By Michael Spiers
I am a lifelong sufferer of bipolar disorder. I was formally diagnosed in 1999, though I recall my first episodes, undiagnosed, occurring as far back as the mid 1970s, with triggers such as being sacked from a job and the breakdown of a relationship. Over the course of many years I realised that my mood went high and low in cycles about 2-3 times a year with no apparent logical cause. I sought help from my GP during a couple of depressive episodes, the response being the offer of anti-depressant medication which I refused (fear, prejudiced views about people who needed to take such medication). During a period of hypomania I again sought help from my GP and was again offered medication. I responded that I did not need tablets as I was not depressed at that time, but having observed my own mood swings over several years I was concerned that I would become depressed again. The GP offered referral to a psychiatrist, which I accepted, but warned that such referrals could take many months. Upon psychiatric examination I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it being a shock that I had a mental illness but also a relief that it was recognised and treatable. Since that time I have been prescribed various medications, mood management education and other therapies. I am currently fairly stable, True Colours being one of my most useful monitoring tools.
I first came into contact with BDRN a number of years ago, and I have continued to contribute over the years to their annual questionnaires. When I heard about the proposed True Colours scheme I was very keen to participate and amongst its earliest contributors. At first I didn’t derive much from entering my weekly data as the graphical results I received had little meaning to me. Over a lengthier period of time, with the regular addition of data, it has become much clearer and I am able to recognise hypomanic and depressive episodes that have occurred over the course of more than a year and can associate them with what else was occurring in my life at such times. I am now a very ardent fan of True Colours. Every week when I enter my data and receive my results I have an instant guide as to how my current mood actually is based on the breakdown of symptoms rather than how I might think it is, along with indication of current trend. It is also useful for me to print and present to my psychiatrist for my periodic reviews, thus providing him with graphs tracking my mood over time.
In my opinion True Colours is a win-win scheme. It provides invaluable regular data for the BDRN research which in turn will lead to better understanding and treatment of the illness, and constant mood monitoring for myself so that I can watch out for anything untoward or the arising possibility of that. I cannot recommend it more highly.