Friday, 8 July 2011

The most difficult post I've ever written, and most important

I've already started writing this three times. It's very difficult for me to find the words for this post, as I'm still a little reluctant to admit these issues. In a nutshell, I've been diagnosed Bipolar.

Really, what's the big deal right? I'm taking medication now to control it, and seeing a psychiatrist and psychologist, as well as a wealth of support from my family, especially my wife, Kimberly.

But all that aside, there's a huge stigma to this disorder. I was afraid to admit it because of that. I will be the first to admit that I've made snide remarks to someone in the past who had this condition, whether deserved or not, it was wrong. Now more than ever, I know that. I've also met several people lately who are also suffering from this, one of which is my neighbour's son. I've had the opportunity to talk extensively to this person about it, and that conversation gave me hope that this will affect me in a positive way, not negative.

Being Bipolar is not a curse, but a potential cure for a condition that people have long accused me of - that of being an asshole.

For years people have looked upon me as having a sorry attitude and carrying around a little grey cloud. Always negative, always grumpy, and one to steer clear of. Luckily my friends stuck with me through all this, even though they made their own opinions well known. Then, other days the sun shone through. The grey cloud dissipated and all was right with the world. I got my sense of humour back, and was helpful to everyone.

This is the basic definition of Bipolar. One with this disorder can't find a balance between two extremes. One experiences highs and lows on a scale that most don't see. When depression hits, it hits hard; in some cases a person will give up completely. On the other hand, highs were almost as if someone was high on life - ecstatically happy. There are several levels of Bipolar, and luckily I fall into the lower of the categories. My shrink described the highest level this way; one would call the Vatican and demand to know why the Pope missed the dinner invitation at his house last night. This person would have honestly thought in his or her mind that this would happen. The depression resulting from the rejection would be intense.

My diagnosis came about a month after my nervous breakdown on April 23rd. I don't remember about four hours of that afternoon. I don't think I want to either. Shortly after that I admitted to Kimberly that I did indeed need help. I agreed to see a shrink. My family doctor diagnosed me with depression and anxiety disorder, and gave me prescriptions for it. She also gave me a referral to a psychiatrist. My psychologist also insisted on that referral. The shrink changed the diagnosis to Bipolar within an hour of my first session, and changed my meds accordingly. The problem now, is that they aren't working.

The most benefit to any of this has been my therapist. I was very sceptical at first about someone I've never met messing with my head, and my telling him many personal details. I'm a very private person - even this blog only touches the surface of what I want people to know about me. The therapist changed that impression in me. He saw inside me to the person I really am - scared. He began Gestalt treatment on me - and I will not look back. Of all the drug cocktails and all the doctors that I've seen in the past three months, meditation and focus on self has been the best medicine. I'm now a believer in what this can do for a person's inner self and soul. I'm not cured, but now when anxiety and panic attacks hit, I can walk myself through a process that completely calms me, and eventually eases the pain. It's only a step, but a positive one. It has helped me re-focus on life. It has helped me realize what a jerk I was. It has helped me to find myself again, the person I was years ago.

When people didn't call me an asshole.

I have a long way to go yet. I'm off work on medical leave right now, mainly because I can't control the attacks and I work an hour down the highway. I really can't drive right now. I've spent my days seeing doctors, working on my self help 'homework', and getting back in shape. I quit smoking five months ago, and have since devoted considerable time to fixing the body as well as the mind. Out of boredom I began walking. Now these walks average 1.5 to 2 hours per day, depending on if I can mentally do it. One day it was four hours. Just walking. When I head out my intention is to normally go somewhere I've never been, a road, a park, and destination of some sort. However, when you live your entire life in the same city, that's difficult to do. But it keeps me thinking. I've also been reading. A lot.

My other new hobby has been my drums. I bought a used kit at a yard sale, fixed it up, and made some additions with the help of my brother in law, who still has a bunch of his old kit laying around that he doesn't use. Surprisingly enough, I'm not too bad! We've been having weekly jam nights. My son is a pretty talented up and coming guitarist, and my brother also plays guitar, so smacking the skins has been a very effective outlet for aggression and anxiety.

I was reluctant to write this entry. I was afraid to put these issues out there for all to see. I was going to keep my diagnosis a secret to all except my closest friends, but Kim convinced me that I need to write this. I need to tell everyone that there is no stigma attached to the this disorder, and no shame in mental health issues. Yes, I'm sick, but yes, I will get better. I will get back to work, and I will find a medication that controls the highs and lows of Bipolar disorder. I will find myself and even out my behaviour. It will just take time.

I shouldn't have any fear of telling anyone this. Now that I've posted this, I have no choice! It's just one more thing I have to deal with. Maybe now I will have a more positive outlook on life, on my friends and on my family. Maybe this is the mid-life crisis that HAD to happen in order for me to realize what I've been missing.

Maybe now I won't be afraid.



  1. Keith, thank you so much for having the courage not only to seek the help you need but also to share you journey with the world. I wish you and your family the VERY BEST, and for a new life full of love and happiness.

  2. Thanks, enjoyed reading your story. I did not know much about bipolar but now have a good insight and can better understand those whom are suffering from this disorder and realize now that there are people in my life that do suffer from bipolar and are sadly mistaken by people as just being difficult. I too, believe in the power of meditation and hope that you continue your journey to wellness and wish you all the luck in the world and applaud you for being honest about your condition and sharing it with the world!!!

  3. Love you much!! And very proud of you both. {{HUGS}}

  4. So you have come out from your nutshell. I wish you all the very best

  5. Keith, your courage is very inspiring. As a long time sufferer of both depression and anxiety, it wasn't until both conditions became unbearable that I sought help. That help - medication and therapy - has proven invaluable.

    It such a shame that mental illness still has such a stigma attached to it. But it's only by being honest with ourselves and our loved ones - and by letting the world know that yes, we may be broken in some way, but we are good and worthy people - that we can hope to lift the stigma.

    My best to you and Kim and your family, Keith. To paraphrase Janiece, my wish for y'all is a new life full of love and happiness.

  6. I admire your courage in posting this. My teenage son was diagnosed bipolar when he was in middle school and we have dealt with some of the stigma attached to the diagnosis. Sometimes the meds seem effective, but he outgrows the dosages on a fairly regular basis and we spend a lot of time and energy keeping him stable. But I have learned more about love, about courage, and the rewards of persistence from this child than from any other experience in my life. I wish you and your loved ones the best as you go through the process of learning what works for you.


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