My very abridged story and, does anyone have any experience with Cyclothymia?

I have always thought I might have ADD, a sleep disorder, and some kind of generalized mood problem. Most of the time I just thought it was being my father’s son. After seeing Greg B. speak I couldn’t believe that I found his story so familiar. I spoke to him after the talk for a few minutes and I remember saying that I always have the manic side of things but I only recall being depressed for situational reasons, failure or loss. After thinking about this for awhile I realized that I do demonstrate depression quite often but it normally exhibits itself as me doing nothing but watching 5 seasons of Doctor Who or Star Trek etc… for a week. I don’t feel sad, I’m not morbid or agoraphobic I just have no motivation. I experience complete lethargy with anxiety that I always attributed to not getting work done and quick mood swings that I attributed to anxiety. I always justified these periods by saying I was burned out from pulling too many late nights on the computer and getting a ton of work done.

I am realizing now that as long as I can remember I have been exhibiting very classic cyclic behavior. As far back as high school. Almost two decades ago I went to a high school for gifted kids that regularly ranks in the top 20 in the nation but I tended to miss between 30 and 50 days of school every year. When I stayed home I wasn’t out getting in to trouble or hanging out with friends, I was in bed or watching television, doing nothing productive whatsoever. I was just lethargic. When I went to college the first time around I would have really great stretches of success followed by long stretches of incomprehensible failure. I though I was lazy or just disinterested in college so I joined the Marine Corps Reserves to try something different.

I dropped out of school and got a job as a computer technician. At this point I fell in to a really deep depression but I blamed it on losing a relationship I was in and being in limbo with my life. But I realize now that my mood and attention to my commitments is what killed that relationship. Eventually I was making enough money from my small reserves commitment to be able to start my own business and, no surprise I was miserable in the line of work I was in. I blamed the companies or the pay or the clients.

Since then things have gotten much better. At least on paper I look much more productive. I figured school out and I eventually ended up with a couple of degrees. I started a couple of businesses. My cyclic behavior continued but I was self employed and could control much of my schedule. I’d get a ton of work done for school or work, then burn out and do nothing for weeks but I had learned to plan my work and school effort around this.

At this point in my life I would never have considered having bipolar or related disorder. I was successful and doing the things that normal people do. Things did not get bad again until I decided to take a normal job. It was an excellent opportunity with a very well known tech company. After about a year there I was miserable for no good reason. The job was full remote but had a very rigid schedule where I had to be engaged with other employees or our systems on a set scheduled. I had no real excuse to be unhappy so I blamed the work or the company. Now I believe the problem is that it was the first time in a decade that I had to mold my mood to some one else’ schedule.

After just over a year I left for another more stable company where I would be a very senior team member. This next position started out as partial remote but ended up eventually with me in the office full time. This is when things started to get bad for me. My bad sleep schedule makes it impossible to ever be to the office early but the rest of the team is early risers. I have terrible mood swings and tend to not get along so well with some non developers on the team. I have said some and done things I regret deeply. I have days when I frustrate very fast but also days where I’m an excellent mentor. I have had months where I get next to nothing done and months where I work non stop for 80 hours weeks pulling off what feel like miracles. As it turns out my productivity periods come out so well that I now manage the team and with this change things got even worse. I didn’t have the opportunity to burn out anymore, my productivity was needed every single day. I had to watch my mood. I couldn’t get away with being an anti social programmer type. When I drop the ball it is noticed, I have to keep up on my email which is something I’ve never done well. People expect the best version of me every minute of every day and there just isn’t any way for me to be that person that consistently.

I don’t want to make this any longer but there are literally hundreds of things I would love to get in to this introduction. So to make a long story short, after seeing Greg speak I started looking in to bipolar disorder. Several online surveys have put me either low on the bipolar spectrum or having something called cyclothymia and the best I can think of it is that cyclothymia is to bipolar as Aspergers is to Autism.

A cyclothymia diagnosis fits so well with the way things have ebbed and flowed in my life and I’m wondering if anyone else here can relate to either my story of if they’ve been talked to about or discussed cyclothymia before?



Did you ever figure out if you were correct on your diagnosis?


I can relate in some ways to your story and not in other ways, simply because I’m not very far in my career. I have bipolar 1 and I’ve definitely had those lethargic periods, but I was not productive during my manic periods. I would highly recommend seeing a therapist or psychiatrist to get a proper diagnosis. Keep in mind that there are many flavors of therapy and you have to search around until you find one that fits you. However, the benefit is that with help you can eventually get to a more stable place and you won’t have these unrealistic expectations placed on you.

I think learning how to manage expectations would really help you. It’s not possible for someone to constantly be working at their top speed 80 hours/week and to always be “on”. Have you tried communicating with your team members that you need time and rest? Even if they have seen you pull an 80 hour work week, that does not mean that they are entitled to have you pull one every week for the whole year. If that is just part of your job, I would recommend finding a job with a more flexible schedule since that seems to have worked well for you before, or perhaps going back to self-employment. Your health is worth more than a job.

Yes- me. I relate. And I’m about 2/3 of the way into where you were at when you wrote this and I’d really like to know how it ended for you.