Am I Bipolar or Cyclothymic?

Posted By Lori Painter on Jan 27, 2021 | 0 comments

I just finished reading chapter three of “Educated” to my daughter, Mehgan. This story is sounding incredibly familiar. The author is talking about her father worried about the feds and it is sounding like my brother, who is currently in jail after committing multiple crimes. Prior to his arrest, he was diagnosed with bipolar illness and in a state of psychosis.

This has me in a deeply reflective state. I’ve been thinking about how my mother was diagnosed bipolar and had nervous breakdowns. Two other brothers have suffered as well. Now a third brother. I’m starting to wonder about myself. Am I mentally ill? Am I bipolar? I don’t even know what bipolar actually is. It’s time to research.

Researching now…

Bipolar disorder is characterized by periods of intense energy and elation (mania) that may or may not be followed by severe depression. Bouts of sadness and hopelessness can become intense. It can feel as if you’re drowning in despair one moment, and then later on, you’re optimistic and full of energy. Hmm… it kinda sounds familiar, but kinda not.

Keep researching Lori.

There are eight symptoms in total. Four manic and four depressive.

Four Symptoms of a Bipolar Manic Episode

  1. An increase in energy. I feel more awake and energized at certain times. I often wake up feeling an adrenaline rush and have to do meditation or gratitude or reading to calm me down so that I can focus.
  2. Decreased need or desire for sleep. I’ve had this happen when I fast. Maybe I shouldn’t be fasting. Good thing I modified the fast that I am on. 
  3. Impulsive behavior. Does this mean spontaneous behavior? I’m confused. I’m not a reckless spender or reckless with my sexuality or criminal activity and I don’t think I’m doing any physical activity that is dangerous. I don’t drink. I stopped drinking yerba mate drinks. I stopped micro-dosing with cannabis even though that really has been helpful in putting me in a more loving state rather than tense.
  4. Racing thoughts, heart rate in speech patterns. Oh, I have definitely had this especially when I first wake up in the morning it seems like my mind is going so fast that I literally have to focus on slowing it down so that I can actually move forward in a great productive way otherwise I just shut down. It’s overwhelming. Gratitude usually helps with this, same with meditation, same with reading, same with journaling.

Four Symptoms of a Bipolar Depressive Episode

  1. Loss of interest in activities. Difficult to get out of bed in the morning, getting dressed, eating is difficult. Not working or caring for children. 
  2. Loss of energy/insomnia. An increased need for sleep with the decreased ability to sleep.
  3. Feelings of worthlessness and guilt. Absolutely! I’ve got to pep talk myself out of it. 
  4. Extreme sadness, despair or overwhelm. I have felt all of the above but especially overwhelm.

Another article says that a manic episode looks like this….

  • high self-esteem
  • little need for sleep
  • increased rate of speech (talking fast)
  • flight of ideas
  • getting easily distracted
  • an increased interest in goals or activities
  • psychomotor agitation (pacing, hand wringing, etc.)
  • increased pursuit of activities with a high risk of danger

and a depressive episode looks like this….

  • changes in appetite or weight, sleep, or psychomotor activity 
  • decreased energy
  • feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • trouble thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • thoughts of death or suicidal plans or attempts

Wait… bipolar includes moodiness? Shit! I am a woman. I get PMS. I definitely get moody and edgy. Running hot and cold is bipolar? WHAT?!? I am starting to wonder, maybe I am bipolar because sometimes I do feel depressed, unfocused, stuck, sad. And other times I feel on top of the world. 

Hmm… extreme sad with intense highs? Yeah, I’ve had that. Oh no…. I think I might be bipolar.

Wait… frenetic vs productive energy? Hmm. I’m confused. I do have times when I experience healthy bursts of productivity fortunate episodes of inspiration.

Taking a deep sigh… this might explain a lot about why I don’t follow through on projects why I don’t stay consistent with my habits, stay in the same relationships, or stay with the same company. How can I go my whole life and not know this? I feel so ignorant. 

Consequences and impact on life

Losing out on things that I enjoy, missing time with my family, struggling with my social life, struggling with work and school, struggling with healthy habits and maintaining a tidy home. I can see how this has affected my self-esteem, consistency, stability, growth in life, relationships, finances, health, home environment, and energy. I definitely at times distrust myself, and others and have PTSD from childhood trauma. I literally need to journal and meditate to get through it. If I can’t get into a peaceful loving state, then I micro dose with cannabis, not to get stoned or high, but just enough to where my mind stops racing and I can actually get back into the present moment. I am not interested in getting high. I just want to be in an elevated emotional state and most times a very small amount of cannabis has helped me when I can’t seem to get there on my own.

Back to research… 

I found an online quiz. The results say I scored mild bipolar or cyclothymic disorder. What is that?

  1. Cyclothymic disorder involves changes in mood and shifts similar to bipolar I and II, but the shifts are often less dramatic in nature. A person with cyclothymic disorder can often function normally without medication, though it may be hard. Cyclothymia is characterized by fluctuating low-level depressive symptoms along with periods of mild mania (hypomania).  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.

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:

  • irritability
  • aggressiveness
  • 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)
  • argumentative
  • hypersexuality
  • reckless or impulsive behavior

Some of this sounds familiar. I think it’s time to bring this up to my next session with my cognitive behavioral therapist. Maybe she can help me get clear on what is going on with my mental health. I’ll see if she will test me for bipolar and cyclothymia.

In the meantime, I have some good news. I saw that a major component to treating mental illness is lifestyle intervention. Specifically implementing habits such as counseling, stress management, not smoking or drinking, good nutrition, plenty of physical activity, sunshine, fresh air, inspiration, and beliefs. As a holistic health practitioner, I can only imagine where I’d be in my life if had I not done all of these over the past 20 years. I had no idea that my profession was literally me saving myself from going down the same path that my family has, but it looks like there is more to go.

I am going to make sure I take my B vitamins, magnesium, and CBD oil. I’ll also get a natural supplement for mood stability and I am going to start tracking my moods as well. 

My New Years Goals for 2021 are to HEAL. More specifically I am focusing on

  1. Fulfilling my needs – start paying attention to what I actually need in the present moment and check-in throughout the day
  2. Create stability and consistency in moods and habits with health, wealth, relationships

Alright… looks like I’m on quite the journey to mental wellness. More to come next week. I’ll let you know what happens next after working with my therapist.

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