I try to do things that keep me from always digging into my own brain. Introspection is best done in measured doses. If I spend too much time and effort thinking about how wrong my brain is, it becomes worse. So, I try to occupy myself with other things that might be helpful to me whether it is learning something or it is something that I do for the simple pleasure of doing it. I’d put going for a walk or reading a book or watching TV or even spending time with family and friends in this category.
Reading can be especially challenging when I’m manic and can’t settle my mind long enough to concentrate on just doing one thing. When I’m depressed, I just don’t read. It’s one of the major indicators I notice about myself when I’m first starting to become more depressed.
I like to listen to audio books while I’m driving about town and to school and back. I find that in just a few weeks I can listen to quite a long book without listening to it at home, although I do also sometimes listen to them while I use my elliptical, which I need to spend more time doing. Currently I’m listening to A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn. It’s book one in her series A Veronica Speedwell Mystery. I just finished listening to book two, now I’m working on the first one. I know, I got them in completely the wrong order. Not sure how I managed that, but regardless, I’m listening to book one now.
The series takes place in 1887 London and is about a Victorian adventuress and her friend Stoker who is a reclusive natural historian. The book is a historical mystery and adventure story. Unlike so many books today, it is not a romance… I’m thankful for this. I’m enjoying the story of a woman and a man in a real relationship that is meaningful and exciting and doesn’t need to use sex to keep the story going. I’m also thankful for that because I’m not in a relationship like that and reading about them can make me sad. So, I sometimes like to avoid them.
Another thing I do is to study to improve myself and to increase my knowledge. Well, and for pure entertainment too. I’m going to college and that keeps my brain very busy.
What’s my point? Surely I’m not trying to get you to read or listen to this series I’m into. If that’s what you think, you’d be right. I want to convey to you that we need to stretch our minds beyond what they insist upon thinking about. We ruminate about terrible things all the time. It’s part of the nature of Bipolar Disorder. We get stuck thinking about how horrible things are or let ourselves get caught up in anxiety that won’t stop.
My main way to distract myself has been to watch TV. It keeps my attention, but I don’t feel any better after I turn it off. What I want, is the strength to engage in something else, something beyond my moods and dark thoughts.
I’m feeling reasonably well right now. I’m taking advantage of it by watching interesting documentary videos on that new streaming video service called Curiosity Stream. I’m checking out the first month that’s for free to see if it has documentaries that I’ll find interesting… stuff that will take my brain in other directions than it normally does. I’m trying to watch TV that isn’t just drama too. I’ve been watching shows with my daughter like The Incredible Dr. Pol that is about a rural veterinarian. I dvr it and then we have dinner together and watch the show. Not only am I watching something other than a drama or sitcom, I’m doing it with someone I enjoy spending time with.
Again, what’s my point? I realize that I’m healthier when I think diverse thoughts… when I break out of the cycle of rumination and allow my brain to play. Whether I’m talking with someone, watching TV or a video, reading a book or listening to an audio book, the more I embrace a variety of interesting things, the better I feel.
Sometimes I can watch a whole documentary. Sometimes I can read a whole book. Sometimes I can only read a single page. You know what? That’s alright. Even one page – that’s a success.
Find something new to occupy your brain with. Try out watching something on YouTube you’ve never watched before. You can find so many things to watch and listen to on YouTube. Sometimes I like to be inspired by watching a TED Talk or Tony Robbins (he’s a success guru). Other times I’m in the mood for music you don’t normally hear on the radio like that from Two Steps from Hell or I might want to watch Lindsey Stirling who is a violinist, dancer and performance artist.
The point is that when our brains are cooperating enough for us to expand beyond our illness we need to seize the opportunity and embrace it. We will be better because of it and our lives will be richer for it.