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I love to read. I enjoy delving into a subject wholeheartedly. So, it is especially irritating that my attention span has been reduced to size of a pea. These days, when I try to read a book, I find that my attention has wondered by the third line. I'm thinking about all the little anxieties in my goodie bag, or guilting myself, or just spacing out. I highlight, outline and make margin notes like a fiend, but I still end up reading the same passage over and over until I get frustrated and give up.

I don't know if its the meds, being BP or a combination thereof. I know its worse when my symptoms are flaring (which seems to be all the time lately). I've been attempting to read The Bipolar Workbook by Maria Basco, and she discusses lack of concentration as a symptom that can be dealt with through CBT. In my heart (and what's left of my intellectual side), I know this lack of concentration is part of the price I'm paying for being BP. Its a hard pill to swallow, though.

I typically use crossword puzzles as a way to focus, but I'm having trouble with that lately too.

Any tips, anecdotes?

Thanks,

Phoenix

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Hi there--

I have had the exact same problem, and it sucks. I feel for you. When I was a kid, reading was my only escape, and I would use it to soothe myself. I could see what I was reading as if it were a film in my head. Then when I started getting really sick, I could no longer read one novel start to finish. When I started meds, I was so out of it that I couldn't do anything, really, so I decided to work at reading again.

It took a ton of patience with myself, but what I would do is read one sentence, sometimes, one word, at a time. If my mind wandered, I'd notice it, and start the sentence again. Sometimes I read the same sentence 10 times before it stuck. Then I'd move on to the next one. It was frustrating for someone who used to be able to read a novel in a day. If I noticed I was skimming sentences or paragraphs, I'd tell myself that the writer had a distinct reason for choosing every word in the novel, and that I owed it to him or her to read them. After about a week, my mind started to comply. It seems like I had to train it all over again to read. But now I'm reading novels all the way through, and really enjoying it instead of getting mad at myself. It's like a meditation, reading, now. I urge you to be kind to yourself, and to give yourself patience and time.

I hope this helps.

(don't know yet how to insert a signature: DX: BP II, rapid cycling/mixed states. RX: Seroquel

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Honestly, orange juice is the first thing I thought of when I saw this post's title. Then again, it was relatively early in the day and I was waiting for my morning hydrocephalus to 'drain out'.

My only suggestion is that you find something more interesting to do than the specific reading that you're doing now. As I say (also with music), it's all about the genre. Just like Haydn isn't the same as System of a Down, Shakespeare isn't the same as Hawking.

So make sure you're reading a genre you enjoy. I used to hate reading until I was about 7, when I discovered these things called "non-fiction" books. (Honestly, I probably grew up behind a rock, all the books until then I knew about were the fiction ones pushed on me at school and at home). Some people enjoy fiction, some people like me are Asperger autistics who enjoy soaking up information like a sponge when it comes to certain narrow non-fiction interests.

Of course, the above was sort of broad, but again try some other genres and find the most interesting.

Lastly, you might want to consider a diagnosis of AD/HD with your psychiatrist and possible meds for it (in addition to analyzing your current meds, it's entirely possible that lithium and/or Lamictal are hitting your cognition).

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I'm having the same trouble in school. I used to be an honor student and I will flunk out this summer quarter. I have no cognitive skills whatsoever. I can't retain a thing. Try as I might I just can't retain what I'm reading nor can I remember what I just read. It doesn't even sink in. This is very frustrating, as I'm trying so freaking hard to pass this class I'm taking but I just fail the tests. It just feels hopeless. I know where you are coming from totally. I don't have any words of wisdom for you. I'm in the same space as you. Good luck!!!

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Thanks for the responses, gang.

WishIKnew: I like your zen approach to reading. I really like the thought of reminding myself that the author wrote all the lines for a reason.

Herrfous: ;) OJ! My pdoc has ruled out ADHD, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if my meds conspire to keep me from comprehending. I do have rather diverse reading interests. Right now I'm attempting to read (get ready to laugh...) Discipline without Distress (parenting book), The Bipolar Workbook, The Vegetarian Way and Mourn Not Your Dead (fiction). I can usually read about 2-3 pages before I realize that I'm thinking about something else all together.

MaryPop: So sorry that you're having trouble with your class. How far into the class are you?

Thanks again for your suggestions and encouragement,

Phoenix

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MaryPop: So sorry that you're having trouble with your class. How far into the class are you?

