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February 22, 2012


For most of my life? Constant. Mood swings. All. The. Fucking. Time. Like an ECG. The slope of my line is rarely zero. Nothing insane enough to merit institutionalization (I never flew to Morocco on a whim during the highs nor lived in a puddle of snot and tears in bed during the lows)... juuuuuust enough insanity to frustrate the shit out of boyfriends, friend-friends, family, etc., to make me cry on the train in front of everyone, repeatedly, to magically conjure up drama where there was no drama before, like an emotional Stone Soup. It has gotten very slightly better with age. It has gotten quite a bit better with the right medications. Supplementing with obscenely high doses of fish oil REALLY seemed to help, so it is time for me to pound down a couple of those carp-sized capsules right about now.

This is very, very good question. Lemme know when you draw a bead on it, lady, cause I'm interested to know myself…

I notice I'm frenetic when I feel the heavy burden of something being lifted or resolved (often something I didn't realize was crushing me emotionally). Nothing grating or dragging deep grooves through me. I can think again! No paralysis! I feel so light and happy and *normal*. I'm intensely productive.

Unfortunately, when the emotional wellsprings get clogged with that awful churning sludge again, things… begin… to… S-T-O-P. And that is unbearable. Like being stuck on a dirty old bench, waiting for a bus running days/weeks/months late— hopelessly watching everything slip through my fingers, watching the world go on without me. Dunno if that makes any sense?

Jo, I don't get that vibe, exactly. You're quite high-functioning, which doesn't disqualify you, but your personality is intrinsically colorful and you're very connected to the world around you, which is bound to make anyone's affect ebb and flow. Is anything suffering - relationships, work, responsibilities, life in your head? I don't know you, but I kinda get you, and I sense it's quirk rather than clinical presentation of mania/bipolar/dysthymia, etc. Has it gotten worse? When you're flat, how flat? Can you experience joy, get out of bed, and get things done without great difficulty? Enlist Sean and your sisters to provide some perspective. And read 'An Unquiet Mind' by Kay Redfield Jamison.

Maybe not PMS, but I don't know that you can't pin this on your cycle as a whole. You might try plotting out your moods across your whole cycle. Or! Maybe! have Sean plot them for you independently! That would be cool. If it matches up, you can just let yourself off the hook.

Not that you shouldn't let yourself off the hook anyway. It would be really, really weird to not have the doldrums ever - and it would make the rest of us feel even more inadequate. Have you stopped to think how crazy full your life is?

What you need is a Panic Work-Around. Panic is its own energy, you know, just channeled unproductively ... and of that I know much. Pick one thing to put that energy toward and force yourself to ignore the rest. You might want to use the energy to read a trashy magazine or find a good spot to take a nap - it doesn't even matter. Just learn how to kick the rest of it out of your thoughts for a little while. Don't give in to the guilt pile-on.

And it's not odd to cry about paint on your pants.

The usual clinical criterion is when the symptoms are interfering with your daily life, but boy is that hard to define. And especially when you're dealing with the contrast between the hypomania and dysthymia. It makes each seem more high and low than perhaps they would seem if you were only extending in one direction.

I, too, will range from Eeyore to Tigger, and for me it seems that knowing the mood swing will reverse is helpful in itself. I also try to push myself away from focusing on the negative (VERY hard to do, depending on where my brain has taken me that day). When I'm in Eeyore mode, I set small, easily attainable goals to try to help climb up out of the hole without feeling like a failure. When I'm getting Tigger-ish, I also get scattered (not all chicken-coop-building and conquering the world like you--good Lord, I wish I was focused when I had energy). So, when that happens, I again try to set reasonable goals for myself so I can again feel ok about accomplishing things. Or, I allow myself to dream in one direction at a time... :)

Cyclothymia? The mellower version of BPII.

And what about anxiety? Granted, it's the other side of the depressive coin. For the first 39 years of my life, nada. I just wasn't "like that." My mother and all her sisters absolutely had those issues. For them, it would be periodic/chronic, e.g., for 14 years my mother would have a panic attack in the jetway boarding a plane, and now she just...doesn't. No meds, nothing.

In the past couple years, I've had some anxiety, mostly as a physiological phenomenon, less tied to something conscious/emotional. For the first time, I can kind of (only kind of) identify with my husband's fear of heights. And he's an aviator, go figure...and they are categorically typically tightly wound.

"I function just fine" =>This is a good indicator, I think. And I want to second pretty much everything that Maura said.

One thing I might add is that, whether you worry or whether you decide to chalk it up to a personality quirk, the important thing is to figure out how you want to handle the times when you wonder if you're in a hypomanic episode. Meaning: how to you handle the surge of energy, creativity, and project ideas. If you are worried about things getting out of hand, learn to focus. It's a skill you can develop if you work at it. I've gotten a lot better at it over the past year. I could write up some tips/suggestions if you want.

See, you guys are GREAT. Thank you for the perspective, and yes, absolutely I would like tips, Jen!

Running has taught me focus and persistence when I'm not feeling it, and it's fun to apply it across disciplines. But how do I tamp down the panic? Other than taking my laptop into the one clean room in the house...which happens to be the bathroom. :) Yes, I am typing this from the bathroom.

I've been worrying similar things....I don't ever really get manic anymore (which is sad in and of itself). My mood swings are more (to borrow Jenn Dish's metaphor from above) Eeyore to Piglet, but they're still swings.

You can't tamp the panic. Or Diva cup it, either. Just jump in the stream.

For me, this sort of thing is strongly tied to sugar. I think I should eat a bunch of cruciferous vegetables and kick the junk food (again).

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