Reading and Bipolar Are Not a Good Combination

reading and bipolarI love to write. I have a passion. I recently made the decision to make it my vocation, as well as my hobby. I do have one problem, however, and that is reading. Nearly every writer I’ve spoken with has a passion to read as much as they write. It’s recommended to hone your craft. For me, it can be excruciatingly painful. For me, reading and bipolar are not a good combination.

Although I’ve been advised that I do not have ADD, it’s always been difficult for me to focus on one thing at a time. When I was a kid, I would come home and watch Gilligan’s Island after school. Most kids in my neighborhood did. What made me different than most is I could not just sit there and watch it. I had to be doing something else – usually that was drawing.

I drew on everything. My older brother worked in a paper mill at the time and he once brought me home a giant roll of paper which I went through in no short order. Back in the day, pantyhose were packaged with a cardboard inserts to hold the hose in place rather than just laying at the bottom of the bag. Hell, I’m sure they are packaged the same way today. Most women wore hose all the time back then so there were lots of cardboard inserts for me to draw on. With time I became good at sketching, which is something I wish I had kept up.

Today it’s the computer. I still have difficulty just sitting there watching the boob-tube. I have to be surfing the web or writing at the same time. It’s frustrating to my husband Maurice, because something will happen and he’ll ask me, “Did, you see that?” Usually my answer is, “No.”

I use to be a voracious reader. Reading was my oasis. It was the one thing I could do without being easily distracted. Typically I’d read one book every other day. Alas, that is true no more. I still read, but it’s at a much shorter pace. Sometimes I feel like I have to stop reading mid-chapter because I’ve reached my saturation point. I despise stopping mid-chapter, so it feels like someone is ripping my brain to pieces as I hurriedly try to finish it. I should learn to allow myself to stop as needed because I don’t retain the information well when I try to rush to the end, but that’s going to take a lot of training.

I’ve written before about my difficulty reading long blog posts. Typically, a post longer than 900 – 1,000 words is beyond my limit. This is disappointing because I read some amazing blogs, so it’s frustrating if I have to skip someone’s post because I know it’s more than I can handle. It’s for this reason I try to keep my posts around 600 words or so. This makes me feel guilty because lately I’ve posted some articles that far exceed this self-imposed limit. The guilt comes from my expectation that my blogging readers will enjoy my long posts, yet, I can’t reciprocate by reading theirs.

I’m very picky about which blogs I follow, so if I regularly read yours please don’t be offended if I skip many of your posts. Good writing is an art and I appreciate some things can’t be said in less than 1,000 words. I’d love to read them all, but sometimes it’s just too exhausting to try to read the long ones. Consider this my apology.

Do you have a similar problem? If not, is there anything else you’d like to do, but find yourself too easily distracted? I’m curious if I’m alone with this problem.

22 comments on Reading and Bipolar Are Not a Good Combination

  1. “Reading and Bipolar Are Not a Good Combination” title really threw me for a loop. Now that I am at the end of your post, I see what you are saying. As someone who reads a lot (but struggles dearly to read when symptoms are present), I would have to say that there are a lot of different factors that go into being unable to concentrate on reading and reading alone. I don’t know that having to multi-task, or not being able to put your mind to one thing is related to bipolar disorder, or at least not for me — I tend to be wholly unable to concentrate, nevertheless juggling two or three things.

    I always remember you saying not to write over 600 words, and I take it to heart. I know what you mean, though, when you crank out a really long post and the put it up for everyone to see — for me it Is an embarrassing moment after I had spent so much time talking about how I get lost reading long blog posts.

    So glad you are writing, so happy I am in a good space to comment. Have missed you!

    1. The 600 word rule is something I strive for, but admit I’ve been guilty lately for not following the rule myself. When I do approach the 1,000 word mark or more, I do try to break it up over a couple of days, but that’s difficult. I have a project I’ve been working on that will likely be spread over about four days or more. It’s not going to be easy to spread, but I’d hate to lose readers because it’s too long.

