Conversations With My Psychotherapist Are Coming To An End

“…our biggest trigger while I was growing up, was me asking questions about my past. Any questions about the Cult we grew up in, or anything regarding my father, or even anything regarding my father’s side of the family, were absolutely forbidden. Any conversation about either was predetermined to end up with my mother yelling at me.”
–‘Bonding Part Two: The Punishments She Did And Didn’t Hand Out.’

“Well, if I had my way
I had a, a wicked mind
If I had a, oh Lord, I’d tear this building down!”

–“If I Had My Way I’d Tear The Building Down” (1927); Blind Willie Johnson, ‘Dark Was The Night’

In addition to regular appointments with my psychiatrist, I also see a psychotherapist every two to four weeks. I’ve been seeing her for almost a year now. Which means our time together is winding down as the Government only pays for 26-sessions. I’m really not sure what I’ve learned over the past year.

When we first started out, she asked a bunch of questions about me and my life — she already had the gist of it from notes she received from my psychiatrist so I just had to fill in the holes… basically she wanted to know my Depression Triggers. Specifically what my relationship with my mother was like.

I told her about the Cult I grew up in, how I was raised by a Collective where the children were not allowed to have a connection to any one individual over another, so I didn’t know my mother until she escaped with my brother and myself when I was eight-years old. Then there were the years of her working odd jobs, at weird hours, which meant my brother and I were left on our own with babysitters in the beginning, and then just on our own as we got older. So my mother and I never had a chance to know each other, which means we’ve spent most of our time together arguing and misunderstanding each other.

So that’s what we’ve been talking about… for a year. It has gotten very, very tedious. For the first twelve sessions, we used ‘Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy, or EMDR, to work out my Mother issues. And, for some of them, the EMDR seems to have worked. But overall I don’t think I’ve learned more than I already knew…

…she was raised by an absentee father, and an abusive sociopath for a mother. In an attempt to escape from her home situation, she ran into the arms of my Father, who turned out to be an even worse, even more abusive sociopath. When she finally escaped my Father, she had the option of going back to living with her original abuser, but getting free rent and school, or going off on her own with two kids who barely knew her.

It was an impossible choice… and I resent my grandfather for forcing her to make it. But she made her choice, and it was to be on her own. She decided being alone would be better for us than being with her parents. She was escaping abuse, and didn’t want to be abused again.

I think one of the points my psychotherapist has been trying to make for the past year is that it’s easy for me to say that, in hindsight, she could have dealt with it for another few years, to make a better future. But, having lived with her choice for the past few decades, it’s just hard for me to look at her choice and say she made the right one.

Like, instead of a ‘Sophie’s Choice’, there should have been some negotiation or something. Dammit. There was no ‘right choice’, so why not pick the one with the potential for a better future?

And back and forth it goes… if there were sides, I believe my psychotherapist would definitely be on the side of my mother. At least that’s how it seems. She has spent entire sessions recently going over what an incredibly hard decision it was for my mother to make. When I try to explain that I know that, that I’m aware of what a Choice it was, I just get talked over. I think we’re stuck on the wrong issue… yes, this Choice is the Root of our misunderstandings and arguments, but there are several branches that need to be dealt with.

It’s not like we have a lot of time left… my mother is 72-years old now, our relationship is one where we don’t talk to each other about day-to-day stuff, because we’ve conditioned each other to expect an attack of some kind. My psychotherapist wants me to bring up positive things then, instead of shutting down if and when my mother makes a negative or passive aggressive comment, to try and push through. Keep it positive. Put a positive spin on the topic.

…of course one of the problems is trying to find something positive, or negative for that matter, in my life to share. It’s not as though I do a whole lot, or have a lot to report. Her point is to share more with my mother, in an attempt to break the conditioning of the past thirty-five years.

The thing about conditioning though, is that it’s almost impossible to get the dog to stop salivating at the sound of the bell.

