I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder eleven years ago. Over the years, I have become familiar with my symptoms and I’m actually good at recognizing them for what they are (which is a good thing) and addressing them. One of the main issues I have always had are my thoughts. Racing thoughts, obsessive thoughts and grandiose thoughts (although I don’t struggle with the last one since I’ve been medicated properly and stable).
In my experience, racing thoughts can take over your mind. It’s not just thoughts that you can’t keep up with, it’s a burden of words and worrisome sentences that can make you feel like you’re going to explode. It’s beyond overwhelming especially when you’re having them for the first time! When you have them for the first time since you’ve learned about what they are and that they’re a symptom of bipolar disorder it’s very helpful to identify them as what they are in order to help them stop. That way they can be addressed through cognitive thinking exercises on your own or with your therapist and sometimes anxiety medication.
Obsessive thoughts and worry; once I start obsessing over something I find it difficult to stop. From little insignificant non-issues to the larger things in life. When my maternal grandmother was in Critical Care Hospice at the end of her life I started dwelling on the whole thing. I made myself be there day after day and worried so much about what would happen, when she would pass away and would I be at her side or not and all the different aspects of death and life and what she meant to me and what a legacy she was leaving behind in me and in the rest of my family. I pressured myself to be there as much as possible and took on way too much emotional stress and anxiety over it. I felt like it completely shifted my mood for the worse, because it was traumatic event, even before her passing. The process of Hospice was ridiculously hard. Seeing her body and her face change and the signs of death were too much for my heart and mind to bear. I wanted to remember her for who she was in life, not what she looked like in death. I had to take a step back and remove myself from the situation, much to the relief of my own mother.
It doesn’t have to be the bigger things in life, often I worry about literally nothing. Anxiety takes over. It starts with worry, then turns to anxiety and I struggle with obsessing over ridiculous or irrelevant things. When it comes to grandiose thoughts— I really thought I could do anything. I was not afraid of anything. And well, that’s just scary for an obsessive, angry, and manic person to believe she can do anything, as I used to do. If it’s harnessed a lot can be accomplished but if left to run wild it can be dangerous…dangerous in that, if you think you’re God-like, if you’re acting out in a pompous and superior manner to everyone and everything including God and the Universe, well, you do foolish things. For the most part, mine was kept under control in my most unstable years and I’m thankful for that.
My former counsellor gave me an exercise she called STOP cards. She advised me to write a specific Bible verse that encourages me on the back of an index card and on the front write in big, bold letters “S-T-O-P” and when I would start obsessing I would pull out my stop card and read the verse and look at that word, STOP, and say it out loud sometimes too. It really helped me to pray and recite the verse too. To take ten deep breathes and just remove my brain from the loop of thinking I was in really calmed down the obsessive thoughts. It’s easy for me to get into cyclical thinking and feel stuck!
What helps me in these situation is to write it down, or talk it out with some one who I know is a safe person, like my husband or my parents. Typically, getting it out of my head will make me gain new perspective or just cleanses my thinking!
To read more about my experiences with ways of thinking check out my blog, MrsBipolarity.com