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April


Big picture learning. Monday April 28, 2014

I've been thinking about submitting a blog since my one year Moodscope anniversary. Julia's invitation made me take the plunge. I find I'm a bit intimidated by the articulate, wise words of the regulars with all those superior British idioms. Across the pond here we don't dip digestives in a cuppa, we dip cookies in our coffee or milk, which just doesn't quite express the sweet comfort that a cuppa evokes. Ah well, here goes, in my American twang.

I do a lot of backwards, big picture learning with Moodscope. When I first started, it looked like my mood went up and down dramatically every day. After about 3 months, I saw my first low period clearly in the graph. By 6 months I had a view of several mood cycles and could start to answer some questions about warning signs. Now with 18 months to view, the shaky up/down strokes of the days recede and a single fuzzy line tells a story of ten major mood swings.

Because I've filled in the comment box almost every day, I can scan for the antecedents of my mood cycles. I've learned from my Moodscope graph that I'm very susceptible to the inevitable ups and downs of searching for a job. I've been unemployed for most of the past two years. Every time I had a good job prospect I saw a huge jump in mood. Hope held my mood high for weeks as I waited to hear, then gradually dropped when I didn't hear. Then my mood tanked while I processed the reality that the job hadn't panned out. Then another job looked promising and up I would go again.

I also scan entries to see if there was any effect on my mood due to changes in medications. Now I can tell my doctor that before I started taking a med for bipolar symptoms, I had 3 month mood cycles: high for about two months, then low for one month. After starting that med, my cycles have been smoother, with longer periods of hovering near my average score. I would never know this from remembering back or from my sense of how I was doing based only on a written record.

I'm very grateful for Moodscope as a tracking tool. The more I learn about myself from the graph, the more committed I am to recording my score and comments (nearly) daily.

I'm also deeply grateful for the community that has emerged through blogging. I especially appreciate those who have shared uncomfortable truths about themselves, allowing the rest of us to breath a sigh of relief that we're not the only ones. Maybe if I get up the courage, I'll write again and risk making myself vulnerable by sharing how I deal with some personal struggles. Meanwhile, I hope more of you will take up the call to contribute to the blog, and know that you don't have to be brilliant, you just have to be you.

Andra
A Moodscope user.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our Blogspot:

http://moodscope.blogspot.com/2014/04/big-picture-learning.html


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Comments

Adam Mon, Apr 28th 2014 @ 7:38am

Thank you Andra, I thought that was a great contribution. My problem with depression (not bipolar) emerged after losing my job; but not until a year or so later. I am in a much better place now, but am always aware of 'the abyss'. I just try and stay as far away from it as possible by focussing on positive activities: part-time work, charity work, a school governorship etc.

Anonymous Mon, Apr 28th 2014 @ 8:00am

You paint a very clear picture of how the graph actually works for you. Fascinating. Thank you for taking the plunge to write. It is my dream too to blogg here one day. Karin

Anne-Marie Taylor Mon, Apr 28th 2014 @ 8:20am

Hi Andra I wrote a long comment and the screen froze! Story of my life. I often had the same response to mood changes as you with a job search which I have been doing for the last year after being out of work for ten years. I have had interviews and feel I must look good on paper - but come to the crunch and they see me, it all goes wrong! I am sure I am not awful just inexperienced, but I feel it as a terrible personal slight! Take care and good luck!

Lex McKee Mon, Apr 28th 2014 @ 8:46am

Wondefully open and honest blog, Andra - thank you so much for sharing. I'm thinking about leaving the only income stream I have at the moment because it causes so much stress, but I know only too well that being without work is equally stressful. The blog helps me get perspective.

Lex McKee Mon, Apr 28th 2014 @ 8:50am

Hi Anne-Marie - just a technical safe-guard for you. When you've typed in your response, hold down the [Control] key on your keyboard (or [Cmd] on the Mac) and press [A]. This will select all of your comment. If you then hold down [Control] and [C], this will copy your comment to your computer's temporary clipboard. If your screen then freezes - as often happens with posting responses on the blog - you can recover all your hard work by holding down [Control] and pressing [V]. This pastes your content back into the reply box - if you cursor is in it!

Hilary Mon, Apr 28th 2014 @ 9:07am

Hi All, Andra, thank you for the lovely blog, it has inspired me to work harder on the comments, which I currently have an aversion to!! Anne-Marie & Lex, I was made redundant in September last year and yes, the job hunting is horrible, but I have learnt more in the last six months about myself through seeking the feed back I dread than at any other time - and it is not all bad - sometimes, it is simply the scale of the competition! Also, it is worth asking for the comments, as it gives me a chance to try and build some connections for the future. Hilary

Anonymous Mon, Apr 28th 2014 @ 9:31am

Hi Andra,

Thank you so much for taking the risk and writing. Your blog was a wonderful reminder of the value of moodscope. as someone who also just recently took the plunge and wrote a blog I know how daunting it can be, so well done and thank you for your wise words x

Anonymous Mon, Apr 28th 2014 @ 9:47am

I wanted to applaud your bravery for taking that big step and writing a post. It was a perfect reminder to me to keep on with moodscope. I know it helps me an incredible amount to be able to look back and see patterns - sometimes I need an outside reminder though, and you gave me that. Thank you. Now write another post!

