As most of you who have been reading this blog for a while know (and for those of you who are new comers, I expect that makes this an introduction) I am probably more than a little bit obsessed with my mood charting.
Since my last round of mood-charting posts (Chart Week) I’ve been introduced to another charting technique that is seriously tickling my fancy. I spent the better part of my weekend translating a block of time from my earlier charts & data to compile a chart using this new technique to get an interesting new overview.
This technique was inspired by a friend who is tracking the sleep patterns of her new baby by shading in areas on a grid of squares. Her chart is hourly, but it struck me to make a daily chart with the same technique. Instead of shading in or not shading in a square to denote action, I’ve chosen a series of colors to reflect what action has taken place.
The result looks something like this:
Each band represents a month, with each square representing a day. You can see that some days are broken into two or three pieces, and that is because those days contained sometimes two or three easily distinguishable periods of different moods.
The breakdown of the colors is as such:
Dk Blue = severe depression
Lt Blue = mild-moderate depression
Green = stable/normal mood
Yellow = hypomania
Red = full mania (possibly including psychosis of some kind)
Brown = moderate mixed episodes
Black = severe mixed episode (possibly including psychosis of some kind)
Empty = no data available
Needless to say, it becomes very clear that the first few months shown on this chart were no walk in the park. There is a pretty big shift you can see in October 2011 where I began having my first big chunks of stability that I had in months (in fact, far beyond what is shown here). I’d be willing to venture that played a large role in the birth of this blog, as that is when it began.
It appears that cycling has began slowing down as well, which is definitely a good thing (more full big blocks instead of little choppy ones) though things were definitely shaken up again down at the very bottom in June, last month, when I began taking Trileptal.
It can be difficult for me to see patterns in mood charting with the traditional line graph -primarily periods of episodes. By classifying my mood ratings by the type of episode I am in at the time and placing them side by side, it become much easier for me to see periods of several days within one mood, or where one mood continues through several chunks broken up by a day or two with a different mood.
Since the DSM classifies episodes as a block of time with the majority of days in a period of time in a certain mood, the color-band mood chart has definitely helped my understanding of the length of my episodes and how they interact with one another.
One of the conundrums I have is that I do not have many squares containing red (full manic moods), which means I technically would not have enough to quantify a “full manic episode” (which must take place over a number of days) and therefor would not qualify me for the the diagnosis of Bipolar Type I. However, the fact that these manic moods occur at all means (as far as I have been told) that I do not qualify for the diagnosis of Bipolar Type II (where full mania is not present). This is a situation where I am hoping this chart will help my medical team’s understanding of what I deal with on a daily basis.
The best part, I think, about this charting technique is that all you need is some graph paper and some colored pens or pencils. Heck, even crayons. If you are starting this fresh and coloring one square daily, it may take a while before you have any significant chunks of information to look at, but it is easy to use any past data from other mood charting techniques to create one of these charts with information you’ve already gathered!
As I mentioned, I am totally tickled by this. I am going to bring mine to my next appointment with my psychiatrist (Thursday), I am hoping this will give him a better overview as well since we’ve both been struggling a little with the sporadic nature of my episodes. I’d really love it if someone else wants to throw one of these together and either write a post about it or shoot me an email, I’m really just curious to know what someone else’s chart would look like!