Friday Conversations With My Psychiatrist | February 12, 2010

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Psychiatrist Day


My recovery has reached a strange place… I did spend most of last year depressed, but that was mostly due to the panic and lack of sleep stemming from my girlfriend’s high-risk pregnancy. But I haven’t had a bipolar episode of mania or depression in over a year.

Which is starting to create a dilemma.

During the pregnancy I had no time to really consider where I was in my recovery, because I never really felt recovered or recovering.

But over the past few weeks I’ve been progressively more concerned about what happens when I sit down with my social worker, and he asks me how I’ve been. Or, what happens when my psychiatrist asks me something like “why don’t you get a job teaching writing?”.

Which is exactly what happened during our last appointment.

I do know I’m not ready to work. At least not full time, or at a job where consistent results are necessary to receive a paycheck. I still have many of the behaviours associated with eighteen years of both untreated manic depression, as well as several clinical depressions. Plus, I still have a very difficult time being around people.

But so do a lot of people who make up the Canadian workforce. So why am I still on a government disability support program, while they commute twice daily?

I don’t think my doctor meant to ask the question. Which might make it worse. We did talk about it for a few minutes, and I gave him all the reasons I’d be completely unqualified to teach… which basically came down to ‘my grammar sucks’. He disagreed, but I stuck to it.

We also talked about a post I wrote a few weeks ago about Scientology’s bizarre adventures in Haiti, and elsewhere in the third world. The Xenu People have brought their paranoid, psychiatrist-hating brochures and ‘touch therapy’ to poor and devastated countries all over the world. They’ve also brought a significant amount of money, which they’re using to build little Scientology schools so they can teach poor, hungry kids all about Tom Cruise.

Once you scratch away the celebrity veneer, and get into the deeper layers of this money Cult, the more warped, bizarre, unbelievable and dangerous their beliefs becomes.

Sometimes I think my doctor lets me talk about certain topics just to see how weird I get. I know he’s been keeping track of how I react to the tick-tock of his wall clock.

Something I’ve been having real difficulty with lately has been memory and concentration. I’ve been forgetting words, plans, deadlines and appointments. I’ve also had a hard time concentrating on self-imposed projects. I’ve been trying to write something about Jenny McCarthy and the MMR vaccines since it was announced Lancet was retracting a deeply flawed study from fifteen years ago.

I’ve managed to do the research, and I have close to 800 words in notes, but when I sit down I just can’t concentrate. I end up reading news and sports and doing Facebook crap instead.

Yet… here I am writing a piece that involves having both memory and being able to quickly recall events.

My psychiatrist (I just forgot how to spell psychiatrist) thinks the memory and concentration problems could stem from the untreated type-2 diabetes as much as the bipolar stuff.

He asked if I were taking care of the diabetes, or even myself in general. I said “no”, I was pretty emphatic. I have started taking the Metformin and Glyburide regularly again, but I haven’t checked my blood sugar levels since the summer. I’ve also been eating a lot of fast food since the summer.

But, along with the pills, I have started shopping for groceries again. So my diet is getting progressively healthier.

You know what’s really unhealthy? Not feeling attached to the people around you. Which is something I have a very hard time with. We were talking about how I find being with my girlfriend feels unnatural. It feels like something I have to do, rather than plan out. It’s not specific to her, it’s how I’ve felt in every relationship I’ve been in… but especially the romantic ones.

Once I’m in a relationship, like once a non-casual relationship has been established, I normally start looking for ways to not be around the person. The reasons are a little complicated, and trust plays a huge part, but blackmail also plays a part — basically there comes a point in the relationship where I start pulling back, to see how far forward you’ll lean… that’s part of it.

The trust thing is the larger issue. And sex was brought up. I have a very difficult time with sex, both the act and talking about the act. Anyway. We talked about it, we’ll talk about it again.

And that was pretty much it for the hour. I did talk about the stress of having to deal with my girlfriend’s ex-husband four to six times a week. Just having to think about the fuck stresses me out. But it’s something I have to do for a little while longer.

And, finally, we talked about Victor.

My next appointment is in two weeks, but then it’ll be another month before we see each other. This is the season for him to take his vacation, and to attend conferences. I hope it’s not because he doesn’t think it’s necessary to see each other as frequently…




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, Disability, Health, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Mental Health, Pregnancy, Psychiatry. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Friday Conversations With My Psychiatrist | February 12, 2010

  1. Cristina says:

    Hey Gabriel,

    ‘Why don’t you get a job teaching writing? (…) I do know I’m not ready to work. At least not full time. (…) I still have a very difficult time being around people. (…) I’ve also had a hard time concentrating on self-imposed projects. (…)You know what’s really unhealthy? Not feeling attached to the people around you. (…)’

    You know what came to my mind in putting all these pieces of your post together? This one: why don’t you teach/coordinate a writing course/writing circle ONLINE? No super-consistent results needed to get a paycheck in the traditional sense, not full time, no being around people in person. Still, company is stronger than will power, so it wouldn’t be a 100% self-imposed project, your students/peers may help keeping you on track. You might end up feeling closer to them, and doing some practice on dealing with people before you’re ready for work.

    And, your grammar does not suck at all.

    So, just an idea here. For what it’s worth, I’d join your class in no time and I wouldn’t mind paying for it!

    Other than that, great post, honest and very well delivered and happy belated birthday 🙂

  2. thordora says:

    oh the memory issue. It’s why I don’t look for something “better” than a cable company. Cause I can’t do it-especially now. Someday…

    You’ll get there. You’re still adjusting to having a CHILD FFS, but you do need to dream.

