Taking the Long View

Wednesday January 12, 2022

I’ve lived with bipolar disorder for 52 years now.

Bipolar disorder normally manifests in older teenagers. I was an early starter as I had my first depressive episode at seven. It wasn’t recognised, of course. Why should a normal, healthy, happy seven-year-old suddenly become limp and listless? Why would she stay in bed and sleep and sleep? The doctor and my mother were convinced there must be something physically wrong and carried out all the tests they could think of. Then, one day, I just got better, started eating again, playing with friends, and was happy. There was no more need for tests.

I think that was the first episode. Looking through old school reports, I can see there were others. Frequent absences were cited as the reason for my spotty academic performance. There were periods where I “did not seem to engage.” Only one teacher mentioned the word “depression,” and I cannot think much notice was taken because, after all, in the 1970s, who would expect a normal healthy child to suffer with depression?

When I was diagnosed in 2004, I started to go back in time and look at the evidence with new eyes. Like one of those optical illusions, where a collection of random dots suddenly shifts into a picture of an old man carrying firewood, the regular periods of ill-health just as suddenly made sense.

I’m a great believer in the phrase “Knowledge is power,” although, of course, that knowledge must be valid. Our memories are incomplete and compromised. We can think we remember things when they may only have been told to us; we forget things and make up others. Our memories are not reliable knowledge.

I joined Moodscope in May 2011. Because I have Moodscope Essential, I can see a graph showing my entire history – nearly eleven years’ worth of daily scores. Those scores are not lodged in my faulty memory; they are hard evidence of my state of mind/health every day – recorded at the time. Over that time, I have been become better at using the test, so the elements making up the scores have ever increasing consistency.

The pattern shows plainly how my condition worsened in 2014; I can see the times of mania becoming higher and less controllable. I can see the depressions become dangerously low. I can see where I began medication in 2017 and the effect it has had - stopping the mania completely and alleviating the worst of the depression. Six weeks ago, my dosage was increased to better manage that depressive part of the cycle. It’s going to take a couple of years to see the effectiveness of this change.

Depression is usually, and Bipolar always, a lifelong condition. If we are to manage it effectively, we need to take a long-term view. Moodscope is an invaluable tool for this, and to my mind, investing just a little each month, in Moodscope Essential, which gives your complete history is – well – essential!

A Moodscope member.

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