Thursday, July 8, 2010

Calling All Mood Charts

A few months ago, I posted this video description of my mood chart, calling it "Bipolar II with a touch of PTSD."

I also asked readers' experiences with mood charts, and promised a report.  Such as it is, here it is.

First, a mood chart is a basic tool in recovery, a way to record visually how your moods vary from day to day, or within a day for you lucky ultradian cyclers.  There are a variety of charts out there that vary by the features recorded. The chart can be paper or digital.  And yes, there's an app for that.

The chart I use keeps it simple. I record my mood each day, high or low, scale of 1-3, plus sleep, drug and alcohol consumption and meds taken or not.   I add two extra features, anxiety and irritation, again on the 1-3 scale.  These are basics.  When my meds change, I scribble little notes about side effects.  One page covers the whole month.

You can get fancier.  I registered to use the DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) "Wellness Tracker."  They have all kinds of moods to track, and side effects, too.  I was well into the third screen, saw the fourth coming, with no indication of an end in sight, when I realized I would never follow through on a daily basis, and quit.

So the first barrier to using mood charts is complexity.  Success will be supported by keeping it simple.

Readers identified follow through as another difficulty.   My bipolar readers said their lives are not regular enough to do the daily entry.  A reader with simple depression credits her brother for her success.  He set up a computer-based chart that pops up on her screen at a certain time every night.  You can buy the program here.  Of course, that still doesn't work for people who aren't on the computer the same time every night.

The second barrier is life style.  Success is supported by finding the right niche in your daily schedule that is regular, and associating the chart with that.  You could put your chart on the bag of dog food, on top of your meds, your bathroom mirror, your pillow, whatever -- some place you see at more or less the same time daily.  I think night time is best, the better to remember what happened that day inside my fevered little brain.  But whatever works.  I managed my seven month stretch of nearly daily recording (okay, May was a lost month) by sticking the chart in my bedtime reading.

A third issue has become apparent to me over time.  Is it relevant?  Does it record the information you need?

Well, what do you need?  Another way of putting it -- why bother?

Why bother -- What a great place to break until next week!

 This photo was taken by WillMcC and is licensed under

2 comments:

  1. The BP support group I began attending suggested using a mood chart, and I had not heard of that. I think the problem I would have with it is that I have Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder and find the "perfect" explanation of my mood frustrates me.

    I'm still debating whether or not to try it!

    Kaley

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  2. Hey, Kaley -- I'm hoping that this post gives a perspective on the problems we have with mood charts. They are harder to use than the recommendations would lead you to believe. There are a variety of barriers that have nothing to do with the usefulness. There are also strategies that get you around the barriers.

    Maybe I am writing these posts backward -- "Why bother?" ought to have come first, following the recommendations of the link I just posted on facebook. http://www.addictioninfo.org/articles/11/1/Stages-of-Change-Model/Page1.html. Oh well.

    I recognize the OCD issue as a barrier. I have my own dissatisfaction with -- "But it's missing something!" I am experimenting with a chart of my own design -- one that tracks what I think is the most important right now.

    I wonder if the strategy of "Keep it simple" would work here, tracking only a couple of the most important things, especially those that might have a relationship, like exercise and panic. I don't know a lot about OCD. You are the expert here. You know what might be useful to you. Maybe there are strategies you already use for the perfection issue that could show you around the barrier.

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