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An Introduction to Cyclothymia

What's cyclothymia? It's a mild form of the docs used to call "manic-depression," but which they re-name periodically. Cyclothymics can actually function decently well, and as such often don't know they've got it. If you cycle through highs and lows, are particularly artistic, or that describes someone you love, then read this post in full and please comment with your own experience. I'm still learning, myself.


Knowing the term "Cyclothymia" would have been very helpful to me a few years ago. This essay is plain English and, if I've done a good job, might help people who associate with a cyclothymic relate better to them, and might help a cyclothymic manage themselves better and produce better.

I'm against the "medical-ization" of life. We need medical terms, but we need to be able to explain things in plain English without labeling. Labeling, by definition, drastically simplifies.

Cyclothymia is simple at its roots, simple enough for a plain discussion without medicalization. Here's how it works for me -

The Lateness/Success Parabola

X Axis: Successful, active, energetic, busy

Y Axis: How frequently the person is late

End result: Unsuccessful people are late for meetings, cancel, miss them, etc, frequently because they're disorganized, sloppy, etc. As you get to the middle of the curve and moderate/large success, people don't miss meetings or be late. Being late and disorganized is hugely negative correlated with success.

But here's the interesting question: Why does the frequency of lateness/cancellations go up on the high end of the curve again? I don't personally think that successful people are less conscientious; all of my experience shows the opposite, by and large. It's a popular media narrative, but seems largely unwarranted and untrue.

What is true is that people who are doing important and large-scale things will wind up with events that are orders of magnitude more important than whatever is scheduled, and thus really justifiably need to cancel. I had a good friend who is clockwork-on-time shoot me a message a few minutes before we were set to talk that he had to cancel because he had an important investor want to fund 25% of their target for a Series A round. Yeah, dude, no worries. Kill it.

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