Posted in Appointment Day, Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression, Depression, Family, Granny, Health, Mother, Photography | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Bonding Part Two: The Punishments She Did And Didn’t Hand Out

“So for the first few years of my life my Mother wasn’t there, for the next five years of my life I was a group chore, with little to no idea who she was to me. Then, for the next six to eight years, I was a latchkey kid while she tried to make a life for us.
“So the question is… when did my Mother and I have time to bond? How much of the yelling and screaming and threats that we went through for my early-to-mid teens had to do with the lack of understanding who we were as individuals?”

–“Bonding Part One: Two Choices She Made That Made Me”… the one I wrote before this one.

.

“Yeah, you’ve got to help us Doc, we’ve tried nothing and we’re all out of ideas.”
Mona Flanders, ‘The Simpsons’, “Hurricane Neddy”; Season 8, Episode 8, 1989

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“I definitely don’t hate my mom, she was a complicated and nuanced person.”
— Jennette McCurdy, on ‘The Daily Show’; Sept. 17, 2022.

I was never really disciplined as a child. The Cult I grew up in believed that the Individual couldn’t have a connection to the children over anyone else. Therefore the care of the children belonged to the Group. We were on a daily chore list — on Tuesday, John was in charge of making sure we were fed and in school. On Wednesday it was Barry. But there was no list for what to do when I misbehaved.

I remember a few occasions where I was punished for doing Something by being put into a small room and being forced to transcribe books onto blank paper using crayons. But, really, that was it. There were also Criticism Sessions, where a person had to admit wrongdoing in front of the Group, then hear from the Rest of the Collective about how they were each affected by the ‘misdeed’. The children were mostly immune from the Criticism Sessions, but I do remember once having to stand in front of everyone and admit to having dropped a bag of milk. The adults, however, were constantly in debate mode.

…imagine a group of highly intelligent, educated young teachers and University students tearing into each other almost daily over things as random as whether French Fries are boiled or fried, to whether or not a young mother could breastfeed her own child. They were cruel to each other, as each one tried to prove to the others that they were the most pious, the most pure…

…anyway. Mostly I was just left on my own. This didn’t change after we escaped. After we left the Cult, and we were on our own, my mother did her best to keep us fed, showered, and in clean clothes, and she tried her best to be around, but she was receiving no child support from my Father, and working low paying jobs that usually had weird hours.

But she couldn’t be there and, over the years, what happened was things would build up and build up, until there was an explosion. Not at first, though. At first we were just gliding along, trying to get to know each other. Plus I was too young to understand anything that was going on, or what had already happened. All I knew was that we went from a house full of people, sharing a bedroom with six other kids, to a three person unit headed up by someone I barely knew.

The results of such a lack of discipline really began to manifest around the time I was entering high school. I was lost in school. Nobody was around to help me.

…our biggest trigger while I was growing up, was me asking questions about my past. Any questions about the Cult we grew up in, or anything regarding my father, or even anything regarding my father’s side of the family, were absolutely forbidden. Any conversation about either was predetermined to end up with my mother yelling at me.

The next biggest trigger were my marks in school… but it was a close second. I was never more than a C+ student, and that was never a major issue for my mother. But when I was sixteen I started skipping school. My marks gradually went into the toilet. By the time I was seventeen, I was failing everything.

There were never any consequences, just yelling on the day my report card would come in. But it wasn’t just simple yelling, it was a Criticism Session. It was her loudly and passionately telling me all the things I was doing wrong, but with no solutions, and me just standing there, speechless and with a cocked arm ready to hit her.

When I seventeen, this is how our triggers manifested themselves. Months of ignoring the problems, never mind finding solutions, then a nuclear explosion when confronted with the failures. This was her idea of discipline. This is also when my mother started threatening me with Foster Care.

But nothing worked because only Nothing was offered as a solution, and the occasional threats of her sending me to live with another family only pushed me further away.

