Creating goals for 2021 and reflecting on those from 2020:

It’s been a year man, I don’t think you should be to hard on yourself if you didn’t knock out all your 2020 goals, after all who thought 2020 would look anything like this in January? We were so hopeful, but life had other plans for us.

I did manage to get through some of my goals though, and I am proud of that, so lets look back on the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year:

  • Get back into photography: I’ve worked on this but I haven’t perfected it! I still need to spend a lot more time with my camera than I do, but I have been picking it up more than last year, mainly thanks to my husband, but hey, we’re not all perfect.
  • Refocus on budgeting: I picked a bad year to focus on budgeting. Prices have gone up and the economy has crashed, but all in all, I have been a lot more mindful about how I’m spending, so I kinda succeeded, though 2020 threw a lot of curve balls at us.
  • Journal more: Check! I’ve been journaling all the time! In fact I was journaled today. It makes a big difference in how I’m processing my emotions, so I’m really glad I’ve returned to this habit.
  • Become a better cook/baker: Check! While the pandemic was bad for budgeting, it was great for cooking and baking. I’ve done a lot of it and I’ve tried a lot of new recipes as well. I feel like I’m finally comfortable in the kitchen in ways I really wasn’t before.
  • Read more than fifty books: Well, I read 117. So check! I know the biggest gift to this was audiobooks from the library, but they are still books so they count. I really poured myself into stories over all the forced down time in 2020, so it was pretty easy to double my goal. I feel great about it!
  • Lose weight: Hahaha, about that. Yeah, that didn’t even come close to happening, but hey, I’m the same pant size I started the year with, so at least I didn’t gain any?

Now lets talk about 2021. It feels weird making goals for the next year after a year like this one. I feel like I have no right to try to figure out what the year should hold not knowing what it will hold. But I guess to a certain degree, that’s every year. So here we go!

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An amateur in many hobbies instead of an expert in one:

I’m good at my hobbies, in some cases I’m great at them, but I’ve always felt like my long held hobbies are somehow less than they are. I know why I feel that way, it’s because from a young age we are told to pour everything we have into something we love.

Those who are good at basketball in school are taught to eat, sleep, and breathe basketball when they aren’t studying. It’s gotten to a point that doctors say the increase in school aged children getting sports injuries has sky rocketed, because a child that used to swim in the summer and play football in the fall now plays football year round, so instead of switching where the wear and tear on your body is occurring it’s the same 24/7.

I know why, sports scholarships are a big deal. Children who are good at a skill can do great things with it if it’s their main focus for most their lives. Children with musical abilities that are nurtured can far surpass someone who picked it up in college or as an adult.

But the side effect of this highly focused approach to hobbies is that people like me who have a selection of favorite hobbies, feels like they’re failing at all of them because they are not only pouring all their time and energy into “the one”.

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Childhood bipolar diagnosis: The good, bad, and ugly.

I saw a post about whether or not children get diagnosed with bipolar and it sounded like a lot of doctors have changed their diagnosing and are waiting till the children are older. I don’t think this is wrong, a lot of children can have mental health episodes without being bipolar and I do think for a while we were over diagnosing everything from bipolar to ADHD. The fact is that children are hard to read, and I totally understand if doctors are hesitating to pull the trigger on really big diagnostics like bipolar disorder

But being a child (I was six) diagnosed with bipolar disorder I think there are both benefits and draw backs from being both diagnosed at that age and actually being bipolar that young.

The Positives:

  • I was able to learn the big lessons early: Being diagnosed early meant that I got to learn the hard mental health lessons young and didn’t have to struggle with them as an adult. I learned that going off your medications was a terrible idea and that my episodes of mania and depression weren’t cured they were medicated. A lot of young adults who are freshly diagnosed try to go off their medication because they feel better and they think that maybe everyone got it wrong. These unmedicated periods make the suicide rates so much higher for bipolar patients and can cause other major problems. It was easier as a nine year old to go off of them while being super supervised by my parents to make sure nothing bad happened.
  • I was able to learn coping skills while learning other daily skills: It’s easier to make pathways while your brain is growing! I was able to learn a lot of skills while I was still picking up life habits, that means they are seriously ingrained in me. This is great!
  • I’ve learned which meds worked young: I’ve had my trial and error phase with most medications. And while it’s possible for me to need a new medication at some point in my life, we still have a solid foundation to work with based on which classes of medication have worked for me in my (long) past! The trial and error phase is terrible, I think anyone can tell you that, so having most of mine behind me as a young adult is wonderful.
  • I spent a lot more time analyzing my emotions: I do better than a lot of freshly diagnosed adults at identifying my swings. It’s because I’ve had parents point out my habits over the years so I have a base understanding of them. This makes it easier as an adult because I don’t spiral as much because I have learned how to catch them before they get to bad (normally- I’m still human).

