Pink & Blue Mummyland

Pink and blue parenting through pink and blue moods….

Jitterbug

on September 10, 2013

I am, today, what we refer to in our house as ‘jazzy’. This means that I talk fast and move fast and have a constant feel of the jitters, but not high as in manic. That said, my laundry is all done and dry and piled, the whole second floor has been vacuumed, and my kitchen hasn’t looked this clean since Beauty ICE came in and blitzed it to her own, slightly obsessive compulsive standard.

Unfortunately, the physical energy doesn’t last, and I’m beginning to slump, but the brain is still going strong, and thoughts are zinging around quicker than hummingbirds disappear when you’re trying to take a photo. So this is when I write, and hope that there are at least a couple of nuggets of wisdom (or good writing) in amongst the flow of thoughts that just keep coming.

I’ve been working really hard to understand what my affect (posh doctor word for mood) is. I’m not even at a stage of figuring out why – the what would be enough for me. I fairly frequently seem to be thrown something that could be described as a mixed state, but less stable – I have some symptoms of hypomania and some symptoms of depression, which fits the definition of a mixed state, but it’s not consistent, and certainly doesn’t always last the four days dictated by DSM.

So, following my bipolar support group meeting last night, I have spent doing some research, and discovered the concept of ‘rapid cycling’. This describes to a tee what it is I have been trying to deal with. Why has no doctor ever mentioned this?! I have been beating myself up over it, berating myself for being melodramatic over everyday mood swings, and yet it turns out that it has a name and that other people struggle as much as I do! Funny how not feeling alone in suffering can suddenly make things so much easier. (Note to self – write insightful post about how Jesus experiencing our suffering and having suffered himself is what makes our relationship with so close and comforting).

I’ve also discovered an explanation of mixed and rapid mood cycles that differs from everything else that I’ve read. I found it on a website called psycheducation.org. I’d not discovered it before, and had what I think of as a healthy scepticism, but was comforted by fact no-one was asking for money, it wasn’t sponsored by any kind of insurance company, and that the doctor who wrote it told me to be sceptical and check both his professional standing, and all his sources. The page that most fascinated me is this one. It suggests that affect can be charted and monitored not on a single axis, but in three different areas – mood, energy and intellect (the ability to form and connect ideas). Classic mania would involve these three all being top of the graph, and classic depression seeing all three at the bottom. But each of these three aspects can increase and decrease independently, causing mixed states and rapid cycling.

So, to use myself as an example: last night, intellect and energy were fairly high, but mood wasn’t quite so high. So, at my bipolar support group, I talked fast and couldn’t really sit still, but mood wise I wasn’t completely out there. I talked about sensible things, and concerns I had, just a bit faster than normal (although I’m sure it was that everyone else was really, really slow…!). This morning, mood was lower, but I was still agitated and talking and thinking at speed. Since early afternoon, the energy has followed the mood – I’m now exhausted, but still having to chase thoughts through my head to catch them. To see how this might look on a pictorial graph, go here again.

This has opened up to me a whole new way of thinking about my mood and how I might manage it. I’m not sure how – or whether – it can be treated, but I do know that knowledge is a great weapon in the battle with bipolar. I’m now trying not to feel substandard, or like I’m making a big fuss about nothing, just because my moods don’t fit the textbook descriptions.

So, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, what do you think? Those of you who have been on the bipolar train longer than I have, does this make sense? And – most importantly – what helps? Any little nugget of advice would be most appreciated….

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3 responses to “Jitterbug

  1. I was told early on (around 1995) that I was a rapid-cycler. The major challenge of this is finding a psychiatrist gifted at managing meds to keep my mood, energy, and intellect from drastic fluctuations. I’ve been inconsistent with daily disciplines (sleep, exercise, diet) that could help. I will say creative writing has provided a tremendous boost for my intellect.

    One of my favorite jokes is about the rapid cycler who goes on vacation and sends home the postcard, “Having a great time. Wish I were dead.” 🙂

    • Abbie Robson says:

      I love our national health service here in the UK, but ne of the down sides is that you don’t get any choice in which doctor you see. My psychiatrist is really a specialist in addiction, but because I Ive in the town I live in, he is my doctor by default. I’ve paid to see a specialist once, but our private insurance we get through Cable Guys work doesn’t cover chronic mental health problems…..

    • Abbie Robson says:

      On a light note, I saw someone in a supermarket the order day sporting a tattoo that said “I hate having bipolar, it’s awesome!”

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