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  • Christine

My Very Tough Year With Bipolar Disorder

An erratic graph of my mood swings throughout a year.
I made a similar graph of my roller coaster moods during 2020.

I have always recorded my hypomanic, manic, and depressed episodes in a dedicated journal since I was diagnosed over two decades ago. It is one of the best pieces of advice I received from my sister, a nurse practitioner. I keep a mood/med journal where I write down exactly what is going on with my mental health. I write the dates showing how long the mood episode occurs and all my medication, side effects, and doses added or changed. I have been on multiple meds in numerous combinations over the years, having taken most of the psychiatric medications that are out there. I would not be able to remember which cocktail I was on five, ten, or twenty years ago if not for this journal.

2020 was a particularly rough year as I was experiencing rapid cycling. This can make it very difficult to keep up with daily living, and relationships with self and others. Rapid cycling is diagnosed when a person experiences four or more episodes of mania, hypomania, or depressive episodes in any twelve-month period. My erratic moods were so intense that I cycled in and out of hypomania and depression at least thirty times throughout the year, sometimes cycling between the two in one day. For the most part, it was weeks of depression followed by days of hypomania and then the cycle repeated. It was so unusual and intense that I decided to graph the moods. It looked like continual peaks and valleys throughout the months. This exercise was good for me as then I learned to be gentle and patient with myself during this hard time. It was also helpful to present this graph to my therapist and psychiatrist.

I have experienced bouts of depression in 2023 and it is more manageable. I have a new therapist who uses a psychodynamic approach and I still have regular sessions with my psychiatrist. I have a lot of hope in my life with bipolar disorder. It has been four years and seven months since my last hospitalization. (But who's counting :) Before that, I went into the hospital up to two times a year. I also have not experienced psychosis which for me presents with paranoia and hallucinations, in over two years.

If you are struggling now I suggest you stay close to your therapist and psychiatrist. Be upfront and always honest with the professionals. Grow and use a support network. Keep it simple, I know for me some days it is a monumental task just to take a shower. Use deep breathing, meditation, and exercise. The only way out is through and this too will eventually pass.

Take good care,


Every life is a piece of art, put together with all the means available.

-- Pierre Janet


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