Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder: What it is and What You Can Do about it

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She said, “You’re fine and then you’re sad.  Then you’re up and then you’re depressed.  Then you’re fine and then you come back and your anxiety is out of control.  Then you’re fine again and then you’re sad.  You are a rapid cycler.”  When my doctor summed me up in that way I couldn’t help but feel deflated, almost hopeless, and at the very least, more ill than when I walked into her office.

Then I realized I’ve been dealing with this illness my whole life and the ups and downs have been such a part of my daily living that I hardly think twice about them.  To someone like her, observing from the outside with a critical eye, I must seem extremely unstable, but to me, everything feels completely normal, and believe it or not, my life does not have major disruptions due to my mood swings.

This is not to say we aren’t always trying to achieve stability because we are.  Tweaks to medication and coping skills are constantly being made.  It is a dance of fine tuning that takes the skill of a seasoned and caring specialist and the patience of a willing and compliant patient.  She said there are some people she sees with bipolar disorder who go three or four years without needing a medication adjustment.  She adjusts my medication several times a year.

According to WebMD, rapid cycling is described as having four or more episodes of mania, hypomania or depression in one year.  For many people, this is devastating and wreaks havoc on their life.  For me, it’s just another day in the life of me.

You get to the point of acceptance after living with an illness for so long and you learn that it is not going to kill you and it doesn’t have to control you either.  It doesn’t scare me anymore.  I know what I need to do to deal with my symptoms and I know that I won’t have my symptoms forever.  It is the very nature of cycling: the symptoms are constantly changing.  I think the vigilant tweaking of my medications keeps my symptoms from getting too far off-balance, so I am fortunate in that respect, but the cycling is still there.

Do you rapid cycle?  What does that look like for you and how do you cope?

As an aside, I just received news that Write into the Light was selected by Feedspot’s panelists as one of the Top 100 Bipolar Blogs on the web.  What a nice surprise!  I always thought you had to pay to be on those lists, but I was wrong. 🙂  Check out the list at https://blog.feedspot.com/bipolar_disorder_blogs/

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4 thoughts on “Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder: What it is and What You Can Do about it

  1. Yea I sometimes have rapid cycles that happen within longer cycles which are totally confusing to me. I remember people walking on eggshells around me but I never understood how bad it was until I was disgnosed. My normal and everyone else’s normal were very different but I didn’t see it because well, to me my normal was just normal. I thought everyone felt the way I did and I was just horrible at life. Little did I know.

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    • I thought everyone felt like I did too. It’s still hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that most people have consistent moods. I’m like, what does that even feel like? Up and down is so normal with me that I can’t imagine anything else but I do wish for it on the down days.

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      • Yea the down days are tough!!! I mean, if I only had the manic episodes and could hone that power then none of it would be a problem and everything would be kick ass right? Lol. When I was little and I wanted like a new toy, I would obsess about it. I would obsess so much that it ran my little life. I had no idea that nobody else had such deep emotions like me. The nature of the disease is the whole point that we have highs AND lows. I forget that when I’m in depression and obsess with only the lows. 😢 it is not easy. It’s still hard for me to realize my highs and lows are too extreme. Oh well, I am bipolar after all. 😀😀😀

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