through optimism, self-care, and understanding mental health
when jen was in her early 20s, she was diagnosed with depression (a misdiagnosis, but a start!). shortly after, she moved across the country and her mom wanted to keep tabs on her mental health, so the two of them developed an emotional rating system for jen to quickly assess her mood and share it.
p.s. jen talks all about it on an episode of her podcast. listen here
JEN: it’s a simple 1 to 10 range—1 being quite awful and 10 being manic
(so awesome, but also not awesome!)
JEN: well, it helped me (and my doctors) determine that i was actually bipolar and not just suffering from depression. when i received this updated diagnosis, my mom and i adjusted the rating system to identify both depression and mania, so 1 was still awful, but 10 became a number that reflected a manic state and thus was too high. 7.8 became the new ideal number.
JEN: the system is really adaptable and it’s an easy way to start to get in touch with how you’re feeling at any given moment. my dad, a doctor, mentioned that the medical profession uses this sort of system to gauge pain in patients.
i’m in the depths of depression. not sad. completely without emotion. physically can’t move or talk. not hungry. not tired. it’s like your soul went on vacation and you didn’t get to go.
still depressed, but often my depression at this level has a situational catalyst (1.9’s tend to come out of nowhere). i cry a lot. i’m agitated. i self sooth with junk food and i want to be alone!
it’s not awful it’s just not right. it’s like when you go to your favorite pizza place and the pizza just isn’t as good as you remember it, but you can’t really say why. yet it’s still pizza, so you’re not mad or sad. just quietly yearning to feel satisfied.
the elusive 7.8! no depression, no mania. food tastes good, but i can manage the emotional eating. i’m productive, happy, engaging, and alert. i’m funny, but not hysterical and i look in the mirror and think, “hey, you’re ok!”
to an outsider 7.8 through 9.1 can look similar. i get defensive when someone thinks i’m manic, but i’m just genuinely in a really good mood. people make assumptions about my mental health and general state of mind all the time. it sounds fun (and it is) but it’s still too high. it means i’m having a manic episode, which for me are quite mild. biggest signs are that i’m super talkative, love everyone, have a lot of energy, A LOT OF IDEAS, and i think i’m fucking incredible.
ask yourself, “what’s my mood? what am i thinking about? is there a reason i feel like this?”
assign a number to how you’re feeling. over time you’ll be able to identify your ideal number
(just like jen landed on 7.8).
don’t be discouraged if the process is difficult at first. it’s about identifying how you feel and building understanding about yourself and your experiences. also, don’t be afraid to confide in friends or family along the way.
you can track your numbers in a notebook, with photos, or on an app. think of it like a journal that you can add to as much or as little as you want. if you’re using the system as a tool to find a potential diagnosis, include all relevant details to help track any patterns or symptoms to review with a healthcare professional.
a non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging dialogue about mental health and to raising awareness, understanding, and empathy.