Tag Archives: racing thoughts

(Not So) Total Recall

Lately I’ve been wondering if my gaps in memory are because of bipolar disorder or something else (aging? genes? I don’t know…).

Over the weekend I triumphantly proved these memory hiccups I’ve been having existed to an audience of zero. That’s right, I only had myself around to say, “ah ha! I knew it!” -but it still felt slightly gratifying.

When I boarded the bus I looked up the name of the cross-streets I needed to get off on. Michigan and Marginal. Those were the streets.

I sat, repeating the names over and over again to myself at the bus trucked along. For maybe two or three stops I repeated the names over and over again in an attempt to remember the names of the streets.

Then, ten minutes later, I suddenly realized I couldn’t recall. Michigan and what? It started with the letter M… 

Try as I might, I couldn’t remember the name. I had to look it up all over again.

This was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back. This sort of thing has been happening a lot lately, and when it happened on the bus I nearly screamed, “HA!” because it was like catching my brain in the act of forgetting.

The thing that makes me believe it might be bipolar related is that I’ve been struggling a lot lately with racing thoughts and spacing out. It is as if my mind is either overwhelmingly engaged in something lately, or it isn’t engaged in anything. When it is highly engaged, there is too much information flying around to be able to remember the name of a street that starts with M. And, when I space out, the opposite is true. It is like trying to hold thoughts in a sieve, everything just falls out through the holes in the bottom.

I have also recently taken up losing words again, where I am talking and have trouble finishing my sentence, or I lose the next word I am supposed to say.

“Looks like it is going to…” Rain. Say rain. Wait, what is the word? There was a word I wanted to say here… crap.

People have told me that lithium has had this effect on them, and I can’t exactly discredit that theory, but I’ve been taking lithium for a long time now and (like most things) this lame brain syndrome seems to come and go in something like waves. This wave lately has made it very difficult to hold conversations, write blog posts, remember where the heck I am going, and keep anything in my head for more than a minute or two at a time.

My other theory is that it could have to do with insomnia. I’ve been having one hell of a time trying to sleep lately, my anxiety has been so far out of control that I am too busy laying around at night with racing thoughts or spacing out to be able to sleep. This has resulted in a few really attractive tantrums by yours truly, as the act of not being able to sleep feels something akin to physical torture.

Realistically, I don’t know. The answer is as elusive as the name of street that started with the letter M. It is on the tip of my tongue, but there is nothing there but a blank spot.

I’m Singing, Just Singing in the Pain

At what point does childhood fear cross over into full fledged paranoia?

I’ve recently been getting a little flack for how much I sing out loud. And I don’t mean when the radio is on in the car, but around the house doing regular, household things. My boyfriend was quick to blame the role that Disney played in my childhood for this, and I laughed and agreed and shrugged it off.

But… I’ve been thinking about it more, particularly at night when I’m walking home from the bus stop and it is dark and silent outside, and I realized that moments like that one remind me of my childhood.

I had a lot of anxiety as a child (though I didn’t know it until a very long time later), and that is one of the places the obsessive compulsive “tendencies” I have really began to flourish.

I wasn’t afraid of the dark, but I was afraid there was something in the dark. And it was always going to “get” me. Sounds perfectly natural for a child, but at what point does that become better described as paranoia? 10 years old? 13 years old? 15 years old?

Anyway, as a kid, the best thing I could think of to combat this fear (which I’m sure was actually passed to me by some character on a show, maybe Grover?) was to sing.

As long as I was singing, I was untouchable.

To a large extent today, singing is an important tool for me.

I mean, I’m no pop star or anything, but even just something a step above a hum seems to help immensely when it comes to facing things like excruciating racing thoughts, delusions, and intense paranoia.

My theory as to why this works is two fold.

First, singing aloud is something that requires confidence. Like I said, it isn’t as if I’m a particularly good singer, but I do it anyhow. Singing requires confidence, singly poorly probably doubly so! The confidence I have to tap into when I sing out loud isn’t allocated to the singing alone, once I’ve tapped into it a little bit of confidence goes a long way.

It takes the edge off the fear.

My thought that this has to do with confidence came from the fact I get some of the same relief from activities like dancing (which, again, requires some degree of confidence) and even doing silly things, like practicing a fashion runway walk. If I can muster enough courage to do any of those things, it will carry me through a dark place of fear into a lighter one.

And second, it gets me out of my head.

Singing aloud requires concentration. If I am actively thinking about hitting notes or what the lyrics are, I am not thinking about how terrified I am. You’d be amazed at how much not dwelling on a specific series of thoughts can help in ignoring the fear.

This is also why I said singing aloud is great for racing thoughts as well.

I think the idea of the mantra (a sacred word or syllable used as an object of concentration or embodiment of spiritual power) acts in something of the same way. By focusing on repeating a word or sound aloud, it frees up your mind from dwelling on many different kinds of thoughts -in this case for activities like meditation and yoga.

My personal version of a mantra is the chicken dance song. I know it might sound a little ludicrous, but when things start to get out of control in my head, I sing that annoying, chicken dance song aloud. It has no lyrics, so really I’m just repeating a set of sounds over and over again, and the result is that I can remove myself from whatever gobledigook is going on in my mind.

Music has always acted as a great outlet for me, and that is one of the biggest reasons I miss having a piano. Having a piano just gave me further excuse to sing aloud, with the added bonus of being able to focus on playing the music myself at the same time.

Anyway, this may seem like a childish notion, but it has really remained relevant through my adult life as well.

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.