For persons living with a bipolar disorder, like anyone else for that matter, it is crucial to find constructive and positive ways of spending one’s time during the day. For many, it may consist of striking a healthy balance between establishing and nurturing social relationships at home, at work and in the social realm; or exercising on a regular basis, maintaining a good diet, practicing a gratifying hobby, and adhering to a sound spiritual life.
As a person who now lives well with a bipolar disorder, one of my most interesting pastimes consists of writing poems in addition to stories. Much to my surprise, this interest spontaneously started at the age of 49 in October 1993. Was I to consider this brand-new activity a symptom of my mid-life crisis? In hindsight, I’m more inclined to believe that my new interest was in all probability a symptom of my emerging hypomania.
During this period, many of my writings were disjointed and disorganized. Many included a lot of meaningless rambling. I recall often waking up in the middle of the night and just feeling compelled to write much to the dismay of my ex-spouse. Nonetheless, with time and diligent practice, a lot of my creative writings during this period proved to be of better quality.
During those precious creative moments, I am in perfect harmony with my real self, and this soothing feeling of satisfaction fuels my mindset and behaviours for the rest of the day.
Since 1993, I was unable to write poems or stories during only three periods: (1) when I experienced a serious episode of hypomania in the first half of 1998; (2) when I succumbed to an acute manic episode in the second half of 1998 which necessitated a two-month psychiatric hospitalization, and (3) for about a six month period following my discharge from hospital. In addition, it also happened when I experienced normal writer’s block phases. When these occurred, I kept myself busy reviewing and editing my manuscripts, collating collections of poetry, reading, resting or simply participating in relaxing recreational and social activities. And when the creative juices started to flow once again, I seemed to be more disciplined in my constructive use of the amount of time I dedicated to my passion.
Thank goodness, my bipolar disorder has been well controlled by medication and my healthy lifestyles habits for the past twenty-one years. I’m now 76 years old and I’ve been able to continue to do some creative writings as I wish. Since I started writing poetry, I’ve self-published thirty-one collections on various topics such as the homeless, the wonders of Mother Nature, the value of family and friendship, the challenges of nurturing one’s mental health, the infinite value of hope to name a few. I also currently have four other collections of poems as works in progress in addition to being in the process of writing my autobiography.
Since childhood, I’ve always been an early riser, routinely around 5 a.m. Mind you, I also go to bed quite early, around 9 – 9:30 p.m., and I usually sleep as sound as a baby. Even when I wake up in the middle of the night, I normally don’t experience any difficulties falling asleep again quite quickly. But when I was in the throes of experiencing my severe hypomanic and manic episodes, I slept very little.
Early mornings have always proven to be the most productive times for me to write poetry. I can also do so at other times during the day, but I’m not as well-concentrated then. My first step when I undertake to write a poem usually consists of finding on Facebook a friend’s photo of a scene or other subject which inspires me. The second step is to come up with a title reflecting the essence of the photo. The third step consists of writing the poem in the “acrostic” style, my most favourite style. In this poetry, the letters of the title appear at the beginning of each verse. However, in my case, I also make sure that the verses rhyme and a shape usually emerges once the poem is completed – two additional steps which make writing this time of poem a bit more complex. I then share the poem with the persons who took the photo and request their permission to eventually include it in one of my future collections. In most cases, the recipients of the poem are appreciative of the poem and agree to the inclusion of their photo and poem in one of my future collections.
For me, writing poetry is like “meditating in motion or becoming very mindful of what is occurring within my inner being and my immediate surroundings.” It provides me with a heightened state of calmness and peacefulness. During those precious creative moments, I am in perfect harmony with my real self, and this soothing feeling of satisfaction fuels my mindset and behaviours for the rest of the day. In all humility, I am truly grateful for having received this gift a good number of years ago and in this respect, I consider writing poems on a regular basis to honestly be one of my most positive mental health safety valves.
Raymond D. Tremblay
About the author: Raymond Tremblay
Raymond lives well with bipolar disorder. He is also a prolific writer, having self-published 26 collections of poetry, largely on issues of homelessness. Raymond has a strong affinity to social welfare issues. He has had a fruitful career with both municipal and provincial organizations, including the Ontario Ministry of Health, based in Kingston Psychiatric Hospital, where he served for 20 years as, first, Director of Social Work Services, and later, as Coordinator of Community Development.
Featured blog posts by Raymond Tremblay: