Bypassing the Mood-Swing Middle Ground

This has been a particularly weird week for me, and I don’t know exactly what is to blame at this point. It could be the weather (overcast half the day, sunny the rest), it could be the time of year (things get rather busy in the summer, after all), it could even be the quetiapine (though that is something I intend to explore a little more next week).

In any case, I’ve been experiencing a distinct reduction in the amount of middle-ground I normally experience with my bipolar mood fluctuations. Let me explain.

Normally, for me, I can cycle extremely rapidly (more than one mood swing in a day, sometimes more than one kind of mood swing in a day) in addition to having the more typical drawn-out episodes that last days, weeks, or months. Usually in these situations, there is some kind of transition period… some kind of middle ground my mood passes on the way to the next mood.

For example, moving from:

Depression -> brief period of stability -> hypomania.

or

Depression -> brief period of stability -> depression.

Usually there is enough time (even if it is a matter of thirty minutes) for my mind to teeter through a point of stability, allowing me to poke my head out of whatever mood swing I’m having, look around, prepare myself for whatever is about to come next, and duck back down.

This is generally how I operate on a daily basis, and this small snippet of feeling “okay” is part of what allows me to mentally prepare myself to shift gears, or gain a moment of respite before ducking back into an ugly place. Something like coming up for a breath of air before diving back down to… wherever.

However… there are people out there who have mood swings that operate differently. This week I was one of those people.

I have been jumping back and forth directly from one extreme mood state to the next, which looks a little more like this:

Suicidal depression -> euphoric hypomania bordering on true mania -> suicidal depression

The gradual transition I am used to has been replaced by a sporadic jumping straight from extreme state to extreme state. These jumps are, admittedly, rather jarring, though I’m much less likely to put up a fuss going from feeling suicidal one moment to totally high and euphoric the next (as opposed to the other way around). As I said, I don’t know exactly what is causing this change, but I am going to keep my eye on it for another week (unless things get ugly) before talking to my psychiatrist.

Unfortunately, this sort of thing is fairly typical for me when trying new medications (which is a little funny, because they tend to have the opposite effect for me than they do with everyone else) but I am trying not to jump to any conclusions. Again, more time and attention is needed before I make any moves, and who knows? This could be a summer-time fluke that will straighten itself out again before too long.

In any case, I am finding the severe depression much more tolerable when paired with euphoric hypomania. The trouble there is that, as someone with zero income, I can’t really afford to spend too many more days like yesterday, frolicking in the sun buying two dresses, a new purse, a pair of shoes, and four dvds. Normally I don’t have a huge problem with the “spending money” aspect of hypomania, (and what I bought may not seem like much to someone who has had more than $7 in their bank account for the last 6 months) but yesterday’s hypomania was a bit of a doozy.

So happy Friday folks! We’ve made it through another week! Today I’m feeling a little curious; do you (bipolar diagnosees) typically experience a more gradual change in mood, a rapid switch from one mood to the next, or a combination of the two? If you feel like exploring this topic in the comments, I’d be interested to know. As a side note, lets skip any comments about the medication I’m trying because (as I mentioned) I’m planning on coming back to this more in-depth next week. Thanks!

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10 responses to “Bypassing the Mood-Swing Middle Ground

  1. My week has echoed yours – coming out of several weeks of depression and suicidal planning, I’m not complaining about thehypomania at all, but the lack of any mud ground has been disorientating. I’ve just come off Sertraline and upped my Quetiapine so could be that, or the sporadic summer weather, or just one of those rapid cycling periods. Stiill, I’m hoping things settle Dow soon because it’s hard to keep a lid on things at work when my moods flipping out all over. Great post!

  2. I can’t help but wonder if why I am cycling more quickly and intensely the last couple months isn’t related to the days getting longer. Every season change I tend to “lose it” – but for the most part I can have long stints months – one time, two years, of pretty even keel (that was due to the lithium no doubt) but I can’t take any medication at this point except for anxiety (won’t even go down that road of explaining) …

    How I try to cope: I plan. I plan what I’m going to eat, do, when I’m going to shower or take a bath, and when I plan on doing fun activities. Structure really helps ease the swings. Unfortunately, life isn’t always predictable and throws us curve balls and I don’t do so well in these environments that are stressful, overwhelming, or things that trigger past traumas.

    I hope you are able to find something that anchors you as you sway in the winds of the bipolar storms. Find what you are most rooted to (music, hobby, sport, volunteering, gardening … whatever) and latch on – dig deep.

    You got this!

    • Thanks for your comment! I don’t have much trouble these days with the daily stuff, mostly those unforeseen (or even planned) situations outside where there are a lot of external variables I can’t control. I used to try to plan and control everything, but now I am trying to focus more on rolling with the punches. Difficult, but rewarding when I can react to a situation well!

      Thanks!

  3. I nominated you for a “Very Inspiring Blogger Award” 😀 – please check out the details here: http://abipolarsreality.com/2014/06/06/very-inspiring-award

  4. I don’t rapid cycle. I do find that the mood swings sneak up on me with the hypo mania / mania phase, but then I slide quickly into depression.

  5. Really informing post. I think I have experienced a mixed episode this week. I am still holding out hope that when I feel good it can actually be a “normal” mood and not hypo mania, but I did just come out of a long depressive cycle so I won’t get to excited about being normal. I gotta say I hate this illness.

    • Being able to distinguish between a stable mood and hypomania has been difficult for me. One of the things that was really helped is working with my therapist to alert me when I am talking very quickly or loudly because I can’t always tell that I’m doing it! Having that “human mirror” has helped me distinguish between the two a little better when I’m not having many internal symptoms of hypomania (racing thoughts, flight of ideas, etc.).

      Thanks!

  6. Rapid cycling is horrible. I have experienced rapid cycling, though not as severely as you have. I do hope that you can experience some middle ground.

    I have nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award on my post http://kittomalley.com/2014/06/06/very-inspiring-blogger-award/. Your blog writing always impresses me. First of all, you write extremely well. Secondly, the information you share is extremely accurate.

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