The Negatives:

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The biggest lesson of this hard year:

Out of everyone I know only two people have had a good 2020, and honestly good for them, someone should have enjoyed it. The pandemic is the heart of the bad year, but lets be honest, everyone has a different list of hardships from this year. Whether it be isolation, job loss, sickness, or other terrible things, its been a year- and not one that you’re going to commemorate with a 2020 Christmas tree ornament.

And while I spent the spring and summer struggling with our series of unfortunate events, I’ve spent this fall and winter on something else, all the blessings I have despite all the bad.

It’s easy to get carried away with the mess when one thing goes wrong after another. It’s easy to let the darkness consume you, and many bad years, I’ve let it. I’ve let the darkness win. I’ve let myself sink into depression- whether warrantied or not. And honestly no one would blame you if 2020 has left you that way. We’re in a pandemic with COVID but also with depression. We have sky high suicide rates right now. It’s been a very easy year to get lost in the darkness. If you have, you aren’t alone.

But, the message that I have is that there are still things going on to be happy about. There are still things to find joy in. The reason you can see all the shadows is because their is some form of light that is casting them.

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Book Review: Madness: A Bipolar Life

“An astonishing dispatch from inside the belly of bipolar disorder, reflecting major new insights

When Marya Hornbacher published her first book, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, she did not yet have the piece of shattering knowledge that would finally make sense of the chaos of her life. At age twenty-four, Hornbacher was diagnosed with Type I rapid-cycle bipolar, the most severe form of bipolar disorder.

In Madness, in her trademark wry and utterly self-revealing voice, Hornbacher tells her new story. Through scenes of astonishing visceral and emotional power, she takes us inside her own desperate attempts to counteract violently careening mood swings by self-starvation, substance abuse, numbing sex, and self-mutilation. How Hornbacher fights her way up from a madness that all but destroys her, and what it is like to live in a difficult and sometimes beautiful life and marriage — where bipolar always beckons — is at the center of this brave and heart-stopping memoir.

Madness delivers the revelation that Hornbacher is not alone: millions of people in America today are struggling with a variety of disorders that may disguise their bipolar disease. And Hornbacher’s fiercely self-aware portrait of her own bipolar as early as age four will powerfully change, too, the current debate on whether bipolar in children actually exists.

Ten years after Kay Redfield Jamison’s An Unquiet Mind, this storm of a memoir will revolutionize our understanding of bipolar disorder.”

-Goodreads

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A little note:

This blog has taken a back seat. 2020 has been a bad year for a lot of people, my family included, and while I’m not going to go into everything that’s gone on in our lives this year I will say there has been a strong increase in our stress levels. And it’s made it hard to write.

It’s not that I haven’t had things to say, in fact, I have a ton of things to say and I think I’ll have a back stock of topics to dive into. Mental health is more important now than ever, and through struggle I’ve learned as I always do.

This small little post is going to be followed by a normal post today. I just wanted to write a little note to say this: If 2020 has been hard for you, you’re not alone and it’s completely okay if this year has been based on survival instead of building.

It’s okay, and you’re doing a good job.

Make small changes, take big steps.

Do you know that people with dogs tend to be healthier than people without? Simply because most people walk their dogs, and that additional exercise a day boosts their physical health.

It makes you realize how big those little changes are. That twenty minute walk a day can change your health. So can changing one meal a day. You can change your mental health by spending more time in the sun or simply seeing a friend once a week. By setting a timer and cleaning for only 30 minutes a day, you can change the constant state of your house.

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The plus side of being open about your mental illness:

You probably have gathered that I really don’t care who knows I’m bipolar, seeing that I run a blog that is mostly on mental health. I’m not just open online though, I talk about it in person too. While I’m a firm believer that your mental illness isn’t the most interesting thing about you and you should never frame your identity around it, I also believe that it’s important to be able to talk about your illness.

Here’s why:

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