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.

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

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...thanks.

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About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression in 1989, 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. I have an 8-year old son, and a 4-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 saltedlithium.com....
This entry was posted in Appointment Day, Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression, Health, Manic Depression, Mental Health, Psychiatry and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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

  1. Pied Type says:

    I’d say it’s good to see you blogging again, but given the reason for it, I’ll refrain. Sorry to hear you’ve had such a helluva year. Take care of yourself.

  2. fishrobber says:

    Good to see you here again, but I wish it were under better circumstances … Without a net, indeed. I’m amazed and impressed you had the same doctor for that long. When my p-doc moved to a new city, I found a new p-doc because I felt I needed the safety net of having someone other than my family M.D. watching out for my mental health. I guess we are in a similar place in the life-cycle of bipolar (still fighting it to a draw with the help of the drugs). Whatever happens, I wish you good luck moving forward.

  3. Nita says:

    The fact that you have survived all that you went through just shows that you are strong. You will make it without a psychiatrist and thrive, I am quite sure.

  4. idreamofwires says:

    Hi Gabriel

    It’s really nice to have you back! I suppose that’s selfish, as I assumed you were doing better and living the dream and didn’t need this outlet, but you’ve been missed and I’m glad you’re here regardless.

    Holy fuck. A kidney transplant?! Wow dude…life really keeps on giving and giving. Obviously you’ve had a lot going on, and it’s likely feels so scary venturing into the unknown with your psychiatrist retiring on top of the recent medical issues.

    I gotta say though, after following your journey for the last 12-15 years, one thing is clear: you’ve got this. You have fought and won harder battles. Stupid government doesn’t stand a chance against you and your tenacity.

    If there is anything at all that me or your readers can do to help please ask. I’m in.

    Welcome back 🙂

  5. Gabriel... says:

    It has been four years since I left a comment on my blog… almost to the day. Which is weird.

    I’m not sure right now how long I’ll be without a psychiatrist… I had an appointment with my family doctor, Dr. G, on Thursday, and he immediately referred me to the local mental health unit. I actually received a message from them the very next day asking me to an appointment for an ‘intake evaluation’ next week.

    I think, if offered the opportunity for more talk therapy, I’ll take it. Maybe talking to someone new will get my brain working again.

    fishrobber… thanks for coming over. I agree, from what I’ve heard of other people’s recovery stories, it is unusual to have a psychiatrist for so long. I was extremely lucky to find one who was able to diagnose me, and who was willing to pick up with me after so long between appointments.

    My shrink did try to let me go at one point. I was the youngest of my psychiatrists patients. About ten-years ago he started to specialize in geriatric care, so he tried to pass me off to another shrink. I balked. I hated the idea of starting over… having to start my story over from zero. So he (somewhat reluctantly) agreed to continue seeing me.

    Thanks for the comment, it’s great to see your avatar on my blog again.

    Nita!! It’s great to see you blogging again! Thanks for the vote of confidence.

    idreamofwires: I know, right?! It’ll be two years in January. I was extremely lucky to get one from a live donor. So far so good, the Doctors are happy with my progress so far, so I’m happy. I’ll probably write more about that later.

    I did try blogging elsewhere, on a couple of other blogs, but it never felt the same.

    …one thing is clear: you’ve got this. You have fought and won harder battles.

    Thanks for that.

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