News Day Tuesday: BiAffect App Links Keystrokes with Bipolar Episodes

a cure for what ails you, bipolar disorder, News Day Tuesday, rapid-cycle bipolar disorder, three hopeful thoughts

Greetings, readers!

It was a bit of a challenge to find an article for this week, but I finally stumbled upon something that could make a huge difference in how we track our moods. There’s a new app called BiAffect that uses your keystrokes, frequency of texting, and social media app patterns to track manic and depressive episodes.

To find out whether a user might be experiencing a manic or depressive episode, the app tracks typing speed, how hard keys are pressed and the frequency of the use of backspace and spellcheck.

chicagotribune.com

I know there are a lot of people who dislike the idea of being tracked in any sense, which is totally fine. However, I feel a bit more comfortable with it knowing that it comes directly from a research group. It’s only available for iPhone, which is kind of a bummer because I’m a die-hard Android user.

I wish something like this had been around in 2013, when I was deep in the throes of exhausting rapid-cycling episodes. I was newly diagnosed, but the challenge of finding the right combination and doses of medication, the loss of my job (probably due to my cycling), and the overall disintegration of my marriage had more or less temporarily erased any benefits or relief I found from my diagnosis.

One of my long-time friends mentioned that he noticed I was posting a lot more on Facebook when I was manic than when I was depressed. Like, a lot. Even now that I’m stable and successfully medicated, I still pay close attention to what and how often I post. When I’m more energetic and feel like interacting with others, I find myself wondering if it’s because I’m manic, hypomanic, or just…not depressed.

When you’re living with bipolar disorder, it’s a constant question of Column A, Column B, Column C, or a bit of each. You learn to analyze your moods and energy levels, and this tracking can quickly become obsessional.

I see this app as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it would save those of us who pay attention to our moods a ton of work. On the other, those of us who are prone to preoccupation and overall obsessional thinking could end up checking in a lot more often than usual.

If BiAffect is released for Android, I’m for sure going to jump on it, at least for a trial run. It seems like it could be a useful tool for mental health care providers and patients alike–rather than having to drag in pages and pages of mood diaries, we could pop open an app and have the data right there at our fingertips (literally). And, at least in theory, it seems like any sort of self-report bias would be removed, or at least mitigated. I know I’ve been guilty of fibbing a bit in my mood diaries due to the shame that comes from realizing just how sick I am.

What do you think, readers? Would you give something like this a spin, or do you find it intrusive? Let me know! I’ll be keeping an eye on this one.

Until next time, stay safe and remember to be excellent to yourself.

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Manic Depression: A Brief Explanation

authoress in motion, explanations, major depression, medication, rapid-cycle bipolar disorder, self-harm, stigma

I finally got around to editing the explanation video on bipolar disorder/manic depression (I prefer the latter term as I feel it’s more descriptive).

In the video, I talk about the different categories of bipolar disorder, what each phase (from depression to mania and mixed states) is and what it feels like, and tips for dealing with a mixed episode.

Sick, sick, sick.

endometriosis, major depression, medication, rapid-cycle bipolar disorder, self-harm

As I write this, I am having a little bit of an episode. I got up at three in the afternoon, cleaned my tattoo, took my meds, took my morphine (to ward off the crippling pelvic pain I have every single day, will have for the foreseeable future), ate breakfast, read a book, couldn’t get dressed, dealt with racing thoughts for a few minutes, crippling anxiety because I am home alone until my husband returns from class at 4:00, cried, took an Ativan, stabbed myself in the arm with a fork because of the intense guilt I was feeling at the time.

This is my “normal.”

My sleep patterns are completely fucked at the moment because I’m working 7–2 (third shift) three days a week. I haven’t weighed myself in months, but the last time I was at the doctor (a week after I started dancing), I’d lost seven pounds. My appetite is, by turns, ravenous and nonexistent.

I’m seeing my psychiatrist on Wednesday morning, provided I can drag myself out of bed at that ungodly hour, and then I will tell him that my meds are not enough, never enough. I have one mg tablets of Ativan and am only supposed to take one to two per day, though I can handle much, much more. 150 of Effexor, which I am not even supposed to take because with bipolar (even type two), antidepressants can make you fucking crazy, and 200 of Lamictal. My moods have been more stable, but my default state is still numb and detached. I don’t often swing to hypomania (well, more than once or twice a day, and even then I don’t want to accept that it’s hypomania—I am just not depressed), though the crippling bouts of intense depression hit so many times each day, I can’t even keep track of them. They range from twenty minutes to several hours in duration, and then I’m back to flat.

I can’t get disability because I am technically still able to work, I am too young, I don’t think my doctors will sign off on it. I’m afraid to ask. I should probably ask at my next appointment, just to see, just to confirm that I’m not sick enough to actually get the help I need to take some time off and focus on recovering.

The thought is profoundly depressing.

Obviously, I’m not doing that well these days, though I’m keeping my shit togetheras they say. What keeps me going is the knowledge that eventually this will break and I won’t have to deal with my rapid-cycle bullshit anymore, that I’ll have some reprieve from all this madness.