As I said in response to someone's comment, the moods charts I kept for six years were so detailed that I truly learned about my illness with the hope that this information would help me and my doctors "cure" me. Unfortunately, they never treated my hard work with the respect it deserved. But, after six years, this is what I learned:
1. I knew what medications I had taken in what amounts and what dosages. When I changed doctors (I saw five psychiatrists over a ten-year period), I could provide them with a list of what medications I had taken. So, when someone said, "Do you want to try Depakote again?" I could say, "I tried it for a year in 1995 and I had such-and-such side effects and it had no effect on my hypomanias, and I tried it again in 2000 and it had such-and-such side effects and still didn't work.
2. I could look back on the years and try to see if there were patterns in terms of the months when I felt hypomanic and the months when I felt depressed. While I knew that for 25-years, I had experienced my depressive episodes in April and October, after I began taking medication, the depression extended for a full year. But later, there were good and bad months--and for years, I was depressed from Thanksgiving through New Years.
My questions were: Did the depressions have a seasonal element or were they partially caused by family dynamics around holidays? What were the other triggers? (Unfortunately, no one ever bothered to help me answer these questions, but I finally answered them myself.)
3. For years, I kept track of my sleeping patterns. In my case, this wasn't a component part of my illness because I made sure that I got eight to nine hours of sleep a night. However, later I figured out that the Ativan (at one time I was on 7 mg. per night) was causing a residual depression in the morning. Why didn't my doctor figure that out? Now that's a good question.
4. I also kept track of what I was eating. For the most part, my diet has always been good. However, because I was depressed for many years, I did develop some bad habits, and found comfort foods that weren't that healthy. But, all things considered, I ate well.
5. I could look back on exercise patterns to see if exercise made a difference. It didn't, but I wonder how much of that was psychological. The psychiatrist I saw for four years was so sure that exercise wouldn't make a difference that I wonder if his negative outlook on this subject had a deleterious effect.
(to be continued)