    And if you aren’t happy with her, please make a decision. I’ve come to find out that mine wasn’t happy for years. Being lied to, on multiple levels, for years, has managed to make me feel completely and utterly like shit.

    But fuck him. I so need to visit Ont to meet that kid. 😛

    Can you find something ful(ish) part time to get back in? Or will that mess with the disability payments to the point of harming your money?

  3. bromac says:

    My memory suffered tremendously from the meds and has bounced back wonderfully since I’ve been off. Could lithium use have an effect on memory.

    I’ve never seen a grammatical error in anything you’ve written.

    I think the online writing thing sounds like a wonderful idea!

  4. Gabriel... says:

    Hi Cristina… I think you’d get a kick out of a post I wrote about “writing”. It’s called “How to avoid being a writer in five easy steps”.

    Your idea intrigues me, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a job description quite like this. There was a time, way back in 1999, when I thought I had a chance to become a teacher. The person in charge of my journalism program asked me to be a Teachers Assistant for two weeks, as a trial for something larger later on. I lasted about a week before he and I almost came to blows in the hallway.

    The main problem I have with teaching writing is… basically, I don’t know what I could teach. My journalism program, for example, taught me a style of writing, and taught me the structure of writing a column or article. And, really, that’s all any decent writing program can do for someone…

    Creatively, the best lesson I ever had came from a 50-year old man who had spent 30 years of his life at sea, his name was Larry and he was 6’11”. We were working as fishing guides in Northern Ontario. I was 18, and I showed him a three page poem I had written. After he read it he sat down with me and told me to make it shorter, and he helped me get the thing down to about twelve lines.

    I don’t know… I have thought about teaching, and pretty much the only things I know well enough to teach would be Grand Theft Auto and writing.

    Hi Thor and bromac… the current memory thing is different than the memory problems I’ve had due to the medications and the disease. I’m not sure exactly how, other than how my head feels, and the frequency and duration of the forgetfulness. These lapses feel longer, and more likely to be permanent.

    With the bipolar / meds it always felt like the word was on the tip of my brain, and all I had to do was wait and it’d fall out. These ones feel permanent, like the thought just evaporated.

    I can work full or part time, and still receive a full disability cheque, as long as I make less than $700/month. Anything above that and they start with the deductions. If I was to get a job that pays me… I think $1200/month, then they stop sending me a cheque, but they keep me on standby for a year just in case I lose the job.

    It’s not that I’m not happy with my girlfriend, Thor, it’s that I’m not happy with anyone. It’s difficult, very difficult, for me to attach myself to someone. My mom made a comment to my little brother a few weeks ago that reminded me I hadn’t told her “I love you” in more than a year.

    A few years ago my mother started having ‘Sunday Family Dinners’ because I’d go a month to six weeks without speaking to anyone.

    My natural state is to be alone. So, once I get into a relationship, my natural response is to start trying to get out of it…

    Yes, you need to visit Ontario. I think you’d really enjoy my girlfriend, and Victor.

    Thanks bromac, but my grammar is mostly guesswork. Without Google I’d have no idea what a ‘preposition’ was. Way back in the mid-1980’s the Ontario Ministry of Education decided grammar, as a subject, would no longer be taught. So my grade was the last to be taught the difference between a verb and an adjective.

    After grade nine I had no formal grammar education… the younger grades, in my opinion, were functionally illiterate through high school. I think they’ve changed it back, but for a long time students were marked on the “intent” of what they had written, not what was actually on the page.

  5. Kenn Chaplin says:

    Hey Gabriel,

    At my most recent psychiatrist appointment I wondered, again, whether my being sober, again, was as much or more responsible for the stability of my bipolar II as the meds.

    In other words, was I really bipolar? My doc reminded me of what I was like at the time of my diagnosis (thanks, I think) and how, while alcohol abuse feeds off bipolar behaviour, I was still quite a while off booze and on meds before I reached a level of stability.

    All of which is to say I am cautious about rushing into new projects just because I’m feeling better. I like the idea of an online writing group. I co-facilitated an in-person group this past fall and, while successful by some measurements, there was a lot of interpersonal stuff – an inability by some to critique with encouragement for example – that gives me the willies about starting another group like that any time soon.

  6. Kenn Chaplin says:

    But now I can’t stop thinking about starting one on-line!

    If you’ll join the endeavour I’d be glad to set it up. We could have members join and add them as authors to a blog.

    Wanna make it about anything in particular – health, mental health, etc. – or leave it wide open and just throw out topics from time-to-time (weekly?)

    I’m up earlier than usual, and have already finished a pot of coffee 😉

  7. Gabriel... says:

    Hi Kenn… I agree with your shrink, up to 60% of people with manic depression are addicted to alcohol or drugs as well. Personally, I was a binge drinker for a long, long time. We use mind altering substances to control the things we can’t otherwise control.

    Getting off the booze does give you a certain stability, but it doesn’t get the disease under control. It’s like quitting smoking when you find out you have cancer.

    With the writing thing… how does an “online writing group” work?

  8. Kenn Chaplin says:

    I like the quit smoking analogy. I’ll try to remember that!

    As for the writing group, I think a seperate blog would be needed. A topic would be posted and members would sign in and submit their take as a blog post. (Doing so as a comment/reply might be less workable as I assume comment space is limited – although I could be wrong.)
    Comments could, rather, be used for just that – commenting, constructive feedback, etc.

    I’d say we give a topic one week and, regardless of the response, we move on to a new topic after that.

    Topics could either come from the group leader(s) or we could ask participants to volunteer to take responsibility for a week’s topic.

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