Racing thoughts are a bitch when you have nothing immediate to apply them to.
Sure they can be helpful in situations like school, but only because they allow one to think about twice as much content in the same allotment of time. I think this is slightly related to the fact hypomanic and manic folks are constantly taking on new projects… the brain needs something to do. Something to contemplate.
Without something specific to attach that brain racehorse to, this thought pattern could potentially drive anyone into the ground quite quickly.
I might start thinking about one thing, but without any form of goal or commitment to specific thought my mind quickly darts to a million other places in no particular order. It is like having someone channel surfing in your head for hours on end and can get very annoying, very quickly. More than anything, though, it is exhausting. It is like burning up brain fuel on useless snippets of nothing.
Another possibility is that these thoughts will begin to obsess over something. Like channel surfing, but the channel keeps flipping to the same channel over and over and over again. I’m not sure if that is something normal for most bipolar folks, but as an adolescent it quickly helped earn me the diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder. Personally I find this version of racing thoughts the most maddening because it reaches a point where no matter how hard I try to divert my attention, I can’t shake it.
I used to obsess over things that I cared about. School, work, relationships. Now that isn’t as common for me because I’ve learned how to divert that from happening too badly. Instead what I get now is just repetitive garbage for days at a time.
The most notable recent occurrence I’ve had of this last situation was last year, and I happened to be listening to The Fellowship of the Ring via audiobook. There was a three day period where I was subject to the same portion of Tom Bombadil’s song being sung a million times over in my head, and my efforts to derail these thoughts were to little avail.
Thankfully, I’ve lately only had to deal with the regular racing thoughts and lack of attention span any longer than a hummingbird’s heartbeat.
I would say that more than anything, racing thoughts are the culprit when it comes to my insomnia. With the static of the channels changing and memories and thoughts continuously flickering, it becomes impossible to power down. Laying in bed feels more like a punishment than anything, and the internal noise becomes so loud I half expect it to wake the neighbors.
I was caught a little bit off guard by this lately, because normally racing thoughts coincide with other hypomanic symptoms for me, at the very least. Recently they’ve been happening in sort of isolated occurrences though, so it took a while for me to figure out why I was feeling so mentally restless. I haven’t had the normal signs to help point out to me what is going on.
For better or worse, being sick has put my brain in a headlock and things have slowed back down. I haven’t been able to process much more than an hour or two of any thought each day this week, which has been admittedly helpful despite being otherwise frustrating.
Could I bottle that? Could I learn the secrets of wrestling my brain into submission?
I guess realistically if the secret is to have a 102 degree fever, I’d almost rather forgo the wrestling.