Thanks again for your suggestions and encouragement,

Phoenix

I'm five weeks into the class and I think I'm going to drop it. I flunked the midterm and I can't focus on reading my book or retaining even a smidjen of information. I'm hoping my doc will just write something and I can appeal for next quarter, maybe take a quarter off. This depression pretty much screwed me hard core. Ugh.

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hi phoenix

I had huge problems with concentration when i was in a mixed state. and also i have trouble when i am really depressed. worse when mixed or high though.

the other thing is that increasing to a higher dose of lamictal made me zone out for a while i forgot stuff, couldn't concentrate and thought i was going to fall apart at uni - fail everything! however, i think ive become a bit more used to it now, and its not stressing me out like it was before.

Maybe you could talk to your pdoc about it - might have some ideas.

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FWIW, I've figured out that when I'm not able to settle my brain down and concentrate on a book, it's one of the first signs of an impending hypo/mania.

Thanks for your thoughts; I've been wondering about this myself. I spend about two weeks out of the month cycling between hypomania, anxiety and depression. Add med changes to that little equation and I have few days that I'm NOT in a mood that decreases concentration. I need a way to focus despite the direction my brain is going.

berry: thanks for the input. I haven't increased Lamictal in a while. The only thing I've tinkered with is Provigil (from 200 to 300 mg) and switching from Xanax to Klonopin. I know Provigil is a stimulant and could probably cause concentration problems, but the problems pre-exist the increase. I see my pdoc every 3-4 weeks, and I will bring up my lack of concentration with her.

MaryPop: Coming from a total stranger, it sounds as though it might be time to call this semester a wash. It sounds like you need time to tend to your needs and the stress of school is compounding your anxiety and depression. Please be gentle and kind with yourself. I would be willing to bet that your school will work with you; especially if you have a note from your pdoc. Please take care.

I really appreciate the caring replies!

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Mixed-states and hypomania are when I have trouble with reading/focusing.

Sometimes meditation can help (seems like a marginally good filtering tool sometimes, sometimes it doens't do it but it's worth a shot). I used to practice Tai Chi and I train in Aikido now. Doing some movement seems to get the energy rebalanced so I can read or focus on a task. Another thing that is helpful is switching "sensory input modes" (gotta love my tdoc): if I'm reading I'll switch to an audiobook version or in the case when an audio book form isn't available, I use the text-to-speech feature on my computer and let it read to me. I use iListen to "write" when I'm hypomanic because I make too many typos when typing 65 wpm (and my brain demands I type 150 wpm). I just found a place that has my daughter's textbooks in audio form (she's COBPD) and I've been creating podcasts of her classes for her.

When all else fails though, I set things aside until I'm not in that state... with ultra radian cycling, it's only a day or two before I'm "back" and can read or work.

Hope some of those help.

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Mixed-states and hypomania are when I have trouble with reading/focusing.

Sometimes meditation can help (seems like a marginally good filtering tool sometimes, sometimes it doens't do it but it's worth a shot). I used to practice Tai Chi and I train in Aikido now. Doing some movement seems to get the energy rebalanced so I can read or focus on a task. Another thing that is helpful is switching "sensory input modes" (gotta love my tdoc): if I'm reading I'll switch to an audiobook version or in the case when an audio book form isn't available, I use the text-to-speech feature on my computer and let it read to me. I use iListen to "write" when I'm hypomanic because I make too many typos when typing 65 wpm (and my brain demands I type 150 wpm). I just found a place that has my daughter's textbooks in audio form (she's COBPD) and I've been creating podcasts of her classes for her.

When all else fails though, I set things aside until I'm not in that state... with ultra radian cycling, it's only a day or two before I'm "back" and can read or work.

Hope some of those help.

Thanks, Jack! I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm not very familiar with mixed episodes. My pdoc and I haven't talked about them. I did a cursory search for mixed episode defns on google, but wasn't satisfied with the info.

I try focusing exercises (meditation) and sometimes hit the yoga mat. I like the idea of listening to books on tape (kudos to your tdoc) Perhaps I would be better off waiting for the mood to pass. (If you don't like my mood now, wait five minutes and it will change). ;)

Peace,

Phoenix

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I love to read and used to read 3 or 4 books each week, but for the past six years (since I was diagnosed) I haven't been able to read any fiction except for a period of three weeks or so last October. I have no trouble reading books and articles on BP, just reading fiction. Unfortunately, I can't stand audiobooks or being read to in any way. My last period of being able to read fiction ended when I was half-way through a book I was really enjoying and have not been able to pick up again. I don't know if it is from meds, ECT, or just BP, but it drives me crazy (crazier?).

