Bipolar 2 From Inside and Out

My Brain, My Books

It used to be that I could never be found without a book within arm’s reach. I had a purse book, a nightstand book, a bathroom book, and a car book at the very least. (I kept them straight by having a different genre in each location.)

Now that I have a Nook e-reader, I have hundreds of books with me everywhere I go. But I’m doing a lot less reading.

I think it’s a function of my lack of concentration, but whether that’s the disorder or the meds, I couldn’t say.

I do know that when I was in the depths of my most recent breakdown, I barely read at all. I watched moronic reality shows like Trading Spouses, on the theory that these people’s lives were bigger train-wrecks than mine. And I watched cooking shows, because they were calming. (This was before cooking game shows really got going.)

During an earlier meltdown, I tried to watch sitcoms, but the relentlessly upbeat theme songs made me weep.

Now I have to hoard my concentration like I hoard my spoons. I am fortunate enough to be able to work freelance from home. But it’s the kind of work that sometimes has deadlines. On days when I can force myself to work, I can concentrate for about 2-1/2 to three hours at a spell. Some days I have to do two sessions like that with a nap in between, if a deadline is approaching too rapidly.

But when it comes to non-work activities, I can usually only concentrate for an hour at the most. Sometimes I try really hard so that I can watch a movie, but mostly I stick to half-hour or hour-long shows.

But reading takes concentration too, especially if the book has a plot (which I recommend) or is information-rich nonfiction. I do a lot of my reading in bed at night. (Yes, I know you’re not supposed to do that because it keeps you from falling asleep. But it’s a life-long habit.)

My mind flitters, the hamsters and sometimes the badgers stir, and I find myself several pages along with no idea what happened. At that point my need for distraction and my attention span collide and I have to find something moderately absorbing but short-term to do. It’s a good thing I have some games on my reader so I can play a hand of rummy or work a sudoku puzzle.

Reading has been one of the great joys of my life, since I was four, and it bothers me that I no longer have the ability to immerse myself in it the way I used to.

But, like so many other things, it’s something I’m having to learn to live with.

Comments on: "My Brain, My Books" (4)

  1. I’ve had something similar happen – during my last breakdown all I could handle were travel shows , even the Olympics required too much of me


    • Travel shows would have made me sob uncontrollably. Travel is another thing that brought me great delight over the years, but that I’m no longer able to do very much at all.


  2. I always read in bed — it’s the only way I can get my brain to shut up and slow down.


    • I’ve found the perfect cure-for-insomnia book – a biography of Prince Albert. It’s the world’s most boring book about the world’s most boring man.
      I get no sympathy from my husband when I have nightmares. He says, “What horrible plague or bloody serial killer are you reading about now?”


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