Giving Myself A Break From Mental Illness!


When you live with a mental health condition it is important to come to terms with the fact that sometimes you just have to take a break.

Obviously, I am aware that mental illness is not something that you can just switch off, but this doesn't mean that you can't allow yourself the break you need to feel better able to cope. You may have noticed that I have gone AWOL from the blog over the past few months. My moods got the better of me a little while ago and I decided that the best course of action would be to completely disappear. Well, not completely, but I did end up isolating myself from the world, or at least as far as it was possible to do so whilst still living on a busy main road with many shops, and in the middle of a busy city with millions of people in it! Isolation in the city looks quite different to living in a log cabin in the middle of the woods (which would be my dream come true). 

My version of "total isolation" essentially meant creating lots of distance between me and all of the people in my life. This meant avoiding local shops or anywhere that I might be recognised and stopped for a chat, and creating a number of backstreet dog-walking routes, choosing only to visit my local parks on a rotating schedule so as to avoid being spotted by the same people walking their dogs and having to engage in dog-related conversation. 

I also ended up falling out with the few prominent people in my life (not purposefully of course, but it was quite conveniently timed by the universe to aid my plan for total isolation). I also managed to distance myself from the rest of the people I know (not a difficult feat as the number of people I know can be counted on one hand.) I am sure that all of this all sounds very unhealthy and unsocial, but that was the point. I needed space to be by myself because I knew that my mental health was suffering and that I needed time alone to mend. 

And do you know what? It really did help. I began to hear myself think again. I felt more at peace and connected to what was important to me. My days became easier and my direction more clear. I also decided during this time to come off the medication I was taking. I know I haven't written anything on the blog about the medication I was taking, but the gist of it is that it wasn't working for me, and it was time to try something else. That something else took the form of this total detox, from the stressful life I was leading, the people in it who were triggering mood swings, and indeed the medication that was no longer having a positive impact.

So I spent three glorious months all by myself, with just my dog, my cat, and the cast of Eastenders for company. By the time I was ready to start talking to people again, I felt beautifully refreshed and completely balanced. In fact, I might go as far as to say... cured?

Alas, since returning to the realities and demands of people and of normal life I have also had to welcome back the mood swings. They have been small and manageable so far. I am currently referring to them as "micro-mood-swings", but I am keeping my eye on them. 

I have come to the conclusion that out-of-sight-out-of-mind really is a thing. Being around other people and having to respond to the stresses of everyday life and daily interactions certainly brings more of my attention to my disorder. I probably had ups and downs whilst living in my little bubble, but I didn't notice them as much because society wasn't holding up a mirror to my mood swings. There was not much happening in my life to react to, and so the fluctuations in my mood could come and go without having an impact on anything or anyone.

I also stopped tracking my moods so I really had no idea what was going on during this time. I tend to remember my ups and downs in a very subjective way relative to the current mood I am in. This means that if I have been feeling down I probably won't automatically recall recently having felt up, and if I am currently up then I am unlikely to recall feeling down the week before. I am usually reminded of changes in my moods by other people, journal entries, events recorded in my diary, my mood tracking charts, or catastrophes that have occurred as a direct result of my symptoms. At the end of my three-month isolation, when I got back in touch with my sister and tried to tell her that I didn't recall having a single symptom of depression or hypomania, the silence on the other end of the phone was one of heavy disbelief.

Despite loving the freedom of enjoying only the company and the lack of judgement of my pets, I know that this is no way to live. But at least now I am in a much better place than before and I can start to work on myself, my life, and relationships with people again. Sometimes all we need is a break in order to heal, feel stronger and return with a better perspective.

I have been thinking about this blog and where I want to take the project. Something that I have wanted to do since childhood is to write a book. I have attempted many times over the years to start writing a book, the subject matter of which has changed each time. I feel like I am finally at the stage in my life where I have something meaningful to share. Writing this blog has helped me to see that. So I have decided to start writing again.

