Back On The High-Wire Without A Net: Goodbye To My Psychiatrist And Hello Again To My Blog

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My psychiatrist retired in July. At our next-to-last appointment he told me I was doing well enough that he decided not to refer me to another shrink, instead my family doctor will be treating me. Which I’m a little nervous about.

I’m not sure how I feel about losing the ‘talk therapy’ part of my recovery. My psychiatrist and I basically stopped talking almost a year ago. It was my fault. I spent four months in the hospital recovering from ‘severe uremic neuropathy‘, then another month in the hospital recovering from a kidney transplant. So for five months out of a year I was basically on my own, a hermit with only doctors, nurses and (for a while), a roommate to talk with.

After a few weeks of staring at the walls for company, there comes a time when you forget to do things. Like smile, or talk. And I forgot how to do both.

It has almost been two years since I was released from my second stay in hospital, and I still have problems with both. So in the end stages, my sessions with Dr. O had been pretty quiet. I was used to him scribbling to keep up with my various trains of thought, but just staring at each other for 45-minutes was getting pretty tedious and not a little depressing on its own. Now he’ll keep my files for ten years, then he’ll delete them and sixteen-years of my most personal thoughts and ramblings will be gone forever.

…I probably should have asked for a copy, but there are two folders and they’re each six-inches thick. And the poor guy just wants to enjoy his golf game.

Dr. O was the psychiatrist who first diagnosed me with manic depression, way back in 1989. After living out in the wilderness for 14-years, he was kind enough to take me back in 2002 when I finally hit bottom and was desperate for a way up.

There are a handful of people who are responsible for my being alive today, and he’s one of them. Without the talk therapy he provided, there’s no way I’d have survived my bottom. Without him my understanding of the disease would have been limited to An Unquiet Mind, the DSM, and a playlist of songs from Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, and The Cure.

I understand his point, about not needing a new psychiatrist, I’m not in any immediate danger of having an episode one way or the other. I haven’t had a major one in years… but I’m not symptom free by any means. I still, albeit occasionally, get overwhelmed by the manics and the depressions. I still have a disease, even after sixteen-years of treatment I haven’t been cured. The disease is still there, and it still wants me dead. I’ve just learned how to cope with it, how to make sure it stays dormant.

It’s just the duration of the attacks are shorter, they’re manageable, they don’t cripple me for days on end. I can think my way out of them. I can reason with them. I can see past them. I can cope with them. They don’t range from 0-100 anymore, with the medication and the skills my psychiatrist taught me, I can live in a more normal range of emotions… at least I can live inside a lot less devastating range.

With his help, and the right pills, I’ve found a range that isn’t devastating. I think that’s what I’m trying to say.

I understand his decision, and I’ll live with it and the consequences, but I am a little nervous about no longer having a psychiatrist on my recovery team. Of the three recovery tools I’ve had over the past twelve years — talk therapy (gone), medication, and this blog (shut down in 2014) — I was down to the Abilify, Seroquel, and Welbutrin*. And, really, medication is just not enough.

At least not for me.

Plus, and this is not related directly to my recovery, I’m on ODSP for the bipolar stuff, and the latest provincial government is bound to be performing a ‘review’ of the disability program, and that generally means making life more complicated for the people who rely on the program. They’ve already cut a planned increase in the amount we receive from 3% to 1.5%. And no one can explain why.

And it’s just going to be that much harder to prove my disability without a psychiatrist.


*…yes, I’m off the Lithium. More about that later.




Posted in Appointment Day, Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression, Health, Manic Depression, Mental Health, Psychiatry | Tagged | 6 Comments

Even More Mental Health Studies & News: Vol.5

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This issue: The anti-vaccination movement creates a whooping cough epidemic in Los Angeles; new study finds genetic markers for manic depression, while another finds a “genetic pathway underlying bipolar disorder”; a chemical found in broccoli helps relieve symptoms of autism, while an alternative hypothesis is offered into the cause and treatment of autism by professors at MIT; a tenured professor accuses American and Canadian pharmaceutical and defence companies of creating Ebola, and using it as a weapon against Africans, and; a Canadian judge decides modern science is secondary to naturopathic medicine.

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Posted in Autism, Bipolar, Clinical Depression, Health, Mental Health, Mental Health News | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Sometimes Life Happens, Part One: Death.

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My grandfather died in August. At the end, it was not unexpected.

It gets that way when someone passes the 90-year mark, and he was 92-years old. I held his hand a few days before he stopped breathing. He was sitting in an uncomfortable chair, in a dark hospital room with three other dying men, beside a wide window with a view of a brick wall, and I knew it would be the last time. We talked about doctors, and tests, and my grandmother, and how much he wanted to go home. But he knew it wasn’t possible.

