Being Overwhelmed by a Bipolar Life
As I’ve said many times, people view me as a high-functioning bipolar. And to a large extent, this is true. I do many things every day that many people with bipolar disorder can’t do because of their illness. I do battle with my bipolar demons and win more than some others. But here’s the thing: I still find bipolar disorder, and life, to a large extent completely overwhelming and I feel paralyzed by it.
Bipolar Disorder is Overwhelming
Of course, this might be in part because bipolar disorder is, in fact, overwhelming. People who don’t have bipolar disorder rarely understand this – they may view it as “just another illness” – but people with bipolar disorder know. Bipolar disorder fundamentally changes the way your brain works and dealing with every single thought running through a bad circuit is overwhelming. In fact, if there were a bigger word for overwhelming, I would use it. It’s over-overwhelming. It’s double-overwhelming. It’s overwhelming squared.
And so we fight this overwhelming disorder in spite of it feeling impossible. But it’s paralyzing at times. It’s paralyzing to have all these false thoughts pouring out of your brain. It’s paralyzing trying to deal with them all day, every day. It’s deer-in-the-headlights-sucked-up-by-an-alien-ray kind of paralyzing.
And Bipolar Disorder Makes Life Overwhelming
And all this paralyzing bipolar thought tends to make life overwhelming too. I’ve been trapped in my kitchen unable to decide what to eat, or even if to eat, because my brain was throwing out so many thoughts. With those myriad of thoughts comes the anxiety of listening to the “wrong” one and making the “wrong” decision.
It’s enough to give a person a migraine over a bowl of soup.
And the paralysis of the thoughts about money, and bills, and taxes, and opening mail, and returning phone calls, and returning emails, and, and, and… makes me want to give up thinking entirely,
Everything just looks like a mountain to climb with my fingertips instead of a simple task to accomplish.
What to do about Overwhelming Bipolar and an Overwhelming Life
I still get overwhelmed and paralyzed – daily. But I try to fight back by doing these things:
- Chunking things into tiny tasks that I can wrap my head around (maybe answer one email – the easy one – rather than all of them)
- Working more in the morning before my brain has a chance to rev up its overwhelming thought engine
- Resting (Now, napping is something that sleep experts say you shouldn’t do as it interrupts your circadian rhythm. I’m certainly not going to suggest my advice is better than theirs, but I find naps crucial to resetting my brain sometimes. A break might work just as well for some people though.)
- Breathing – consciously and slowly while talking to myself out loud to calm myself.
- Making a schedule and a plan for what I will do (and eat) when so I don’t have to make decisions in the moment.
- Understanding that overwhelming thought and paralysis is just part of my life and accepting it.
Multitasking also sometimes helps as it allows my brain to think in multiple streams at once. Of course, that in and of itself can be overwhelming if I’m not careful.
In short, I think it’s normal to be overwhelmed by a brain disorder and I think it’s reasonable for that overwhelmed feeling to spill into everyday life. But I also think there are things we can do to fight it. We don’t have to be victims of an overactive bipolar brain. But we can’t win all the time either, so it’s all about accepting the balance we can achieve.
About Natasha Tracy
Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.