In the early stages of my diagnosis it was almost impossible for me to tell when I was in the midst of a cycle. I knew life felt too fast, or too slow, and it seemed as though everything was just crashing down around me at once. After learning more about my bipolar diagnosis I realized that there were certain cues that could let me know if I was in the midst of a cycle, or headed towards one. To this day, it is hard for me to identify the cues pre-cycle but I am usually able to use these hints to more quickly identify when I am in a cycle versus something more circumstantial. When things are going downhill and I am able to stop myself, I try to think about the changes that have occurred and the length of time I've been in my current state.
Have my sleeping patterns been off?
Am I extra irritable and/or agitated?
Do I find it’s hard to concentrate on a TV show or newspaper article?
Do I feel as though my thoughts are moving too slowly or my mind is blank? Or, on the contrary, are my thoughts moving too fast and do I feel like people are talking too slowly?
Am I feeling paranoid or having auditory hallucinations?
Am I isolating and feeling disconnected?
These are just a few cues to tip me off that I may be in a hypomanic or a depressed state. Recognizing these things doesn’t necessarily make dealing with them any easier. I have found, though, that it allows me to have grace on myself and encourages me to actively seek help from my support system.