Some New Year’s Thoughts

Usually sometime in January, I write down a list of the things I’d like to try and accomplish during the upcoming year. It’s usually not a long list, and I’m not very intense about it, and I usually only accomplish one or two things on the list (and this is often based on the fact that one to two things on my list are things that I think I will likely accomplish). However, I enjoy doing some thinking about how my life has gone for the past year and what I’m trying to envision for the upcoming year.

Except this year I’m not sure if I want to write up a list.

There has only been one year of my life that has been more painful and transformative than this past year: the final year of college when I was diagnosed with severe depression (which later turned out to be bipolar disorder) and almost had to drop out of school and had to come to terms with the fact that I couldn’t live the kind of life I had been living up to that point.

This past year, while the lows have not been as all-encompassing, life has been rough, and the end isn’t in sight. The issues I’m struggling with are here to stay, at least for the time being.

I also underwent a pretty significant life change by leaving behind an unwritten dissertation (which I may or may not finish) and deciding to move in with my parents and get a job as a high school English teacher. This job and move have been blessings. And teaching brings me joy and is exactly what I want to be doing with my life right now.

There are good transformative things happening in my life right now, but as I think about this upcoming year, I freeze. I cannot envision a way out of the painful mess that is my personal life. And I’m too afraid to set professional (and other related concrete) goals. Watching myself unable to write a sentence of my dissertation this past year and half reminded my again starkly of the struggles my senior year of college and the difficulty of trying to envision a future that I cannot bring into fruition because of my limitations. I wonder: if I hope that X will happen, or if I work towards Y, will I be disappointed yet again because it’s something that I can’t physically or emotionally handle?

I think if I create any kind of list, it will be one of affirmations or hopes, such as “I will try to think of myself as a valuable person” and “I will try to continue to find joy in teaching,” because those kinds of things are the kinds of things I feel I can hang onto right now.

Otherwise, I think I am just going to allow myself to be open to further changes and transformations that I hope will come this year. One of the quotes on our blog reads, “At the end of my suffering, there was a door” (Louise Gluck). This year I am hoping for that door to show up, and when it does, I will try to have the courage to step through it. I hope I am not disappointed.


  1. Do you experience the manic phase, as well? What medication do you take? I struggle with deep depression as well and my psychiatrist has wondered if I’m not bi-polar. Although I seem kind of wacky on the blog, I’m not really all that energetic.

    My dr. wanted to try me on some medication that can kill you if you react in a certain way. I thought, “no, I’m not feeling all that suicidal today, thank you.” LOL

  2. annegb, I’m lucky that I don’t get severely manic (and spend all my money and make grandiose plans and start having psychotic breaks). I just get hypomanic, which is a milder mania (and it means I have bipolar II disorder rahter than bipolar I). When I get hypomanic I get jittery and having racing thoughts and often get either anxious or euphoric.

    What made me first suspect that something besides your standard depression was happening was that I reacted pretty badly to the antidepressants my first psychiatrist put me on (Zoloft made so agitated that I got suicidal). Still, it wasn’t until a couple years after the depression hit that I first started to get hypomanic, and I finally managed to get my psychiatrists to start believing me that I didn’t have your standard depression.

    I think I’ve been on the medication that can kill you if you react a certain way (a potentially deadly rash). I actually loved that medication, and I’m going to go back on it once I get insurance stuff sorted out and can get back to see my psychiatrist (don’t ask). Anyway, right now I’m off my meds temporarily because I haven’t seen my psychiatrist in a couple of months, but when I go back on them, I’ll be taking Depakote and Lamictal.

    If you have more questions for me or want to talk more generally about psychiatric matters, feel free to send me an e-mail. It’s seraphine at

  3. I understand exactly how you feel, and I think your solution is a wonderful idea.

    Sometimes, admonitions to think positive and set goals are quite counterproductive.

  4. Seraphine, I’ve watched two of my friends get diagnosed with Bipolar this year, and both have done really well with Lamictal. One even started to get the rash, and her doctor didn’t have her stop it, but backed wayyy off on the dosage and gradually increased it, and she has been fine. That was scary. We laugh about how she’s got her “Mic” (Lamictal) and I’ve got my ‘Zac (Prozac).

    Anyway, I totally get the rethinking of goals and resolutions–I’m doing it differently this year, as well. I decided to “re-solve” rather than “resolve”, and part of that process is accepting limitations and seeing what component parts of myself can maybe be used differently–mostly I want to stop thinking of myself as defective and in need of immediate improvement via hard-and-fast “goals.”

    I hope you keep us updated on how it comes along. I’m also really interested in how your teaching is going and your experiences in the classroom.

  5. Thanks for the kind thoughts, Ann.

    Idahospud, I really like how you’re reconceptualizing your goal-setting this year. Maybe I’ll try something similar.

    And that’s great that your friend’s doctor was really flexible about the Lamictal–my doctors all told me that if I got the rash, they would pull me off it immediately (which means that when I go back on it, I’m going to be very careful).

    And I’ll make a post on my teaching sometime in the near future. I’ve been so intensely involved in it for the past few months, that I haven’t had much time to step back and do some good thinking, but I’d like to do that soon before I forget what my first few months of teaching high school were like.


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