Sunday, May 8, 2016


It’s not uncommon for most of us to experience days when we may not be able to concentrate fully on the task at hand for a variety of reasons.  There are days when it’s difficult to simply determine what you might want to eat, let alone come to any important conclusions.  People with bipolar disorder are no exception. In fact, it’s an even bigger problem.

I know from my own experience that regardless of whether I am in a manic phase or a severely depressed phase, concentration is a recurring issue. Most of the articles I read seem to indicate that a manic episode would cause a sharp and clear frame of mind. Historically, that is not how it works for me.

I love books. I enjoy reading very much and if I could I would do it every single day.  I’ve had many people approach me about reading their book or their blog, and I do have every intention of doing just that.  However, my brain seems to have other ideas.  There was a point in my treatment with one of my previous doctors that we came to the conclusion that my lack of an attention span could possibly be Adult ADHD.  It’s still not out of the question, especially when I consider the symptoms. 

Common emotional symptoms of adult ADD/ADHD include: sense of underachievement. doesn't deal well with frustration. easily flustered and stressed out. irritability or mood swings. trouble staying motivated. hypersensitivity to criticism. short, often explosive, temper. low self-esteem and sense of insecurity –

At that time, I was given Ritalin.  After a couple of months, I started to experience something that felt like perpetual panic attacks.  After investigating the side effects, I determined that Ritalin was not for me.

Common side effects of Ritalin include nervousness, agitation, anxiety, sleep problems (insomnia), stomach pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, palpitations, headache, vision problems, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, sweating, skin rash, psychosis, and numbness, tingling –

There was never another opportunity to explore that diagnosis again, because, before long, I was feeling suicidal and was hospitalized for my attempt.

Setting ADHD on the back burner for a moment, it only makes sense that someone like me wouldn’t be able to focus. It’s like a movie is fast forwarding in my brain and I can’t find the remote.  It only gets worse at night when I’m trying to sleep.  This is why I make lists.  I can’t remember half of what I was trying to get done because my brain is thinking of 25 other things I need to do.  However, by the time I’ve written down every single thing I want to get done for the next 10 years, the list has become far too overwhelming to even comprehend.  None of it gets done and I start over the next day.

Having done a bit of research on this topic, I still have a burning question. While most of my time is spent desperately trying to focus on one simple task, I do have good days.  They can go for stretches of a week or even a month. For instance, I’ve decided I wanted to spend some time enjoying the weather while reading on our back porch. I’ve had little to no difficulty concentrating on the book I’m reading.  So, where am I? I’m not severely depressed and I’m not completely manic. I feel like I’m in some sort of limbo.

I suppose the best thing for me is to just go with it.  Enjoy it while it lasts…because I have no idea how long that will be.  I have hopes that I can keep it going all summer, but that’s putting the cart before the horse. For today, I’ll be grateful for my seemingly expanded consciousness.  Now if I could just do something about this terrible memory! One thing at a time, I suppose.

During my research, I happened upon some tips for gaining more focus.  Many articles seem to conclude that getting your mood swings under control is the first step.  Here are some others:

  • Manage your time. Don’t try to do too much. Say no if you can’t do it.
  • Lead a healthy lifestyle. Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Eat only low-fat meats and poultry. Get regular exercise, which can have both mental and physical health benefits. Avoid caffeine.
  • Learn relaxation techniques. These include breathing exercises, yoga, and massage. Remember to balance periods of activity with periods of relaxation.
  • Keep a daily planner. It will help you to remember appointments and commitments.
  • Seek support from family and friends. Spend time talking and listening to each other. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Choose a support group you can trust to tell you the truth even if it’s not what you want to hear.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. Taking drugs and alcohol may lessen the effectiveness of your bipolar medications and lead to potentially dangerous side effects.
  • Get in a routine. A daily schedule can add structure to your life, and structure can help you cope with stress. –

If you made it this far, congratulations! You are currently not having trouble concentrating! J

I’ll be grateful for whatever time I have to check a few things off the list.  First and foremost, I need to be realistic.  I wouldn’t be surprised if my propensity for writing overly-abundant lists actually cause my focus to shift; I’ll take a closer look at that another time. For now, I have some reading to do!

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