Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Therapy can be fun!

I'm quickly approaching the first anniversary of the start of this whole mess pleasantly described as mental illness. Ironically, it's also my 18th wedding anniversary, so the question of what to get my wife for a present is becomes a little weird. Flowers? A night on the town? A quiet night home without the kids? Sanity? Who knows.

In the past year I've dealt with many issues that have literally been tossed at me and I feel like the lettuce in the salad. Mixed up. From Psychiatrists to therapists, to a two week stint in the psych ward, to outpatient classes on how to deal, to drugs. Lots of drugs. What scares me the most is that I'm just starting this path. While in the hospital I talked to other patients who have been going through this for years, and are worse off this I. I've read up on the issue of Bipolar disorder to great length, and Kim and my family have been a tremendous help in my times of crashing. One book I highly recommend is "An Unquiet Mind" by Kay Redfield Jamison. I was fascinated by it - she's a psychiatrist with severe Bipolar Syndrome. I'm stone cold normal compared to this woman - she's nuts. Her book follows her journey through her adult life an how she managed the disease (or in many cases, didn't).

After reading that book I knew there was hope for me. In January I started with a new therapist who on our first meeting gave me the book. I read it in two days.

It took from April til January to get the real help I think I need. I got into the Canadian Mental Health Association, who have provided me with a case worker, and I now see her weekly. It's a combination of someone to talk to and cognitive behavioural therapy. More importantly, someone to relate to. Kim is wonderful and has been there for me since the beginning, which according to her has been about ten years. All that time I thought I was just an asshole. Turns out I was un-diagnosed. Now my therapist has taken the reigns. This past week, she came to meet the family, and the conversation rarely turned to me. The two of them talked about how I've managed over the past months. I interjected every now and then, after all, it was my therapy session! It was a great meeting.

My psychiatrist is another story. I don't like him, but there is a huge shortage of doctors in that trade in Windsor. There should be 50, there's only 20. So we get who we get. Three times now he has actually given me shit for not getting better. Great bedside manner. Imagine a surgeon walking into pre-op and given a blast of shit to someone in need of surgery because they simply need it. That's how this guy makes me feel. On my last appointment, he insisted that my wife accompany me to the next appointment. Does he think I'm faking? It was also a pain in the neck to get him to understand that my meds no longer work. Panic attacks and anxiety attacks happen every day. Depression is so severe that I haven't even gotten dressed til just before the kids come home from school. I'm spending my days sleeping and sitting on the couch staring into space. In a nutshell, I really don't give a shit about anything. When I do, it's forced.

Medication is one third of this equation. The other two are therapy and self help. The therapy has been arranged but the self help is a little difficult when you don't care. He upped my meds finally, and they are just starting to take affect. Now I sleep all the time.

He told me I have no structure in my life. Wrong. I have structure, it's just really difficult to motivate myself. I'm starting with little things, like getting dressed as soon as I get up. I do the laundry and the dishes, and when I can, I cook dinner (it helps though if you know how to cook, and I don't). I signed up for Aikido classes through the CMHA, and I am really enjoying that, I help around the house, I help my family, I am developing a new structure. It just has to evolve from what I had before. I'm also doing some freelance graphics work, which keeps me current with my trade.

My therapist has been instrumental in getting this far. Up to January I've had nothing but the runaround - the hospital was a warehouse for the mentally ill, the outpatient program was three weeks of classes on how to deal with this - funny thing is that in our condition, nobody had the ability to concentrate on the material, such it was pretty much useless, and the shrink, well, I've already addressed him. Self help is only feasible when you can manage it on your own. I can't imagine how people with level one Bipolar (I'm level 2 - not as bad) manage that aspect. You're suppose to put yourself on a schedule and follow routines, you're suppose to meditate and practise 'guided imagery'. I can do these things to an extent, but it's still difficult to concentrate. I find it easier to concentrate on the ceiling fan spinning from a horizontal position on the couch. But my therapist and my wife are helping me. Lists to do, encouragement to get up, small chores or tasks, baby steps in other words.

I'm still having difficulties, mainly anywhere where there is a large group of people, made worse by the noise factor. It's very easy to find myself slipping into an anxiety attack in these situations. The trick now is that I know this will happen and I can somewhat prepare for it. My weekly sessions usually start with what incidents I had that particular week. Lately they have been diminishing and that's a good sign, but I have a lot of work to do yet.

I have met people on this journey that have been suffering for years with no way out. I'm approaching one year since my first breakdown. I know the road is long and winding. I know there will be many paths to choose, but I also know I finally have some help along the road. As the old saying goes, don't walk behind me, I may not lead, don't walk in front of me, I may not follow, just walk beside me and be my friend.

I know now I have friends that I can count on.



  1. Somebody essentially assist to make severely articles I would state.
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    1. Thank you for the comment, however, no one assisted with this. I have been tracking my journey. I have many times attributed my progress to others, but like anyone else suffering, you can't do it alone.


    2. Keep up the good work, Mr. Wilson! You are doing a fine job. :)

  2. Keith, I gotta say, thank you for documenting your journey. While I'm not bi-polar, I have been struggling with depression for most of my life. This sentiment really stood out to me: "In a nutshell, I really don't give a shit about anything. When I do, it's forced."

    That, right there, is a huge part of my depressive states. On one level I hate, hate, hate that I can't be arsed to care, but because I'm so low during those states, I can't rouse myself to do much about it.

    I'm so sorry that you're going through this journey, but so glad you're working on it and that you have the lovely Kim by your side (hi, Kim!) and friends/family to do what they can to help you through it.

    (BTW, do you mind if I link to this post and quote the sentiment I mentioned?)

  3. Thank you Carol Elaine, of course I don't mind this being reposted. If I've learned anything in the past year it's that mental illness has to be given more time in press, whether that be mainstream media or blogging. This journey won't end for most of us that suffer from it, it will only get better by our own means.


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