Cyclothymia And Self Doubt
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
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".
I will look back at this later when my mood has subsided and probably cringe at how unsupportive I was, but for now, it has prompted this blog post. This is me channeling my mood disorder superpowers for the greater good. You think I'm joking, but it 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 one moment to the next whether I am judging my feelings or behaviour correctly. This creates a lot of self-doubt 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
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.