The book I have decided to write is a narrative nonfiction memoir sharing my journey of self-discovery after I was diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder. This is something I have had on my mind to write ever since starting this blog. I feel like there are plenty of information books, memoir novels, blogs and even films and documentaries out there exploring and documenting the experiences of people who suffer from bipolar disorder and depression, but it is very difficult to find anything that represents the specific experiences of the sufferer of cyclothymic disorder. 

After I received my diagnosis my first instinct was to track down as much information as I could, but it wasn't easy to find authentic, detailed, raw, gritty insight into what the experience of living with this disorder can be like for people like me. Instead, I had to make do with the memoirs and films about bipolar disorder, which is really quite different from cyclothymia, although we might relate to some of it. I want to write a book that represents our disorder, a first-hand account, a full book and not just a chapter in a book about bipolar disorder. So wish me luck!

I will try to keep you updated on the blog as to how I am getting along with the writing. I'll also try to set aside some time to write about topics on the blog that I have meaning to cover. If you are new, you can subscribe to the blog via email and receive automatic notifications in your inbox every time I publish something new. I also welcome comments under the posts, so if you would like to say hello I would love to say hello back and answer any questions you might have, or just natter about our ups and downs. 

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Does Your Depression And Anxiety Increase When the Weather Changes?

It's Friday, a beautiful bright day. The weather is going to be sunny and warm over the weekend. Everyone is getting ready to have a bbq, open a few beers, and relax in the park. You would think that for someone who suffers from depression a bit of sunshine after all of the rain would offer some relief, something to look forward to, a chance to heal. For some that may be the case, but for me, it is quite the opposite.

It is known that the cold, dark, wet weather and short days results in higher cases of depression. But for me, that kind of day is an opportunity to hide away when I am feeling low, and not feel bad about retiring to bed early when I am exhausted from trying to appear normal and function well like everyone else around me. Cold, dark days mean I feel less exposed when I go out because there are fewer people around and I can hide away underneath my hat, a scarf, and a big coat and feel invisible. I think I am at my most relaxed in the autumn and wintertime. I can feel like myself.

When the weather changes from being cold, wet, and grim to warm, bright and sunny, I start to feel very, very anxious. I don't think living in a big city like London helps. The sun appears and everyone comes out to play, except me. 

I sit at home trying to convince myself that I'll enjoy my walk with the dog once I get out there, and I probably will if I stick to the backstreets and avoid the parks. The whole point of walking the dog when the weather is nice though is to go to the park. And because I have a dog, I have to go to the park, every single day, otherwise, I feel even more guilty and down on myself for being such an unsociable weirdo and making my dog depressed too!

Yesterday I was in the park watching my dog play with someone else's dog, and the dog's owner ambled up to me and said " Oh isn't it lovely?" She was referring to the sunshine. 

"Yes," I replied with a big smile on my face especially for her, "It really is lovely." 

And I wasn't lying, it was beautiful and I was enjoying the warmth of the sun on my back. What I kept to myself was the fact that it had taken me two hours to convince myself to take my dog to the park that morning, and that I had planned a route that would ensure I had to pass as few people as possible, and that I fervently hoped she would go away and leave me alone to enjoy the sun when I worked so hard to get myself out into it.

It was different when I lived outside of London in the countryside and by the sea. The summer was so beautiful, and I looked forward to my walks with my dog. I could go on a long three-hour hike in the woods, across fields, past farmland, along the top of a clifftop looking out to sea, and we might not even pass a single human being. Or if we did we could maintain a comfortable distance. It was absolute bliss.

Living in London, and on the main road, means every single time I step out of my house I am confronted by people. People stand at the bus stop across the road and see me as I walk out of my front gate. People try to make eye contact as I walk past them on the street. People watch me from their cars when they are stuck in traffic. The builders down the road see me pass by every single day. The people in the corner shop talk to me when I go to buy milk. 

