Charting; a Year In Review

Now that I’ve had a chance to talk about mood charts, I’d like to finish off CHART WEEK by sharting a little bit of my own experience with keeping a mood chart.

One week ago marked my one year anniversary of starting my mood chart, and I was curious what kind of change has occurred over time, if any. To be honest, there have been times over the course of the last year where I felt very seriously like my bipolar and anxiety symptoms have been getting significantly worse, very quickly, and the sorts of things I’ve been experiencing lately would be enough to discourage anyone. 

Looking at the data I collected, however, makes me feel at least slightly better, and I’ve not only gained a different perspective on what is going on but I also feel like I’ve increased my understanding.

You can click on any of these graphs to see a larger version.

Average mood rating for the year: -1.55

Here is the standard mood graph for the year, and I’ve broken it down by month so you can get a little bit of an idea how completely sporadic things seem to be at times. I started charting while severely depressed (there on the left end of the graph) and despite a recurrance of some depressive symptoms in september it looks like my mood has been going steadily up from there. As you can see in the March portion on the far right, it has been very up, which is fairly abnormal for me considering the rest of the graph.

These values represent the average mood for each day data was taken, so they don’t quite represent the entire picture. On some days I can go from a -3 to a 3 and back down to a -3, and there is no real simple way to chart that here. For that reason, I’ve included a few additional graphs below to help get a better overview of what this year has looked like.

Average anxiety score for the year: 3.35

I began charting my anxiety level when I was hospitalized, which is why there is a blank gap in the beginning of the graph. The amount of green relates to the amount of anxiety I experienced on average each day. I was a little terrified to look at this one, because at first glance I didn’t see a huge difference over time -but if you look closely, the last third of the graph does show less anxiety than the first third. Even though there is a significant amount still there, the average the last few months is probably around a 3 instead of early on where it looks to be about a 4. As one might imagine, it seems like the stable portions on my mood graph line up with the areas with less anxiety. Go figure, right?

Average number of hours of sleep for the year: 8.68

That average surprised me a little, because I am normally someone who needs more sleep than others to feel rested and refreshed. Usually 10 or 11 hours is more realistic for me, so if the average for the year has been about 8 and a half, I certainly have not been getting enough sleep on a regular basis to feel refreshed.

Reviewing my sleep patterns has waved a big red flag at me, I think I need to start taking my sleeping habits more seriously. Honestly I thought I had been doing a good job of forcing myself to go to sleep when I was feeling elevated, but even so the amount of sleep I’ve been getting otherwise is totally sporadic at best. It is interesting that there does seem to be a loose pattern though, as every 15 days or so there is a deep dip to only 6 or 7 hours (which I intend to investigate further).

Average pain score for the year: 1.8

So the pain scale is based on both frequency and severity of pain. Did the pain reach a point where it felt severe enough to require relief? How many times per day? If the pain of that severity or greater lasted a period of time, how many fifths of the day did it last? So a day of pretty much intense, nonstop pain would be a 5, while a 2 (in contrast) could be an intense headache that pops up once, abates, and then pops up again later, for example. I included body pain/headache pain/& menstrual cramp pain and averaged them all together for the daily scores here. There has definitely been some improvement, and I think there have been a lot of things that have contributed to that.

The first third of the pain graph (with the most severe pain) correlates with the least amount of sleep in that area on the sleep graph, the highest anxiety on the anxiety graph, and the lowest mood on the mood graph. When it comes to mood, physical pain can play a huge role -which can be extremely frustrating for those that deal with chronic pain. In addition, the 3 points on the anxiety graph where zero anxiety was rated for the day line up with corresponding points with a zero score on the pain graph. Coincidence? I think not.

Average number of mood shifts for the year: 2.15

Ok, this one surprised me a little bit… this graph is based on the number of times my mood shifts per day, when the shift is greater than or equal to a value of “1” on my mood scale. You see, the mood chart doesn’t show the whole picture, because I can have a series of mood fluctuations in one day. Apparently anywhere from zero to 14 (the highest I’ve recorded).