Anonymous Mon, Apr 28th 2014 @ 9:59am

Andra, you ARE brilliant. Well done you. ;o)

Anonymous Mon, Apr 28th 2014 @ 10:38am

Great entry! Beautiful in its honesty, openness with sweet but strong vulnerability. Very USA. Thank you.
Margaret
Pittsburgh, PA

heather Mon, Apr 28th 2014 @ 10:52am

I have been meaning to restart my Moodscope graph and as a fellow Bipolar sufferer I am going to do so, after reading your blog.

Anonymous Mon, Apr 28th 2014 @ 11:59am

Well done for writing the blog and for reminding mehow useful moodscope is

Julia Mon, Apr 28th 2014 @ 1:52pm

Hi Andra. It's so good to read your blog and I'm glad you "put pen to paper" after reading one of mine. I stopped doing the cards for a 3 or 4 week period recently for various reasons and have just started again. However I sort of know what my score will be within a few per cent as I never go really low or really high. I think I control the score in a subtle or maybe not so subtle way. I hover around the 70% usually about 73/75% and this is how I see myself so try to make the score around there. (This score will seem high to some but to me it's not high but normal for me and by the way, I do get very low) Many of my scores on individual cards are always, without fail the same however. It's the explanations that I find more useful especially looking back on them. I really don't know why I manipulate the score if that is what I am doing. I do try to answer truthfully but probably on my bad days, I don't want it to go too low and on my rare good days, I would feel too OTT if I were to score brilliantly on every card.Your blog has made me rethink the cards and hopefully I can use them in the way you do and the way we are meant to. I am sure some will say well why bother doing the cards if you manipulate them and this is true but I never really thought about it before reading your blog Andra. So thanks!

NLH Mon, Apr 28th 2014 @ 4:01pm

Andra,
Well done! I loved your blog and hope you will write again. Please don't ever lose your Anerican twang! As a Brit trust me when I say 'milk and cookies' sounds so much warmer and sweeter than a 'cuppa'!
Take care and wishing you all the very best with your future :)

Richard Mon, Apr 28th 2014 @ 4:24pm

Julia, I have exactly the same problem. I think the cause of it is a "need to please" and/or a "need to achieve". I was a high achiever at school, and there is a competitive side of me that is awoken when doing the cards. Some days, I fool myself that I'm in a good mood, just to post a high score. Then I realised that by doing this, I'm only cheating myself. Today, I've read the blogs before doing the cards ( a pleasant change for me ). I did that because I was feeling tired and emotional after a drunken Saturday night. Even before doing today's cards, I feel better after reading all the entries. After just a few months, I see Moodscope as a tracking tool, like Andra says, aswell as the greatest supportive forum I have ever participated in. As the great Freddie Mercury often said: " Thankyou, you beautiful people." Love, Rich x

amrose Mon, Apr 28th 2014 @ 5:30pm

Adam, I find it very nurturing to see myself reflected back from people who appreciate my volunteer and paid work. Feeling useful is a major mood changer for me. Thanks for writing.
Andra

Mary Blackhurst Hill Mon, Apr 28th 2014 @ 6:59pm

Thank you for your great blog, Andra - and for broadening our horizons outside the UK. It's great to have you on board. Please write again.

jules Mon, Apr 28th 2014 @ 11:04pm

Lovely blog x

James Tue, Apr 29th 2014 @ 1:05am

Three month mood cycles ?! For me, that's just such a weird concept. I'm bipolar II so I flip from up to down or down to up every 3-4 days. I rarely get through a week without a big swing, so to go months .....

amrose Tue, Apr 29th 2014 @ 1:37am

I urge you to plunge, Karin.

amrose Tue, Apr 29th 2014 @ 1:44am

Anne-Marie,
The job I finally got was as a career counselor! So I can tell you that you must have an excellent cv to be getting interviews. Is there a career center near you? A workshop on interviewing, or even practicing with a friend, can make a big difference. One tip I give my clients is to have a bunch of stories you can use to illustrate your answers to the questions that are likely to come up. Practice telling each story in one minute or less to the mirror. Try using different ones to answer different possible questions.
Best,
Andra

amrose Tue, Apr 29th 2014 @ 1:54am

Hello Lex,
I'm a great admirer of your ideas and ability to express them on the blog.
I know you didn't ask, but I've seen some very creative re-careering lately, so here's an idea to play with. If you can take a break without burning any bridges you might find out which is more stressful (or which kind of stress you like best!). I don't know how the employment situation is where you are, but here in rural New England it's mighty scary. Either way, let us know how it goes.
Best,
Andra

