Difficulty concentrating and remembering things can come with both depression and hypomania, although in very different ways. However, both are equally debilitating.
During hypomania, finding it difficult to concentrate is more because I struggle to keep my mind on any one thing. Most of the time, I’m not even actively trying to focus because my mind is racing with so many thoughts and feelings. It’s hard to focus on any individual thought or pinpoint any one feeling. However, if I decide that I’m going to do a specific task when I’m hypomanic (for example making a big painting) then I can be hyperfocused on that one thing, and even be more productive than I ever could when my mood is stable. On the other hand, if you asked me to sit still and concentrate on reading a book or watching a film, it just wouldn’t be possible during hypomania.
When I’m depressed, my mind simply does not have the energy to focus on anything. It’s like my mind is completely exhausted just as much as my body, and I cannot get it to think clearly never mind try to remember anything. It literally feels like thinking through a thick fog, which makes it hard to formulate thoughts, to process speech and to focus. It can be really distressing. Even when I’m trying my absolute hardest to concentrate on something, it can be near impossible.
Problems with concentration can understandably pose a problem for day to day functioning. It can make it hard to work, to do things you enjoy or even to just relax and watch something on TV with your family. I try to combat problems with concentration in a number of ways:
- I make notes on paper, on my laptop or on my phone to keep track of tasks or things I need to remember
- I set alarms if something needs to be done by a specific time
- I make tick lists to keep myself on track
- I take regular small breaks to give my mind time to rest
- I ask for help from loved ones when I need it
- I try to remember not to be too hard on myself
Thankfully when I’m stable I’m able to focus enough to function, which is not something I take for granted. Its simple things like being able to concentrate (which a healthy person may not even think about) which you come to really appreciate when you live with bipolar disorder.