What's worse is that people interact with me more because I have the cutest dog in the world. My dog wants to be everybody's friend, and that makes people think that I want to be their friend too. They smile at me and say hello, or comment on how lovely my dog is, which I appreciate, but really I just want them not to notice me at all. And when the weather improves, like this weekend, all of this social activity increases in intensity because suddenly everyone is in a good mood. To top it off everyone looks amazing, and they flaunt their wellness as they strut about in their sunglasses and summer outfits.

I don't want to pull anyone down with me. In fact, I am not even feeling that low today. But I am still dreading my afternoon walk with the dog. The park will be full of picnics and my dog will be targeting anyone with food, which means that I have to interact with people in order to apologise when she tries to steal their sandwiches. Everyone will be out with their dogs, and while I do love to see my dog being sociable and enjoying herself, that doesn't mean I want to be sociable too. 

You can't escape people in the summertime though. Anxiety and depression are ever-present for people like me (if there are indeed other people like me).  And just when I am starting to get used to it all, the weather changes back and the healing warmth I have just started to enjoy is gone.

I feel like I might be the only person in the world who feels like this about the weather because I hear so many people talking about it the other way around. I am the kind of person who looks ahead at the weather forecast to see when it is going to be hot, not because I am looking forward to it, but because I need time to mentally prepare myself. Do you experience anything similar? Tell me I'm not the only one. 

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Why I Blog About My Mental Illness


Should I Blog About My Mental Health?

To write about uncomfortable stuff, or not to write about it, that is the question...

Whenever I publish a post on this blog I find myself plagued with the question of whether or not I should be writing about my mental illness. Part of me wants to talk about it, I did start this blog to give myself a voice, after all. But there is always that nagging other voice that creates doubt, and I wonder what other people must think of me.

It's not that I am worried about what people will think of me as a sufferer of mental illness, but more about what they will think of me writing about it. Will they think I am a drama queen? Will they think I am self-indulgent? Why is she always writing about herself?

After some thought, I have decided to address this self-doubt, by reminding myself of why I blog about my mental illness, alongside some humour and words of wisdom.

If you are thinking of starting your own blog or YouTube channel to talk about your mental health problems, then you might find this blog post inspiring... or funny... either is fine.

5 Reasons Why I Write About My Bipolar Disorder (Cyclothymia)

I have separated all of the reasons into 5 points. I hope these answer all of your questions... and my own!

1.  I Enjoy It - Writing About Mental Health Is Like Self-Therapy

Writing has always been an outlet for me to express myself. I don't have many (or any) close friends, and my family relations have always been troublesome. Writing about myself, my feelings, and my experiences have helped me to process these things in a healthier way. I am pouring my woes into a creative activity that I am passionate about. What is the harm in that?

Many people might have put some humanitarian reason for their first point in a list like this, and while those may show up further down in my list, the main reason I write... not gonna lie... is for me. It's my little guilty pleasure.

2. One Day I Hope To Become Rich And Famous

Yep, another unconventional reason to write about mental health or mental illness - I know! But it's true. Maybe not in the way that you think though. 

There are a number of things about me, directly related to my disorder, which cause much frustration in my professional life.


I am highly creative but hopeless at business. This means that my creative output is high, but the financial return is low. Too low. Sometimes non-existent in fact. The problem here is that I can't feed my cat, my dog, and myself each month on air. Sometimes I just have to choose one of us to feed while the other two starve for 30 days. I'm just kidding. Kind of. 

Becoming rich and famous might help pay for necessities like pet food... and also non-essentials, like pet treats and toys, and maybe... more pets. Don't judge me, I need the extra love.


The symptoms of my condition mean that I am in a constant inner and outer battle with my professional and personal identity. This has had a horrible impact on my life, creating a never-ending cycle of self-perceived failure. 

Hypomania fuels creativity, but inflates my ego and carries me off on random tangents away from my main goals and commitments. Anxiety makes me question everything, all of the time. And depression wipes me out for intermittent periods where I cease to function as a human being, let alone a creative professional. 

I like to fantasise that becoming rich and famous might ease the pressure... Don't tell me money doesn't buy happiness, I won't believe you until I've tried it.

And thirdly...

