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!


  1. This comes at a really poignant point in time for me.

    1. I just started with therapy (again) - I've had one meeting with one of the student health clinic psychologists to see if I can deal with my increasing depression issues that way. No idea whether or how it will end up helping.

    2. I also just started mood tracking a few weeks ago. I ended up settling on which seems to work out nicely for me. I changed two of the headings: mindfulness and energy were things I couldn't really relate to, so I replaced them with Appetite and Initiative, both of which I know to be effective indicators for me.

    3. I'm struggling with this one right this moment. I've been feeling worse this winter and spring; to the point where a friend got in touch with me on facebook and asked me (demanded of me) that I go get some help before things get worse. Hence my picking up the mood watch app, seeing a psychologist et.c.
    I want to try to adjust my medication. But I won't be able to see my prescribing psychiatrist for another 2 months. So do I wait? Or do I see a psychiatrist here and follow their advice? Is it a bad idea to change my consumption of the prescription I already have based on someone else's advice? Or is it a worse idea to try and just push through these two months (with a madcap conference trip, and moving house, and administrative problems and stuff folded in) in my current state?

    I don't know.

    1. Hi michiexile!

      Thank you for your response :)

      Seems like you're in a tricky position with whether or not to see an interim psychiatrist. Maybe seeing a (psychiatric) Physician's Assistant wouldn't be a bad idea. Alternately, is it possible to skype with your usual prescribing psychiatrist? I was offered this during a transition period myself. Of course, it was meant to be a short term solution until I found a permanent psychiatrist in my new location. It might just work if you're needing support and/or medical advice in the next two months. Never hurts to ask. For me to see an interim psychiatrist just wouldn't make sense because usually where ever you go for medications, most practitioners require an evaluation session, which can be costly. Just something to consider...

      I checked out the moodwatchapp. I'm happy to see that it can be used android devices. I will check it out. Thank you for the link.

      Good luck with the therapist. The best care I received in terms of therapy was actually at a student clinic. Seems they have the most recent research and applications. Do you know yet if it's traditional talk therapy or CBT?

      Returning to the med adjustment issue.... That's always my hesitation for relocating for any amount of time. Usually for people with mood disorders-- any "blurp" in the daily regimen can cause some mood swings. I really hope whatever happens, happens smoothly for you. And kudos for getting the mood app as well as seeing a psychologist. Those two things alone can make quite a difference! One other idea I had which would be last resort is to just see a regular physician who could potentially tweak your med dosage if needed. Of course, there are some "cons" to that option. But if you're really concerned about the medication issue, I would bring it up to someone.


Comment policy:
We reserve the right to edit all comments. In particular, we will not tolerate phobic content (race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, mental health status, etc.) nor personal attacks or threats toward another commenter, significantly off-topic, or is an obvious trolling attempt.