The image above is an example of my mood chart. Click the thumbnail below for full size version.
Mood charting is important for us bipolars for a few reasons. First and foremost, it allows us to identify patterns to our moods — we can look into the past and make comparisons, and once we gathered data for a few years, we may be able to predict mood swings before they happen. (For instance, I always get unwell in the early spring.) Second, it provides us with material we can present to our psychiatrist or therapist, which is especially useful when we change doctors. And perhaps most importantly it gives us hard proof that no matter how we feel right now, this too shall pass.
I have designed my own mood chart because I couldn’t find anything that would satisfy my needs. PDF version here. As you can see, it’s divided into sections:
- Mood: pretty self explanatory. I use a scale of -3..+3 where 0 is the desired stable state; -1 means mild depression, something that slows me down but I remain functional; -2 is “proper” depression, which essentially means my activities get reduced to sitting on the sofa with a laptop or book; -3 is the absolute bottom, where I can’t function at all and a trip to the bathroom takes hours of gathering strength. Similarly on the plus side: +1 is mild hypomania, the perfect storm where I think faster, get more stuff done, everything looks pretty and every other guy is a potential sex partner. +2 is when it starts getting less pleasant; paranoia and hallucinations enter, so do racing thoughts, and sleep becomes a problem. +3 is way too much of everything; here’s where I become danger to myself and others. If -3 or +3 are marked for a few days in a row, I probably require hospitalisation.
On many days I put more than one mark on the mood column (the gift of ultra-ultra-rapid cycling). Some days I will wake up slightly depressed, then slowly cycle into mild hypomania; marks are made at -1, 0 and 1, sometimes with an arrow up showing the direction of the cycle.
- Other factors: Hours sleep — self-explanatory. Drive is the amount of energy I have; on the scale of 0 to 3 the ideal number is 2. 0 means that I am unable to do anything. 1 — I do things, but slowly and my activities are reduced. 3 is the manic drive to do EVERYTHING, preferably at once, and often failing to complete any of those things. Anxiety and Irritability are also self-explanatory, and of course the ideal is 0. Sexuality is essentially my libido, and the ideal number is 1. 0 means I have no interest in sex whatsoever; 2 means I have a lot of interest in sex; 3 means I can hardly focus my thoughts on anything that doesn’t involve humping round objects. Suicidal Thoughts — 0 means none whatsoever; 1 means vague “I wish I could die” thoughts; 2 means I’m making plans; 3 means I actually harmed myself. (Luckily I only had to enter 3 once since I started charting my moods.) Weight — on days 14 and 28 — is quite clear too. (Always weigh yourself in the morning, before breakfast, but after you had your morning pee — it’s the clearest indicator of which way things are going.)
- Medication: this is my list for February 2015. The first two just get a tick — my dosage of lithium and seroquel does not change on daily basis. The other two, zopiclone and diazepam get a number — “2” means I used two 7.5 mg pills — or a hyphen, meaning I didn’t use them. Those latter two are my “when necessary” (prn) meds.
- Finally, Notes. Here I write about things that happened during the day that could be triggering. “Fight with friend”, “Renovation started”, “I cried for no reason” all go here. If there is not enough space, the back page of the mood chart is blank, and I write more there.
So this is how I chart my moods. You can find apps for your phone, websites and other versions of the chart — some of the best ones are listed in the Mood Charting chapter of my book. Personally I am happiest with my version of the chart, but it doesn’t really matter which one you choose as long as you pick one and stick with it. You might get an example printout from your doctor. You might want to chart different factors from mine. It’s all good, as long as you do it.