Self-validation. For someone who rides the rollercoaster of mental illness and mood swings, being rich and famous might help to provide a mirror for those times I find myself in doubt of who I am, what I'm doing, and why I'm doing it. 

For many creatives, our work feels like a fraud, until other people rave about how great we are. You draw and write stories for a living? Surely those are just hobbies? Nope, they are in fact real jobs but try telling my inner voice of doubt that when I am sitting in bed with my pyjamas on and a hundred tabs open on my laptop because I'm a workaholic that likes to be cosy while she works.

Of course, I am a total introvert, and so becoming rich and famous probably wouldn't work at all for me (it's nice to dream). I do hope that one day I might write a book, or create a course, or land an awesome column on a high-profile magazine, or something like that, and carve out a comfortable and successful professional life for myself. That would be nice.

3. I Want To Share All Of My Amazing Discoveries About Bipolar Disorder & Cyclothymia

It may sound weird, but a lot of this stuff is new and intriguing to me too. Despite having lived with cyclothymic disorder my whole adult life, I am only now starting to learn, understand, and recognise things about myself, and be able to account for all of my personal fails. 

It's like I am finally "meeting myself" and "introducing myself" to the world for the first time. To me, my diagnosis has been groundbreaking and I am constantly surprised and morbidly fascinated when I observe my mental illness in action.

I am a curious soul by nature and have always been one to head off down a rabbit hole in search of answers and new discoveries. Discovering that I have inherited bipolar from my family gene pool has given me the opportunity to seek out and soak up a whole new world of information about something I knew nothing about before. 

It goes without saying that I want to share all of my newfound knowledge with someone... anyone... A blog seemed like the perfect place to regurgitate.

4. I Want To Forgive Myself For Not Being Perfect

I know that nobody is perfect, with or without mental health struggles. I am a Virgo, however, and Virgos always strive for perfection, regardless of whether it is achievable. 

All my life I have chided myself for not achieving everything I knew deep down that I was capable of. I simply couldn't understand why I was always failing, always struggling with the simple things, and always feeling so lost and confused and misunderstood. Writing this blog has provided me with a way to explore my past self, and be a little kinder to myself.

5. And Finally, I Want To Help Others To Understand Their Mental Health Struggles

I have chosen to place this reason at the bottom of my list, not because it is the least important reason for me wanting to write a blog about my mental illness, but because you can only help others if you help yourself first.

My blog is my space. First and foremost, it is for me. By sharing my stories I hope to connect with others and offer what I needed when I first received my diagnosis... just to know that I'm not the only one going through this. 

One of the first people who reached out to tell me they had read my blog told me that it was like they were reading about themselves. That is exactly what I want to achieve here. If you can see yourself in my stories, then you know you are not alone in this struggle. Many before you have gone through the same things, and many after you will too. 

This blog may sound like it is about me, but really it is about us all.

Thank You For Reading

I feel much better now. If you enjoyed reading this post, do me a favour and do these three small things...

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What Is It Like To Be Diagnosed With A Mental Illness?

What Does The Initial Shock Feel Like After Being Diagnosed With A Mental Illness?

When I came away from my first mental health assessment I felt like I was in a bubble. As I walked down the street I could see people going about their business, walking past me, getting on buses, going in and out of shops... and I felt completely invisible. I felt separate from them all. I could see them, but they couldn't see me. I was in a different dimension. It was all very strange. It felt a little bit like I had entered a "twilight zone".

I felt something similar many years ago when I witnessed a suicide. It happened very quickly and very quietly, and I was the only one on the platform who saw it take place. After I had given my witness statement to the police I left the train station, and as I was walking down the street... I felt exactly like I did after my first mental health assessment. 

Reaction to suicide: Did that really just happen? I just witnessed someone jumping to their death. I was the only one who saw it... Did that really just happen? - Pinch yourself Zara to see if you wake up.

Reaction to diagnosis: Did that really just happen? I've just been diagnosed with a mental illness. I'm the only one who knows it... Did that really just happen? - Pinch yourself Zara to see if you wake up.

