Some Thoughts on Racing Thoughts

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.

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8 responses to “Some Thoughts on Racing Thoughts

  1. My racing thoughts are accompanied with ‘racing actions’ . My thoughts turn into nuclear multitasking. My service/therapy cat is trained to ‘mock’ me in those situations. She runs around ‘mocking’ me and then I realize that it’s time to take a ‘chill pill’.

    The stuff sitting around in you’re underwear channel surfing is nothing uncommon. My dad sits burping and farting while channel surfing when I wasn’t estranged from him. Just keep away from the head cheese, pickled onions, and pickled pigs feet when you do it. That’s too much.

    • Mark, I also have some of that “racing actions” stuff going on, but mostly because I can’t seem to focus on any one thing long enough to complete it. Instead I wind up washing the dishes for 3 minutes, watching tv for 3 minutes, putting things away for 3 minutes and then going back to the dishes. Sometimes just sitting still is the most agonizing and infuriating thing ever!

  2. I liked the channel surfing analogy. That is perfect for what I go through. In real life, my husband is a channel surfing fiend. I’ll be just getting into a program and bam! Different channel. Typically, this makes me lose interest in watching the television after that at all.

    But, in my head, something different happens. I’ll be just getting into a program and bam! Channel surfing. And then I’ll get into that program and bam! Same thing.

    Now, when you experience this audio loop in your head, is it kind of like a scratched CD, where it will jump and play the same portion repeatedly? Because, I’ve had that for as long as I can remember.

    As for wrestling the mind, I take sleeping medication for that. There is, unfortunately, no other way.

    • As far as the audio, yep. It is usually just a clip of the song, and not the song in its entirety. I don’t know what is worse, hearing a clip on repeat for days or not being able to hear the end of the song!

      When I was a child I thought that if I could force myself to sing the whole song from start to finish, I could break the cycle of the loop. The trouble there is halfway through I either couldn’t remember the rest of the song or the urge to loop back to the beginning would be so great I couldn’t finish it, I’d wind up at the beginning. For the most part, though, I found that if I listened to the entire song on a cd, lets say, that would help cure the hangup. I’d get to the end, and that would be the end.

      Sleep aids are smart, honestly I hadn’t thought of that this time around because I was still sleeping fine. Without any of the usual hypomanic symptoms it was more of an annoyance than anything, and since it didn’t hinder my sleep, the sleep aid didn’t come up. Good call though.

      • Yeah, it’s a clip for me too. Today, it is “I got nothing. I got nothing. I wanted words but all I heard was nothing.” A phrase can be enough to trigger a passage in a song. I used to try to do the same thing, but it didn’t work. I have to either put the same audio in externally, or put other audio in there. But, I could end up looping another song.

        A few days ago, it was part of a Nine Inch Nails song I had heard on Pandora, and it was the first time I had listened to it in years. I’m working on using music for childhood regression. So far, no memories. Just feelings.

        When my grandmother was diagnosed with Lewy Body Syndrome, the doctor went on a long explanation of the brain and sleep. When a person is not getting quality sleep, meaning the absence of completed sleep cycles, no REM, etc, then the brain starts to misfire.

        The racing thoughts, some hypomanic in origin, some anxiety-driven, caused the worst bout of insomnia I ever had. And things got strange fast. It was the closest I had ever come to having a mixed episode. But, I knew it wasn’t. It was the effects of insomnia.

        I didn’t want to go on a sleeping pill at first. I’ve always had problems with going to sleep, and getting up. But, the act of sleep itself was never difficult until that point. Insomnia begets insomnia. It feeds itself. I had to put a stop to it. I was deteriorating past any point of function.

        Just a thought. I was hoping that it was a temporary solution, but now, I’m kind of okay with it. Regular sleeping and waking. It really helped to stabilize things.

  3. Of all the blogs I have read on this, what you are describing is what is plauging me. Some can sit and blog all the different things that are racing through their minds one by one. It is amazing. I am never able to complete a thought before another thought over laps it. I could never keep track of it. I do have obsessive thoughts as well though. But even they are not constant. I am glad you have the ability to do some constuctive things with your thinking pattern.

    • Yeah, I don’t think I could tell you what each of the thoughts is, they are so random in content and feeling that there doesn’t seem to be much of a pattern… and they are brought up for such a short period each that I don’t have enough time to fully grasp them before something else occurs.

      Thanks for reading!

  4. On racing thoughts.

    When the bell rings, gates swing open, and the horses bolt, I just start speaking out loud. I can’t speak as fast as I can think.

    But I’m a Texan, and I always speak like Scotty from Star Trek, accent and all. “I’m givin’ it all she’s got Captain,” “I don’t think the washer will hold any more whites,” even Scotty’s version of, “I’m a Doctor not a toilet tech, Captain, that’ll have to do.”

    It’s kinda fun sometimes.

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