And I’d thought 2012 was bad……all I had to worry about then was adjusting to my big, bad bipolar diagnosis and playing lab rat for all the necessary experimentation with meds. Now my whining about that year sounds like schoolgirl hyperbole compared with what I want to say about this one.
In fact, 2013’s only saving grace is that it’s ending on a high note. The rest of it, basically, has SUCKED. What good is there in a twelve-month span of time that sees your husband diagnosed with stage IV cancer? That includes going street-rat crazy and losing the best job you ever had? That plunges you back into poverty and forces you to go begging for medical care, a decent job, and some self-esteem?
Almost everything that could’ve gone wrong this year, did. I should’ve known it would be a shitty year when it started with a stomach virus that (literally) brought me to my knees. It only got worse with the passage of time, as the stress of my job wound my nerves so tight that they finally snapped and I barely escaped hospitalization. The resulting damage to my professional reputation was so great that it not only cost me my position, but fundamentally changed the way I thought about myself and my career.
Then my sister fell here at home and needed to move to assisted living, which was a clusterfuck in every sense of the word. She was being overmedicated and her mind was turning to mush at a time when I needed her wisdom badly, as I was still trying to make sense of what was happening to me. We fought like cats and dogs the entire time she was in the nursing home, and it didn’t help that I was hypo/manic all summer…..she doesn’t respond well to me when I’m in that condition, and I don’t respond well to her not responding well. We’re OK now, but things were pretty tense for awhile there.
I’m also still unhappy that I used that friction as an excuse for overdosing on Ativan and blowing almost twenty-two years of complete sobriety. I look back at that and wonder what in the hell I was thinking when I took those tablets and then told Will what I’d done. Now I can’t celebrate my “sobriety birthday” on January 1st like I did for over two decades, because in the strictest sense of the word I’ve only been sober for three months and one day. I HATE it that I’ve had to start over…..but what’s done is done, and there’s no use pissing and moaning about it now.
And then to top it all off, Will was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which made everything else that happened this year look like a cakewalk. I STILL glance over at him several times a day just to make sure he’s still here and whisper a prayer of gratitude for this grace period we’re in. His primary care doctor says that if he’d had the ‘normal’ kind of pancreatic tumor, he wouldn’t be here now. Thank God that if he had to get this terrible disease, he got the rare form that can be stopped, if not cured!
The other big thing that happened this year was, of course, leaving clinical nursing to take a HUGE leap of faith into the unknown. It’s not as if I had a choice; I knew as far back as a couple of years ago that my days as an active, working nurse were numbered, but when things came to a head in midsummer I realized I had to go sooner rather than later. Again, thank God I had enough smarts to listen to the “still, small voice” in all of us that tells us the truth, even when we don’t want to hear it. I was nursing on borrowed time those last six months, and knowing my patients are safer in the care of other nurses who DON’T have all this mental stuff going on will help me sleep much better at night.
Speaking of which: another good thing is finally having developed some discipline in the self-care arena. As much as I hate to admit it, Dr. A was right—going to bed and getting up at the same times every day IS crucial to balanced moods. Nothing else has worked as well to get me where I am today. I think a major reason is that the routine makes it much easier to take my meds at the same times each day, which also promotes stability. It’s certainly cheaper than a lot of the other methods I have to employ (can we say psych appointments?). But of course no one’s suggesting that all my issues can be fixed with a little sleep and a good routine……oh, boy, do I know better than THAT now.
Which brings me to what I think the take-home lesson of 2013 is, and that’s acceptance: of my illness, of the need for consistency in my life, of the good and bad things that happen…..and of the fact that I am a deeply flawed, but decent human being.