2008 in Review: What you wouldn’t get in a Christmas form letter.

2008 was interesting. Dull it was definitely not, though I'm hoping with the volatility will come a lasting catharsis that will help things move forward in the right direction from here on.

I'm not sure why I feel compelled to share my tragedies and triumphs (mostly tragedies, this being me) unless it's a way of pushing the bad stuff further away, of venting it so it feels less oppressive, less a weight on my own shoulders. I'd also like to think my life is in some ways an example, proof if I can claw my way from day to day with some degree of success and normalcy anyone can. Or, it just may be that I put the anal in analytical, and can't help myself.

On the personal front, it's been a year replete with doctors, medication and intensive cognitive therapy. After a lifetime thinking my horrific childhood hadn't affected me, I ultimately had to admit I'd been fooling myself. I hit the proverbial wall. It was either face the horrors of my past – and admit I was drowning - or let them destroy me and everyone around me. As I've done all my life, I chose to fight. Unlike before, this time I had help. And lots of it.

In all, six doctors intervened or otherwise touched my life this year. Through all that professional support I finally got something in the way of a diagnosis – serious depression with bipolar components – after suffering so long on my own. 

The process is slow, but I'm headed in the right direction. I made decisions this year that have had a direct impact on my entire family. I cut my parents out of my life this summer. I feel in some ways I also deepened the bond I have with my brother and sister-in-law. Though they've found themselves  in the middle in many ways, they support me. It was the right decision, I know. Harsh, but right. I haven't regretted it since.

I've been concentrating on rebuilding ties with my immediate family. Depression has a way of estranging a person. When you're depressed you don't want to be around people. Many days I'd rather lie in bed, in a dark room – sleeping or obsessing – than interact with other people. I'm slowly climbing out of the pit that's the depressive side of bipolar disorder. Some days I slide back in, other days I move a few feet forward. It's an exhausting battle. Some days it feels impossible. Others I see a light of hope creeping in.

Professionally, I'm continuing my quest for my Master's in Library Studies. I hope to finish at the end of 2009. Next semester I'm taking another full load – three courses – since I was able to work hard and earn three As this semester. That keeps my perfect 4.0 GPA. As my doctor says when I talk about that, "And if you don't graduate Summa Cum Laude you'll …" The answer she's looking for is something along the lines of, "Realize I'm an imperfect person, and not let it bother me." The one she gets is more like, "Scream, cry, and jump off the roof?"

We have a way to go yet.

Writing-wise, I'm not concentrating on publication. I'm okay with the idea of never publishing. I don't know if it's giving up so much as realizing my limitations. Improving the overall quality of my writing is my only writing goal in the New Year. That, and reading a lot more personal essays, which are my favorite writing genre.

My writing group at the library is proving to be an inspiration, more so all the time. I want to help take the group further in 2009, working with the library to publish a chapbook of their work in the New Year. Will I submit something of my own? Probably, but I'm not thinking about that now.

Reading-wise, I don't know if I'll be able to get back to reviewing in 2009. I'm still in grad school, still working 25 hrs/week, and the last time I checked I still have a familyme. I'm not going to stop reading, but I am looking at ways to change how I read to optimize what I get out of it.

I have a goal of starting to read the Harvard Classics in 2009.  This isn't another of my manic projects. I'm allowing myself a good decade to get through them, and if it takes longer who cares?

Now that's the new me, just a bit of a glimpse of her.

Overall, if there's one thing I've learned in 2008 it's that I beat myself up too much. Resolution one is to learn to be more supportive of myself and less my own worst enemy.

Resolution number two is to continue the work I've started - battling my depression, getting to the core of my deeply-rooted issues, working with my doctors.

Number three involves relationships – continuing to set my boundaries, let them down when appropriate and trying to become more accessible to more people as long as it's comfortable.

Number four is to follow my interests without letting them overwhelm me. This involves reading in the subjects that interest me, slowing down and really absorbing what I read, not rushing through anything. It also involves writing for my own love of it rather than with any publication pressure.

Number five, my journal. I want my written journal to cover more day to day life, with less revelling in unhappiness - what I call "whining" – though my doctor gives me her full permission not to muzzle that. In fact, she encourages it. She's funny that way. Of course I'll still blog, but the written journal will continue to be a companion to that, just a more complete one reflecting more of my life.

Miscellany? There are all sorts of things I want to do, need to do, will consider doing. I haven't gotten to those yet. I used to think if you didn't start all your resolutions on January 1 they were doomed to failure. That's a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The pressure that puts on a person all but guarantees disappointment – one thing none of us needs any more of.

Mostly, I hope for a more smooth, level 2009. Calm with minimum tumult, that's what I could use. Fates willing, I'll be here again at the end of 2009 to let you know how it all went. And of course you'll hear from me along the way, for status reports and general rants. You lucky devils.

Whatever your dreams are for 2009, I wish you luck with them. Just remember to be kind to yourself. Give yourself permission to be human. The rest of us are plugging along right beside you; none of us have it all figured out.

Here's to the journey. Happy 2009, and I mean that in the fullest sense of the word.

7 thoughts on “2008 in Review: What you wouldn’t get in a Christmas form letter.

  1. I love your writing, Lisa. I hope you continue in your pursuit of publication (when the timing is right) – you are worthy.
    I hope you have a very Happy New Year! 🙂


  2. I am so proud of you, Lisa. I cannot believe you have been going through all of this and not skipping school or Writers Group! Sure there are ups and downs, mania and depression, but through it all you have put one foot in front of the other and marched on. You have some backbone, hon.
    Keep delving, exploring, healing and even whining on occasion, Lisa! Here’s to a New Year – Happy 2009!


  3. Wishing you a very stable 2009, Lisa. As the 15-year-younger sister of a bipolar who refuses therapy, refuses to accept any responsibility for her behavior, and who finally crossed the magical line last weekend so that she could be involuntarily committed and perhaps now set on the path to improving herself and her life, I admire you greatly for doing what it takes to get better. You’re already Summa Cum Laude in my book.
    Take care.


  4. I do hope that 2009 proves to be a turning point year for you, Lisa. I’m sure I speak for all the other UK writers, whose lives you have touched. Do, please, keep the flow going and if you ever decide to make the trip over here there will be a very warm welcome.
    Mary Cavanagh (from Oxford, England)


  5. Your honesty is amazing. I wish you all the best sunshine. Good for you for cutting out those who caused you pain. You know old Richard Simmons’ saying, ‘surround yourself with positive people.’ I love that. My heart is with you as you go through this work.


  6. Dear Lisa
    I’ve been following and wishing good things for you all year but decided not to hassle you with “are you OK” e mails because often that just makes things worse. I’ll do more of the same for 2009 but wanted to let you know you are in my thoughts a lot and hey guess what? That copy of Gilead you sent me? I’m finally reading it for the third time having failed twice over and this time it’s working.
    Lynne xxx


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