My Disability Is Proof The State Of My Recovery From Manic Depression Is Strong

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Twenty-two years ago I was diagnosed as having manic depression. Twenty-two years later I think I’ve beaten the disease. At the very least, with the help of medications and therapy, I’ve managed to lock it away someplace it’d have a hard time coming back from.

No more debilitating depressions, no more manic insanity. If I were an addict I’d be a year, maybe even eighteen months clean.

I’m not cured, but I’m not sick either.

I am, however, still disabled from the behaviours that come with sixteen to eighteen years of untreated manic depression. I smoked for almost eighteen years, for example, and when I quit it took me six months to stop reaching for the phantom pack of cigarettes.

It’s the legacy of being untreated and unmedicated for so long that I’m living with now — it’s the charred lungs, the still increased chances for heart disease, the nicotine stains on my fingers, the pinhole burns in my silk shirt.

There are things people are supposed to learn, that I never had a chance to learn because the disease had me so blinded for so long. Which brings me to the point of this post…

My psychiatrist recently had to fill out a form which, if successful, would have a huge financial debt forgiven. Basically in two pages he laid out in brief where I was in my recovery, and the slim chances I’ll ever be able to repay the loan.

I didn’t have a bank account until I was twenty-four. I’ve been either homeless, on social assistance or disability for sixteen of the past twenty years. I’ve been a little preoccupied over my adult life with trying to simply survive to learn how to manage money.

But when I was twenty-four — in the middle of an intense eight-month depression — I did manage to enroll in a journalism program. To pay for it I took out a series of loans from the Ontario government, and by the time I graduated I owed close to $18,000.

Which I’ve never repaid. I made a few attempts at repayment, but the credit agencies have been after me for ten years. When I was on welfare they’d occasionally take $100 out of my account, leaving me with less than $50 for the month.

But once I was in the Ontario Disability Support Program they had no recourse. No one on Disability in Ontario can be forced to pay off a debt.

So now there are no more threatening phone calls, they just send mail. Specifically a “Medical Loan Forgiveness Program” form. If I can prove I’ll be disabled for a long, long time, the government “forgives” the loan and everyone goes home happy.


“The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities may forgive an individual’s Ontario student loans if the Minister is satisfied that the individual has a permanent disability / medical condition that will substantially reduce his or her earning capacity for the individual’s expected lifetime, and the individual is unable to repay his or her student loans without incurring exceptional financial hardship.”


So this is what my psychiatrist wrote in the form as an evaluation of my disability status, but if you look for the words he doesn’t use it’s also an insight into my recovery.

See if you can tell which specific word is missing.


Diagnosis and history of the disability:

Raised on a commune by a disturbed bipolar father. Unstable childhood attachments [with my parents]. Onset of bipolar disorder approx. 1985. First diagnosed and treated 1988. Hospitalized 1989 Ottawa General Hospital. Had ups & downs many years at various jobs and school. Consulted at the Royal Ottawa Hospital in 1997. Mostly untreated until November 2002 when he settled down in [my village] and started stabilizing on Lithium.



Despite therapy, recovery is slow and so far insufficient to consider work in the near future. There are many life issues to be resolved. Physically he suffers from diabetes, which has not been sufficiently controlled. Fair to poor.


How does this restrict work related activities?

Inability to maintain a regular motivated life schedule, including activities of daily living, because of lack of motivation, trouble concentrating, variable energy.

…cannot work at all.


Additional information:

Incapacitating disability likely to be life long.


If you picked ‘pumpkin’ as the missing word you’d be right, but if you picked ‘suicide’, or ‘suicidal’ then you’re even righter.

It took sixteen years from diagnosis until treatment, and six years of treatment to get here, and I may still have a long way to go to become less disabled, but the symptoms of the disease that crippled me for so long are gone.

…I think this is a major step. I also hope the Forgiveness Program buys it, because getting that loan off my back would be freaking awesome.




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 Bipolar, Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression, crazy people with no pants, Health, Lithium, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Mental Health, Psychiatry. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to My Disability Is Proof The State Of My Recovery From Manic Depression Is Strong

  1. atthetone says:

    oh I hope you get that forgiven. I wish I could get rid of mine-I’ve paid off a lot of the stupid spending, but there’s still 6k or so I have to get to.

    Not waking up wanting to die is a wonderful thing. But so would being debt free my friend. 🙂

  2. bromac says:

    Congratulations and good luck!

    How is the little man doing?

  3. Cristina says:

    Good luck with getting rid of your debt, crossing my fingers for you.

    Love your three new faces up there -they’re new, right? I hope it’s not me just not noticing them, don’t tell me they’ve been there forever! I tend to miss big stuff like that, that’s why I have this doubt now 🙂

    How on earth did you quit smoking? Share your secrets on that, PLEASE, I’m a chain smoker and I’ve tried to quit 787878 million times, all of them failed 😦

  4. Gabriel... says:

    Hi ATT… the debt itself is a massive barricade between me and where I want to be… which is not here. Something I’ve been wanting to do since leaving school was to go back. Enrolling in the journalism program, at the time, was me trying to prove my worth not just to myself but mostly to someone with a sweet, sweet ass.

    She dumped me in the spring, I retaliated by trying to prove I could get a life. I love being a reporter, but for the past thirteen years I’ve been thinking I should’ve done something else. But that debt has proven to be insurmountable.

    Thanks bromac… Little Victor is grabbing and holding onto his toys, and trying to stuff the world into his mouth. His vocabulary of sounds is massive now… my girlfriend keeps saying she heard him say “dada”, but all I ever hear is “Google.”

    I stopped the updates because I’m trying to figure out what kind of blog I want this to be… but I’ll probably write something about him soon.

    Thanks Cristina. I put the faces up last weekend. There used to be large drops of blood in the same space, along with my bipolar demon, but I needed a change.

    I think the four faces better symbolize the normal vs. bipolar emotional states… and they look pretty frigging sweet.

    Quitting the smokes was hard… there were definitely ‘mood moments’ where I wasn’t pleasant to be around, but basically I made the decision, then used the patch for six weeks.

    The patch system I used was meant to be a three month thing where the nicotine levels dropped every few weeks, but I just used the maximum level to get over the initial harsh withdrawal symptoms.

    I was also taking Wellbutrin at the time, which doubles as the smoke-fighting Zyban, so that helped.

    The main thing, however, was just constantly telling myself I was a non-smoker.

    It took about six months to stop reaching for the pack, but I still get cravings… and I quit four years ago.

  5. Stephany says:

    What happened on Easter?

    I hope you are dismissed of the loans, oh how I understand that.

  6. Gabriel... says:

    Holy crap, I forgot to update the Easter thing. Thanks Stephany.

  7. Clare says:

    I’m glad you are a non-smoker. I quit in Nov. of 2007. Never looked back.

  8. Pingback: Tweets that mention My Disability Is Proof The State Of My Recovery From Manic Depression Is Strong « …salted lithium. --

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