As someone with BPD, I find it difficult to gauge where my emotions have been over the course of a week, day, or sometimes even in the past 5 minutes. Diary cards are just spreadsheets designed to help us keep track of these emotions in a tangible way. They can be found in numerous formats, from a simple google search. I draw my own on a sheet of graph paper.
Typically, each card is a full 9×11 sheet of paper with space to document one week’s worth of emotional variance. On the X-axis are days of the week. On the Y-axis are various emotions that you are prone to, as well as maladaptive urges/actions that you would like to cease.
My card includes the following emotions:
Joy, fear, anger, guilt, passion, sadness, disgust, interest, hope, and hopelessness.
It also includes the following urges:
Avoidance, isolation, drug use, and suicide.
It is important to customize the card in such a way that it applies to you, specifically. There are likely other emotions to better describe what you personally go through on a daily basis, and I’m sure you have dysfunctional urges which differ from what I’ve listed.
Furthermore, my card contains a space to quickly recap the day, so that when I look back I am able to identify what outside forces my emotional variances were caused by.
The intention is to fill out the card on a daily basis, usually at the end of the day, before bed. All you need to do is mark down the extreme high point of each emotion that day, on a scale of 1 to 5. Same process for the urges, along with an indication of whether or not you engaged in the action associated with the urge.
Although I am undeniably a highly emotional person, my comfort zone lies in logic and data. Having access to accurate records of my emotional dysregulation in the past, helps me in several ways. It helps me to identify my emotions, which had always been a struggle to say the least. It allows me to determine what triggers me. Diary cards also give me visual evidence of my increasing ability to endure every day life.
Diary cards are considered to be an essential component of DBT. I have to say that there is definite truth to that. They make your personal recovery much easier. They give you verifiable evidence of your improvement over time, helping to validate the process. They are certainly beneficial in the recovery process and if you aren’t using one, you should get on it today.