…my marks continued to be bad, if not horrible. Instead of admitting to some culpability in the mess, and spending more time with me after school, and just fucking helping out with my homework, she took me to visit my uncle up in the mountains. My mother’s idea was to have “a man” talk to me. As if her brother, who was missing for most of my life, could suddenly become a father-figure. Someone who could influence my choices and put me on the right track.

Instead he sat us down at the kitchen table, and proceeded to threaten me with a beating. After examining my latest report card, filled with failure, he pointed to a thick paddle hanging on his wall and told me that for every failing mark I received in the future, I would get hit with it.

Of course it changed nothing. I never got hit, I kept getting getting shitty marks because I was on my own, I had always been on my own. I never failed a Grade, although I should have many times. I kept moving up in my Grades because my teachers saw potential. Or they were just lazy or clueless.

…I don’t remember what the conversation / argument was but, on the way back from her parents home, in the middle of the night, on a rural back road two-lane highway, we were discussing Family Matters… and I told my mother to go fuck herself. I was sixteen or seventeen. She dared me to say it again, so I did… much quieter, but still. So she pulled over and kicked me out of the truck. We were seven miles from home, on a chilly Fall night. I had been walking for almost forty-five minutes when the police found me.

They pulled over, and asked where I was coming from. I could have narced on my mother, but I didn’t. I told the police that I was coming from a party. They asked where the party was, and I waved my hand towards a dark house maybe half a mile from where we were standing. The policeman obviously didn’t believe me.

He asked where I lived, and I was honest with him. So they put me in the backseat, and drove me home… they followed me into the house when I walked in. My brother and mother were sitting on the couch, watching TV. My mother, seeing the police, bolted up from the couch. I do remember the shock on her face. But I don’t remember much after that, except going upstairs to my room.

Of course we never spoke of the incident again. Because that’s was how we continue to deal with our triggers.

Posted in Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression, Family, Health, Mother, Photography | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Thursday Conversations With My Psychiatrist | New Pills & A Car Wreck

I’ve changed psychiatrists since I wrote the last one of these. My last psychiatrist — the one who saved my life, retired… or something, he told me my regular Doctor could treat me. So I went without a psychiatrist and talk therapy for the first time in almost fifteen years, but that turned out to be a mistake.

Also, I didn’t trust my Family Doctor to have any idea what meds I should be taking, or the dosage, and I told him that at our first meeting. So he referred me back to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and they called me to ask their standard LOCUS (Level of Care Utilization System) questions. I waited a few months, and then I had access to a new psychiatrist, Dr. LH.

And she’s been awesome. She asks questions pertinent to my life, I don’t have to recap our previous appointment, and she’s engaging. I’ve learned a lot from her over the past two years… unfortunately, she’s also planning on retiring soon. Sigh.

Here’s what we discussed at our latest appointment…

I had an accident with the car the morning of my appointment. I was taking the kids to school, I was tired, and wasn’t paying attention. I backed out of the driveway, and turned right into my neighbour’s parked car. She had parked in the street because she was having major work done on her back steps. It’s my first accident as a driver. There was no damage to her car, but mine is not a little fucked. Big dent in the back right side, and one of the quarter panels has been pushed in.

Surprisingly my first reaction wasn’t to jump head first into a depression. I did get angry at myself, but I was also surprisingly calm. I think some of that had to do with the kids being in the car at the time.

I think I was still in shock when I told Dr. LH.

We didn’t linger too much on the accident. She made sure I was okay, and that if I did fall into a depression that I was to call her.

The mechanic says he can fix most of it, but I’m a little skeptical. It looks like a basketball-sized hole was dug out of my car. The car is fifteen-years old, and I just put $600 into a new fuel pump and I need new winter tires. That’ll be another $400. This is not good.

After a pause of a few seconds, I finally brought up the not-showering thing. I told her I hadn’t showered in a couple of weeks, and that it wasn’t unusual for me to do that… and the only reason I had showered on that particular day was because I had an appointment with my Foot Nurse.

