depression mental health tips

how i track depression (and how you can too!) + worksheet

Back in July, I made the decision to switch from two therapy appointments a month to just one. I’ve been seeing my wonderful therapist every two weeks for a little over a year now, during which we’ve talked about a whole variety of things, mostly stemming from my struggles with depression, anxiety, disordered eating, and body image. I found myself having less and less to talk about, so I asked her if I could see her a little less often, and we agreed that it seemed like a good time.
I’ve made a ton of progress in the last year. I’m no longer having full-on panic attacks at the grocery store and I’m even trying my hand at intuitive eating. My self-care strategies are solid and my relationships are better than ever. That must mean I need a little less therapy, right?
As it turns out, no, not right. While I celebrated becoming a once-a-month therapy-goer, I’ve accepted that being a person who does need therapy twice a month isn’t something to feel guilty or ashamed for. I’ve realized that the maintenance aspect of therapy is just as crucial for me as the appointments where I’m working through something major and urgent.
When we decided to have fewer appointments together, we also decided that I should start tracking my depression throughout the month. I was wondering if there were any patterns — maybe I was more depressed the week before my period, maybe I’m more depressed at the end of week — and keeping a written record seemed like the best way to discover any patterns that might have been hiding.
What I found was that I have been exceptionally, inexplicably depressed for the last two months. I found myself with a lack of appetite, lack of motivation, and even, oddly, a lack of interest in talking (I *love* to talk! I have a podcast for heaven’s sake!). I was depressed at work, on the weekend, and even, unfortunately, in Marfa. Something was up and I felt totally powerless to do anything about it.
I guess that last sentence should be in present tense. Just because I’ve acknowledged my depression hasn’t made it go away. I’m very much still experiencing some of the more difficult depression I’ve been through since being diagnosed in 2009, but through tracking I’ve been able to bring detailed notes to both my therapist and my psychiatrist so we can all come up with a plan to help me feel better. For the sake of transparency, I’m currently adjusting my meds and I have returned to twice-a-month therapy (in case the latter weren’t clear already).
To begin tracking my depression, I would rate how depressed I felt that day by recording a number 1-10 (1 being least depressed, 10 being most) in the corner of the monthly calendar in my agenda (small version available here). Quickly I found that a number wasn’t always enough, and that I wanted to leave more detailed explanations of how my depression manifested. Was I over or under-eating? Did I just want to sleep or could I not seem to get any? Was I unfocused or irritable? Luckily, the planner has lots of room to make notes, so I started jotting down a few relevant things like “didn’t eat until 5pm” or “unfocused/jittery.”
As someone who has changed depression and anxiety medicines several times in the last six years, I’ve become aware of the sorts of things to look out for that aren’t normal, but might feel normal. For instance, I recently tried a medicine that I thought was working because I didn’t feel depressed anymore, but after further assessment, we realized it wasn’t a fit because I could not stay in my seat at work and I was completely restless and jittery all the time.
When I decided to write this blog post, it occurred to me that it could be useful in a more tangible way than the “me too” moment of reading someone else’s account of dealing with depression. With the help of my darling and talented boyfriend Dago, I bring you the weekly depression tracker!

weekly depression tracker by writes like a girl blog
click image for downloadable version!
My tracker isn’t clinical or medical, but it’s something that’s been helpful for me that I thought might be helpful for some of you, too. There’s a space to write your daily depression rate of 1-10 in the boxes at the top, as well as check boxes for other symptoms that I’ve noticed with depression and/or changing medicines. My hope is that the check boxes will help you detect some patterns you may not have noticed, while the rating will help you consider the severity of your depression.

I’m not here to tell anyone to see a therapist (though I do recommend it!) or get on meds (they have helped me, but they aren’t for everyone). I just know that depression affects a lot of people, and specifically a lot of people who have found and stuck around for this little corner of the Internet. If even one of you downloads and prints off this tracker and tries it, it’s all worth it for me!

Have you ever tried tracking your depression before?

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