Throughout a lifetime, everyone will experience losses or make some gains. A loss of a loved one or a loss of a job; a birth of a child or the discovery of new friendships. However, for persons living with a bipolar disorder, facing a loss or a gain may prove to be particularly challenging. In my cases, losses were devastating, and gains proved validating.
Prior to my being diagnosed with living with a Bipolar Disorder 1 at the age of 54 in 1998, I had already experienced major losses and gains. In 1965, I had to let go of my dream of becoming a priest. Instead, I became a social worker and fully enjoyed my new career. In 1967, I married and by 1972, I had fathered two wonderful sons. Unfortunately, due to marital incompatibilities, my marriage broke down in 1974. Due to uncontrollable circumstances, I didn’t see my two sons for a total of seven years, a heartbreaking and very traumatic event for me to deal with. Throughout this period, thanks to the support I received from loved ones, friends and work colleagues, plus practicing appropriate self-care management measures, I survived this major crisis.
I had to recognize and accept that I was living with a mental disorder.
Shortly thereafter, I entered another more gratifying relationship which helped me to cope with this devastating burden of not being able to see my boys for this period. On the professional front, I thrived and was promoted to senior positions within my field.
When my eldest son turned 16, he unexpectedly called me. Since then, we have resumed a gratifying relationship between the three of us. In the early and mid-90’s, I experienced episodes of mild depression, but managed to continue to function quite well since my daily living habits were quite healthy and well balanced.
Being quite energetic to begin with, I believe that I entered a hypomanic phase after my second depressive episode in 1995. Just prior to that, I once again started to experience marital problems with my second spouse. During the summer of 1998, prior to my scheduled retirement, my mental health deteriorated. That’s when I plunged into a severe manic phase to the point of becoming psychotic, and thus requiring six weeks of hospitalization on a psychiatric locked ward.
This time, I faced major losses. First, I temporarily lost my sanity. Secondly, my wife served me with divorce papers. We lost our beautiful lakeshore property. I had depleted my financial savings and thus had to declare bankruptcy.
Once my mania was medically controlled and I became aware of my losses, shame and guilt quickly took over. I became quite depressed. It took me about a year of post-hospital psychological therapeutic follow-up before attaining a reasonable level of recovery.
I reached to and accepted the support of my siblings, my loved ones, friends and doctor.
In addition to continuing to receive extensive support from my siblings (for instance, I went to live with my brother and his family upon my discharge from hospital), I continued to see my family physician on a regular basis. I even started to volunteer at two non-profit charitable organizations. Within a year and a half, I found myself a new job with an organization that served the homeless in Ottawa. Doing volunteer work and resuming employment did a lot to boost my self-confidence and self-esteem.
Prior to my hospitalization, I had stopped to do some creative writings, but once I was discharged from hospital, I continued to practice my passion. I’m so pleased to acknowledge that the creative juices are now flowing as smoothly as always.
I took better care of my physical and mental health via proper diet, exercises, social life, spiritual life, not neglecting my sleep patterns, etc.
And then, my new soul mate appeared on my path. Louise and I married on October 15, 2016, but we’d been living together since 2002.
Since my hospitalization, I still faced many major losses:
- The loss of two older sisters.
- The loss of four older brothers.
- The loss of a stepson.
But I’ve made many gains:
- The gain of my sanity.
- The constant support of my loved ones.
- The revival of my self-esteem and self-confidence.
- The resurgence of my passion for creative writing.
- The enriching experience of a mutually gratifying marital experience.
- The development of new friendships.
- The undertaking of a new sideline: playing Santa at a Shopping Centre and elsewhere.
Did you note that my list of gains is longer than the list of my losses? A clear message indeed!
And now what were the primary strategies that I used to cope with my losses and gains? This isn’t an exhaustive list:
- I had to recognize and accept that I was living with a mental disorder.
- I had to comply with my prescribed treatment program.
- I reached to and accepted the support of my siblings, my loved ones, friends and doctor.
- I started slowly with my prescribed recovery program.
- I volunteered with two organizations.
- I found employment when I felt ready to do so.
- I participated in a post-hospitalization peer support group.
- I resumed my creative writings.
- I took better care of my physical and mental health via proper diet, exercises, social life, spiritual life, not neglecting my sleep patterns, etc.
- I became involved as a Peer Researcher with CREST.BD – a very gratifying experience.
- I always believed, thanks to my upbringing, in the value of having a positive outlook on life, and that the sun will always reappear behind the darkest and thickest clouds or storms.
- Hope, love, peace and faith have been my lifelines.
Briefly put, living with a bipolar disorder isn’t always easy. But it can often bring enrichments to one’s life as well if one is able to be provided with proper treatments and required supports.
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