…I explained to Dr. LH that as a diabetic I’m able to get free foot care from the local Family Health Centre, which means I have someone cut my nails and take care of the hyperkeratosis (it’s relatively mild) on my feet. Basically I get a free pedicure every six to eight weeks, because doing it myself, or having someone untrained do it, might mean bleeding and an infection, and goodbye foot. This also means I have to shower for the appointment, because it makes my feet soft and easier to groom.

It comes down to a form of mental inertia… when I do force myself to shower, or I’m forced to because of an appointment or a function, I wonder what all the fuss had been about when I finish. I tell myself that it’s just too easy — turn on the water, get undressed, get in, wash, rinse, get out and get dressed. What’s the big freaking deal?

But, three days later it is a big deal again: I’ll do it later, I’m too late for something so I have no time, I’m too tired, there’s no reason to do it right away, just fuck off about it already, I’ll do it later.

It’s ridiculous but there it is… it’s now been two weeks since my appointment for my feet, and I haven’t showered since. I did get my hair cut a few days ago, so the hairdresser washed my hair, and I did shave my beard down to a respectable length tonight… so there’s that.

She told me that the feeling of Everything being a step too far was not unusual with people suffering from chronic depression. We didn’t talk about it very long, but basically it comes down to ‘the supply chain’ is broken — ie: it takes a million little steps to make a car. Right now the supply chain is broken so the car can’t be built, or it gets really expensive to build it, so it never gets bought. So… regarding the showering, the two dozen steps it takes to get one done are just too much for me to get through.

This is my own analogy, so bear with me. You don’t ‘just’ shower. You have to buy the soap. That means getting to a store. That means driving or getting a ride. That means organization. That means having the money. Once you have the soap, you have to get the time. That means planning, and more organizing, plus you need to have the desire, or the need to get it done. It’s a mental inertia… my supply chain is busted.

I think that makes sense… she liked my analogy anyway.

I also told her I’ve been getting some great sleep over the past ten days. I’ve been mostly staying awake during the day — working on this blog, reading comments, making comments on Other Blogs, which is making me tired at the right time. She was very happy to hear this for a couple of reasons:

Sleep is vital to recovering from a mental illness. At least getting control over it is. I was an insomniac for the fourteen to eighteen years I was untreated, and it’s just a vicious circle… the disease won’t let you sleep, and the lack of sleep feeds the disease. The only way to stop the cycle is to really hit it with a sledgehammer… for myself that means Seroquel and Abilify at bedtime. Both operate as a sedative, and just turn my brain off long enough to fall to sleep. If things are really bad, I’ll take a Zoplicone. It’s specifically for insomnia, and is non-addictive.

The other reason my psychiatrist is happy is because I actually have an interest in doing something during the day. This blog, along with medications and talk therapy with a psychiatrist, was a vital piece of my Recovery for most of the past 16-years. Writing, for me, has always been an important way of working issues out… I described it to my psychiatrist it’s like a way to massage the knots out of my brain, kind of like EMDR. She liked that.

The last major issue we discussed was adjusting my meds. Specifically the Abilify… I had a possible epiphany a few days ago that maybe, just maybe, the reason I’m tired all day is because I’m on the max dose of the med.

Every mood stabilizer I’ve ever been on — the Lithium, the Epival, and now the Abilify, has been prescribed at or close to the max dose. I think the general idea was that the dosage would come down over time, but I never had any crazy side effects, so the dose remained the same.

I was never tired with the Lithium. I don’t remember being tired all the time on the Epival, but I think some of the responsibility for the tiredness I feel daily comes from the Abilify. So my newish psychiatrist and I have decided to start reducing the prescription a little at the time. So from 20mgs to 18mgs to start.

It was never something I thought too much about until very recently, while I was reading Other Blogs, that maybe there was a connection to my needing five-hour naps everyday and the drug I was taking. It’s just that the dose seemed so small… 20mgs is not a big number considering I was taking 2100mgs of Lithium, and 1600mgs of the Epival.