I didn't wake up, of course. Either time.

It wasn't that I felt upset, or emotional, or that everything had suddenly changed in my world. I think I actually felt more confused by the fact that nothing had changed at all.

I thought there would be... more. More information, more support, more guidance, more emotion. But there was just me. It was the same me that went into the mental health assessment pre-diagnosis that came out. It's just that now I had a post-it note in my pocket with an illustration scribbled on it depicting my mental illness. 

You can read the full story of my diagnosis and how the psychiatrist left me with a post-it note in place of my mental health. Yes, I am still bitter about it.

What Happens After A Diagnosis Of Mental Illness?

Obviously, I can only give you insight by telling you my own experiences, so my answer to this question is entirely subjective. But keep reading if you are interested to know what happened after my diagnosis of a mental illness.

Nothing happened. I know, short story, right? Well, nothing would have happened if I hadn't got extremely defiant that evening. Let me explain...

During the mental health assessment, which lasted less than an hour, after I had been told what my diagnosis was and it had been briefly described to me, I was offered an antipsychotic. I mean, how scary is that? All I heard the psychiatrist say was the word "psychotic". 

Psycho... was he referring to me? No, he must be mistaken. Surely I don't need to take the same medication they give to psychopaths. Maybe if I promise not to go on any killing sprees he'll offer me something else?

I exaggerate for the comic impact of course, and I know now that antipsychotics have nothing to do with psychopaths - they are prescribed as mood stabilisers for people who suffer from bipolar disorder. My point is that the main problem when you are in that room with the psychiatrist and they have just told you that you are suffering from a mental illness is that your head has basically gone to fuzz. There is just white noise. It is impossible to really register anything on a sensible level, let alone find the right questions to ask in order to relieve yourself of what I can only describe as "internally freaking out - with a straight face".

I think I managed to pull myself together enough to ask a sensible question - Will there be any side effects? He said that I would only need a very low dose as I am not fully bipolar, but that I can expect to feel quite sedated and that some people experience weight gain. 

Again all I heard was - I'm going to be an obese pill-popper with no sex-drive, and psychotic tendencies if I forget to take my meds - Well that's going to make relationships ten times more difficult than they already are!

"You'll also have to remain on the medication for a minimum of 6 months before we can determine if it is working for you." He said. 

Oh hell no!

I asked him, sensibly, what he recommended I do, and he said that he didn't necessarily think that I needed to take the medication, but it was really up to me and what I felt I needed, after weighing up the pros and the cons. I said that I wasn't sure. So he said that he would put the prescription with a note into my report letting the GP know that the option was there if I decided I wanted to take it.

And that was it. End of assessment. End of the line.

Why It Is Important To Take Control When It Comes To Your Mental Health

I have to say, it was a shock. I was in shock. I honestly did just think that there would be more to it than that. I thought that I'd be given a follow-up appointment with someone nice and friendly who would offer me biscuits as we sat down to discuss support options. I thought there would be some kind of therapy. A list of local support groups. I thought I might even get something that resembled a welcome pack - "Welcome to your new mental illness - here is your itinerary." I mean, where was my lollypop damn it?

So yeah, I got a bit mad. Really quite mad. I stayed up until the early hours of the morning writing and re-writing a 20-page report on all of the reasons why I thought my diagnosis was basically bollocks - cue symptoms of hypomania. 

It was an extremely thorough and well-written report, complete with subheadings and bullet-pointed lists... or so I thought as I smugly proofread it for the fifth time admiring my skill - hello grandiosity! I'm surprised I didn't include a contents page. 

I bypassed the doctor's surgery and emailed it directly to the psychiatrist via his personal secretary, which I had to google like the crazed stalker patient I am. I was desperate for it to get to him before he wrote up my report and I was discharged back to the GP - completely misdiagnosed - Oh the scandal!

I can't imagine what the poor guy must have thought receiving my epic letter. He was very professional though and basically reinstated that he was standing by his original diagnosis.

