When you have a mental illness like Bipolar Disorder it can be extremely helpful to track your moods. This can allow you to be more self-aware, as it can be all too easy to find your mood slipping or rising without being fully aware of it until you are in a full-blown episode, especially if like me the process can sometimes be very gradual.
Having more control
By keeping track of things you can start to notice patterns and therefore triggers, things that can cause your mood to start to dip or rise, or things that make this more likely to happen. Figuring out these triggers that are personal to you can allow you to avoid them or find ways to deal with them, to lessen the likelihood of your mood taking a turn for the worse. This can help you deal with your mood changes more effectively and help you manage your illness, giving you more control.
Having more control over our symptoms allows us to ensure that we are living our lives as close to the way we want as possible and not letting our illness take the lead. Although this can take a lot of practice and at times is not possible, having strategies that you can put in place to help you with this can be extremely valuable.
Noticing these patterns in your mood can also be useful for your mental health team so that they can help you to tailor your treatment to suit you better, whether this be therapy, crisis management or medication.
Finding a way that works for you
There are many ways you can keep track of your moods and your other symptoms, it’s often trial and error to figure out what works for you. There are apps out there can help you do just that; you can keep a mood diary or a journal; you can use your phone or a calendar to track them or like me, you can use mood scales.
I wrote out my own mood scale after finding them online, I personalised it to suit me and my symptoms so that I could keep track of things on a more personal level for me, my support system and my mental health team. Not everyone with your diagnosis will have the same symptoms as you or experience them in the same way, we are all so different; personalising a scale can really make sure it suits your life and your experience in the best way.
Using my personalised scale
I use my personalised mood scale by setting a minute aside each day to evaluate what is happening with me and decide where I am on that scale. This allows me to be much more self-aware, and the act of taking this time to think about it, can help me not to miss signs that I might overwise have not paid attention to; I find this very helpful.
I also can use these scales by sharing them with my support system so that if they ask how I am that day, I can give them a number which allows them to see exactly what is happening with me and offer support if they feel I might need it. Not everyone in my support system is always going to fully understand what is going on with me, but by doing this it gives them something they can check back to and read over if they want to really understand how I’m feeling. This can help me to feel more understood and better connected with those who are in my life.
At times when I am feeling depressed or struggling with my Bipolar Disorder, I don’t feel like talking in detail about what I’m going through, and this is a really good way to tell people how I am which stops me from isolating myself and shutting others out, while still allowing me the space I need and not forcing me to have an in-depth conversation.
You could even give copies of these scales to your mental health professionals along with notes of your numbers on each day, allowing them to see patterns and allowing them to fully understand how you are feeling at appointments if you don’t feel like openly communicating in other ways.
I feel that any tools that can help me to cope with my mental illness, and that can aid my support system in helping me more effectively, can only be a great thing. I want to have as much control over my illness as possible and this is one way that I find I can do that.