I’m the type of person who likes to track things–exercise minutes, time spent on different activities, what I eat, etc. I don’t have OCD but I notice that I have some obsessive tendencies when it comes to recording details. This has actually served me well in my research work, since it’s easy for me to collect and record a lot of data, and I enjoy conducting data analyses (nerdy, I know).
I used to track things in a variety of different notebooks and spreadsheets, but now I have one large spreadsheet that I use to check 1) whether I remembered to take all my medications and supplements; 2) what my current dose of meds and supplements are; 3) the amount of time I spend on yoga and walking and biking and gardening and other physical activities; 4) time spent meditating; 5) hours worked; 6) my mood (very low, low, mixed, okay, good); 7) my sleep (terrible, poor, okay, good, great); 8) tingliness–one of the most annoying side-effects of my Effexor withdrawal (none, low, medium, high, very high); 9) self-harm (yes/no).
It’s a lot, I know. (When you read it, do you think, oh my gosh, she’s such a freak? It’s okay with me if you do!) But over time I’ve created a spreadsheet that makes it really fast to record the data. The spreadsheet also serves as a reminder so I don’t forget some of the supplements or to tell me, “wait, you haven’t meditated the last three days; it might be good to get back to that.”
And of course, at the end of the year, all this information gives me an interesting overview of how I’ve been doing.
So… how am I doing? Clearly I’m doing better than I was last January, when I essentially collapsed after a big drop in my Effexor dose. It took me around three months to start to feel better from that, and I still had ups and downs into the summer. The last few months have been, overall, better (despite some difficult sessions with Elaine, the EMDR therapist). That’s the big picture that I just know off the top of my head.
Here’s how it looks in my spreadsheets.
If I graph the number of days per month that I didn’t have any tingling at all, I’m reminded of how tortuous January, February, and the first half of March were. I remember that I scribbled in my journal that I am losing my mind and I can’t be comfortable in my body. The worst was in bed at night, which is why my sleep chart looks like this.
You can see that sometimes even if my limbs weren’t tingling, I still couldn’t necessarily sleep well. But definitely when the tingling was a problem, sleep was also a problem.
I should note that just because I didn’t rate my sleep as “good,” it wasn’t necessarily awful. Sometimes it was just okay, meaning I’d wake up a couple of times but go back to sleep without much difficulty. I’ve had a lot of that recently, along with a few really crummy nights.
Then there’s my mood, which is mostly about depression but can also capture a time I was very triggered from something in therapy, even if I wasn’t depressed in the same way I was a few years ago.
Early in the year, I didn’t have any good days at all. But in May, September, October, and December, most of the time my mood was good. That’s amazing. That’s better than I’ve been doing since at least 2013, even though I’m still withdrawing from Effexor and often don’t have as much energy as I wish I had.
These charts help remind me to be grateful, so grateful, for the improvements I’ve experienced after literally years of depression.
Briefly some other stats: not much self-harm, and none since the end of February. A slow increase in physical activity over the year (with a big jump just in September). A lot more yoga this fall. Ah, one thing I haven’t tracked is the number of therapy sessions I had. I went to a LOT of therapy, in both 2018 and 2019. I expect that to drop this year. I hope it will. I hope I’ll be able to do well without quite such intense support.
I’m imagining you want to ask, what’s the secret about September? That’s the month were I didn’t experience tingling, slept well, mostly had a really good mood, and exercised quite a lot more. Why? Ah, that was our vacation in Fiji… who wouldn’t feel good having such an amazing, life-affirming experience?
Wishing you all a happy, healthy 2020, with many life-affirming experiences, lots of loving support, and plenty of self-compassion. xxxooo