Intelligence Agency and CIA has spent $20 million on the Stargate program alone, investigating psychics' supposed ability to view objects that are hundreds of miles away. And our government continues to give large grants to investigate such bizarre claims. This money is spent even though belief in these phenomena contradicts many of our well-established principles of science. 7 Might this money be spent better elsewhere?

Corporations make similar errors in judgment. Major companies in Europe and the United States have used graphologists when making their hiring decisions. A graphologist analyzes a job applicant's handwriting to determine what kind of person he is--not by the content of what he writes, but by how he loops his letters and cross his Ts. Research shows that graphology is totally useless, but you may have been denied a job in the past if a graphologist said your handwriting indicated you're not trustworthy. Now you may be thinking, Hey, wait a minute! What about positive tapes? What if my history is positive, so my tapes are programming me to believe I can't miss, that I always come out on top? Sorry, but if you're thinking that that is a good thing, we have two problems: You're wrong, and I haven't done a very good job of teaching you about tapes. There is no such thing as a positive tape. You might think, Well, how can a tape that says positive things be negative? What about the power of positive thinking and all that jazz? Think about it in a real-world situation. Suppose you are sitting on an airliner at the end of the runway in January in New York City. The weather is windy, icy, and snowy and the pilot has a decision to make: Do we take off or do we not? Now suppose that instead of evaluating the current conditions, your pilot decides to go because he believes in himself and because every other takeoff he has ever made turned out okay. His tape might be: Hey, I always come out okay--I always land on my feet! Because the tape controls him, the pilot ignores the warning signs of danger and the fact that he has finally met a set of circumstances that his skill cannot overcome. My first flight instructor told me something I have never forgotten. He said, "I've met a lot of bold pilots and I've met a lot of old pilots, but I have never met my old, bold pilots!" If in these circumstances your pilot is emboldened by a historical tape, you could wind up dead. His tape may be "positive," in the sense that it has an affirming message, but it is not based on the here and now, and, therefore, can not be a plus in any sense of the word.