Rapid-cycling bipolar — just to make it more interesting

Wow, talk about rapid cycling.

Yesterday I was feeling pretty good. I had been sleeping well all week and had even been early for work every day. Work was going well, and I hadn’t been reamed out for sleeping in that day, which was top of my list of worries.

Then, for no apparent reason, I got really down in the afternoon. Maybe it was just that there wasn’t any work to do, so I was literally checking my Facebook every two seconds and no one that I’ve messaged recently had responded. Maybe I was just more tired than I thought. Or maybe (as I realized this morning) I was getting a cold. Whatever the reason, the depression hit me like a truck. I ended up having to stay at work late (because even though barely anything happened all day, at exactly 5, when I was ready to leave, there was a crisis I had to help with) so by the time I left, it was dark and miserable outside. I had been planning on getting groceries and actually cooking for myself (a rare occasion indeed) but I got out of the subway and immediately walked straight home, running through delivery options in my mind.

I settled on Chinese, which I ordered half-heartedly (normally I get really excited about ordering food — I may not enjoy eating in front of people, but I can be a real pig when I’m alone), and fell on the couch with absolutely no energy whatsoever. I really needed to vaccuum — Sasha’s (my cat) hair was everywhere — and do dishes, but I didn’t care. When the food came, I ate as much as I could force into myself, knowing that I’d feel even more like shit if I didn’t. Then I fell back on the couch.

During Obama’s State of the Union address, I fell asleep. I didn’t even realize how tired I was until I woke up, thinking that only ten minutes had passed, but really almost an hour and ten minutes had. It took all my energy to remove my contact lenses and wash up and change for bed. I even managed to put the leftovers in the fridge.

Then, out of nowhere, a burst of energy. I was awake! It was only 11, so I decided to watch the news. Bad idea. I should have just gone to bed and forced the tiredness back into myself.

Instead, when I actually went to bed, only half an hour later, I lay there, tossing and turning, staring at the ceiling, running through song lyrics that I couldn’t stop hearing in my mind, thinking about what to wear to work on casual Friday, even though today’s only Thursday, thinking about where to go out for my birthday… doing everything but sleep. I even took out my phone and started Googling nonsense.

I’m not sure when I fell asleep, but the fact that I cycled so quickly, from up to down and back up again, worries me. It’s been a while since I’ve had such a dramatic turn. Guess it’s time to make an appointment with Dr. A….

So — what is rapid cycling, you ask?

Technically, it’s defined as four or more mood swings in a year (obviously, more than just a “mood swing” — each episode has to last a certain period of time). Most bipolar bloggers that I read have commented on this, as I will, by saying that only four a year would be heavenly! I’d be happy with four a month, to be honest with you. It’s also said that rapid-cycling bipolar is harder to treat than non-rapid-cycling. About 10%-20% of bipolar patients are rapid-cycling, the majority of which are women, and, apparently, bipolar II types are also more likely to have it.

For me, the depression always lasts much longer than the hypomania. It’s another reason I’m bipolar II instead of I. A typical depression for me can last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, during which time I might feel okay enough to see people and temporarily elevate my mood enough to be sociable, or I might hide in my apartment the entire time, screening calls and ordering in food so I don’t have to shower or dress or leave the apartment.

A hypomanic episode can last anywhere from a few hours to about a week, I think. I’m still trying to get a sense of my real hypomanic episodes, to separate them from the times I’m just feeling “normal.” When good things happen in my life, it can trigger a hypomanic episode, but at the same time, it’s hard to tell if that’s just me being really happy about something. Again, this blog, and writing these things out, will hopefully help me figure out the patterns.

But back to rapid cycling. There’s also a term called ultra-rapid cycling (exciting, isn’t it?), or ultradian cycling, which is cycling through however many episodes in a month. That would be me, although I’ve technically never been diagnosed as such. I’ve been told that I have more mixed episodes than ultradian cycling, and it’s often difficult to distinguish the two. For example, yesterday would have technically been a mixed episode. Who knows….

‘Tis the joy of being bipolar — you never know how the day will go!

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