Thursday, March 22, 2018

Why Being Bipolar Makes It Hard to Read a Book

I have been in a major reading slump and haven't read much of anything this month. It's because I've been struggling with my bipolar symptoms. Actually I've struggled with these issues my whole life but now I finally understand why. My mood is stable right now but bipolar affects far more than just my mood.

Most people associate bipolar with mood but not cognitive issues. The truth is the symptoms of bipolar and ADHD are very similar. Before I was finally diagnosed with bipolar II, I was constantly trying to figure out if I had ADHD. I would read books describing the symptoms of ADHD screaming "That's me! That describes me perfectly!." I never realized my inability to focus on anything, finish tasks, or my racing thoughts could be part of bipolar disorder. It wasn't until I was diagnosed as bipolar II that I educated myself about everything bipolar effects. It was a huge relief to know every ADHD-like symptom I was experiencing could be explained.

I have what is called ultra-ultra-rapid cycling aka ultradian cycling bipolar II or what some call NOS (not otherwise specified) bipolar. This means I can can cycle every few days even during the day. Because I do cycle so fast and have the comorbid diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, it took me 8 years to get my bipolar diagnosis. Every professional I encountered didn't believe in ultradian cycling and decided that I couldn't possibly be bipolar. But since I wasn't ADHD as a child I couldn't possibly be ADHD either. I spent the last several years trying to find the correct diagnosis.

It wasn't until last year that I finally met some professionals that all agreed I was indeed bipolar. One was the doctor that evaluated me and the others were therapists. Yes therapists plural. For some reason the place I was getting therapy from had 3 therapists quit in a 5 month period and I kept getting moved around. It was frustrating but the good thing was I got several opinions on my diagnosis and every single one agreed I had bipolar II. This was quite a change from being told for years that I couldn't possibly be bipolar since I cycle so fast and that since I had BPD it couldn't possibly be bipolar, but many of my symptoms (like having the sudden feeling that I can accomplish anything then having it disappear the next day) were not part of borderline personality disorder.

I didn't struggle with these cognitive issues when I was younger despite having bipolar. It turns out this normal and has to do with my age. I'm 42. According to Psychology Today, this is unfortunately par for the course with bipolar disorder. Bipolar brings on cognitive decline. The older I get the harder it is to focus on getting tasks done such as reading a book. The article goes on to say there is no way to "fix it." I have to accept my cognitive challenges and learn to adapt.

I understand why it's so hard for me to sit and read a book but I'm still looking for answers on things that can help me do this. When I learned that I wasn't ADHD but bipolar I made the mistake of getting rid of all my books on ADHD. I think I may go back and reread some of the tips on coping with these symptoms. In fact, I'm constntly frustrated because while books on bipolar acknowledge these cognitive issues, I don't see advice given on how to learn to adapt. The only place I have every found this kind of information is on books about coping with ADHD.

I need to do something. It's terribly embarrassing to blog or tweet about joining a readathon only to fail at reading a single book. It's humiliating to be a book blogger and to barely read a book for months, Not to mention all of this affects my ability to blog regularly. Don't even get me started on how little I've been writing or making art lately. I feel like a failure most of the time because I can't finish these tasks. I also think I've been in denial even since my diagnosis about what I have to do to overcome these challenges. I have sometimes treated my cognitive difficulties like the flu, and believed that eventually they will run their course and just go away.

My bipolar is never going away. 

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