When I got my copy of the report I was still very upset. I felt like I was lost on the windy moors, that no-one could hear me, and there was no search party being sent out to rescue me. So I had to rescue myself. Readers, if you are on your own diagnosis/treatment journey - you have to rescue yourselves! Otherwise, it's going to be a long wait, and you're going to get really wet and cold.

Somehow I managed to get a second mental health assessment with a different psychiatrist, and the experience for me was much better. I came out the other end with a kind of treatment plan and the ongoing support of a professional and nurturing psychiatrist who was going to hold my hand through the various stages until we found a treatment that worked for me. 

I felt safe. So safe that I'd honestly have accepted any medication or treatment she suggested - Antipsychotics? Yeah, why not! ECT? Oh, what the hell, let's do it! No, I'm kidding. I'm kidding! No meds for psychos please, no electric shocks. I agreed to try an anti-depressant. An SSRI. Alas, it didn't help me so she said she wanted to try one more SSRI before we considered our next options. The next one didn't help either. So I was given a course of psychotherapy sessions. 

My new therapist and I talked a lot about my sister. Mentioning my "diagnosis" during those sessions felt taboo because I discovered early on that they don't like to put a "label" on things. I found myself feeling resentful and secretly blaming my therapist for the stigma of mental illness in society - if you can't mention your diagnosis to your therapist who can you mention it to? But she was delightful, very pretty, and hey it was nice to have someone to chat to every week, I don't have any friends of my own. She also put up with me sporadically bursting into tears and was polite enough not to mention the fact that I never ever took my hat and coat off during sessions. She probably had a heyday with it when writing up her notes though...

Patient X has intimacy issues and uses outdoor wear as armour to shield her vulnerability. Patient X is dissociated from her own identity and fears that this will be exposed if she removes her coat. Patient X has not brushed her hair again today and is wearing "the hat" to disguise her self-neglect and therefore avoid exposing the fact that she suffers from "that which we do not name"... Voldemort? No, CYCLOTHYMIA! I HAVE CYCLOTHYMIC DISORDER - SPREAD THE WORD!

How Do You Live With A Mental Illness?

Try to resist the urge to find a high vantage point and shout the above statement out to the whole neighbourhood and you'll be just fine! 

On a serious note, it's hard, I'm not going to lie to you. If you thought life was hard when you were blissfully ignorant about your disorder, there will be no relief for you now that you know. Or maybe that's a bit harsh. There is a certain kind of relief in knowing.

I am glad that I know, for example, because everything about me makes so much more sense now that I can actually see the part my illness has played in my life. It's actually rather fascinating. But it will always be frustrating because now I know that my brain needs medication to help keep it in balance. And despite taking the medication, it will never be fully balanced, and I have to deal with unwanted side effects.

Living with a mental illness can feel lonely, even when you have people who are willing to listen and support you. It can feel like you have your disorder written on your forehead. People's kind gestures will feel patronising. You may feel like you will never reach your full potential, and that all of the hope you had before is futile now. You may feel trapped in a web of medications. Every morning or evening when your phone alarm goes off to remind you to take your meds it is a reminder that you're not who you thought you were, and you may never get to be who you want to be.

Half of the time I want to escape. I want to flush pills down the toilet and leave my life and all the people who have known me behind, to go live deep in the middle of a forest somewhere where nobody can find me, and I can just - be - me - whoever that is. I can't tell you how many hours I have spent researching how to live off-grid, or how to build your own secret hobbit house from mud inside of a hill.

You just want to escape your diagnosis. At least that is how it has felt for me. More so in the beginning. I've come a long way though, and I always like to be optimistic, so I will end on a positive note and say that at least I know that I am always going in the right direction now. I know that every meltdown and mood swing just brings me one step closer to knowing myself and my illness better. 

They say to keep your friends close but your enemies closer... and so I'm getting real cosy with my cyclothymic disorder.

Thank You For Reading!

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Depression Voice Vs. Hypomania Voice

Cyclothymia And Self Doubt 

A mental illness complicates everything. Who is with me on that? I can't speak for other people, but I suffer from cyclothymic disorder, and let me tell you... it's a bitch! 