      It’s good to see you back, Rosa. I’m glad you are doing better. You have been missed.

  2. I am in that “unable to read a book” space now. It’s been going on since August. I’ve tried and can’t read more than a few pages at a time. It’s frustrating because I’ve devoured books since childhood. I love getting lost in a book. The inability to concentrate enough to read comes in spurts. I’m fine for a few months and then its hard for a few months. Once it took over a year but that was unusual. I can usually read long blogs in this state unless they go on for what seems like more than 3 pages. I hope it ends soon. I’m not sure if its mood related or meds related–maybe both.
    I wish you and Maurice a wonderful Thanksgiving.

    1. The inability to read a book is damned frustrating, isn’t it? The funny thing to me is that despite being unable to read, I can write. Currently, I’m working on two short stories and I’ve started on a novel, and I can spend hours on all three. I would think I’d have the same problem, but I don’t. As a matter of fact, it’s been fun.

      Happy Thanksgiving to you also.

  3. Hey Bradley, I’m in that category of people who feel that unless I have at least two books on the go at once, Im not reading enough. I too love to write and feel as you rightly say that one ‘helps’ with the other. However, there are long periods of time where like you, I can’t concentrate long enough to read through a chapter without getting completely lost. I have to read and re-read things over and over for the ‘information’ to actually penetrate the brain fog I have going on up there sometimes. For me its symptomatic of the low end of bipolar and I think its a side effect of the medications also. I take very high doses of carbamazepine, followed by a fistful of mirtazpine and then sleeping pills to aid in ‘restful slumber’. I swear at times I am sure you can hear me rattle!
    I love reading your blog Braders, and while I don’t always leave a like or a comment I stop by regularly. But once you are getting something out of it, that is all that matters (at least for me that’s all that matters. – that others get something out of it too is an enormous bonus and I have to say leaves me feeling a great sense of pride).

    1. I have to admit I love having my ego stroked, so I thrive on that bonus that others get something from my blog. The best ones are from friends and family members who have someone with bipolar in their life. I get no greater compliment as when they let me know they understand.

      Thank you for reading and saying “Hi” It’s good to know you’re there. Stop by anytime.

  4. I am trying to keep them under 800 to 900 words for you 🙂 But, if I am really geared up about a subject, I can write a dissertation…..

    And, yes, the longer I have Bipolar, the more difficulty I am having with reading. I also have ADHD inanttentive type so that doesn’t help. I just read a few pages or more if I feel my brain is up to it, and call it a success….

      1. No, seriously, if you have trouble then so do others. Sometimes, I have trouble editing them, but at least they have a flow to them. It may only make sense to me, but then I have fairly complex set of diagnoses. 🙂

  5. When I am really depressed or really hypomanic I have difficulty reading. I have to be fairly balance to read longer pieces and novels. I can write pretty much whatever state I am in. But the reading definitely calls for some stability for me.

  6. Snap. Also have to do something while watching TV. I used to eat books up. Now, reading blogs is all I have the focus for. That’s what I find overwhelming with blogging – the reading. I enjoy the content and there’s so much talent. But because of my poor attention span, I feel like I don’t give enough attention where it is deserved. A perfect length for me is 350 words. If a blog is 800 or over, I generally say to myself ‘oh I’ll come back for that one when I have more time’. But I never do – except for Shattered Silence. Haven’t read a book in ages. Don’t have length of attention to watch a movie, only tv series

    1. It’s good to know I’m not the only one. I thought the difficulty reading lengthy posts were only my problem.

      1. To be honest, this was exactly what I needed. I thought I was also the only one as well. Maybe if you read one half and I read the other half…………………… 😉

  7. Hi Bradley,
    I have had difficulty with “reading comprehension” since 4th grade. But length of what is written is not the issue for me. It has to do with the way my eyes don’t come together in what I focus on. (developmental defect or deficit?) So in reality I see things in twos and my brain struggles and succeeds to create one image. But in that struggle to make it readable, I have moments of gaps that turn into lack of comprehension. I only learned about this 2 years ago. So all my life I’ve been unconsciously compensating. When I learned about this limitation, it immediately made sense in how it takes me longer than other people to register what I read. I have to reread things to “get it”.

