Changing Bipolar Disorder: Through Journaling

by Carley Cooper 


In my first post I mentioned that there was a time when my mental health was in rapid decline. It was at this point when I realized that I had to change something before it was too late. But what? And, how? I didn’t know the answers. I needed some information. Though it’s no longer the case, at the time, I didn’t trust doctors. I felt that I had to do this on my own.

I was Terrified of Ending Up in the Hospital

I started doing some research on myself in order to collect the information that I needed. I did this by journaling, but it wasn’t a standard daily journal. I decided that I needed to see where there patterns in my life. If I knew the patterns, I thought, then I would know what to change. Journaling could help me do this.

My Journaling System

Each year I purchase a standard day-timer. The ones I chose have one full page for one day. Instead of writing down my future appointments as most people would use it, I write down what I am doing all day long. It takes a few seconds to jot down an activity when it happens. Because I write on and off as the days go on, it doesn’t feel like a chore to me. Along the right side of the page I drew a line from top to bottom to make a column about one quarter of the page width.

In the main section are my activities, using the times written along the left side of the page. In the column on the right, I write down:

  • my mood swings
  • my energy levels
  • how sleepy I feel (which relates back to the quality of sleep)
  • how stressed I feel
  • and my libido (for the purposes of tracking hyper-sexuality symptoms of BPD)

For each item I have a simple system of 0 to 10. For moods, for example, 0 equals feeling suicidal. 10 equals mania. For energy, 0 equals little to no energy. 10 equals high energy as usually accompanies high mania. For libido, 0 equals “don’t come near me if you don’t want t join the John Bobbitt club”, while 10 equals “I need my hubby NOW!” Stress and sleep levels are measured in the same manner with 0 equalling low, and 10 equalling high.

In the bottom right corner of the page I write the number of hours of sleep I got the night before and whether it was broken sleep or straight through. I also write down how much fitness activity I got that day.

I also have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, so I track details such as times of bowel movements across the top of the page. Plus, I always circle the appropriate weather symbols at the bottom of the page and fill in the temperature for the day. Weather, and moon cycles also affect my moods.

The final thing that I track is color. Or rather, is through color. I have 6 highlighter pens that are all of different colors. Each color represents something different. At the end of the day, I highlight each of these items on my page:

  • Pink represents meditation times
  • Orange represents socializing with others (as I also have Social Anxiety Disorder, so pushing myself to socialize is a positive step)
  • Yellow represents physical fitness
  • Green represents sexual activity
  • Blue represents times when I’ve been crying
  • Purple represents my spiritual time with God, or working on projects that are centered around Him.

The purpose of this color system is to help me see even more patterns. For example, if I flip through the past couple of weeks in the journal and don’t see enough pink, orange, yellow or purple; then I know I have to increase these activities… especially if my mood has been low. These items help my keep my moods up. If I see too much blue on the pages, then I know I’m too depressed. I need to change something or get some help.

Some of my biggest discoveries in patterns through this journal system has been the link between mood swings and certain food items, but details on that are a whole other blog to come in the future.

Journaling can Work for You Too!

This system is a basic system, but it provides a lot of information. It’s helped me find patterns which have guided me to changing activities and diet that have helped me go from being co-dependent to independent. If you are so inclined you could computerize the whole system which would also provide opportunities for charts, graphs, and detailed daily notes. You can also customize your own rating and color systems. You, too, can find patterns in your life through journaling. The changes that can happen as a result are amazing.

Please leave your comments in the space provided below. 
I would very much appreciate your feedback.  Thank you. 

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  1. Carley we must be sisters separated at birth, So many things you have described I feel in my own life, I just may try your journaling in a day planner as I love both, collecting journaling notebooks and writing journals. I esp love the rating system you use when it comes to your husband. And I can relate. I haven't been diagnosed with bipolar but have wondered often times can one become bi palar after being sexually abused? Food for thought.


    1. Debi maybe we were sisters in another life. Ha ha! I'm so glad that you could relate to my blog post. I hope that it can help you learn much about yourself and your needs. It really helped me to change so much about my life. This is the first post in a series about 'Changing Bipolar Disorder', so keep a watch for the others in between guest posts.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks for reading and for the reply. I very much appreciate it.

  3. I do like your methodology in this. Our spirituality can't be separated from the bipolar. It's a package deal. Hooray for you!

    1. Thanks so much. I agree. I don't think we can realistically separate anything from spirituality. Definitely not if we want it to be a success.

  4. Don't know why I never thought of that. I'm going to start keeping logs.

    1. Miles, that's awesome! Let me know the results that you start finding. You could even come back and write another blog post about your experience after you've been doing it a while. Good for you! :-)

  5. Carly,
    I have do journals.. but none quite like that. I suffer from deep depression.. I am teetoring on and off the edge of life these days. Its scary.. but I have some personal reasons. Thank you for opening up your heart to the people that are hurting.. Love ya Patti :)

    1. Hello Patti: You are welcome. I hope my journaling techniques help you greatly. Thank you for reading and for the feedback. I very much appreciate it

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  7. I learn a lot from your post. Thanks for your sharing.

  8. Many thanks for sharing the information in your blog