It is helpful to me to have a graph of my moods for the day and for long-term.
For bipolar illness it is pretty common to visualize two parallel lines with moods going up and down between those parallel lines. So a person with no bipolar disorder has the same set of parallel lines but the lines are only say 6 points apart – 3 up from zero and 3 down from zero. If 6 units wide is a “normal” mood range, a person with bipolar illness might experience a range twice that wide at 12 units – this is 6 units up from zero and 6 units down from zero. As I have said before, this image of more accentuated mood swings is a pretty standard way of talking about the highs and lows of bipolar illness. Also it has been said that bipolar illness mood swings are similar to normal mood swings – it is only a matter of degree. I might contest that assertion in that bipolar mood swings may be accompanied by anxiety and/or psychotic experience.
So if bipolar mood swings are say twice as high and twice as low as regular normal mood experience, what does the graph look like on any given day? For me there is a pattern to most days that is helpful for me to visualize. Generally, the first moment I wake up is the most anxious. I would start this day’s curve on the high end. As I take my morning meds and wake up to face the day, my mood starts to level out. Late morning and early afternoon are when my day starts to become more productive and with that my anxiety tends to get more under control. Dinner is often a chore to get together but typically this is something I enjoy, so the anxiety seems to be at a low point at dinnertime. After dinnertime is usually my time to watch the news and part of a movie or a TV series. This time is spent with my husband and is generally very relaxing – my anxiety is at a low point in the day. Around 8:45 to 9:15 on a weeknight I go to bed early. On a weekend it may be a couple of hours later. It should be mentioned that this pattern is generally the same whether or not it is a weekday or a weekend.
So for a visualization, my anxiety starts at a peak in the morning when I awake and typically falls as the day progresses. Depending on the day there may be small dips here and there as the anxiety dissipates or spikes here and there as the anxiety surges. By and large this curve maps the moods of my day. If I am able to get something done on my todo list in the mid day to afternoon timeframe, my anxiety abates pretty regularly. It is as if I have to get past a small spike in anxiety in order for that anxiety to continue to drop as the afternoon and the day progresses.
This post would be that much better if I could provide readers with a picture of what I am talking about — so sorry that my blogging abilities do not incorporate importing a picture of parallel mood lines on the one hand and an anxiety curve dissipating generally as the day progresses on the other hand.
Does this graphic description seem relevant for others with bipolar and/or anxiety disorders? What is the same and what is different about your mood curves?