That extremely high period that includes the 14 mood swing day (trust me, it was a doozy) took place when my psychiatrist tried to incorporate an antidepressant with my mood stabilizer. Needless to say, my mood didn’t remain stabilized, but he was really trying to make a last ditch effort to pop me out of the severe depression I was in. Unfortunately, it mostly just made my mood blast off in opposite directions every 10 or 15 minutes. So here is a great example of my mood chart helping point out a symptom to me that I wasn’t otherwise getting a grasp on, and when I brought this to my doctor’s attention we very quickly stopped the use of that antidepressant.

 This last graph has really been the eye-opener for me because I really didn’t have any kind of overview in regard to mixed states. I’ve covered all of the days over the last year that have included both depressed and manic or hypomanic symptoms with orange. The result completely shocked me.

Number of mixed symptom days per month:

March 2011 – 10
April – 13
May – 12
June – 6
July – 23 (!)
August – 8
September – 10
October – 12
November – 7
December – 8
January – 5
February – 2
March 2012 – 4

The month of July had twenty three days, 23! That is practically the whole month! If you take a look at the sleep graph, that is also the point where there is a huge gap in the amount of sleep I got (I went on vacation but wasn’t able to sleep most of the days we spent traveling).

I’ve clearly been experiencing significantly more days with mixed symptoms than I ever anticipated, and now that I know I’m planning on talking to my doctor about it next week. For me, those mixed moments can be so confusing that I don’t always put two and two together, so I’m honestly really glad I had the opportunity to see the bigger picture here.

Thanks for joining me through the CHART WEEK journey this week. I hope I’ve provided enough information to inspire some charting, because even as much as I tooted the mood charting horn earlier this week I hadn’t yet grasped just how much new information my own charting would provide me by the end of the week.

It may take a little while to get into the groove, but the amount that you can get out of keeping a mood chart is almost endless.

Keep charting!

7 responses to “Charting; a Year In Review

  1. Awesome stuff – great reflections and interpretation! My average sleep is 6.8 hours, but I start feeling off if I go over 8.5, so it’s interesting to see how different things are from one person to another. Actually, my sleep duration range from 2 to 10.5 hours, which is kind of like yours but shifted by a couple hours.

    I’m curious what happened in October that seemed to improve things so much? Also I hear it’s pretty common for moods to swing high in March because of the swift increase in number of daylight hours, and in some areas, sunshine. Unusually sunny here for this time of year – definitely seems to be influencing my moods lately…

    • Sarah @ bi[polar] curious

      It is funny you say that about March, because all 3 of my hospitalizations have occurred between February and April. That is an almost consistently depressed time for me usually (so it is a little odd what is going on this year), and even though there is more daylight in general, in the Pacific Northwest it is still likely to rain for 20 days in a row in the month of March, and even April, so we don’t wind up getting to see that light until much later on. This year has been a bit different though, whether wise, and that might help explain my current state of affairs.

      October is typically when I begin to get elevated, historically anyway. I’m not quite sure why, it might have to do with the weather being a mixture of warm but stormy, or it might have to do with the pattern of the “school year” being beat into my brain for 15 years (and the fact that I still get excited about “back to school” time), but I couldn’t really say for sure. It usually is the beginning in a long chain of unruly events that I get swept up in until January, where I quickly plummet into deep depression.

      Some years are different altogether because of various other triggers. Work, pain, stress, all play a big role for me, but I can’t help but wonder how much is influenced by the weather, especially since we’re notorious for very gloomy weather year round in Seattle. If I’m lucky, this might be something I get to test in the next few years if I’m able to move to a new locale.

  2. Hi 🙂

    I got tagged this morning in the Tagging Game part ii and since I have to then tag 11 bloggers I of course had to include you.

    Apologies if you have already done this or are fed up with the game already (it seems that I am behind the times a little with all this)

    But should you wish to play along here are my answers.

    Kind Regards


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