This is the final post in a series about mood charts. For six years I kept detailed records of my mood in my Day-Timers organizer. The following are my four final thoughts about their value.
7. In my Day-Timer, there is also a monthly calendar. I religiously recorded all my activities each day. When I review the six-years of mood charts, and skim my activity level, it's very clear to me when I was healthy and busy and when I was so sick that I couldn't do a thing. It's yet another way of determining my good months and my bad months--my good years and my bad ones.
When people say to me, "Susan, you shouldn't be so negative about medication," I have to laugh. I'm not negative about it for anyone else but myself. But my mood charts are such a clear validation of how terrible medication was for me--that I defy anyone to look at them and disagree.
8. My mood charts were the first stage of learning the value of writing to heal. While I believe my blog has taken the process one step further--and in effect it combines expressive writing with a virtual support group--my first foray into this was my mood charts. The journal page was the first time I "opened up" on paper. I wrote about how sick I was. I wrote about my anger and rage caused by the lack of competent care. I wrote about how devastating this illness was on a financial and personal level. I poured out my heart on paper, so that I didn't explode from having kept it bottled up.
9. My mood charts allowed me to become an expert on my illness. After a few years of keeping such detailed notes, I knew how far I had come in terms of understanding the vagaries of this illness. During this period, I began reading bipolar blogs and visiting bipolar websites, and I finally understand how much I knew, and how little most other people knew.
I began seeing that my orientation towards illness was different than other people's. I began understanding that my positive attitude and my perseverance were unusual qualities for someone who was experiencing such pain and suffering. I began feeling that I was truly utilizing my research and writing skills to save myself.
10. My mood charts have ultimately enabled me to heal myself. I finally realized that the reason I wasn't getting well was because the medication was making me sicker and sicker. As I reviewed my copious notes on my visits to my doctors, that became ever more clear. It was my final review of my mood charts that helped me to decide that I should go off most of the medication that had been prescribed for me.
All these years later, what's interesting to me is what I didn't initially see in the charts. I didn't see that before my diagnosis, I went from feeling depressed 85 days a year to feeling depressed 365 days a year. I went from only being ill during two-six-week periods to being ill every single day.
I went from being able to write books and grant proposals for non-profit organizations to being unable to work because of erratic medication-induced behavior and cognitive memory loss. I went from having a wide arena of friends to having only a few because after years of illness, I became irritable, annoyed, and angry--much of the time. The list could go on and on.
Nowadays, the mood charts are a reminder of how the diagnosis and subsequent medication merry-go-round almost destroyed a highly productive and creative life.
For those of you who are starting out, and those who are wedded to medication and are not pursuing any alternative forms of healing, I would not only suggest you keep mood charts, but study them. Look for patterns. Ask yourself whether you were better off before or after you started taking medication. Look for triggers that cause depressive episodes. Write about what happened, and how you responded. Figure out different ways of responding. Keep notes on it.
Experiment with exercise, music therapy, netural path therapy, prayer, mindfulness meditation, and other wellness activities. Keep detailed records of what works for you and what doesn't. Keep records of what drugs work for you, in what combinations, and what dosage--and which ones make you worse.
I believe that mood charts allow us to control this illness. To me, there is no better tool than a mood chart to help analyze different types of healing and to figure out a path to wellness.