To track my sleep, my moods, and to implement my gratitude practice, I use the Daylio app. I have done this a minimum of twice each day since mid-2021. However, this was not always the case. Today, I would like to share my winding journey to this daily use of Daylio.
Please note that I am a premium user of Daylio. While some features are free, I do believe that upgrading to the premium version of the app is a sound investment for your overall health and well-being. By doing this you have a host of additional tools to track your mental health.
How it Began
I initially began tracking my moods in late 2014 using the MoodTools app. I also developed a rudimentary gratitude practice using the Simple Gratitude Journal app. Both apps are from the same developer. At the time, both apps were simple enough for my broken mind to use, allowing me to ground myself and propel the early days of my healing.
In these same early days, I was conducting loads of research, following up on suggestions from my counsellor.
As I alluded to above, the biggest issue I faced was my state of mind. It was chaotic and still in that dark place that had led to my suicide attempt of September 2014. To be honest, much of the research I was conducting was just a little too much for me. Frequently I found myself becoming overwhelmed. And more frequently, my mind’s chaos left me bereft of hope.
In time I was assigned a psychiatrist, and this led to my participating in a comprehensive out-patient day-treatment program. For several months I would visit my local hospital and spend each weekday learning new skills to help me manage my depression. The diagnosis of Bipolar II Disorder would not happen for several more years.
The day-treatment program gave me a structure to my days that slowly calmed the chaos. The downside was that I was not able to cope with tracking my moods and gratitude and completing the homework demanded by the day treatment program. My use of the apps started to wane. When I broke my phone, I stopped using them.
The Second Attempt
Matters took an exceptional turn in the fall of 2018 when I visited my brother in Australia. The visit caused a massive elevation in my mood, that I now know was hypomania bordering on mania, and I was, to be honest, scared into taking action.
I did not know why my mood was so exceptionally elevated. Yes, I was in Australia, fulfilling a lifelong dream, and with that came the anticipation and excitement a trip like this typically brings. But what I was experiencing went beyond mere anticipation and excitement. I was sleeping less and less, my actions were becoming increasingly impulsive, my anxiety was exceedingly high, and I was growing increasingly afraid that I might do something rash and harm myself. I knew that had to do something to regain balance, to regain some semblance of sanity and control but, to be honest, I did not know what to do.
I decided to begin with sleep and mood tracking to assess just exactly what was going on. I wanted my tracking to be private so printing forms was out of the question. After all, they might be discovered by prying eyes and reveal that I was in distress. I was just not ready for all the drama that this revelation would bring.
A Play Store search showed that a host of apps could track sleep and mood. However, at the time most of these were single-use apps, either only tracking sleep, or only tracking mood, but not both. One exception had great reviews – eMoods, an app designed for those living with Bipolar Disorders. I installed the app and put it to immediate use.
Using eMoods provided me with immediate results. Each morning and evening it forced me to pause and reflect on the start and end of my day. This pause slowly started to calm and lower my elevated mood. While I remained hypomanic, I was not as impulsive nor in as much risk of harming myself.
I quite liked eMoods and chose to become a lifetime patron of the app (this is optional as the app is completely free). However, with increased use came an element of dissatisfaction. The app did not fully capture my experience. I wanted to capture a wider snapshot of my mood, be more granular in my records, and I wanted a more visual experience. So, while I continued to use eMoods, I searched for an alternative.
The first alternative I tested was iMoodJournal which I installed in May 2019. To better assess the app, I paid to unlock all features. It was a closer fit to my needs, giving me a 1-10 scale to measure my mood. It allowed me to add photos to my entries and graphically view my moods over time. However, what I did not like was the colour palette. So, I continued looking.
I then discovered Daylio in August 2019. A flash sale to upgrade to a premium user meant I could test all the app’s features. I was impressed and started to use it as my primary sleep and mood tracker.