As the Abilify comes down, I’ll start taking Trintellix — “[t]his medication may improve your mood, sleep, appetite, and energy level and may help restore your interest in daily living.”. I’ll begin at 5mg in two weeks, just so I have time to get used to the effects on my sleep at the new Abilify dose. The basic plan is, as the Abilify comes down, the Trintellix will go up.

The thing is I’m normally very wary of changing medications, or even the dose… and now I’ll be doing both at the same time. This will be interesting.

Posted in Appointment Day, Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Blogging, Health, Lithium, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Mental Health, Psychiatry, Sleep | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

The Day-To-Day Indignity Of Manic Depression

“Caring for yourself, looking after your physical health, just isn’t a priority for someone who constantly wants to die.”
— ‘When You Spend 6570 Consecutive Days Wanting To Kill Yourself The Little Things Get Neglected… Like Dental Hygiene’: June 13, 2007; by Gabriel…

“We need to be able to find small victories, little moments we can lose ourselves in so we can fight against the voice in our head telling us what a huge fucking failure we’ve become because we couldn’t stop failing over the years and decades which make up our lives.”
— ‘When Relying On Small Victories To Move Through Depression There’s A Very Real Risk The Small Defeats Will Carry Us Under’: January 7, 2008; by Gabriel…

I get exhausted doing the day-to-day things everyone else in my life seems to do without thinking.

The mundane becomes overwhelming. The trivialities of everyday life become exhausting, so that even attempting the little things become too difficult knowing how drained I’m going to be. Basically we get hit so many times with failure that we flinch at the thought of doing something trivial, until the basic essentials of everyday life become mountains to overcome.

We get so engulfed in the double edged sword of bipolar disease — the near constant of depressions and the extreme highs become such a burden on our lives, that our ability to do the routine stuff gets lost.

…like staying awake. Or keeping appointments. Or changing the bed. Or showering.

I think it gets even worse when someone with Bipolar or Chronic Depression is on Disability, or living alone, because there really is no reason to get clean. There’s no reason not to sleep. There’s no reason to get the laundry done or the dishes clean. There’s no structure to the day except that which we are trained to do as children, and that training got overwhelmed by the Depressions and the Manics.

And I’ve been mostly on my own for the past four-years.

Which might explain why I don’t shower with any regularity any more. I had one a few days ago because I had an appointment for my feet, but that was the first one since my last Doctor’s appointment three weeks ago.

I’m at the point where if it wasn’t for those appointments… I don’t know. When I was untreated, I’d also go weeks without showering.

During the last two years of high school I was chronically depressed because of the manic depression. I was missing half of my classes, I was drinking heavily on weekends, and I stopped showering regularly. I would wash my hair twice a week but leave my body rotting for weeks at a time. My nickname was Sloth… but I didn’t know that until years later when a friend I hadn’t seen in years apologized for how he treated me. It was because I was physically slow and reeked most of the time.

Things got a little better in the years afterwards, when I started working, and I was dating regularly, but the behaviours ingrained on me by the Depressions were just too strong. By the time the moments of lucidity came around, when the manics and depressions were taking a break, the size and amount of the chores left to me were just too much to deal with. So even if I was able to wash myself, dishes were left to the mould, and the mounds of clothes remained unwashed.

Over the past four years things have reverted back to how they were in high school. I just don’t know why I don’t shower more. I’ve never talked to my therapist or psychiatrist about it. Again, I don’t know why. Shame, probably. I just can’t find a reason to get clean.

It has reached the point where my kids are making comments — I do make sure they’re showered every night — so I know others must be noticing.

I just don’t know how to fix it. I’ll tell myself that “today’s the day”, or tonight is the night, or I’ll get up extra early, or I’ll do it before bed… but I sleep in, or I’m too tired at night, or I just forget until I’m half asleep and I can’t be bothered to get up and get it done.

