The last year has been horrible for my mental health. I typically have two major mood episodes a year. The swings present themselves in the same way and pretty much during the same time of year. The last year threw my “normal” into chaos. I’ve had an increase in depressive episodes, longer manic episodes, and my anxiety is out of control. My usual coping skills have done little to help manage these shifts. I’ve had to adjust medication multiple times over the last year. This is both frustrating and necessary. One of the hardest things for me to come to terms with is the fact that medication is, and will be, part of my life. A plan of action has been set up and discussed for mood shifts that do not adjust themselves within a certain timeframe, or for those that are more extreme. This sometimes means filling multiple scripts that are used for a short time then stopped. My bathroom drawer looks like a used pharmacy. Half a bottle of this to shock my brain out of a depressive swing, another for anxiety, another to help with sleep during a manic phase. All additional scripts on top of my everyday bipolar medication. It’s exhausting, expensive, and part of my life that will never change. Meds are just part of this.
This past year has made anxiety a nightmare. Paranoia/ worry over getting sick, going somewhere where someone hasn’t been vaccinated, etc. Thankfully the state I live in is progressive and has a high vaccination rate. Being able to be with more friends and family should help to lower anxiety, it doesn’t. I got used to the alone time in my home, safe from other people. Being with the public and not knowing who has been vaccinated is very stressful. Add onto that the politics surrounding the topic in general. My patience and tolerance level with other people is very low. The pandemic created a perfect environment for anxiety.
I also live in an area that has been struggling with record breaking hot temperatures 20-30 degrees warmer than our normal. This translates to higher fire danger. Another anxiety increaser. Because of the heat turning on the oven has been unimaginable. There goes baking to help with anxiety. My medications also make keeping cool a struggle. They affect my body’s ability to cool down, another wonderful side effect to some bipolar medications. This too makes anxiety very hard to get under control.
To help offset some of the new stressors and limitations I turned to bird watching and nature photography in our backyard. We have a variety of wild birds that visit our yard. We’ve also worked very hard the last three years planting trees, bushes, and flowers. So I picked up my old Nikon camera and started taking pictures. This helped to distract me from my overwhelming depressive thoughts and focused some energy away from my mania. Some of the pictures from last year turned out pretty good. I had a decent zoom lens so a few of the longer distance things went ok too. This month I decided to upgrade my old camera and I ordered a bigger zoom lens. The new lens arrives this weekend. I’m super excited. I’m hoping this new adventure will give me a reason to leave the house. One that doesn’t necessarily involve other people. I’m just not ready to trust or deal with others.
This year has been a medication nightmare and has forced me to look towards creating some different coping skills. Hopefully the mood swings will level out. The current depressive slope has made daily activities hard to manage again. I can still get some fresh air in the backyard though, even in my pjs if I must. My goal is for photography to be an additional or replacement coping skill when baking isn’t available. Something other than depression and mania to turn my attention to. I will post some of last year’s pictures as well as the pictures so far with the new camera as they happen.