The Unexpected Pause
While my search for an alternative to eMoods was ongoing, I returned to Canada. By now my psychiatrist was on sick leave so I arranged for a consultation with another psychiatrist to explore what had happened in Australia (and on two earlier occasions when I had visited Ottawa and Chicago). Those other trips had also generated excessive elevated mood, but nothing like that of the Australia trip. During that trip, I genuinely feared for my safety.
After prolonged discussion, the consulting psychiatrist and I agreed that I had not experienced a manic episode. He suggested, and I agreed, that the elevated mood and my response to it was more indicative of Bipolar II Disorder. With this updated diagnosis came a new regimen of medications.
All the while I was preparing to move from Oshawa to Bowmanville, a move that kept getting delayed causing increased anxiety and a lowering of my mood. The move itself was completed just before the pandemic was declared. However, once the unpacking commenced my mood cratered and I fell into a deep depression. Once more I experienced suicidal thoughts.
It was not helpful that I was also experiencing severe side-effects caused by one of my medications. Those side-effects led to my being transported to the emergency department by ambulance. The result, a rapid titration off that medication and an unexpected bump into another hypomanic cycle.
My medications were stabilized in 2022.
In between, in 2021 and 2022, I attended another out-patient day-treatment program to teach me new tools to use to improve, and manage, my mental health. I believed this was necessary as my mental illness had been amended. This time the day-treatment program was heavily influenced by Dialectic Behavioural Therapy. When that was finished, I completed a one-on-one regimen of Mindfulness-Integrated Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to add to my growing collection of tools. This therapy was my first one-on-one therapy and it has helped me tremendously.
Eventually, I was assigned a new psychiatrist, however almost immediately thereafter he closed his practice. After another wait, I was assigned yet another psychiatrist who I still have today. Overall, including the consulting psychiatrist, I have now had five psychiatrists since 2015.
It is no surprise that during all of this external chaos I gradually stopped tracking my sleep and moods. I simply was too tired from the adjustments my body was making to an ever-changing regimen of medications. There was also the physical exhaustion of the move. That involved, as all moves do, the packing and stacking, and unpacking and stacking, of totes and boxes. Add in the homework I was being assigned in both the day-treatment program and the Mindfulness-Integrated Cognitive Behaviour Therapy that followed.
A Timely Reminder
Once things began to settle a bit, I realized that I missed having a gratitude practice. I discovered a wonderful app called Presently: A Gratitude Journal. This tiny app, free of both cost and ads, is exceptional and I highly recommend it.
On January 1, 2021, I began using Presently for my gratitude practice. I genuinely enjoyed its simplicity and once again found that expressing my daily expression of gratitude was helping to ground and calm me.
Then, one day I saw a tweet from my good friend @Wookietron9000. It was an image that was filled with the most tremendous graphics showing his mood chart. When I asked Wally what produced that graphic, he said Daylio. It had changed quite a bit.
I revisited Daylio and saw ways I could use it to better record my sleep, which I was not tracking at that time except through my Samsung Galaxy Fit2 fitness tracker. I also took note of how I could tie sleep tracking, mood tracking, and my gratitude practice all together in one neat package. From that point on, Daylio became my main driver to monitor my mental health.
Where Things Stand Today
I have now been using Daylio for more than 775 days and I am certain that over that time, my overall mental health has improved. I attribute this to keeping a gratitude practice and to having granular insight into my moods, sleep, and all other things mental health that I track within Daylio.
My path to using Daylio daily has not been smooth. There have been many hiccups along the way. Now, though, I am entering a new level of granularity with the app. That will be the subject of my next blog post wherein I will outline exactly how I have set up Daylio to meet my needs. Please stay tuned for that further post.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please seek help. Those thoughts are treatable in most cases. I urge you to speak to your family doctor immediately or call your local Canadian Mental Health Association branch. They can direct you to resources in your community. Local resources can also be found by using the HOPE by CAMH app, the BeSafe app, and the ConnexGO app. Crisis Services Canada can be reached by calling 1-833-456-4566 or by texting 45645. You can also get immediate help by dialing 911 or visiting your local emergency room.
Image by Jason Mai from Pixabay