Basically I tell myself I’ll do it when I’m not so tired, but I’m tired all the time.

…there are just too many things in my life I’m dealing with by not dealing with them.

I have to work on not being tired, that’s one. I have to clear this mental block I have that prevents me from wanting to get clean, that’s two… I’m not sure what three is. There really should be a third thing. And probably ten more, but I’m tired.

Basically my life right now is: get up; feed the kids; make sure they get to school somewhat on time; take my pills; go back to bed for four or five hours; get up again; get the kids some supper; pick up the kids from school; keep them entertained until bedtime; watch the news; take my pills, and; back to sleep.

I read something recently that basically said “the first 95% is the easy part, it’s the last 5% that’s the most work”. Or something. Maybe it was “95% of the work is the last 5% of the job”. That sounds right. I’ve managed, with a LOT of effort to get the bipolar under control… for the most part. But it’s the last pieces, the last of the bipolar behaviours, that I need to fix while maintaining that control.

Posted in Bipolar, Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression, Health, Living With Depression, Manic Depression, Mental Health | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments

My Bipolar Origin Story Because We Should All Have At Least One

Most of us have an origin story. The first time we heard a diagnosis that made sense, that explained and even justified our behaviour, that gave us something to fight against. Something that just made sense.

Mine came when I was nineteen.

I saw my first psychiatrist when I was much younger — he diagnosed me as being clinically depressed, and prescribed me some sort of medication, but my mother freaked when I told her in the car afterwards. She took the prescription and went back into his office to complain. Something about not wanting me medicated, or that he was prescribing me meds without her knowledge. Or something. The next time I saw him I didn’t say a word for the thirty minute visit. That was also the last time I saw him.

Then there was a therapist who I really liked, he gave me little cars every time I opened up. But I only saw him twice before he closed up his little office and moved on. I think I was ten. Maybe eleven-years old. I remember being devastated.

…I might have that backwards. It’s possible the therapist came first.

I do know it wasn’t until many years later that I saw another doctor, or talked to anyone, about my depressions or about the many times I wanted to be dead.

I first met the doctor who would diagnose me when I was eighteen. I was almost completely off the rails by then. It started gradually when I was seventeen, but by the next year I had stopped going to high school full time — skipping days in a row, never being on time, missing tests, not showering, and drinking heavily on weekends.

It was my mother who arranged the meeting. I didn’t know it at the time but she had been seeing the psychiatrist for a few months, maybe longer, and now she was stepping aside and giving me her appointments.

He was young, definitely younger than my mother. Maybe only ten years older than me. I saw him six times over November and December. It felt good to have someone to talk to… someone who took me seriously, and someone who asked the right questions. He ordered blood tests for Thyroid Disease, and Diabetes, because it turned out both can cause depression. I tested negative for both, but it was revelatory… something could be causing me to be depressed that I had no control over.

It was February of the next year, soon after my nineteenth birthday, that I finally got a diagnosis… Bipolar II, which means I go down more than I go up. It fit. The crazy depressions, the suicidal thoughts, the manics, all of it just fit.

Even though I knew classes were over after my appointment, I still had my mom* drop me off in the parking lot of my high school. There were no students left in the building, just a few of my teachers. I was bouncing. I was so happy I might as well have been manic. I told each and every one of my teachers, the ones I could find, that I finally had a reason. An excuse for my behaviour for the past two years

I wasn’t lazy, it wasn’t that I was a poor student, there was something wrong with my brain that prevented me from being a good student. I wasn’t sleeping in and missing classes on purpose, this Thing I had kept me up at night running through the lists of disappointments and failures until I fell into a coma every morning at 5am. Not only that but now I had a medicine, a wonder drug called Lithium, that would cure me.

“See?” I asked Mr. Byers. “How can I be expected to wake up and be in school for a 9am class, when this disease won’t let me get to sleep until five frigging o’clock in the morning?”