    I have to be VERY interested in what I’m reading to have the willpower to keep reading (and rereading) so as to understand. For me this slowness in comprehension doesn’t stop me from reading long posts. What keeps me reading is who the person is and if I really want to understand what they are saying. I often read a post and then let it sit and then come back to it again later and reread it before I comment. I guess this is part of my way of compensating for that slower comprehension.

    I have noticed that there seems to be a trend in the social technology for less writing. Ie texting……sometimes this troubles me…its as though it is becoming more acceptable to have a very short attention span. I like to go deep and write until I feel complete and this often makes for a long post. But I’m challenging myself to summarize what I write and see if I can get to the heart of what I want to say in one or two paragraphs. I actually started doing this when I read that you don’t like to read long posts Bradley. I don’t want to stop my process but I like to look for “win-win” solutions. So I go ahead and write as long as I need to but then I ask myself what is the most important bit I want to communicate. I’ve even thought of writing the short version at the beginning of my blog post and then go on into detail so the people who don’t want to read the whole thing can just read the summary. I know I did that with one or two posts a while back.

    Oh dear…this is getting too long so I’ll stop here! 🙂

    1. I have a similar problem with my eyes. It’s called convergence insufficiency. Fortunately I was younger when I was diagnosed so they gave me a series of exercises to do to build my eye muscles. Still have it, just not as bad.

      I’m impressed. You must be really determined when you find something you want to read. LOL, apparently people took to heart my difficulty reading long posts.

      1. Wow I’ve not heard of convergence insufficiency. I’m really curious what kind of exercises you did to correct that…care to share? I was given exercise for crawling including eye tracking. But a back problem has gotten in the way of doing those exercise.

        I would add that depression is a HUGE barrier to reading for me. It’s not so much about reducing my ability to read but in even being able or willing to read.

        Something I’ve been wondering is if Bipolar is on a spectrum. I’ve sometimes felt I have the swings between debilitating depression and “inspired” intense energy to create and DO – swings back and forth. Just curious. I think some of these problems are not black and white -either you have them or you don’t – but rather on a spectrum of intensity. What do you think?

        1. Hi Gel, it was many moons ago so I don’t remember all the exercise, but I do remember one. I would hold a pencil about 6 inches away from my nose and then I’d slowly pull it up until I touched my nose while focusing both eyes on the pencil. Of course when you pull it forward you’ll likely see two pencils because your eyes don’t converge together. Do that for awhile and you’ll feel your eye muscles hurting so it’s just like building any muscles in your body.

          Talk with an eye doctor and you’ll probably get more.

  8. I understand! I have this problem when I feel manic. Can’t read or concentrate very well and it kills me. Of course, depression kills my reading spirit too, but I understand where you are coming from. I find myself when manic super reading until I get to tipping point (that horrible see-saw before depression), then after that nothing. Don’t worry about it. I know that you most often comment when I desperately need assurance x

  9. I don’t think you’re alone, Bradley. However, I’ve never considered I had a problem because I couldn’t read extreme amounts. I know when something really touches me in a powerful way because then I don’t ever want it to end. But that doesn’t happen often. I don’t think my inability to read losg posts or large numbers of pages (or paragraphs, or sentences) means I “don’t have it” but it just means I am not THAT interested, or my mind is already maxed out with other things. I crave reading several books a week like when I was younger, or reading EVERYBODY’S long blog posts. But i just can’t anymore. Don’t be too hard on yourself!

    1. Thanks Mandy. I don’t get too hard on myself. It’s just frustrating. I do agree that a lot of it is just that my brain has maxed out for the day.

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