Here's What I Do When I Can't Think

October 30, 2023 Natasha Tracy

There are many times when I can't think. It's a bit of a problem for a contracted writer. You do need to be able to think in order to write. And in spite of the fact that it impacts my livelihood, I can't think way too often.

What It Means When I Say I Can't Think

Your brain thinks. That's what it does. All day, every day, your brain is a gooey, thinking lump. That being said, that doesn't always mean it will think in the way you want or need it to. Namely, you may not be able to control the way it thinks or what it thinks about.

In my case, when I say that I can't think, I mean that my thinking isn't useful. It means that my thinking is out of my control, and I can't direct it in the ways that I need. When I can't think, it means I can't write, can't edit, can't deal with email, can't make a phone call, etc. It feels like my brain has turned into a useless rock

Of course, this doesn't mean that I fall into a coma. I can still think to move, walk around, eat food, drink water, etc. I'm still alive. I'm just alive and useless. 

What Causes Me to Be Unable to Think?

Usually, when I can't think, it's because I'm overwhelmed. I might be overwhelmed by bipolar disorder, work, obsessive thoughts, stress, anxiety, pain, or something else. Some of these are things your average person faces, and some aren't. Regardless, my bipolar brain doesn't tend to handle things as well as your average brain. While everyone can get overwhelmed, and anyone can find their brain turned into a rock, this isn't a common experience for your average person. It is a common experience for me,

What I Do When I Can't Think

What I've found is that not being able to think comes in gradations. Sometimes, I just can't do complex things. Sometimes, I just can't do intellectual things. Sometimes, I can't do anything at all. What's important is to realize where I am on this continuum and how I can use that knowledge to be as useful as possible. (I'm not saying you always have to be useful, but I really have to focus on that as it's such a challenge for me.)

When I start to realize that I can't think, I try to determine how impacted I am by that and what I want to do about it. For example, if I've just started realizing that I can't think, but it's not that severe, I might switch to an easier task. If that doesn't work, I might switch to an even easier task. 

For example, when my brain is fresh and can think, I tend to edit. When it starts to become impaired, I write something easy. When it's yet more impaired, I respond to emails. When I can't do that, I might try doing something that doesn't require too much thought, like vacuuming. When I can't even manage that, I rest. I try to do the most complicated task I can manage at the time. So, for example, if my brain were fresh and thinking well, I wouldn't start vacuuming because that would waste that time of thinking.

How to Get My Ability to Think Back

There is one other thing to consider there, and that is regaining my ability to think. Now, it's possible that if I can't think and I'm really fatigued (common for a person with chronic fatigue), I might not get my ability to think back until a night's sleep. However, if it's not that severe, I might be able to increase my ability to think somewhat through rest. In my experience, nothing will get me back to a "fresh brain" state, but rest can prolong my ability to think at a certain level or even raise it a bit. So, instead of maximizing my productivity based on my current ability to think, I might rest to get more ability to think later.

I Have to Consider I Can't Think Every Day

I know that all sounds like kind of a ridiculous amount of calculus, given that we're just talking about the operation of an organ that functions on its own, but it's legitimately something that I do every day. Living with a bipolar brain (and one inflicted with choric fatigue and chronic migraines at that) is more complicated than most people will ever understand. While my brain does function on its own, it just doesn't do a very good job of it.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2023, October 30). Here's What I Do When I Can't Think, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

December, 8 2023 at 2:36 pm

Thanks for sharing your experience with us! It helps me to know that I'm not alone in that predicament.
I pray you feel better more often.
All the best for 2024!

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