I can remember sitting in my therapist’s office and feeling a distinct sense of loss. I had just been given a temporary and non-medical diagnosis of Cyclothymia. For months leading up to this moment I had been dealing with increasingly harder downswings followed by upswings of mania. Most of these episodes would happen over the course of two weeks. They became so linear in pattern that I could quickly tell even in the times of a mania-upswing that it would soon fade in the coming week. Even if I did not know when I did know without a doubt it would happen. And so after a half-hearted suicide attempt, here I was. I felt as I mentioned a distinct feeling of loss, but at the same time, I felt as well a true sense of relief. I had known for some time that all was not well in my mind and emotions. But I had not known why. I believed it was all my fault. So knowing it was a “condition” that others share was relieving because it showed I was not a “crazy person” but simply a human with a medical issue…something that was treatable. However, the sense of despair did not dissipate. Because at that moment I knew that I would ever again be able to claim the mercurial title of “normal.”
So, of course, I began to seek treatment. Anti-mood swing medications were prescribed and had some good success. However being the good Portlander that I am after a few months of this a sought to supplement it with holistic and natural methods. My surrogate grandmother is a longtime and very successful distributor of Essential Oils and a great believer in natural medicine. I received several blends and pure oils from her to aid in the balancing of my hormones and chemical brain levels. Now the effects of these were helpful to me because I had a modicum of control over the treatment and methods of administering it. Whether by diffusing Lavender oil to help cope with anxiety or by topical use of several blends to help me sleep. I was the master of my treatment as far as the oils went. I still use them today and they still provide me with a comforting feeling of independence and control over my own mind and issues.
So I continued to take my meds and do my best to struggle through the effects the symptoms and diagnosis now medical as well as temporary had on my relationships. I have always had good friends and at this time they did not fail me. However, there is a steep learning curve when the one you love is diagnosed with mental health issues. I can distinctly remember even three years after the fact the deep sting and pain of my best friend at the time telling me in a moment of brutal honesty that it was hard at times to be a friend to me because I was so “bipolar,” and this hurt me more than I actually thought it should. And after deep soul searching I realised why. I had been expending energy (massive amounts of energy) to hide the symptoms of my condition from my loved ones, T=to spare them the pain felt or the confusion I experienced when I simply could not follow through on plans for a day out because I could not get out of bed. I realised that I had succeeded in the major signs showing. But I had failed to keep it out of my mannerisms, opinions and conversations. This understanding resulted in several consequences but it had a life-altering effect on how I related to people. I began to hold myself at arm’s length from the majority of relationships and interactions. Distancing myself mentally from conversations allowed me to put even more than the “normal” filters in place. To filter my emotional output as well as my verbal communications. This resulted in myself transitioning from the outspoken and vivacious version of me to a quieter and more thoughtful edition of myself. Only in bursts of deep emotion would I actually regularly speak my mind fully and truly.
The change had become so pronounced that in a period of intense stress and anger about wrongs done to me a friend told me with a certain amount of horrified shock. “You are not Daniel the quiet listener and confidant, you have lost that and that is sad.” Of course, I was upset by this but yet again it led me to a new apotheosis. The idea that my Cyclothymia was beginning to control my actions even though my attempts to stop it doing so enraged me that I yet again threw out the rule book and attempted to change things again. Now I am, surprise surprise, a Scorpio so when I decide to change I do. However, as much as I do not actually hold to the supposed universal truth of the zodiac there is certainly some truth to it. The fact is I was and remain a confidant and advisor to most of my friends and indeed many people that meet me place me in that role to various extents. Like a good Scorpio I keep my secrets close and I am loyal to a fault. Cyclothymia threw that into chaos. For a great deal of time, I was no longer placed in a position to advise my friends. Being the person I am I felt useless to them and everyone else. However, this did not last long. As finally, I created a new persona to compensate. Like the scorpions shedding their skins, I once again changed how I interacted with my loved ones. I took on the place of what I called, “The Broken Sage” I have always had an old soul that has been at odds with the constant flux my Cyclothymia introduced. This newest face began truly to represent not only who I was. A young man struggling to comprehend the sudden mood swings and medication brought about by his struggling and confounded mind. But who I wanted to be. A figure of wisdom who while no stranger to confusion or pain is not controlled by it or the need to escape it. One who can advise the struggling friends around him and use the experiences of pain he had undergone to best help others cope.
So this is where I am now. No longer do I run from who I am or what I struggle with. I treat it. But I also allow it to “teach” me whatever it can. To understand the highs and all the fierce joy and manic energy they bring. And also to struggle through the lows and learn the value of sitting quietly with a friend in silence. Today I have found a certain balance and my faith is integral to this. Providing a stability that lasts even through the darkest times. I have learned now I am not Cyclothymia. But most importantly I have learned, I have Cyclothymia but it does not have me. It is perhaps the strangest teacher I have ever had. But no more than that.
Daniel graduated from Life Christian School in Aloha, Oregon in 2015. He has had the opportunity to travel to quite a few countries such as England, Haiti, Mexico, Canada, Jamaica, and Australia where his mother’s family hails from. Daniel is in the process of pursuing a career in full-time pastoral ministry. He has spent a lot of time involved in youth ministry from being high school chaplain, spending six months establishing a youth ministry in Queensland Australia, to currently working as a part of the youth ministry leadership team at Living Hope Church. Daniel is committed to destroying the at times harmful stigmas about mental health that appear in modern churches today. He is an avid reader and loves exploring the wilderness of Oregon, cooking, writing poetry, and re-discovering all the uses for essential oils he can.