Being bipolar can be challenging. For me it’s partly because my mind refuses to shut off. When I’m not doing much and just being around the house, I find myself doing the one thing that makes most people break into anxiety: overthinking. It’s one of the quickest ways to find yourself in depression.
I spend so much time pressing out the thoughts that I have forgotten what an impossible task this is. Ironically, I wind up having to take medication to help my brain press out the thoughts now causing anxiety.
Fortunately for me, normally they work. However, sometimes the thoughts become so overwhelming that no matter how I try to distract myself, I can’t seem to manage to do so. Paranoid delusional thoughts can come at me so rapidly that even when I think I have the whole bipolar delusion thing figured out, I realize that ability goes and comes.
Most of the time my delusions are that people I know and are on my side do not like me. I think people who are trying to help me make things better are against me. I feel that everyone around me is talking badly about me and are having conversations with each other about me and the things they don’t like about me. I think every giggle they make with someone else, and every look they exchange has got me in the center of it. It’s as if I am standing in front of a class in my underwear. Except for me, I am not dreaming — at that moment it’s happening in real time.
Sometimes they get so extreme that I believe my biggest supporter is against me. Sometimes I am able to pinpoint what I have done wrong with my compliance plan for managing my bipolar and figure out quickly how I got off track and started down the path where the delusions began. Other times I struggle so badly that I know that no matter how well I take care of myself the delusions will never be more than a thought away. They, just like breathing, are a part of my life. I don’t get to decide to do it, when to do it, or how often they come. I have been told many times I am a likable person, so why I believe that others dislike me will always be something I don’t understand. My mother-in-law used to say, “Tosha, they have better things to think about than you.” Although though I know that’s right I still cannot make the delusions or the overthinking stop.
I try to keep myself busy throughout the days. I read, study things I find interesting, crochet (but there is a lot of free time for thinking while crocheting), play on Facebook or clean. Sometimes, though, when things are really coming at me fast, the overthinking and delusions won’t stop no matter how hard I try to repress them. When they happen, I tend to create the environment that I was trying to avoid. I will talk about someone, call them a name, because they are out to get me, or so my mind believes. I will make up a reason for my husband to be upset with me or me to be upset with him. I believe he isn’t loving me enough or we aren’t connecting anymore. I think since I have bipolar and my mind is always going that I need the reinforcement continuously.
Now that he and I are nearly 40 and our children are well into their teen years, life is slowing down and because of it, there’s more time to think. I have more time to develop problems that are not really there. I can normally get past them, sometimes convincing myself that I am overreacting. Every once in a while, though, I forget to check myself and the delusions create something out of nothing.
My husband is very forgiving. It might take him a day or so, but he tries to remember I am not always in control of the thoughts that bog down my mind. He tries to reassure me that what I am thinking isn’t happening. At times he has just refused to talk about something because he knows I conjured it up and he won’t fall prey to my mind like I do. I am very thankful for that. He has lived with me for long enough to know when I’m having delusional thoughts.
They can be strong or they can be weak, but I am never truly free from their torment. The biggest battle has been fought, though, which was the battle to know what the delusions were. I didn’t know at one time that the paranoid thoughts I was having had a name, and they were actually part of bipolar disorder. I was both relieved and scared to learn that what was happening to me had a name. Scared because it meant that I truly did have the disorder but relieved because if it had an actual name maybe they had developed something to help me. I was lucky treatment helps me get a handle on what’s happening.
I never wanted to be put on an antipsychotic, never considered what I manifested was psychotic behavior. Long before I figured out that the thoughts were actually delusions, my doctor knew what they were. He never told me they were bipolar delusions and common in the condition. He treated the symptom of the delusions, which, I believe, has more than once saved my life. I worked hard to find the right doctor. I had two other doctors before the one I have now. He listens to me and he doesn’t give me the same medications he gave the patient he saw right before me. He gives me the medicine I need to treat my symptoms. This means I am not taking medicine I might not need. He sees patterns in my behavior and helps me recognize what my mind is doing. I trust I am getting the right care.
When the delusions start, I know what to do. I know now that they will be there no matter what I do. My doctor said when it comes to medication we have it all right. I have to learn to talk about it and learn how to work it out for myself. I can’t depend on the medication to correct everything.
Today, because I felt guilty for overspending, I started to blame myself more than my husband blamed me. In fact, he had let the situation go. Then he talked to me a bit about my thoughts and did not feed into my paranoid thoughts of him being more upset with me than he truly was. Eventually I was able to see what I was doing.
More and more I am able to recognize the fact that I am overthinking a situation, that my mind is not being rational. I am able to warn my husband and let him know by saying, ”I am having a hard time not overthinking things today.” I am lucky enough to have found someone who says he will never understand why I do the things I do, but he will always support me through it. I am a very lucky wife.
So yes, overthinking is a bipolar symptom. I no longer walk around in a solid depression because of what I feel others think of me. I am able to be confident and have good self-esteem. I am able to be a leader and try to help others when they don’t think they can keep going. I don’t let the delusions win. I tell them who I am, and I don’t let them destroy things I have worked hard to create. I am able to remind myself that this is part of the disorder. What I am going through is going to be there sometimes, but I don’t have to let it control me. I make the decisions in my life, my mind doesn’t anymore. I know my mind thinks it is in control most of the time but I always remind it that I, not it, is the one with the ability to stay in control of the delusions.