Cyclothymia is a serious mood and mental disorder that causes both hypomanic and depressive episodes. It is defined medically within the bipolar spectrum. To be specific, this disorder is a milder form of bipolar II disorder, consisting of recurrent disturbances between sudden hypomania and dysthymic episodes.
I have struggled with my mental health since 1996 and a prolonged episode of post-natal depression. Most of the time, I trundle along just under par; neither manic or overly depressed. It's very easy to slip off that fine line, though.
My first major dysthymic episode came a couple of years ago in the form of a fully-fledged panic attacked. Before then (and thankfully since) my downs had simply resulted in lethargy and the odd crying fit.
The difference between Cyclothymia and Bipolar is the longer swings. I will dip down when I'm on my cycle, but I recognise it as that and usually throw it off quite easily. My manic periods last longer and tend to result in a lot of fiction. If you know my LJ, you'll have seen the last one happen - four fanfics in three days, with me up as early as 3am because I simply couldn't sleep (insomnia is a side-effect of both manic and depressive blips, unfortunately).
By September this year, I'll be "celebrating" fifteen years of being Cyclothymic. I'll be 38, which makes it a little under half of my life to date. I'm not extra-ordinary: I'm a wife and mother. I write as an escape and because I love doing so. I'm a fangirl and a geek. I love and laugh, I get angry. Hurt. Upset. I bleed when I stub my toe (more frequently than I'd like).
People with poor mental health are normal. We're not freaks and it's not contagious. Please don't back away or cross the street. Please treat us as you would like to be treated - after all, one in six people will suffer from poor mental health at some point in their lives.