I’ve shared with you before how I struggle with depression. I have also shared that I am not all the way bipolar, but that I have a milder version of it called “cyclothemia”. As I am on a slippery slope again, going from a good period into a bad on again (all the signs are blinking right in my face and still I needed time to recognize it).
That’s just the thing, I have been living with it for many years and still it takes me some time to see I am going from a decent/good period to another sad/bad one again. Even though all the signs were right there, as I shared with you yesterday, still I struggle. I have been known to struggle with depression starting from the age of 16, though I think I have had it before then due to all the bullying I have endured….
To those of you who are new to this blog, who have not yet heard about cyclothymia, I will share a bit of my knowledge (mine and what Google has thought me) in this post. I think it’s time to end the stigmas that cling to mental health issues. I once have been ashamed of my brain being differently wired than that of many others. I thought I needed to adapt and be as “normal” as I could as I felt people expected that from me. But even if I tried my hardest and best, I always seemed to fail. Firsy I thought I was stupid, unable and all. But when I got diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD, on top of my depressions, it all made a lot of sense to me. I wasn’t stupid. I was trying hard enough. My brain just works differently, making some things (almost) impossible for me to achieve in the usual ways others do.
What Is Cyclothymia? (source HealthLine.com)
Cyclothymia, or cyclothymic disorder, is a mild mood disorder with symptoms similar to bipolar II disorder. Both cyclothymia and bipolar disorder cause emotional ups and downs, from manic highs to depressive lows.
Cyclothymia is characterized by fluctuating low-level depressive symptoms along with periods of mild mania (hypomania). Symptoms must be present for at least two years before a diagnosis of cyclothymia may be made (one year in children). These changes in mood tend to occur in cycles, reaching highs and lows. In between these highs and lows, you may feel like your mood is stable.
The main difference between the two disorders is intensity. The mood swings associated with cyclothymia are not as extreme as those that come with bipolar disorder: Those with bipolar disorder experience intense symptoms that meet clinically criteria for the diagnoses of mania and major depression, while those with cyclothymia experience milder “ups and down,” described as hypomania and mild depression. If left untreated, cyclothymia can increase your risk of developing bipolar disorder.
The condition usually develops in adolescence. People with the disease often appear to function normally, although they may seem “moody” or “difficult” to others. People will often not seek treatment because the mood swings do not seem severe. People with cyclothymia may occasionally even be hyper-productive.
According to the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), cyclothymia is distinguished from bipolar disorder because it lacks the full criteria of major depression, mania, or a mixed episode disorder. However, some people with cyclothymia will develop bipolar I or bipolar II disorder later in life.
What are th symptoms of cyclomythia?
People with cyclothymia usually experience many weeks of low-level depression followed by an episode of mild mania that lasts several days.
Depressive symptoms of cyclothymia may include:
- insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much)
- changes in appetite
- weight loss or gain
- fatigue or low energy
- low sexual desire and function
- feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt
- inattentiveness, lack of concentration, or forgetfulness
- unexplained physical symptoms
The manic symptoms of cyclothymia may include:
- extremely high self-esteem
- excessive talking or speaking very quickly, sometimes so fast others have trouble following what the person is saying
- racing thoughts (muddled and disorganized)
- lack of focus
- restlessness and hyperactivity
- increased anxiety
- going for days with little or no sleep (without feeling tired)
- reckless or impulsive behavior
Some patients experience “mixed periods,” in which a combination of both manic and depressed symptoms occur within a very short time — one followed immediately by the other.
For me, some of these things collide with my adhd and autism. When I saw several “head docs”, they didn’t use the term cyclomythia a lot yet, I had not heard about it until I got the Bipolar book for dummies. While I was reading up about it, it actually fit all the things the docs had told me. As some of them thought I had bipolar due to my swings and moods, but others said my manic and depressed periods weren’t extreme enough. I wasn’t depressed enough (this was before I tried to kill myself with a knife about 10 years ago or when I tried to OD 2,5 years ago). I wasn’t reckless or impulsive enough. They did recognize bipolar treats but “just” not severe enough. I do wonder why none of them told me about cyclomythia as it just fits… I did get lithium for a while from one of the head docs, the one that sad it was bipolar, but on those meds I took a turn for the worst. The lithium made my depression worse, me ending up with a sharp kitchen knife on my wrists and my hen girlfriend was just in time to stop me. I quit cold turkey from the pills and after a few days, my dark thoughts were getting a bit less dark. I still felt like shit but I didn’t want to end my life anymore.
