And now, a few words on mood charting.
There are several schools of thought on this. Some people think mood charting is too much of a hassle, while others don’t care to be reminded of their illness on a daily basis. (What these folks think when they take their meds is beyond me.) Then you have your mood-chart junkies like me, who have to try them all out and become obsessive about keeping them up……sometimes to the detriment of other activities, like surfing the ‘Net or sleeping.
I’m actually down to two now. I use a paper one that tracks mood and medications, and then there’s Optimism Online, which has been a godsend as I can track both mood and sleep patterns over time. It also can be customized so you can rate your diet, exercise, stress/anxiety levels, hydration, and how well you play with others on a scale of 1 to 10.
One night a few weeks ago, I did a look-back over the 23-month period since my diagnosis, and the pattern that emerged was so stark I cannot imagine how the hell I ever had the nerve to question that diagnosis. It looks like the EKG tracing of a person with atrial fibrillation (a condition that makes the heart beat irregularly)—up, down, up…..down………up..down……….up………..down… well, you get the picture.
Gee, ya think I’ve got a little bipolar going on here? Dr. Awesomesauce thought so too when I showed him this screenshot…..but then of course, he’s kept track of my moods for awhile himself.
The red lines on top show my moods; the gray ones (which are hard to see) represent how well I coped on a given day; and where you see only a gray line and no red, that merely means I ranked both mood and coping ability at the same level. The dark blue lines show whether I did any physical activity. And at the bottom, the orange lines are for hours of sleep and the bright blue ones denote sleep quality.
What surprised me was how much time I spend in depression. I always thought I lean more toward mania just because I tend to be hypomanic, or what I call ‘pre-hypomanic’, a fair amount of the time; but the truth is, it’s pretty damn equal, both in scope and severity. (But if you happen to look toward the end of the squiggly lines, you’ll see a nice flattening out of the mood line, which blends into the gray “coping” one. That’s where I am now, and have been for the past couple of months. 🙂 )
So, that’s why I’m so anal-retentive about keeping a mood chart. There’s a lot that can be learned from tracking trends and seeing what else is going on at the time an episode of mania or depression begins. In time, I hope to be able to use this tool as a method of getting on top of them BEFORE things go flying out of control….and that I see much, much more of that flat gray line.