As I was talking I remember the poor man slowly backed up until there was a desk between us, and asking “don’t they put Lithium into batteries?”.

I knew nothing about the disease… I didn’t even really understand that it was a disease. I knew nothing of the stigma of mental illness at that point. I knew nothing about the treatments. I didn’t even know the proper term for the medication. I wasn’t handed any pamphlets, I was just given three words: manic depression and Lithium. All I knew was that I finally had an excuse for my behaviour. A reason for why I was the way I was: suicidal, depressed, manic, a failure at school.

By the end of my first week as an official member of the mentally ill, every single one of my friends knew. Not that any of them understood… how could they, when I had no idea what anything meant?

…this was long before schools made accommodations for students in distress, there were no ‘coloured shirt’ days for diseases. There were no wrist bands telling us to Fight The Stigma. We were lucky to have a school counsellor in my high school, but she was there to help with school admissions, not to listen about how much I wanted to put a gun against my head.

But Lithium takes weeks, if not months, to take effect and the initial euphoria of having a Reason couldn’t last forever. So I crashed. And I did crash hard. I was as suicidal as I had ever been. But this time I had a Doctor who understood. Who could see that I needed to be hospitalized.

…when I approached my principal with a plan for my final exams, that maybe I could take them after my stay in the hospital, or even take them while I was in the hospital — not a good plan, but at least it was something — he turned me down flat. I had missed too much school, my marks were too poor… he flat out told me there was no point in continuing either my schooling or the conversation.

No talk of maybe next year, or repeating a grade. Just blah blah you’re a failure please get out of my office. Which just made everything worse…

But this time I had a Doctor that could see that I needed help. So off I went to the local psych ward… it was a disaster. I spent two weeks screwing around like I was at Summer Camp.

I didn’t know how good I had it… surrounded by Doctor’s and Therapists who wanted to help, but I was mostly worried about where my next cigarette was going to come from. I really knew nothing about anything. When I got out there was no high school to go back to, I was still seeing my Doctor but the Lithium was hit and miss. I moved out of home, I came back, I moved out again for good. I tried to do Adult School and work at the local newspaper, but I was showing up to work and school stoned and hungover. So I quit those as well. I picked up a job as a bartender / bouncer at the local drug hangout. That lasted a few months, but I was always late and I was using the job primarily to find dates.

And finally, a few months after turning twenty, a woman who I thought I had a future with broke up with me, and I got fired from my job, so I quit everything and moved to the Big City, stopped seeing my Doctor and started using the Lithium like it was Tylenol… basically whenever I started feeling Dark, I’d take a handful and hope for the best.

…but that’s the Thing about having a diagnosis and being handed medications that will probably save your life, you have to be ready to accept the help. You have to understand that Things can be better, that there is an alternative universe where you’re not suicidal everyday.

It took me the next fourteen years of living the best I could — unmedicated and untreated, sometimes homeless, sometimes a successful citizen, and with the help of a lot of people I found along the way, to understand that.

*…I honestly do not remember what my mother’s reaction was to me being diagnosed the second time.

Posted in Baby Quintin, Bipolar, Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression, crazy people with no pants, Depression, Health, Manic Depression, Memories | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Bonding Part One: Two Choices She Made That Made Me

Even though I lived with her, I didn’t know who my Mother was until I was eight-years old. That was one of the main rules of the Commune / Collective / Cult I grew up in: the kids are everyone’s responsibility equally.

Which, in practice, meant we were no one’s responsibility — so in a house full of adults, with two young children, there were no parents. At least there were no parental responsibilities or connections allowed.

A few years after I was born — while my Mother was in the hospital*, my aunt had her first child. The Collective — led by my Father (whom I also had no relationship with), sat her down and for five hours argued that breastfeeding would create a bond with the child that no one else could have. Children, they argued, were property of the Collective, and would be raised as such. Then the eleven members of the Collective who were there — including her husband, stood up, handed her a breast pump and told her she couldn’t breastfeed her daughter… end of story.