Almost every conversation we had over the summer, and even last spring, had a sense of inevitability in it… he wanted to be younger. To be free of the pain in is legs and back. To be able to walk without a walker. To be able to walk the fences on his hobby farm, to make sure they were secure so the cows couldn’t escape. He wanted to be able to talk without pausing for words. To hear without needing repetition.

He wanted to eat properly cooked food, to enjoy taste. Until recently we would meet at a local diner, for a lunchtime steak, with mushrooms and horseradish. That’s what he wanted.

To sit down with his friends over coffee and talk about engineering, to talk about recent news, to catch up on the Canadiens, to trash talk the Senators, to find out more about his grandchildren… to ask about his great-grandsons. To flirt with the waitress.

For the last few years he lived in a retirement home that he hated. A few years ago, there was a fire at the one he liked… the one where he was happy, and he had to move. He was hurt, physically, during the evacuation. And he never really recovered, mentally, from having to abandon his home. From having to run away from his belongings, from having to not be in charge of his life. My grandfather, until then, was someone who ran in to help. He was the one who was most likely ‘in charge’. But after that, I think, he felt smaller. He felt frailer. He felt like there was an ending coming. Like he could see he was losing, or lost, control over his life. And he hated it.

He had been a large man. A quiet, dignified man. A man people listened to, who went to for advice, someone we learned from. He grew up poor, with three sisters and three brothers… his father was a train conductor, his first home was a renovated blacksmiths shed. But he graduated from three of Canada’s top universities. He was a star athlete, he won a Memorial Cup playing for his University hockey team. Strong, vital, intelligent… and he knew, towards the end, exactly what his condition was. There was no dementia in the end. There was no short circuiting.

When he had the energy, he could still be engaging. But everyday there was less energy. Less willingness to talk. More pain in his eyes. More complaints about his joints. More complaints about doctors. About not having control over his life, about having to rely on people to change his fucking pants. About having to wear fucking diapers. About not being able to tell his stories anymore.

He tried, over the summer, to repeat his stories to me… to show his work photos to his 4-year old great-grandson, my son. And I listened. And my son played on the floor between us. I had heard them all before. Several times. And I laughed in the right places, but not because I had to. Because his stories, his life, had meaning. He had done things, met people, had insight worth listening to over and over again.

I never stopped him from telling me a story I had heard a dozen times over. Ever. Later on, I could help him. I could give him the right word to help him continue his story, but I’d always listen. I was always interested. Not because there was a duty, but because he had been around the world dozens of times — he had dinner with presidents of country’s, and university’s, but never talked about those. He never bragged about his accomplishments, or talked himself up. It was always about the work. It was always about the people he worked with.

He talked about his friends. About the people he worked with. About the people he trained and hired. He never talked about being captain of his hockey team, or being the leading scorer in his league every year he played. He talked about the game he was watching. He talked about the players on the ice.

He hired people who needed the work. Then he taught them the skills to keep them working. After church, when we visited him on his hobby farm in rural Quebec during the summer, he would take my brother and myself out for an ice cream. Or a pop. Then we would visit with his friends along the long, winding road back.

On his farm, I would quietly follow him, waiting to be needed to hold a flashlight, or just to be useful. He taught me to drive his tractor when I was 9-years old. He put me in charge of driving the pick-up truck. Of baling the hay. Of feeding the cows, we would walk through the fields — him wearing a handkerchief on his head, me wearing rubber boots that were just a little big, and he would tell me the names of all the cows. Even the ones in the freezer.

I never had a father. So he made sure that I understood life. And he did it quietly. In short, two-week clips.

A few years ago, he told me he understood how sick I had been. That he understood — between the manic depression, and my father abandoning us — how hard my life had been. He actually told me that, just quietly and without judgment or accusation… “I know you’ve had a hard life.”. And I nearly broke down. Not out of sentiment, but because I finally understood that he had been watching me.

Then, in the end, during his last few days in the hospital, my quiet grandfather started talking about love, and life, and hope. He had visits from friends, people he had golfed with for years, people he had worked with years ago, family. And he told me he loved me. That he loved my son, my family.

That he respected me. Then I held his hand. I gently shook it. And left.

My mother was in the room when he died. He was talking to her, decided he wanted to take a nap, and didn’t wake up.

Because there were so many people who wanted to be at his funeral, to pay their respects, the service was held a few weeks later, on September 6. The next day, we buried him in a small cemetery, close to his hobby farm, in the mountains of Quebec.

…my baby boy, my grandfathers third great-grandson, was borne later that night.




