Friday, 25 April 2014

You know, the usual: mood swings, self-improvement and questions

I feel like March has been one big self improvement month yet when I look back at my emoods app with the record of my highs and lows, this month has seen the most mood fluctuation. The emoods app I use is pretty basic. It tracks my hours of sleep, whether I've taken my medications and what degree I've experienced depression, irritability, mania or anxiety. I like mood tracking because it can lead to seeing patterns I normally wouldn't if I just went day by day. The pattern that recurs most frequently is the correlation of higher hours of sleep with either depression or irritability. In the beginning of March, I was sleeping on average 10 hours a night or more. I've been trying to get my sleep down with some success. But I feel like I really have to make an effort to manage less hours.

The last couple of weeks I've been exercising more. I've even started jogging about a mile a day. I also made a schedule for listening to my mindfulness/relaxation exercises, which I've been following semi-regularly. This past week I've done acupuncture twice- though not so much for my mood but to aid with smoking cessation. Finally, I bought a lovely little lavender eye pillow to chill in the freezer and put over my eyes when I meditate. I guess my goal for all these things is to get in to relaxing and self-soothing habits for when I eventually begin to experience higher levels of stress. Right now, my stress levels are pretty low with not being enrolled in a university and all.

I am pretty sure I posted this link in another one of my posts, but here it is again:

(Those are some of the guided relaxation exercises I've been using.)

Anyways, I'm not really sure of what to make with my moods fluctuating as they are. I do seem to "bounce back" easier than before. They aren't severe mood swings, definitely more mild than I've seen. Probably due to experiencing less stress. I see my psych doc in May, and I've been toying with the idea of proposing we begin to lower the Abilify. Of course, being mindful of my (mild) mood swings, I wonder if I should postpone my proposal. My reason for wanting to taper off the Abilify is related to the weight gain/maintenance issue. I'm off the Depakote. I saw a dip in my weight and now it's creeping up again. I dislike feeling so vain about the weight issue, but it is very important to me. My BMI is 29, which falls in the overweight category. GRR!!

In regards to returning to my PhD, I still become very anxious and worried when I think about it. There is some lingering uncertainty. Nevertheless, I am happy I've been returning to my skills in order to help ease the present emotions as well as prepare me for whatever happens next.

Now to some questions to my fellow contributors of Depressed Academics and/or readers of this blog:

1. Are you currently therapy and what type? Does you feel it helps? I ask because I've kind of dismissed the whole therapy thing this year. I feel like I've learned what I can learn from therapy and now it's up to me to be my own therapist...

2. Do you use mood tracking? If so, what kind? Maybe we can get a running list in the comments. I did once do the paper mood tracking but I much prefer apps with the ability to see a graph from my input. I do, however, feel like my mood tracker doesn't account for other variables that would affect mood.

3. Finally, for those on meds, how do you determine whether it's a "good" time to change medications? Of course, I understand this is deeply personal and to be discussed thoroughly with a healthcare provider. I'm just curious to see what intuitions and approaches other people use.

As a concluding tangent, I want to acknowledge all those out there who are currently in a degree program- whether it's a BA, MA or higher and who are currently dealing with emotional issues. I look back at my academic performance and career and I wonder how the heck I did it. But even more so, I wonder how I am going to continue doing it. Right now, I feel scared and uncertain. My fear is deeply rooted in my health concerns. It's also weird because so rarely people in one's program acknowledges mental health concerns. So thanks again, Depressed Academics, for reminding that depressed people do exist in the university sitting. Moreover, that they are rocking at it too.

Til next time!