*…my Mother was very sick during the first few years of my life. After I was born, she spent several months recovering in the hospital. Eighteen months after having me, she gave birth to my little brother, and she spent another six to eight weeks in the hospital recovering from complications. There was a third pregnancy soon after, that had to be terminated because her life was at risk. So when she was finally healthy enough and came back to the Collective, it was a very different place.

But she stayed, my aunt didn’t. My aunt chose to leave the Collective and move in with her sister, several towns over. Eventually she returned, but on her terms. She would live separately from the Collective (just down the street actually), but she would look after her own kids. She chose to bond with them in her own way.

The Collective took form while my Mother was in the hospital for the third pregnancy. She had very little to do with its formation, but made the choice to accept its rules during her recovery. She chose to stay. Chose to have her two kids raised by a group… chose to have us as a chore on a group ‘To-Do’ list. My brother and I were even sent to live with my exiled aunt for a time. All of which is insane. How does someone choose that path?

The Collective, under the leadership of my Father, lasted from when I was 2.5-years old, until I was eight. It finally broke down when my parents marriage broke down. There were too many affairs, too much abuse, and my Mother had enough, and had a plan, and one day she just walked me down to the train station and we escaped.

We took the train to Kingston, where we met my aunt who had been looking after my Brother. Then our little family continued on to Ottawa. All the while I, as an eight-year old, was questioning my Mother about how she wasn’t supposed to be alone with me. About how much trouble we were going to be in for breaking the rules — for the first four years of my life my mother was too sick to bond, then when she was better the Collective had changed the rules then, four years later, we’re alone on a train and I’m trying to figure out who she is.

My Mother called a childhood friend from the Kingston train station who, after hearing some of the insanity we had been through — and that we were in the middle of an escape, agreed to let us stay with her in Ottawa for as long as we needed.

After arriving in Ottawa my Mother and her friend stayed up all night talking about the escape and a lot of the stuff that preceded it… I stayed up as late as I could listening in from upstairs. The next step my Mother took was to contact her father. One of the other ‘rules of the Collective’ was no one was to discuss Collective business with outsiders. That especially meant family. So this moment was the first time my grandfather had heard the insanity that was the previous eight years.

His first reaction was to offer to have my Father’s legs broken. When he calmed down, he offered my Mother a deal… we’d live with him and my grandmother in Montreal, and he’d pay for whatever College or University programs my Mother wanted to take.

My Mother, knowing he was very serious about both offers, turned him down. Her mother had been extremely abusive… when my Mother first met my Father she left one abusive relationship for another. No matter how attractive her father’s offer was, she couldn’t go back.

So she made another choice. This time she chose to make her own way. She rented an apartment over a garage in a small town where she had some childhood connections, and found work doing bookkeeping.

For the next six years we lived in what became a pattern… moving around the region every six to eight months to find something moderately better or cheaper, my Mother finding and leaving new jobs, working night shifts at some, coming home after our bedtimes, leaving us with babysitters, sometimes leaving us on our own.

So for the first few years of my life my Mother wasn’t there, for the next five years of my life I was a group chore, with little to no idea who she was to me. Then, for the next six to eight years, I was a latchkey kid while she tried to make a life for us.

So the question is… when did my Mother and I have time to bond? How much of the yelling and screaming and threats that we went through for my early-to-mid teens had to do with the lack of understanding who we were as individuals? How many of the misunderstandings and frustrations we have with each other today are linked to those two choices?

Is there enough time left for us to work through the decades of those misunderstandings, is it possible for the two of us to have a relationship not based on assumptions and the preconceived expectation that every conversation we have about the past has to end in anger and resentment?

I really don’t know. I do know we’re running out of time, and We haven’t even started yet….

Posted in Appointment Day, Clinical Depression, crazy people with no pants, Family, Health, Living With Depression, Memories, Mother, Salted Truths | Tagged , | 5 Comments