New Day Resolution

Looks like it’s gonna be a great day today

To get some fresh air like a stray on a straightaway.

– MF DOOM, “Great Day”- Stones Throw Records, 2004

2023 is almost over. I’m currently engaged in my annual ritual of abstaining from reviewing the past year. I’m also refraining from making any New Year’s resolutions. Here’s why: in the past, I’ve attempted to set goals and create lists to achieve them over a twelve-month period, but I’ve consistently become entangled in my own head. My bipolar mind simply isn’t linear or predictable enough to establish well-defined goals.

It doesn’t always go as planned. I stumble along the way and grapple with expectations quite often. In terms of my ambition, nothing remains set in stone. Instead of resolutions and a “Year in Review,” I opt for vague and adaptable ambitions. I prioritize mindfulness of the future, present, and past, focusing particularly on today.

One major struggle I faced before treating my mental health condition in April 2010 was the inability to remain in the present. I would either be overwhelmed by past shame or relentlessly chasing a future that seemed far better than my present reality. Life today is very different. I’m not in a hurry for the future, nor am I fleeing from my past.

You might question the purpose of keeping things vague and flexible. There’s a one reason: the unknown nature of my future significantly impacts my mood. When my mood fluctuates, my plans inevitably change. If my future is structured tightly with rigid expectations, the disruption of even one aspect could jeopardize my entire set of future ambitions.

Since 2010, I’ve achieved a great deal. I’ve been steadily employed for over 13 years, completed a Master’s Degree in Theology, and become ordained. I’ve traveled extensively across the globe and lived in various places throughout North America. I am happily married, and together, my wife and I have adopted three amazing dogs. None of these accomplishments stemmed from sitting down in the final week of the year and compiling a list of things I wished I had done the year before.

My growth has solely emerged from managing my life in 24-hour segments. I have no inkling of where I’ll be or what I’ll be capable of in Spring 2024. My only focus is on planning for today. Whether my present-day ambitions, yearnings, or desires will come to fruition depends on my readiness and ultimately, on God’s timing.

I'm not in a hurry for the future, nor am I fleeing from my past.

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For me, New Year’s resolutions aren’t effective, but they might work for you. Consider the mood swings of an individual without a dual diagnosis, mental health condition, or a mood disorder. Let’s imagine a scale where ten represents manic highs, and zero reflects severe depression requiring hospitalization. Typically, someone without a mental health condition may fluctuate between a six and a four throughout a year. From my perspective, this mental stability could indeed facilitate the creation of resolutions and the formation of concrete future plans. Refer to the chart below for a visual depiction of the explanation.

Between the ages of 17 and 29, I made numerous resolutions that I ultimately couldn’t adhere to. My mind was on an unmedicated rollercoaster ride, leading to four hospitalizations. Despite my efforts to plan, my intentions were consistently disrupted by bouts of mania or depression. I could experience a peak at level 10 in December and plummet to a level 1 by March. Refusing medication, neglecting follow-ups with psychiatrists, and failing to maintain a healthy lifestyle severely hindered my ability to plan effectively. This history underlines why I’ve adopted a flexible approach to planning my future. The chart below illustrates a recurring pattern that persisted over a decade.


If you were to review my patient file with my current doctor, I would be categorized as Bipolar Type 1 in Remission. This indicates that I adhere to my medication regimen, maintain regular sleep patterns, steer clear of delusions, actively participate in support groups and therapy, and prioritize physical activity. However, being in remission doesn’t imply a complete absence of fluctuations. I must remain prepared for ups and downs. Flexibility and grace are pivotal aspects of my life. Like anyone else, I aspire to achieve goals in my life. Yet, the only pathway to achieving anything in my recovery from Bipolar Type 1 is by being mindful of my present condition. The chart below illustrates how my mood can still fluctuate. If I prioritized ambitions and rigid plans over my self-care, I doubt I would have made much progress in my recovery to date.

Whether my present-day ambitions, yearnings, or desires will come to fruition depends on my readiness and ultimately, on God's timing.

Compare all three charts here...

No Mental Health Condition
Untreated Bipolar type 1
Bipolar Type 1 In Remission
Previous slide
Next slide

So, here’s my approach: I won’t contemplate Spring 2024 in December 2023, nor will I speculate on what I’ll be proud of by next December. My focus remains solely on managing today. Everything I do has to be measured in relation to my present state of mind. Recovery from a mood disorder is incredibly relative. An elevated mood for me in December 2009, prior to finding stability, vastly differs from an elevated mood in December 2023. In 2009, an elevated mood meant struggling to sleep, whereas in 2023, it might manifest as slight irritability. Similarly, in 2005 during bouts of depression, I spent months on the couch, watching Star Trek, CSI and Law and Order reruns daily until I watched every single episode. In 2023, experiencing a low swing means feeling blue, being less animated, and having lower energy levels. Those are two different experiences and two different acuity levels.

For anyone currently facing similar struggles, it’s crucial to assess relative progress in 24-hour segments. Consider making a ‘New Day Resolution’ and observe your journey over the course of each 24-hour period. The chart below shows what a daily mood chart might look like. 

Just because I am not making resolutions doesn’t mean I am not grateful for 2023 and not hopeful for 2024. Caution has been integral to my progress since achieving wellness. Each day, my therapeutic process involves understanding my state of mind upon waking and before falling asleep. Attaining wellness while managing a mood disorder has entailed developing self-awareness techniques. Rushing ahead has proven detrimental to me. I find greater comfort in grounding myself each morning, establishing a daily resolution. I’ve amazed myself what can happen when all of those days add up.

Be well,

Pastor Seth Perry

Seth Perry

Seth Perry

ELCA Pastor -Devotional Blogger- Mental Health Recovery Educator-Living Well with Bipolar Type 1


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New Years Resolutions are tough for me. I try to make a "New Day Resolution" when I wake up.