The term “bipolar disorder” did not come about until 1980 when it appeared in the third revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM III) (Krans & Cherney, 2016). Therefore, even if Dickinson did suffer from bipolar disorder, it would have been impossible to diagnose her as such, because the diagnosis did not exist until almost 100 years after her death. However, it is known Dickinson suffered from what was referred to as a “fixed melancholy” (McDermott, 2001), and is thought to have contributed to a panic attack she suffered at age 24 (Brock, 2014). Dickinson “studied languages, philosophy, and science” at Amherst Academy for seven years, but had to leave school at age seventeen due to her depression (Juhasz, 2005). Dickinson dropping out of school due to depression highlights how severe her mental illness was, and emphasizes that her struggle with mental illness began early in her life which impacted her writing.
Though never officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder, in a letter to a friend written three y...
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...l in my Brain. This poem includes the theme of death, but also shows the transition from Dickinson’s depressed phase into her manic phase. In the first two stanzas of the poem, the speaker describes “mourners” processing into a funeral and the monotony of the funeral itself (Dickinson, n.d.a). The structure of the first two stanzas is similar, beginning with the mourners “walking to and fro” and “treading-treading” (Dickinson, n.d.a). The emphasis of walking and the repetition of the word “treading,” like the previous poem, highlights the monotony of the scene (Dickinson, n.d.a). This reflects how people with depression tend to “go through the motions without any enthusiasm” (Man & Martin, 2012). Instead of completing tasks mindfully and enjoying what they are doing, a person experiencing a depressive episode is more likely to only do what they need to do to get by.
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