I never know whether I am coming or going, succeeding or failing, creating or destroying, living or dying. That last one may sound a bit extreme, but if you suffer from a mood disorder you will know what I mean.

As an example let's talk about when we fall out with people, because let's face it, this happens a lot with us. Depending on where we are on the cyclothymic or bipolar mood scale, we often can't judge what the hell is going on, while it's going on. Some of us have the skill of being able in retrospect to see where things went wrong and the role our illness has played in it, but by that time it is often too late, and the damage has been done. 

Since coming to terms with my diagnosis I have wanted to learn as much as possible about how my illness manifests itself in me so that I can recognise my symptoms and have a little bit more control over how much damage and chaos they wreak in my life. I'm not always able to, but when I can it makes a big difference and I feel like I have something to be proud about, as opposed to the shame and self-doubt that result when the monster and gremlins take over. 

Real-Life Symptoms Of Hypomania In Action 

This blog post is actually the result of an altercation I had today with someone close to me. I suspect that I am currently in a slightly elevated mood state, which means that I am experiencing a few symptoms of hypomania, so I thought I'd tell you about it, and show you in real-life what my hypomania voice sounds like.

I have been super-focused on projects all week, I am in full-on research mode, there is a fair amount of irritability, and according to the person with whom I have just fallen out, I am cold and incapable of showing any empathy at the moment. When that was pointed out I luckily caught myself before my normal reactivity would have kicked in and I would have erupted with rage. That would have been a fail.

I honestly feel like I am completely justified in how I feel and how I came across during the dispute, I was logical and I stood by what I felt because I have the right to be heard - that's my hypomania voice sounding off. I basically think, right now, that this other person is a nightmare and I can't be bothered with them as I have far more important things to think about in the all-encompassing important world of "me". But I will look back at this later when my mood has subsided and probably cringe at how unsupportive I was.

For now, though, it has prompted this blog post. This is me channelling my mood disorder superpowers for the greater good. You think I'm joking, but this is genuinely my current thought process. In my head, the other person is an emotional fool and I am the rational one, destined for greater things.

I am able to self-reflect upon all of this at the moment, quite shortly after the row occurred, which is something I try to practice as much as possible because I am determined not to let my illness run my life. Despite the hypomania symptoms, self-reflection allows me to question myself. Do I sound arrogant? Am I going to regret posting this later? Is my brilliance real? Who am I really? Do I even care? Nope because I'm "up" right now so let's carry on being awesome, other people's opinions are irrelevant. It's a struggle, the voice of hypomania is pretty loud and I rather prefer the sound of it.

Cyclothymic disorder manifests itself in me as a rapid cycle of moods. The switches from a depressed state to a hypomanic state are very frequent, which leaves me feeling like I never know for sure from one moment to the next whether I am judging my feelings or behaviour correctly. This creates a lot of self-doubts and ultimately ruins my self-esteem (unless I am feeling particularly high, in which case I may have too much of it... see what I mean?)

A Snapshot Of My Cyclothymic Mood Cycle 

To put things into perspective for anyone who is reading and doesn't know about these mood swings, or for those of you who know all about them and would like a little validation for what you may also go through... here is a snapshot of my own cyclothymic mood cycle. 

One moment I am experiencing the glorious symptoms of hypomania. Perhaps there is a general sense of euphoria. The world is a bright and wonderful place. I am excited about a new project, ideas are flowing, or I am absorbed in spring cleaning and keeping myself very busy... Basically, everything feels effortless. I feel well, perhaps even a little too well? I am feeling awesome, this is where the grandiosity might kick in. There is a touch of arrogance and a feeling of invincibility. I become fixated on certain things, some might say - obsessed. 

All of my time and energy is now being put into activities that are distracting me from my normal routine and life. I have forgotten about deadlines, I am researching random things with all of the tabs open on my laptop. I am scrolling eBay and buying things I can't afford because I "need" them for my new projects and business ventures. I am staying up until the early hours of the morning completely absorbed in whatever ridiculous things have taken over in my mind. I am not living in the real world anymore, I am on my own planet, and it is all getting a little out of hand.

