Bipolar 2 From Inside and Out

There are two things associated with the new year – looking backward and looking forward. Looking backward is easier for me, so I’ll start there.

The year 2022 has presented both challenges and joys for me. There was our trip to Ireland, which was a joy but provoked overthinking and anxiety. An over-ambitious schedule and over-packing made the journey less successful than it could have been. Miscalculations on our part meant difficulty with flights and panic over finances when we had to extend our hotel stays and spend more money than we had budgeted. Driving on the “wrong” side of the road made me unable to do any of the driving and panicky whenever we negotiated a corner, encountered a curve, or parallel parked. I spent a lot of the car rides holding on to the “oh, shit” handle and pressing my hand to the roof of the small rental car. I was relieved to have remembered to take my anti-anxiety meds with me, and my husband helped by suggesting when my behavior might necessitate taking some.

Then there was our experience with COVID. My husband was diagnosed. I never was, but I had all the same symptoms, so I assume that I also had it. I remember being concerned, but not unduly anxious. We had (relatively) mild cases, so we sheltered in place and took over-the-counter remedies to combat our symptoms. We had groceries delivered and slept a lot, so I guess I would have to say we coped. When the immediate danger was over, I had COVID anxiety regarding my husband’s job, which includes lots of contact with the public. We both knew it could have been a lot worse and were grateful that it wasn’t.

I kept up with my therapy appointments via WebEx. We both liked the process so well that we have continued meeting that way even though the danger of COVID has lessened. My med appointments were somewhat more problematic. These I had to attend in person, braving the masked world four times during the year. My psychiatrist is less tech-savvy than my therapist, but he did learn how to send my scripts to the pharmacy electronically, so the process was easier for me.

When my typing job slowed way down and was in danger of disappearing, I was able to find a new gig ghostwriting, which added a steady supplement to our income and lessened my perpetual anxiety and preoccupation with financial matters. Now that the typing is almost nil, ghostwriting has proved to be not only a financial boon but a boost to my self-esteem. After a rocky beginning with my first couple of assignments, I’ve had much better success and now feel both competent and confident.

All in all, the past year has been pretty good, I would say. Despite the anxiety I suffered, it never proved crippling. And I didn’t notice any real depression. Relative stability, which is what I felt, is a good thing.

It’s also a harbinger for the coming year, or at least I hope so. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions per se, but my goal for the year is to keep on keepin’ on. I will continue to take all my meds as prescribed. I will continue seeking ghostwriting assignments and doing my best to fulfill them. I will try to rein in my anxiety when we go to Gatlinburg for a few days this spring. I will keep a close eye on our finances but try to avoid major anxiety about them. I will also try to keep a lid on my overspending when I get hypomanic.

I have developed a new sleep-wake cycle in order to be with my husband in the mornings when he gets ready to go to work. I now go to bed at around 8:00 and get up around 6:00, or even 4:30 when Dan has an earlier workday. On those days, we both take a nap in the late afternoon, which sometimes makes our meal times more irregular. Generally speaking, it all works out, for the most part, and I see no reason to change it during the coming year.

Taking my meds faithfully and keeping up with my therapist and psychiatrist appointments are givens. I know that they are the linchpins of my stability. But I will keep on the lookout for depression, anxiety, and hypomania and try to deal with them as soon as I notice the symptoms.

In other words, if I can be said to have plans or goals for the coming year, I intend to continue as I have been and hope that my bipolar disorder doesn’t shake up those plans or goals. As always, it’s a crapshoot.

I see a lot of recommendations that you live not in the past or the future but in the now or in the moment. I have a hard time doing that. I look back on the past – not merely for one year, but for my whole life. I look forward to the future – the idea that there are still good things to come. I look back at how far I’ve come. I look forward to how far I can go.

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