When it appears in women, bipolar illness commonly takes a different form than it takes…
Rapid Cycling and Bipolar Disorder II
“I’m so drained from going through this. It’s really beyond exhausting,” says Mary (not her real name) about living with a specific type of bipolar II disorder called rapid cycling. Rapid cycling isn’t a disorder itself, but a course specifier that refers to how many mood episodes a person experiences in a year. To be diagnosed as having rapid cycling bipolar II disorder, Mary must have at least 4 discrete episodes of manic, hypomanic, or depressive episodes in a year.
“Sometimes I have episodes that last 4 days, and then I barely get a day or two in between before I’m in another episode. Mostly I get hypomanic, not like full blown manic episodes, but the hypomanic ones are bad enough. When I don’t sleep I get really irritable. I can be sharp and I say things that hurt people. I get a nasty temper, and I also do really stupid, out-of-control things, like spending money on stuff I don’t need.” Mary took a deep breath before continuing, “I hate myself when I’m like that. I hate everything.”
“I’ve been written off as ‘moody’ my whole life. I think I showed some of these bipolar II symptoms when I was a kid, but no one took my moods seriously back then.” Mary’s eyes well up. “Maybe if I’d gotten help sooner, I wouldn’t have had to go through so much.”
Getting diagnosed and receiving treatment as early as possible is strongly advised by treatment professionals. Bipolar II can be managed with medications, therapy and lifestyle adjustments. Managing symptoms and making use of support networks is a learned skill, and getting started on that learning as early as possible helps to make dealing with the disease as natural as brushing your teeth – it becomes part of your routine.
“If I could tell people who have just gotten diagnosed with bipolar II and are rapid cyclers one thing it would be this: don’t resent taking your medication. And if your meds make you feel better, don’t assume you’re cured.” Mary shakes her head. “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.”