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Living with Bipolar Involves the Chaos of a Racing Mind

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Thinking when you are bipolar and manic is grueling. Writing about bipolar disorder (or anything at all) is exhausting as well. It’s difficult; both things are far more confusing and conflicting than they may appear to be. This is especially true for me because, under the best of circumstances, I am self-conscious about my behaviour and somewhat lacking in self-esteem. When I write, I write every single piece with the shadow of apprehension about my personal ability lurking over my shoulder.

Then, what must it feel like to write with a racing, manic mind? What must it feel like to simply exist inside a manic, chaotic mind? All of us – yourself included – have had racing thoughts at some time or other. 

Why don’t I offer some examples of how this unrelenting chaos looks and feels? You may even recognise some of them. It feels like : 

  • being stuck in first gear with an ever-higher revving engine 
  • a roaring motorcycle that gets louder and louder and louder without end
  • a greyhound racing endlessly around a racetrack in pursuit of a rabbit
  • drinking far too many cups of coffee in quick succession
  • knees shaking under your desk when the boss or a teacher you fear is standing over you
  • being jittery because you haven’t eaten anything all day and you’re absolutely starving
  • cowering in the waiting room when you’re terrified of the dentist or doctor
  • that dream where you haven’t done your homework/prepared for that test/completed that work assignment/can’t find the classroom you’re supposed to be in
  • waking up in a strange place where you know no one and nothing is familiar and you are completely disoriented
  • racing endlessly through a train trying desperately to find your car

The problem with the manic racing mind? It’s not gone or over within a matter of moments. The boss or teacher doesn’t move away.  The dream doesn’t end.  The race isn’t finished within moments. The gear doesn’t suddenly unstick. The racing mind continues to race… and race… and race.

Thoughts are confused, confusing and unfocused.  Behavior is often rapid and out-of-focus as well.  Clarity is not a friend.  What you want to do and what you can do are not one and the same thing.  Thinking is difficult and – more often than not – hell. Writing is nearly impossible because your words tumble over one another at the same speed as your thoughts.  If you manage to get them on paper at all, they are as jumbled as the thinking that produced them.

Racing thoughts and their manifestation in speaking and writing are symptoms of the manic side of bipolar disorder. Most of you know that by now.  Manic thinking can be a serious warning sign that bipolar disorder is out of control. Things are not working right. It is difficult to pursue normal routines and tasks when this is happening. 

It’s certain that something has gone wrong and positive that something must be done to make your mind function correctly once again.  Of course, the best thing is to try to ensure that things don’t go wrong in the first place, but that’s not always possible.

I’ve said this before: we need to be certain that medications are taken to the letter and at the right times; to practice self-care meticulously; to be our own best advocate, yet keep our support network of family, professionals, and friends wrapped tightly around us.  That’s the best way to stay well and assure that we won’t end up in that hell-space in the first place.  But if we do, we need to be gentle, loving and accepting with ourselves.  We will move back to the bright side once again.   

For me, that includes the fact that I will be able to write creatively and intelligibly once again. This is one of my most ardent desires, even though it’s the writing and large related projects that sometimes trigger the mania in the first place.

Believe me when I tell you this:  no one wants to share space with relentlessly racing thoughts; it’s agonising. They are difficult to express either by mouth or in writing. There is nothing quite so beautiful as a calm and steady mind; to have that is to experience pure bliss. This I know as well as I know the other. 

Deb Wilk writes for various publications and she runs her own blog, Living Bipolar.

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