Tommy

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I so know what you mean as have always had problems reading such as concentration and words moving on the page until I found out it's a learning problem similar to dyslexia. Anyway I found out that people with dyslexia benefit from reading through a colour acetate such red, blue or yellow. Since I've been using the yellow acetate it really has changed how I read - I can concentrate and words don't move on the page!!!

Anyway just thought it might help

Hawk

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Phoenix_rising--

Although you might not be familiar with exactly what a 'mixed state' is, you may have at some point had one... I feel that a mixed state is basically having very violent feelings of depression, and in a manic-type state, acting out as such.

I think a couple of CBers have in the past compared and contrasted it to "agitated depression"... which is apparently more when you're depressed an extremely pissy and liable to lash out at people.

As opposed to mixed states, where you run around screaming in despair, performing SI and then telling everybody within earshot, eyeshot, and cybershot about it, and just acting manic and angry and taking it out on yourself and everybody else. That's my take on it, anyways, and that's what a couple of pdocs of mine have diagnosed as mixed states.

In addition, my personal research has also shown that Georgia is a mixed state.**

**I said Georgia, not Atlanta.

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I also have lots of problems concentrating. I have a short attention span at times too. i get bored too easily and I don't know what to do. I know exactly what you mean about reading the same sentence over and over. sometimes it just won't stick or I find myself thinking of something else entirely. This happens mostly when I am in a manic state. like now.

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I love to read and used to read 3 or 4 books each week, but for the past six years (since I was diagnosed) I haven't been able to read any fiction except for a period of three weeks or so last October. I have no trouble reading books and articles on BP, just reading fiction. Unfortunately, I can't stand audiobooks or being read to in any way. My last period of being able to read fiction ended when I was half-way through a book I was really enjoying and have not been able to pick up again. I don't know if it is from meds, ECT, or just BP, but it drives me crazy (crazier?).

Tommy

Like you, I have much less trouble reading books/articles about BP than any other type of literature. I still have to highlight and make notes like crazy, but I can get through those books. I wonder how to transfer that concentration ability to books outside the BP realm.

I so know what you mean as have always had problems reading such as concentration and words moving on the page until I found out it's a learning problem similar to dyslexia. Anyway I found out that people with dyslexia benefit from reading through a colour acetate such red, blue or yellow. Since I've been using the yellow acetate it really has changed how I read - I can concentrate and words don't move on the page!!!

Anyway just thought it might help

Hawk

Oooooh....I like that suggestion. Where did you purchase your magical acetate?

Phoenix_rising--

Although you might not be familiar with exactly what a 'mixed state' is, you may have at some point had one... I feel that a mixed state is basically having very violent feelings of depression, and in a manic-type state, acting out as such.

I think a couple of CBers have in the past compared and contrasted it to "agitated depression"... which is apparently more when you're depressed an extremely pissy and liable to lash out at people.

As opposed to mixed states, where you run around screaming in despair, performing SI and then telling everybody within earshot, eyeshot, and cybershot about it, and just acting manic and angry and taking it out on yourself and everybody else. That's my take on it, anyways, and that's what a couple of pdocs of mine have diagnosed as mixed states.

In addition, my personal research has also shown that Georgia is a mixed state.**

**I said Georgia, not Atlanta.

Ah ha. I think we have a good example of different phrases being used to describe the same thing. My pdoc calls a mixed episode "dysphoric mania". Like clockwork, I experience dysphoric mania about 7-10 days before my period. Agitation, "wanting to crawl out of my skin", anger, feeling out of control....just part of the joy of my dysphoric symphony. During these times, the only intellectual pursuit I can manage is crossword puzzles. (They help me focus).

My research indicates that New York City is also a mixed state.

I also have lots of problems concentrating. I have a short attention span at times too. i get bored too easily and I don't know what to do. I know exactly what you mean about reading the same sentence over and over. sometimes it just won't stick or I find myself thinking of something else entirely. This happens mostly when I am in a manic state. like now.

I know for me, mania (or in my case hypomania) makes reading nearly impossible. I would love to figure out a way to "muscle" my brain around it.

Thanks to all of you for your insightful answers!

Phoenix

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