Mental Health Blogs

Living with Rapid-Cycling Cyclothymia

Four years ago, I was diagnosed with rapid-cycling cyclothymia. It’s like a milder version of Bipolar Disorder, complete with hypomanic and depressive cycles, but I can cycle several times within a week, or even a day. (read: Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder: Symptoms, Treatment, Effects)

No two days are alike. I realize that it’s difficult to understand. Things change so quickly that it confuses me, let alone an outside observer. There is so much misinformation “out there”, that it’s tough for people to piece together an accurate picture of this condition. So I thought I’d take the reader on a journey of what a day could be like when I’m especially rapid-cycling.

What Does Rapid-Cycling Cyclothymia Feel Like?

I wake up depressed. It’s a numbness. Like something has taken me over and sucked out all of my emotions, except that I don’t know why. I’m used to extremes, but nothingness is downright scary. What's it like living with rapid-cycling cyclothymia? Get an inside look at what rapid-cycling cyclothymia feels like.I’m grateful that I work for myself, from home. Looking presentable would require too much energy. I have zero motivation, so it takes a while to do more than make a list of things I should be doing. I take my morning dose of medication, hoping it doesn’t make me more depressed – a potential side-effect.

By my second cup of coffee, I feel more like a productive member of society. Sadly, that doesn’t last long. By 1 p.m., I’m hypomanic. My brain can’t focus. I have twenty ideas for projects that I have no idea how to start. They’re not fantastical; I simply can’t focus enough to know where to begin. It’s beyond frustrating. At 2 p.m., I welcome my second dose of medication, hoping it slows my brain. Instead, it makes me nauseous, dizzy and disoriented. I can’t see straight. I apparently haven’t eaten enough beforehand. I must lie down for about an hour. Mental note – bigger snack tomorrow.

I’m ready to crawl out of my skin until about 4:30, when I can finally focus. The evening varies. I could level out, have another hypomanic episode, or slip into depression. I’m exhausted from emotional tug-of-war. I’ll probably stay home in case I cycle. Let me dispel a myth –I’m not Jekyll and Hyde, suddenly switching between highs and lows in mid-conversation. I feel it coming on gradually, and generally nobody else notices, thanks to medications and therapy. But I feel terrible, so I withdraw.

Drained by 9:30 p.m., I take my triple dose of meds before bed. They may prevent late-night hypomania, which causes insomnia. I toss and turn, trying to sleep, hoping that tomorrow my brain feels a little less like a ping-pong ball.

This article was written by:

Maya Northen on living with rapid cycling cyclothymiaMaya Northen is a mental health awareness enthusiast who was born with rapid-cycling cyclothymia, and finally diagnosed at the age of 29. She blogs about her journey with this condition, runs a mental health support group on Facebook, and has begun organizing fundraising events for mental health research and treatment. She believes fully in raising awareness through telling our stories, and plans to work helping youth and teens who are diagnosed with mental health conditions. You can also connect with Maya through her blog and on Twitter or Facebook.

To be a guest author on the Your Mental Health Blog, go here.

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7 Responses to Living with Rapid-Cycling Cyclothymia

  1. Tanika says:

    Wow that sounds a lot like me. It’s especially hard with lack of support and with people around (spouse, child). Cannot quite give encouragement as I am probably suppose to now but I can definitely relate.

  2. chris in sc says:

    That is so much of how I feel. I am going to print this out for my therapist. Thank you for giving me some way to explain myself to her.

  3. Patricia Foil says:

    Know what it’s like. Just wish my family would understand how it feels. Takes a lot of tongue biting, teeth grinding and counting quietly to keep from yelling and taking my frustations out on them. But it could be worse is my motto. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

  4. I’ve received umpteen different diagnoses over the past 10-15 years, and this is the most recent one I believe. I’m waiting to be called back in to see my doctors for next steps re medication and/or therapy. I feel pretty well all the same things as you’ve described feeling. I’ve been off work for over two years and I’m not sure what the future holds re when/if I’m told I’m o.k. and to go back. Before I was put off work, the accommodation to allow me to work from home was requested. It, along with other alternatives surrounding accommodation,wasn’t accepted….even though working from home was something that for a while was going to be the norm for all employees. I agree that being presentable, especially if it’s for the early part of the day, is a major challenge. I used to juggle it myself as a single parent, career, studying, maintaining a house & yard, etc. Then….I hit a wall….

  5. John says:

    Thank you. Tonight it is just reassuring to know others also are cursed/blessed in this way.

    Been one hell of a dayweekmonth … but I can still remember the good times

  6. Eli says:

    Mixt episodes are by far the worse. I’ve been having them lately and it’s tearing me apart from the inside out. So much fatigue! I believe that the worse part about this disease is not being understood by your close ones. This is exactly the main reason why tonight i googled and found your page as a form of support, right after i tried to explain to my best friend that these swing of moods are simply unbearable and it’s so hard to keep up with them and not lose it. His reply was that “this is normal it sometimes happens to him : to be in a good mood and have a bad/sad thought for a few seconds before returning to the initial mood”. I wish it was just that. Oh, he will never understand what i mean and how i feel. It’s like being silenced in this case cause words can’t even begin to describe the amount of *@#! one feels in just one day. I am 22 years old and I have been diagnosed with cyclothymia at 21. I now understand myself, especially when i was a teenager and i felt so lost, confused, dynamic, impulsive, never getting a thing done, alone. Why do I have this awful disease? Who would have thought that being normal was such a luxury? (I’m sorry if my comment was too long , but it’s my first time speaking about this with somebody who knows)

  7. Renae says:

    I believe my husband is suffering with this disorder. I absolutely love him but I’m finding it more challenging to deal with as time goes on only because he refuses to acknowledge he even has something going on. I’ve tried talking to him about his constant mood swings and that only enrages him more. I’m at my wits end trying to cope. I’m not sure what else I can do to help if anything. I try to give him as much space and time as he needs to deal with his rapid mood changes but at times it leaves me in a state of unrest and uncertainty. I feel so alone most of the time. Even though my husband has not been diagnosed and I don’t know that he will ever seek help, I understand there’s something bigger than the both of us so I try to be patient and understanding.

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