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Why I Quit My Job to Build a Symptom Tracking App

Like many people with chronic conditions, I discovered I’m often misunderstood, misdiagnosed and not given enough support by medical professionals. In fact, in the UK, a quarter of people with long-term conditions aged 18 to 34 report not having enough support from local healthcare services.

Even more concerning is these numbers don’t take into account the people who have yet to be diagnosed with a chronic condition. And we know how much of a struggle that can be.

I know all too well the frustration of coming out of an appointment with my doctor or therapist knowing I hadn’t been able to give them a clear picture of my health. This is unsurprisingly a common problem. Especially when you consider the cognitive symptoms that are common among many mental and physical health conditions. This often leads to no diagnosis, a very tentative diagnosis or at worst, a misdiagnosis.

My personal experience was a wild goose chase, going from consultant to consultant in search of answers. This was in addition to the hours spent on Google or exploring chronic condition communities on Reddit to try and self-diagnose what my doctors could not.

After years of seeking answers, I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. So, I started tracking my mood, symptoms and other daily activities, in the hope it would help me to understand and feel more in control of my health.

On the bad days, many don’t have much energy to do anything at all. So, I created a simple one-click rating method for my mood and symptoms using a spreadsheet with the option to add a note if I felt up to it.

This simple process not only helped me to provide medical professionals with a clearer picture of my health but it had a few unexpected benefits:

1. It was therapeutic.

Journaling made me feel like a weight was being removed, almost as if I was sharing the burden of emotions I had attached to the day’s issues and events.

2. It gave me purpose.

Making journaling a daily habit gave me some sense of purpose, especially on the days I was unable to do much else. I always felt like I had done one positive thing for the day.

3. It gave me perspective.

When you are having a bad day, it’s easy to get caught in the moment worrying you will always feel that way. I know my brain is also more likely to remember the bad days. Journaling provided a sense of perspective and helped me realize I had a lot more good days than I first thought.

After a while, I was able to step back and think of those difficult moments as just colored blobs of information amongst hundreds of other journal entries. I found I was much less likely to get stuck in the moment and spiral into anxiety. I was also more confident those moments would pass, as they had done before. The more information I collected, the more I felt a sense of control over my health.

In the end, tracking everything in a spreadsheet turned out to be less convenient than I’d hoped. I looked for apps as a solution, but found they were either too specific or not specific enough. They all failed to give me the quality of insights I was getting from my spreadsheets.

In 2019, I was forced to quit my dream job because of my chronic conditions. So, I set out to build an app for people like me. Something people could use on the go, that recognized the importance of the connection between the mind and body.

I wanted somewhere people could keep their mood and symptom entries in one place, along with other health factors such as sleep, diet, exercise, medication, supplements, etc. Knowing how these factors all impact one another, it made no sense to me why people had to keep this information spread across more than one app.

Ultimately, I wanted to build something that could be as simple or as complex as a person needed it to be. I wanted it to be as unique as every person’s individual experience of living with chronic conditions.

A year ago I launched Bearable. An app I designed and self-funded. An app that was built with the support, feedback and advice of the online chronic condition community that helped me years earlier.

Today, we’ve had over 100,000 users and still work with the community to make it even better suited to people’s niche health needs. Whilst we still have a long way to go, the positive reviews I see from our users remind me why I began this journey. Finding the right diagnosis, treatments and doctors shouldn’t be a difficult, years-long process.

A review from Google Play Store:

“Absolutely brilliant app for ME! I have been looking forever … 8 years to be exact for something like this. I have complex health needs and nothing cuts it in terms of tracking all the things I need to on a daily basis. This covers everything. I can track all my symptoms and the severity of them. The activities and medication I do. Rest breaks, physio … basically anything I want to.”

You can learn more about the app on Bearable.

Lead image via Bearable’s Facebook