What Bipolar and Absent-Mindedness Have in Common

by John McManamy Patient Expert

It happens to all of us. We lose track of time. We lose track of the world. We lose track of who we are, even.

Wednesday afternoon, a friend called me. She wanted to know if I planned to attend a certain committee meeting tomorrow, Friday morning.

Wait. You mean today is ... Thursday?

Naturally, I'm the only one in the world who does these things. Ironically, I had been working very hard the last four days keeping a major project on track, fully mindful of an impending deadline. But - irony on irony - I became so absorbed in the project that I completely lost track of which day it was.

This is not an aberration with me. I showed up ahead of time for my birth, only to realize I had made a terrible mistake. Gone was my comforting solitude. Now I was stuck in a noisy world that didn't belong to me, forced to fit in.

People often mistake me for being absent-minded. Far from the case. My mind is always fully occupied. Important stuff, such as why Hannibal never won a battle with his elephants. It just isn't always concerned with the minor things, such as which day of the week it is.

My parents - with more malice than humor - would joke that I would leave the house without my head if it weren't attached to me.

Over the years, I have picked up various adaptive skills. I have literally trained my mind to constantly run systems checks in the background, like computer software. Also, I can visualize a sort of dashboard in my brain, with my equivalents of gas gauge and oil light and the rest. Plus I practice mindfulness.

But nothing I do can replace the brain I was born with.

Anyway, I showed up at my Friday morning committee meeting on time, but the person in charge of the meeting arrived late. Turns out she had left her car keys in another location the night before.

Ha I'm not the only one.

Question: Tell us about your "losing track" moments. How have they affected your life? How do you compensate? How do you cope?

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John McManamy
Meet Our Writer
John McManamy

John is an author and advocate for Mental Health. He wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Depression and Bipolar Disorder.