What is Cyclothymia? A Difficult Diagnosis

Essays on Mental Illness. Cyclothymia. I’d never heard of that condition until  I read the testimony from today’s guest blogger. Judith Vander Wege tells her story of living with cyclothymia, a mental illness that is not widely known. I appreciate her openness in sharing, and her example of faith and perseverance. The purpose of my Essays on Mental Illness blog series is to bring awareness to the reality of living with mental illness, and to demonstrate there is hope in recovery.  Caroline  Cooper 


by Judith Vander Wege

Cyclothymia—or cyclothymic disorder—is a rare mood disorder, similar to bipolar but not as extreme. In cyclothymia, moods swing between  periods of depression and hypomania, an elevated mood. Cyclothymia can straddle the line between mental illness and normal variations in mood and personality. Some people with mild symptoms are highly successful in life, driven by their hypomania to express individual talents. On the other hand, chronic depression and irritability can ruin personal and professional relationships.

Although the highs and lows of cyclothymia are less extreme than those of bipolar disorder, it’s critical to seek help managing these symptoms because they can interfere with your ability to function and increase your risk of bipolar I or II disorder. (MayoClinic.org)

I think I’ve had cyclothymia all my life, but I didn’t receive diagnosis and treatment until after age 65. Perhaps I could have avoided a lot of heartache in my relationships if I’d had treatment earlier. After a divorce in 1981, my life was a mess for several years. I used to think the depression I felt resulted from the emotionally painful situations in my life, and from chronic health issues. Later, when my health and circumstances improved and there seemed no outward reason for the depression, I sought medical help to explain it.

For a couple of years, I’d had a therapist who helped by letting me talk out my feelings. We didn’t know I had cyclothymia, but it helped to know she cared and would pray for me. She helped me figure out how to act in some challenging relationships.

In 1994, I’d found out I had mercury toxicity. The doctor, an expert in chronic diseases, prescribed many supplements to help get the mercury out of my system. At his recommendation, my dental fillings were replaced with composite fillings in 1995. (Dentists usually use amalgam fillings, which are made up of mercury, silver, and other metals. The composite fillings, which are white, don’t have any mercury.) He also prescribed a small dose of Lithium, saying my hair analysis showed a Lithium deficiency. My health gradually improved under his care over the next eleven years. Meanwhile, I had another heartache in 2003 when my husband died of cancer.

In 2006,  I remarried and moved to Iowa. It was a good situation and my physical health improved while the mercury (which has a 15-year half-life) was eliminated. Therefore, I wondered in the following years why I still felt depressed. My Lithium prescription had run out, so I went without, then noticed my symptoms got worse. Finally my doctor sent me to a psychiatrist to get an accurate diagnosis. The psychiatrist said I had cyclothymia and prescribed a larger dose of Lithium. Finally I began to feel “normal.” Now that I have the proper dose of medication, I feel that I am an emotionally healthier, more out-going, and less paranoid person.

Get medical help, psychiatric help, spiritual help, whenever you suspect something is wrong. We aren’t expected to muddle through life without help.

As a Christian, my faith has made an incredible difference in my recovery. God, in his wisdom and mercy, worked through my depression, heartaches and mistakes to teach me how to draw closer to Him, to depend on Him. He gave me the ability to write poems and songs which brought me joy. He taught me through His Word and prayer to trust him wholeheartedly, then led me to solutions and continues to guide and uphold me.

—Judith Vander Wege

Healing Elements

by Judith Vader Wege, (c) 1998

A soft, gentle breeze caresses my skin,

Uplifting my spirits, it soothes me within.

I gaze at the sunset, with awe contemplate

the marvelous beauty my God did create.

Music is healing, music gives wings

To soar above problems this troubled earth brings.

Lord, You sent the music, You give the sunsets,

You are the breeze to my soul

  • Find Judy on Social Media
  • Judy recommends the following books. They can be found on Amazon.
    • Healing Damaged Emotions by David Seamands
    • Something More by Catherine Marshall

This blog is one in a series of testimonies about mental illness: challenges, treatment, and recovery.. The blog posts are written by courageous individuals who desire to share their stories of living with a variety of mental disorders. (Some details may be changed for confidentiality.)  Caroline

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