For a while I didn’t know that I was experiencing manic episodes. I did recognize the depressed moods, but when I swing to the manic bit, I just feel awesome and I seriously thought for a long time that that feeling was how “normal” people felt all the time. When I finally learned about the manic bits, I did feel a bit disappointed but also relieved. I really wondered how people got anything done as feeling manic can be a lovely feeling. It seems weird to call it like that. But when I feel like that, I experience less pain, I have a better stamina, I get more things done (though I also start a lot that I never finish because I get distracted with the next thing I’d like to do). It really is suck different feeling from the depression, I feel so free and happy and strong. The depression makes me feel weak, stupid and unwanted. When I became single again, it really took me a few months to accept that it wasn’t a shame. I could learn to be happy by myself, I could have freedom to do whatever I want, whenever I pleased. When I realized that I was doing better (not financially though) on my own, especially since I got the Mirtazapine and Risperidone. I have had waaaaay less anger and panic attacks than during the last few months of my marriage. I used to suffer from meltdowns like twice a month, at least. Now, I think the last one was over a year ago! I did have a few anxiety attacks during the time on my own, but never so severe as I had them before. This all made me think that my ex was using my triggers to make me worse, so that she could point a finger at me, claiming how I f*cked everything up and how sorry everyone should feel for her for dealing with me like this…… The meds and being on my own have really improved my mental state of mind for sure!
But still I struggle with these bouts of depression. At this time, I know I am being pulled in due to the lockdown mess. I am missing the gym and the endorphins working out give me, as I know I always feel a lot better when I am able to get a good workout done. That’s also one of the reasons I am doing my best with my rower at home. To keep in shape, to keep my muscles strong should I need another surgery, but also to try and get that great feeling of a good workout. And it does help a bit, but only rowing also becomes a tad boring at times. I try to keep up for all the positive reasons, but I do wish I could already afford that bike I want so much… As I struggle with my dumbbells, I do try to keep up with my 100 day challenge exercises in the morning. I also started to do “pushups” against the wall. I started close to the wall and I am slowly increasing the space between my feet and the wall, making the exercise harder. Hopefully after a few weeks, I will be able to take those exercises to my mat on the floor. But to teach my arms the movement (and to hopefully make them a bit stronger), I am starting against the wall, But I try to keep exercising, hoping that it will help my mental health. As I do believe that my mental and physical health are very much connected t each other. If I experience more pain or discomfort, I notice that my mental capacities are less adequate than when I am doing better, physically. I don’t expect to ever live without pain again, though maybe after my next surgery when I have some morphine, then I might not feel a thing for a bit 😉 But I think that by trying to keep my body as healthy as I can, it will support my mind to keep healthy as well. As much as is possible, as I do have that mild bipolar and I just need to deal with it… It’s part of who I am. And once, I was ashamed. Now I am writing about it, hoping to educate people and to show it’s nothing you need to be ashamed for. Mental illness is not because you did something wrong, it’s mostly your brain working differently, or making/missing substances that make it react differently. I always think it is good to check with a Doc if you think something is “different” or “wrong”. Some people don’t like diagnosis as they think you get a label and then people treat you differently. Yes, maybe that is true, but because I know the names of those labels, I have been able to educate myself and others. I have been able to recognize things and also to learn how to do things differently, better even. Knowing the name of your illness/disorder/thingamajing can really help you understand yourself better. And it can help others to support you better when they are able to understand your needs better.
Here I am. 40 years young. ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, Cyclothymia, Fibromyalgia, Raynauds, Prosthetic hip… So many things that do not define me perse, but they do partly make me who I am. But in the end, how I deal with all of them, how I chose to live, that is what makes me “me” in the end. That’s what defines me. My actions. My beliefs. My achievements. Even my failings, as I do have them. But by writing about it all, I hope to reach out to others, to educate and to end the stigma that’s like a shadow hanging over mental health.
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