Posted in Clinical Depression, Health, Little Victor, Manic Depression, Mental Health | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Even More Mental Studies & News: Saliva test for depression; Measles outbreaks in Canada; Watching memories form in real time; Mother faces charges after son dies while being treated with ‘herbal remedies’; Canadians use a lot of antidepressants

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“…researchers, publishing in Pediatrics, decided to test four different pro-vaccination messages on a group of parents with children under 18 and with a variety of attitudes about vaccination to see which one was most persuasive in persuading them to vaccinate. As Chris Mooney reports for Mother Jones, the results are utterly demoralizing: Nothing made anti-vaccination parents more amendable to vaccinating their kids. At best, the messages didn’t move the needle one way or another, but it seems the harder you try to persuade a vaccination denialist to see the light, the more stubborn they get about not vaccinating their kids.”
‘According to a New Study, Nothing Can Change an Anti-Vaxxer’s Mind’ — Slate Magazine.

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Why I’d be happy to have a drink with Ebenezer Scrooge

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A few nights ago I was watching the greatest Christmas movie ever made, Die Hard, and flipping over to A Christmas Carol during the commercials. When I was a kid the Scrooge movie freaked me out just enough so I haven’t been able to watch it all the way through since – just to add to the freakiness, this time it was the colourized Ted Turner Edition, so everyone was wearing pastel coloured waistcoats, and 1850’s coal-oil soaked London looked like 1985 Miami.

But I must have caught it at just the right – or wrong – commercial breaks because I didn’t see the movie as a condemnation of Scrooge, or even his lifestyle. When the Ghosts started popping up, especially the Ghost of Christmas Past, the movie actually offered perfectly sound reasoning for Scrooge’s behaviour.

Scrooge’s mom died during childbirth, so his father resented him. When Scrooge was old enough – four or five – his father sent Scrooge away to school in an attempt to get rid of the kid. As a child the only friend Scrooge had was his sister, who died giving birth to a son, who Scrooge would hold responsible for his sister’s death. To add to the insult, Scrooge’s nephew comes back later in the story as a poor, but frustratingly happy young man.

Despite everything Scrooge remained a Christmas lover, and moved to the big city where he got a job as a clerk. At this point he met and gets engaged to Alice, a beautiful and deluded woman who believes it’s a virtue to be poor. She and Scrooge are very happy together for a few years. When Scrooge attains a certain level of success she breaks up with him – Scrooge says “I love you, I’ve struggled to be better than I was.” She says “fuck you, you’ve changed, here’s the ring, I’m outta here.”

At this point Scrooge rightfully swears off personal relationships, except the one with his business partner, Jacob Marley. Years later, after being told Marley is not long for this earth, Scrooge tells his clerk there’s no point rushing to Jacob’s bedside because “we’ve all got to die, Cratchit”.

It seems as though his entire early life was just one swift kick to the groin after another. In a purely historical context I understand how Scrooge must be seen as the ‘really bad dude’ — the beginning of the Industrial Revolution was not a kind time for the working man. But even in that context Scrooge remains a sympathetic character. I always thought, just from watching the Muppet version and reading some of the book, Scrooge was meant to be a character without a soul and the Ghosts were trying to give him one.

But Scrooge was just a decent dude who had everything taken from him, and the Three Ghosts were ultimately just showing him what he had left was worth living for. Even though they’re basically the same character, Scrooge is definitely not Henry “scurvy little spider” Potter from “A Wonderful Life”. That’s definitely a hateful bag of hate in dire need of a life enema.

In the end, however, by far the biggest Christmas movie miracle of them all has to be when LAPD Sgt. Al Powell puts five shots into the torso of the ‘previously presumed to be dead’ Euro-trash Terrorist, thus saving the lives of John and Holly McClane at the end of Die Hard.

God bless us, every one.


…I originally published this here in 2007. It was also picked up by a newspaper in 2011 — which still makes me feel all squishy inside.




Posted in BiPolar Christmas, Clinical Depression, crazy people with no pants, Depression And Christmas, Health, Humor, Humour, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Mental Health | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Mental Health News: Depressed woman denied entry to US; Fathers are important; pregnant women with bipolar vulnerable; psychopathic tendencies; government monitors social media

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A Toronto woman denied a flight to New York as part of a cruise trip wants to know how U.S. border agents knew about her history of mental illness.
Ellen Richardson says she was told by U.S. customs officials at Pearson International Airport on Monday that because she had been hospitalized for clinical depression in June 2012, she could not enter the U.S.
…Richardson told CBC News that border guards referenced her 2012 hospitalization, and not her book, in denying her entry into the U.S.
At the time, Richardson was told she could only enter the U.S. if a doctor — not her own doctor, but one from a short list of others whom she had never met — signed a document vouching for her. She would also have to pay a fee of $500.
…U.S. border guards are allowed to bar anyone they deem a threat to themselves, others or their property. They have access to police records — including even uneventful encounters with officers — but medical records are supposed to be held in the strictest confidence.”

‘Canadian woman refused U.S. entry because of depression’

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Posted in Bipolar, Bipolar Disease, Depression, Health, Mental Health, Pregnancy | 7 Comments