amrose Tue, Apr 29th 2014 @ 2:00am

Wow, Hilary, you seem like a very courageous person. It's the hardest thing for me to ask for comments after an interview that doesn't become a job offer. I'm totally with you on the learning about myself opportunity of job hunting. I started out looking for jobs with much higher level responsibilities than I've ended up being happy doing. Letting go of the expectations I used to have of what I "should" be capable of was the best thing I've ever done for myself.
Best,
Andra

amrose Tue, Apr 29th 2014 @ 2:05am

Thank you. And congrats on overcoming the "daunt" and writing a blog contribution too. It's very sweet to know that your words made others think or feel something anew.
Andra

amrose Tue, Apr 29th 2014 @ 2:11am

Thanks so much. I had hoped to nudge some people who might not be as regular about their moodscoping as they would like. Or to encourage regulars to keep at it. I know I can use as many reminders as I can get about things that are good for me. That's one of the things I love about the blog.
Best,
Andra

amrose Tue, Apr 29th 2014 @ 2:13am

Thanks. You made me smile. 8>))

amrose Tue, Apr 29th 2014 @ 2:16am

Yay Pittsburgh, PA! Thank you Margaret for your encouraging words.
I know we Moodscopers are everywhere. I wonder how many countries it has reached. I bet Caroline knows.
Best,
Andra

amrose Tue, Apr 29th 2014 @ 2:20am

Thanks for responding, Heather. So glad to hear you're motivated to get back to it. I don't know if this is specific to bipolar, but I have the hardest time honestly answering the question of "how are you?" I rarely know unless I've noticed my Moodscope trend recently. Then I can confidently report how I actually am, if the person wanted a real answer.
Best,
Andra

amrose Tue, Apr 29th 2014 @ 2:38am

Thank you Julia. You were my inspiration. You and Richard described an ambivalence I've had with the cards, especially certain ones, since starting Moodscope. I've watched my interpretations of the cards, and my manipulations, change over time. Especially the first few months, I was afraid to score low and I think my average was too high. But now I'm settled in with a nice 60ish average. There are certain states that I now can name - "this is what 3 on enthusiastic feels like." I sometimes converse with the cards: "I'm not a 1 on guilt, but I'm not quite a 2 either, so since I'm annoyed that I can't score 1.5 I'll do a 2, because being annoyed makes me feel more guilty." Moodscope is a companion I cherish. Like all of you beautiful people.
Love,
Andra

amrose Tue, Apr 29th 2014 @ 2:52am

Thanks NLH,
I don't know, that 'cuppa has a certain ring to it. I always hear a tone of fondness in the word, like remembering a dear grandparent who made the speaker/writer feel safe and loved. Milk and cookies are definitely comfort food for adults, but also what American children feel entitled to when the arrive home from school.
I think I got it wrong about the digestives, though. There's no dunking involved is there? I can't quite remember digestives from my year in London (age 12). They sound like the teething biscuits we give babies, that look like biscotti, but taste a bit licorishy and are associated with gobs of mushy mess on little faces, fingers, hair, toes...
My apologies to digestive lovers everywhere for that image.
Best,
Andra

amrose Tue, Apr 29th 2014 @ 2:55am

Thanks Mary and jules. I'm very encouraged by the responses. No doubt I will write again.
Andra

amrose Tue, Apr 29th 2014 @ 3:00am

James,
I'm trained as a social scientist and find data fascinating. I would love to see lots of different 'scoper's graphs to see how patterns differ. You understand that there's no smooth lines in my 3 month cycles. It's up and down and up and down day to day, but held at arm's length the daily changes blur and the longer cycles appear. I wonder if your graph would show long-term trends if you squinted while you studied it.
Best,
Andra

Caroline Ashcroft Tue, Apr 29th 2014 @ 8:24am

Hi Amrose, I'll take a look and let you know. Last time I looked it up, I was surprised at how many it had actually reached!

Julia Tue, Apr 29th 2014 @ 8:28am

Hi Richard. I am thankful I am not the only one. I think my reasons for manipulating the scores on each card are the same as yours,a need to please etc and for me an attempt to control how I appear to the outside world (even though only one other person sees my scores). Oh well another day is beginning.Good day sunshine. Love Juliaxx

Julia Tue, Apr 29th 2014 @ 8:30am

Andra! You were right..Digestives ARE for dunking in tea. You have an excellent memory about a very important thing.

Les Tue, Apr 29th 2014 @ 10:46am

Hi Andra

Great blog - authentic and heartfelt..........and as a result, people 'feel' that and thus able to respond.

Then putting in the time and effort to respond - carries that authenticity on...

The more we reveal about ourselves - the more people feel able to 'show themselves'.....

I have a wee phrase - 'show weakness to gain strength'

Great blog and follow up....

"No real conversation can occur without some vulnerability." David Whyte

Julia Tue, Apr 29th 2014 @ 2:48pm

Hi Les and anyone else who is reading Andra's excellent blog and the comments yesterday. I saw this quote by EE Cumming and thought you would like it Les. "To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting"

Caroline Ashcroft Tue, Apr 29th 2014 @ 10:13pm

Hi Amrose, I've had a look and unbelievably Moodscope now has members in 156 different countries around the world!

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