Friday Conversations With My Psychiatrist | January 22, 2010

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Psychiatrist Day


I didn’t stop writing these, I just renamed them “pregnancy updates”.

I’ve been writing lately about how my “recovery” suffered in many different ways while I spent nine months dealing with my girlfriend’s “high risk” pregnancy. One of the less obvious ways was in the topics I discussed with my psychiatrist. Before the pregnancy we had just begun to discuss some of the ‘core issues’ of my clinical depressions. We had also started using EMDR therapy, which I found to be surprisingly effective in dealing with specific, long term issues.

During the pregnancy, however, my appointments became solely the domain of all things pregnancy related. It helped a lot to have someplace where I could vent about my girlfriend, about obstetricians, about her family. I don’t know if my mental health would’ve survived as well as it did otherwise.

But talking about how my girlfriend couldn’t grasp the seriousness of the doctor’s orders regarding the health of our child wasn’t helping me deal with the abandonment issues I have from when my mother took my brother and I and escaped from the cult I grew up in, leaving half my family behind and never to be seen again.

Or any of the other bakers dozen clinical depressions I’ve collected over the years.

In the eight appointments I wrote about before the pregnancy took over my life I managed to concentrate on my confused relationship with my mother; how the cult worked; finding ways to test my recovery status; the lack of a clear-cut father figure in my life; the general lack of understanding from my family in how I’ve dealt with and recovered from mental illness; how I take on relationships which require so much fixing… expecting, but never receiving, reciprocity. Then there’s my inability to set boundaries, schedules and function in a workplace, or have a healthy relationship with money.

I did take time at the beginning of this appointment to update my doctor on my son’s progress then, because my doctor reads this blog, we did discuss my previous post… about how last year was probably the most negative one I’ve ever experienced, both in terms of activity — the high risk pregnancy, and also in terms of people.

When I enter into a relationship I either adopt her friends, or become adopted by them or, occasionally, both. I just don’t have anything close to a community of friends to bring into a relationship. In this case her friends are mostly poorly educated, young and naïve.

Her friends are nice people, they don’t set out to harm anyone. But they can only speak about what they know, and what they know is mostly gossip about people around town. Her family, on the other hand, and the families of her friends, are generally abusive. Like most families in this region, the poorest in Canada, there are few if any positive stories flowing from her friends regarding mothers and fathers.

Which is pretty much when my doctor asked me who, in my past, would I have honestly considered a friend.

And all I could come up with were Larry, when I was eight, Steve when I was in grade ten, and Wes and Justin in College.

I’ve always had friends, but my definition of “friendship” has almost always meant ‘people I felt I could help’. For three years during the early 1990’s, for example, my best friend was the older brother of a woman I was in love with. I met Ken first… we lived in the same rooming house in Ottawa. He was at the very beginning of his recovery from drug addiction, and we used to stay up all night talking about the things he had done, the remorse he felt, and the help he needed.

Our friendship lasted until his recovery was stable… basically until I felt like he had moved on. Like he didn’t need me anymore. And, instead of feeling happy for the guy, instead of feeling like my help had brought him to a healthy place, I felt betrayed.

When I started high school Steve and I quickly became good friends. Then, halfway through grade ten, it occurred to me Steve had other friends. Better friends. And that was a serious revelation, that someone I considered to be my best — and mostly only — friend might have other people in his life.

I spent the next few months trying to out-friend Steve’s other friends. It got a little stalker-creepy. After Steve I really had very few close friends in high school. When I finally stopped trying I ended up falling in with a group of older kids. They were, on average, four years older than myself. When I was in grade eleven, they were either in their last year of high school, or they had already dropped out or graduated.

Being with them was like having friends without the unnecessary friendships. We drank, we smoked, we did pot and hash, they did coke and some heroin. We played three day marathon games of multi-board Risk, or all night games of Hearts, we blew stuff up, we shot off guns into barns, we drove drunk and stoned, some of us got busted for dealing. It was like being in a gang.

I’m still somewhat friendly with a few of them, I’m ‘Facebook buddies’ with three of them… and Steve, actually. And I still enjoy the occasional company of one of them, but we were never friends. At the time I believed I was very close to a few of them. But then Tim stole a bunch of books from me, and Dave kicked me out of his apartment — granted, I did overstay my welcome by about a week.

…and this is when I moved into the rooming house and met Ken.

Larry was my first friend. We were neighbours in Guelph. It was his mom who forced my father to have a birthday party for me — they were generally frowned upon in the cult I grew up in. So Larry and his sister are in all of my birthday photos from that year.


I had one friend in the old place. Having moved to and from more than ten homes in four cities over eight years that was all I was able to make.
One morning Larry and I were playing in his driveway, that afternoon I was 600 miles away.


I held onto the idea of Larry for a long time, but then found out close to 1990 that he had been killed… I believe by a drunk driver.

I don’t want to get into a list here. I’ve done that already.

While I was discussing this with my psychiatrist I also brought up a friend who referred to me as his “brother” who, for a laugh, took a photo of my little sister, put it in his front pocket and told a group of people he was saving her for later. That should have been the end of that relationship, but I forced myself to keep it going for almost another year… because I thought there was a possibility this is what friends do with each other, and punching him in the face, or not hanging out with him anymore… I don’t know, maybe I was afraid to lose the friendship.

Somewhere, close to the very base of this issue, is me not trusting people.

I only have one line of notes from this appointment… “friendships: inability to create, maintain healthy friendships”. I told my doctor this would be a goal of mine for this year. To find interesting people in this area and try to create a friendship.

…which led us straight back to talking about my girlfriend. Last year, after a successful week of outright flirtation at my brothers wedding, I wanted to find out if I could date again. So when I came home I asked her out, and took her places, bought her flowers, made her dinner. And, three weeks later, we made a baby and here we are.


Unfortunately after this appointment my psychiatrist is taking his annual winter holidays, and we won’t have another appointment until February 12. When dealing with the pregnancy started to get me into mental trouble, my doctor increased the frequency of our appointments to one hour per a week. When he gets back we’ll be going back to every two weeks.

Which, after five years, feels more natural. It was getting hard to come up with stuff to talk about every week.




About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression when I was nineteen, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. It's now 2022, and I have an 8-year old son, and a 12-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at
This entry was posted in Appointment Day, Bipolar, Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression, crazy people with no pants, CSG, Diabetes, Health, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Mental Health, Psychiatry. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Friday Conversations With My Psychiatrist | January 22, 2010

  1. thordora says:

    Man, the trusting people? Still not good with that, especially after the last 2 years. Sometimes I wonder if the ability is permanently broken.

    You’ll get there. Things will settle and you’ll find a rhythm. And I’m always here if you need.

  2. bromac says:

    I’ve had to learn, with tremendous help from my husband, to amend my definitions of “friend”. I only ever had one definition–a person you’d do most anything for, and vice versa. If I put my trust into someone, they had damn well earned it and had better hold it as tightly as I did. If I felt slighted in the least, they were gone instantly from my life. The result was very few friends.

    Now I have friends and I have friends and I have friends. I have two online friends…two mother friends…. two close friends…..two brothers … and my husband, my best friend. Hmmm, judging by the pattern I ought to have two husbands 🙂 I’ll have to get right on that.

    Trying to trust people sucks. It requires so much vulnerability. I can imagine, with your history, it is extremely more difficult.

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