Cyclothymia is a chronic mood disorder characterized by numerous mood swings, alternating between hypomania and mild to moderate depression. This showed up on my psychiatrist visit report about 5 months ago. So does this mean I no longer have Bipolar II? Who knows since my gem of a psychiatrist failed to discuss it with me. It showed up again last month, but I was in such a rush to get back to work that I didn’t mention it to my doctor. I can only assume that because I have not had an episode in over two years that I no longer meet the criteria for Bipolar II.
It is a cause of confusion for me since Bipolar II is a lifelong illness with no cure. Also confusing is that diagnosis of Bipolar II requires that an individual has never experienced a full manic episode. Um, I totally have experienced a couple of these if you recall the time I didn’t sleep for 5 days, thought I was in hell, and ended up in the hospital for 8 days. Also, when I went into psychosis at work and thought the world was ending. I was so out of it that my boss had to drive me to my friend’s house and I later spent one month in outpatient care at the hospital. But what do I know?
I also found out from a piece of paper about my Bipolar II diagnosis. In March of 2013, I had been off meds for about 5 months when I starting having severe anxiety and difficulty sleeping. I was only sleeping a couple hours a night and was having extreme highs and lows. One minute I thought I had the solution to all of my problems and the next I felt like I wanted to die. I was completely freaked out and I tried desperately to get in to see my psych. Problem is she has too many patients so she is always overbooked. I think it took a week before I was able to schedule an appointment. I was barely functioning so I asked for short term disability. She gave me only a week off because she said she was afraid I was going to lose my job. I had not taken sick time in over two years and I’m pretty sure it is illegal to let an employee go because of a health issue, but again what do I know? I was too out of it to argue and I was by myself so I just took my scripts and my visit report and left.
As I was leaving I looked down and saw Bipolar II on the report. It was like someone stabbed a knife in my chest. What?!? I have Bipolar? I immediately got defensive. I don’t have Bipolar! That doctor is a quack! For years I had been trying to find excuses for my mental issues. For instance, I blamed dehydration on my first full manic episode because I was on a diuretic for my skin and my potassium was low when I went to the hospital. I thought I just had some depression and anxiety that were exacerbated by the dehydration. I also thought I was working too hard and not taking enough time for myself. When my head started to slow down, the diagnosis began to sink in. As I looked back at my life I could see the cycles. It made sense. It felt so final. This is it. I am stuck with this for the rest of my life. It made me feel separate, different, and even more alone.
As time has gone on, I’ve gotten more comfortable with the diagnosis. Going to the NAMI support group helped with that. Listening to others share their stories , giving support, and receiving support has helped me realize that I am not alone in this. I encourage anyone who is struggling with a mental health issue to reach out to NAMI. Sharing my story in this blog has also helped. Covering up a mental health diagnosis takes a lot of energy. Owning it and not being afraid to share it with others gives you your power back and helps fight stigma. May is Mental Health Awareness Month so I am going to do my best to get the word out by writing and supporting others. Please reach out to me if you need any support. You are not alone.