Suddenly I find that the vibe has changed and things are moving too fast inside of my head. The dark side of hypomania is surfacing. My thoughts are racing, nobody can keep up with me because I'm on fire and they are all incompetent. I become very irritable, reactive, perhaps even explosive? Rage often shows its ugly face and destroys everything in its path. 

And then everything is taken away from me. I crash. Horribly. I am drained of all the surging energy. I have become mentally and physically overwhelmed and my brain slows down until it can't function properly. I can't focus on anything. I am exhausted. The voice in my head has changed too. Now it makes me question everything I was so confident about before. It tells me I will fail and that I am worthless. It shows me how useless I am by weighing me down with self-doubt, self-hatred, and despair. I can't see into the future anymore, there is nothing there for me. What is the point in life? My body is too heavy. I can't move because it is all just too much now. I find myself in bed, just wanting to escape from myself... until it lifts and starts all over again.

The cycle repeats itself, in a different order, with different levels of intensity at different stages of the cycle, so that I honestly can't predict what I am going to think or feel next. There is no pattern I can chart. 

I have no idea what my baseline feels like because I never stay there long enough to recognise it. I'm either very up, very down, or a little bit up and a little bit down. But level... I don't know what that looks like in me. Maybe I get glimpses of it, but I just can't be sure of who I really am.

Mood Management For Cyclothymia & Bipolar Disorder 

Before my diagnosis, I had no idea what was actually happening and why my life, study, jobs, friendships, and relationships never seemed to work out. I always felt like something was wrong and that life shouldn't feel this hard, but I put it down to my own personality flaws. 

Cyclothymic disorder is considered rare because it often remains hidden underneath the radar. Like me, people struggle for years but never seek help because they blame themselves for hardships and turn to unhealthy coping strategies to manage their moods.

I have always used food and alcohol to help lift me up or relax me. I am prone to binge eating and drinking. Relationships become addictions because I end up relying on the increase of endorphins that I get when I see or spend time with a partner, and in the time in between it's almost like I experience withdrawal and crave more of what made me feel better.  It is not uncommon when I am seeing a guy for me to experience my hypomanic symptoms at the weekends when I am with them and then spend most of the week depressed and unable to function properly. If you suffer from a mood disorder or other mental illness you probably have your own coping strategies. You might not even know that you have them! Spending money I can't afford is another one, and calling in sick for work was frequent before I became self-employed.

Accepting my diagnosis and educating myself has been a game-changer though. Understanding my illness and how it works means that I don't have to beat myself up as much as I used to. There is less confusion, and I am able to recognise the people and situations that trigger me and steer clear. I try to create structure and routine in my life, and eat healthily and at regular times. I have cut down on alcohol almost completely which has made a big difference. I have also been able to talk to the few people I have in my life about my mental illness to help them understand and support me a little better. I even bought a workbook that taught me how to track my moods, and now I am so much more aware of myself. Medication is also currently playing an important role in helping to take the edge off my moods so that I have even more control.

All of the above is great, but it doesn't mean that I don't still struggle. Managing my mood is exhausting. I hate having to track and think about my illness all of the time. Sometimes I wish that I had never found out about cyclothymic disorder because ignorance is bliss as they say. But actually, ignorance wasn't bliss. It wasn't bliss at all. And though my knowledge of my condition isn't bliss either, it's important because it gives me a much better chance at improving the quality of my life.

Thank You For Taking The Time To Visit My Blog 

I really appreciate your support and I'd love to hear about your own thoughts and experiences with your "hypomanic voice" and your "depression voice". Leave a comment and share some of the things the voices in your head tell you. Or share how you have had success in managing your mood, at least some of the time.

I am trying to branch out to social media in order to get the word out about my blog, so if you are on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram I have included my links below. You can leave your own links in the comments below too and I will check them out!

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