The graph above charts my weight from about October 2011 to the end of February 2013. Do you think you can tell when I was depressed? And when I wasn’t?
Here’s a hint. My ideal weight is about 150 lbs. I really try to be at that weight, but whenever I’m depressed I eat no end of junk food.
Got it now?
You can see a larger chart if you click on it, but you’ll need to use the back button on the browser to get back to this post.
The chart show a number of things. Just by looking you can see by the weight gain that I was depressed in Jan/Feb 2012, as well as April, June, Sep/Oct and December 2012. If you look carefully, you’ll see I was depressed in Dec 2011 and July 2012 too. And a few shorter depression episodes too.
You’ll also notice I can add weight annoyingly quickly – as much as 7-10 pounds in a single month-long depression episode. Thankfully, I’ve also learned the technique of losing weight safely and quickly.
The chart has more subtle information too. If I am depressed, I don’t keep any records at all because I just can’t get around to it. You know, the ‘I just can’t’ depression symptom. It’s not noticeable in the little picture, but if you check the big picture you’ll notice the dots that represent real data points are frequently missing. More than that, they’re missing each time I get depressed and my weight increases.
This matters. I can use the missing information / dots to very accurately chart my depression episodes. Here’s how it works. I measure my weight first thing every morning and write it down. This is a very reliable habit – so reliable that the only thing that stops me from tracking my weight daily is, well, depression.
So apart from the weight information, I can use the start and finish dates of the missing information to get a very accurate measurement of when my depression episode was and how long it lasted. If you check the chart, you can see that I had depression episodes in May and August 2012 as well, even though there was no weight gain (2012 was an awful year for me, by the way).
The bottom line is that you can use other indicators such as tracking weight to get information on your depression episodes. It doesn’t have to be weight. I use my credit card for most purchases, and it turns out that I can track my depression episodes by when I buy KFC and Burger King, because I only eat these when I’m depressed and I eat them frequently when I’m depressed. This won’t measure to the fine detail as my daily weight data, but I can track my depression episodes on my credit card bill.
I’m pretty sure that you have some habits that you only do (or don’t do) when you are depressed. If this is true, and if they come with stuff that is measured – like my weight notes or my credit card bill – then you can use those as a stand in or proxy for determining when your depression episodes were.
Also, you may think from the graph that my notes on my weight are super neat and well ordered. They aren’t.
In fact, they kinda look like this…
The information is on a standard stationery notepad, and I keep it on the kitchen counter where it is very easy to access. I keep a pen with it to because if I have to look for one, I may not bother to write anything down.
It’s very messy, with scribbles and bad handwriting and coffee stains and information that I thought I would keep but didn’t actually do (the weight stuff is in the rightmost column). But it’s there, and that’s the most important thing.