Each person diagnosed with bipolar will have a slightly different take on particular bipolar symptoms. It has a lot to do with each person’s body chemistry and the medicines that he or she takes or doesn’t take. I am giving you a view from within a bipolar 1 brain with psychotic features.
I feel as if this symptom is as common to me as breathing every day. I wake up in the morning and it is off to the races. My thoughts race from one thought to the next, to the next, to the next, etc. on a never-ending stream of thoughts that barely have a hair’s width of an idea in common.
I forgot to put my phone on charge. I need to put toilet paper on the grocery list. I will take the dogs for a walk now. Tea needs to be made. I need to change the bed sheets. What is the weather going to be this weekend? Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way…
It keeps my head very noisy. Having these racing thoughts makes it difficult to focus. Reading a book has always been a HUGE chore. I have to re-read sentences and paragraphs so many times because I have so many thoughts passing through.
The paranoia comes out of nowhere and trips me like an uneven carpet. My paranoia is everywhere. Walking through the parking lot going to work, I get a paranoid vibe that everybody in the building is looking at me. At a former job, I believed I was being videotaped and the footage was going to be used to fire me. I believe there are men hiding out in my closet waiting to grab me and scare me. And there is an evil clown running loose under my bed that is going to kill me. At our old house, I believed there were malicious men staying in the basement all night and were going to kill me if I walked down the stairs after dark.
These may sound silly to you and in the real world they are, but they are real to me and are not silly. My heartbeat quickens. I feel my blood pulsing through my body. My breath becomes short and shallow. It is not a pleasant feeling to have especially when I am trying to go to sleep or trying to go to work.
This bipolar thinking style visits me every day. I can be involved in doing one task, and then I get distracted by another task. I never finish one task before I go to the next, or to the next, or to the next. Then I come back around and I pick up a task I previously did. If the bipolar is winding down, I can get my brain under control and finish each task before moving on. If not, I will stay on the hellacious merry-go-round until I tire out or this bipolar symptom subsides.
Bipolars have a lot of symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). A word, a song, a phrase, an image might get stuck in my mind and stay there for a long period of time. It is difficult to shake this particular bipolar thinking. For me, it is usually names or songs that get caught in my brain and my brain will not let it go. It is like a steel trap with clenched teeth.
Bipolars have the tendency to jump to conclusions in a hot second. Our boss comes in mad after lunch, we think we are going to get fired. We do not hear from our friend in several days, so we assume she is mad at us. Our spouse calls and does not leave a message, so they are mad and will be late coming home. This is called catastrophizing. Our norm is to jump to the extremes. The truth is, nine out of ten times, these extremities never pan out. We get all worked up for nothing.
Having obsessions and extreme tendencies, anxiety happens to be the product of the two. I would say anxiety is one of the worst bipolar symptom for me. I have battled with crippling anxiety for majority of my life. The anxiety really ramped up the last decade.
Just tonight on my way home from dinner, I began to have the all too familiar sensation of a panic attack. It passed before it came bursting forth. I can get anxious about anything. The weather, work, people or the news. I have a terrible problem with social anxiety. It affects me at work, family gatherings, church and shopping.
Managing these Bipolar Symptoms
I feel that a good way to manage your different bipolar symptoms is to keep a mood diary. My diary is actually a purse-size calendar. Whenever I have a shift in my thinking, I write it in my calendar. I then share my racing thoughts, anxiety, obsessions or distracted thoughts with my psychiatrist as well as my psychologist. We might discuss tweaking my medications. There are definitely discussions on ways I can cope.
- Racing Thoughts — I try to relax and not focus on the racing thoughts. I pray to get my mind off the thoughts zinging through my mind. Usually this means my mood is in an uptick and I am experiencing hypomania or mania. I do not want to do anything to make manic episodes worse. I do relaxing activities that I enjoy.
- Paranoid Delusions — This is difficult for me because I am usually too busy keeping my heart from bursting out of my chest. I pray and then I find my voice, be it very small, I use that voice to tell myself that it is not real. If that does not work, I tell myself that I will be okay. I am a child of God. Greater is He who is in me than the one who is in the world.
- Distracted Thoughts — When I notice that I am bouncing from one task to the other, I stop, pray, take a break and look at what I have to do. At that time, I usually order the tasks and tell myself that I must complete a task before moving on. I have to continually remind myself that I must complete a task before moving on.
- Obsessiveness — What I do for this bipolar symptom is pretty much the same as racing thoughts. I try to relax so I can calm my thoughts down.
- Extreme Thoughts — I pray. This usually opens my eyes to see that what I am thinking has a 99.9% chance of not happening. I cannot tell you how many times I have worried about something and what I thought would happen never came to pass.
- Anxiety — Prayer. Period. That is the only thing that I have learned will truly help me with bipolar symptoms of anxiety.
Here are some links to some websites that discuss bipolar symptoms in more detail.