Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder

Maybe this doesn’t change anything. It’s kind of interesting, I suppose. I mean, after all, it is just a diagnosis, or ‘diag-nonsense’ as Lisa in ‘girl, interrupted’ calls it. Well, it’s a subtype of a diagnosis which I already knew I had.

I have been very compliant in taking my medication for months now. I don’t remember the last time I intentionally missed a dose of my chemical cocktail. For some reason the other day, I pondered why I was taking all of these pills. What would happen if I just stopped? Would anything change? Would I encounter the real me (and what would that be)? I shared these thoughts with my psychiatrist, Dr. A. She asked me if these thoughts came from whether I wanted to see if I can be maintained with just ECT. Actually, that’s really not an issue with me. In fact, I’ve tended to view the two treatments as separate entities, though they really can’t be separated. Dr. A warned me that if I did choose to discontinue medication that I do it gradually, for I would likely face horrific consequences should I abruptly stop all meds.

We then began talking a little bit about the number of pills I took during the day. As the conversation went on, she said something about how for “rapid-cycling bipolars, the average number of medications is five.” Five is a rather large number of meds, I thought,  but what’s this about rapid-cycling bipolar?

Apparently, I have rapid-cycling bipolar disorder.

And what is rapid-cycling bipolar disorder?
A great summary about rapid-cycling bipolar disorder is found on MedScape’s Continuing Medical Education site. (just noticed you might have to go through their free registration system to access this article)

And according to WebMD: Rapid cycling is a pattern of symptoms in bipolar disorder. In rapid cycling, a person with bipolar disorder experiences four or more episodes of mania or depression in one year. About 10% to 20% of people with bipolar disorder have rapid cycling, and people with bipolar II disorder are more likely to experience rapid cycling. Nearly everyone with bipolar II disorder develops it before age 50. Rapid cycling bipolar disorder can be difficult to diagnose. Rapid cycling may seem to make bipolar disorder more obvious, but because most people with rapid cycling bipolar disorder spend far more time depressed than manic or hypomanic, they are often misdiagnosed with “just” depression. For example, in one study of people with bipolar II disorder, the amount of time spent depressed was more than 35 times the amount of time spent hypomanic. Also, people often don’t take note of their own hypomanic symptoms, mistaking them for a period of unusually good mood.

Well, I do fit the bill for this type of bipolar, according to the description from WebMD. I guess it’s good that I know this information, since this only helps me in understanding my illness better.

And as for quitting my meds…. I am looking at two take-home exams in front of me as I type this entry. I think I better stick with the routine at least until I get done with these exams. I’ve made the mistake of my school work (and the rest of life) suffering as a result of noncompliance. This just isn’t the time to make that mistake again. I remind myself: I’m getting another shot at putting my life back together, and I need to take responsibility for what I know I can control –which includes popping a few pills every day.


3 Responses to “Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder”

  1. Isn’t it strange, the way we’ll be doing great on our meds and then suddenly get the impulse to stop taking them? The decision to stick with them or not is a nebulous one, ain’t it?

    I can tell you from personal experience (one you may share) that going off medication because you feel better is a sure-fire way to start feeling bad. The medications we have available to us right now, combined with the healthier lifestyle choices we tend to make when we’re on medication, are all we have available to us to handle bipolar disorder (I am also rapid cycling, by the way). Until a cause, and cure, is found, we have a way to treat the symptoms, and we have a way to get to a point where we understand that the symptoms will be there so long as the bipolar is there which means, pretty much, until a cure is found.

    I’m in the process of developing my own site (http://www.afflictionateher.com), and admire your commitment to this one. You also seem to be a very good writer. I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog.


  2. Waco, Thanks so much for your comment and letting me know about your site.


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