Power of Suggestion, Insomnia 2.0

I sit here and try to make sense of last night. The bags under my eyes whisper little taunts, validating what seemed to be a spontaneous bout of my old friend, insomnia. Once a chronic insomniac, it’s been months since I’ve had a problem falling asleep. Until last night, that is. I don’t understand it. I took my pills, which typically lull me right off into dreamland. I avoided caffeine and heavy mental stimulation. Yet, I tossed and turned for hours, my brain wide awake. I realize to some it may appear that I’m overreacting. Maybe I am. Maybe it was an isolated incident. But after years of suffering from sleepless nights, I tend to take these matters seriously for caution of pattern development.

As I ponder some more, I get my “aha!” moment. I brought this on myself via the power of suggestion! You see, I attend a Bipolar support group and at last night’s meeting, I may have overstepped my confidence on slumber ability while jabbering on at a new group member, who is struggling with her first round of insomnia.  Eager to help a newcomer and probably even more eager to spread some self-proclaimed mental wisdom, I word-vomited a bunch of sleep advice, including scientific REM sleep CD’s, avoiding blue light electronics, and of course faithfully taking your medication. Like a true recovering insomniac, I bragged about my own meds and how I peacefully drift into a perfect sleep every night. Every night until now that is. Clearly I spoke too soon.

I realize this may sound like a silly superstition. It’s not that I necessarily think I jinxed myself, but I did spend a lot of mental energy thinking about it, thus it had to have been fresh on the brain just a few hours prior to bedtime. Did I bring it on myself or is this purely coincidental? I don’t know for sure. But I will most definitely keep track of my sleep patterns for the next few days in case any adjustments need to be made. In the meantime, I will still be a welcome wagon for the newly diagnosed, but I might tone down the advice-giving a little bit.

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Catch Those Thoughts As They Race Away!

Let’s talk racing thoughts for a minute. What are they? Well, let’s start with what they are not. Racing thoughts are not just thoughts thinking fast. If they were simply fast thoughts, then any busy-minded person would be experiencing them. Truth is, racing thoughts are actually a symptom of Bipolar disorder mania, anxiety disorders, and even depression. They are constant, rapidly triggering thoughts that literally won’t shut up. These particular thoughts may not be about any one thing in particular, but rather anything and everything simultaneously, and they impulsively fire to the point where they can take over the other thoughts you might be trying to focus on. Whenever this happens to me it feels like an intense, maniacal loudness going off in my head. The worst part is the inability to control the race.

So how do you describe this agonizing experience? Well, it can begin with a simple thought, let’s use thinking about what to cook for dinner. So as your head starts to ponder over ingredients, this thought is interrupted by dialogue from a movie you watched last night, then immediately you envision what your car would look like painted blue, then about three different songs pop into your head, then you realize you need to start going to bed earlier, and you wish you liked sports. Does this sound like an experience you have had? What if I said this thought promenade took place in a matter of a minute and a half? What if I said this heedless mental activity occurs all day, non-stop? And if you are experiencing insomnia, this has been known to continue throughout the night as well.

Racing thoughts are nothing to take lightly, and they are extremely frustrating, causing true distress to the person suffering. When racing thoughts accelerate, your mind is not your own and all you can do is facilitate this turbo charged brain-fire. Often times, racing thoughts trigger worsening symptoms, thus developing into full-blown mania. Likewise, these thoughts could inspire sinking into a deep depression.

How can you tell if you are experiencing racing thoughts? First, the inability to concentrate on things you normally can. Of course everyone has off days as well as being bored with some things. But when you are unable to concentrate and it is negatively affecting your daily life, that is a problem. Next, on top of concentration issues, if you have multiple thoughts forcefully fighting to share the spotlight in your mind, then that can be a problem as well. Thoughts can include snippets from conversations, music or lyrics, new ideas and random goals, and sometimes even repetitive rhythms or beats can occupy your thinking. Please know this is different from auditory hallucinations, or “hearing voices”. If you are experiencing uncontrollable racing thoughts, you may need to talk to your psychiatrist about adjusting your meds. I am a frequent sufferer of racing thoughts and I do the back and forth pharmaceutical thing, but this is one symptom I cannot live with, and neither should anyone else.

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