2016 has been a year of ups and downs for me. I had a setback early in the year in February due to a medication change last October and went in the mental ward inpatient for the first time in five years. I was depressed with vague thoughts of going to bed and not ever waking up—not nearly as elaborate a suicide plan as I had put into action on other attempts but one that came without the usual obsessions which worried me a bit. So I went in before they could develop more fully and be more threatening.
I came out with a prescription for my old medicine and approval of coverage for it by my health insurance plan. I was elated but sobered by the fact that I had still slipped into a depression even after being in remission for so long.
Life did not improve immediately—it was a slow climb back out of the trough. Finally in October I began to improve and by Thanksgiving, praise God, I felt like remission had come again. I was active in my life again and happy to be alive. My anxiety levels dropped a great deal and I felt great.
Remission in bipolar disorder is much like remission in rheumatoid arthritis—it is not considered “cured” if your symptoms disappear. It is assumed that you can have them return at any time, particularly if you step out of treatment. I have continued my medication regimen with three-month checkups with my psychiatrist and continue counseling as well—if the combination worked to get me to remission, I feel there is no reason to stop it.
How long will this remission last? I hope another five years or longer. But in practical terms, I have no idea and no promise that I will stay at normal functioning. All I can do is continue my treatment and map out a healthy plan for myself in the coming year.
I gave up making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago. And I’m not sure my plans to continue in mental health are applicable to anyone but me. But I’m going to try to add more healthy habits to my routine in an effort to continue my remission. I hope to lower my caffeine intake and increase my exercise—lower caffeine contributes to lower anxiety and more exercise contributes to the production of healthy endorphins to regulate my mood. I hope to surround myself with good friends, good music, and good books. I hope to eat if not less, then better food that promotes healthy functioning. But I have a great deal more of one attribute I did not have this time last year, and that is hope that life will continue to improve and that remission will become again a way of life.