Befriending my Enemy: Bipolar Disorder, Resiliency and COVID-19

on January 20, 2021
Befriending my Enemy: Bipolar Disorder, Resiliency and COVID-19


Before I even knew it, I was facing an invisible assailant.
Each one of my moves could be deadly. I had to be vigilant.
First, I needed to obtain detailed information about its nature.
Reams of data started to appear in the media for me to capture.
I almost panicked once I understood the seriousness of this threat.
Eager to protect my health, prudence proved to be my biggest asset.
Now, more than ever, I had to care for my physical and mental health.
Dare I remind everyone that these two are my greatest sources of wealth.
I opted not to let myself fall in a state of fear, isolation, anxiety, or despair.
Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m not worried but I’m concerned. That’s fair.
Goodness gracious, it would be foolish for me not to take this menace seriously.

My life would be at great risk if I had not taken appropriate precautions, honestly.
Yes, the first thing I did was educate myself about the dangers of this COVID-19.

Eating properly, exercising, sleeping well; means of keeping my daily routine.
Not listening to too much TV news; giving preference to relaxing programs.
Enjoying fruitful solitude and making sure not to gain too many kilograms.
Months went by. I became more aware of how my enemy could harm me.
Yes, I befriended him through education to ensure my safety and sanity.

A painting of purple flowers in a field. The flowers are close-up and are puffy and spherical, in different shapes of violent and pinkish purple. A few stalks of grass extend from the bottom of the painting. In the background, soft yellows and greens suggest a sunlight forest. The artist is Irma Van Oirschot.

Poem written by Raymond D. Tremblay (Ottawa) ©
Photo of her own painting courtesy of Irma Van Oirschot (Wakefield, QC).

May 12, 2020

Everyone is quite familiar with the old adage, “keep your friends close, and keep your enemies closer.” Ever since this COVID-19 pandemic has been haunting us, I decided to keep a very close eye on this new, vicious, even potentially deadly threat which is upon us. Having lived well with my bipolar 1 disorder for the past 20 years prior to the onset of this pandemic, I was extremely worried that I may not be able to find the extra strengths and supports to survive through this life-threatening storm physically or mentally.

Much to my surprise, I am managing quite well in doing so thanks to a variety of reasons. First and foremost, my wife, Louise, and I have quickly realized how crucial it was for us to mutually support each other. Given my advanced age, 77, and my current physical health problem (my aortic valve will soon need to be replaced since it is severely narrowed), my wife, thanks to the assistance she receives from her son, does our essential errands such as going for groceries. In turn, I prepare her breakfast, lunch and I even wash the dishes much to her liking. Mind you, she’s much better at preparing supper than I am. Thank goodness, we also enjoy spending some time watching a bit of news and many of our favourite French TV programs together. But we really missed our regular weekly coffee outings to the shopping centres and face-to-face contacts with friends and relatives.

“Throughout the past year, one of my greatest pastimes has consisted of writing poems on a daily basis.”

Throughout the past year, one of my greatest pastimes has consisted of writing poems on a daily basis. Doing so provides me great comfort and solace. It’s also a creative way of staying connected with relatives and friends since I share some with them. Another positive activity of mine also consisted of working on the final draft of Part 2 of my autobiography, “Life has been and continues to be my best teacher – A journey of love, self-forgiveness and acceptance,” which I plan to self-publish shortly. Doing my best not to neglect my three periods of stationary cycling per day, plus watching my diet have also proven extremely helpful. Keeping a close eye on my sleep patterns and ensuring that I don’t miss taking my prescribed medications during these distracting times has likewise proven crucial. The same can be stated about my keeping close contacts with my physicians regarding the monitoring of my health.

Maintaining regular contact by phone or via social media resources with my four older siblings who live in Northern Ontario, some 450 miles from Ottawa, and with my two sons and grandsons, who live in Bath and Toronto respectively, have been extremely beneficial. Keeping regular contacts with good friends via social media has also proven gratifying.

“One of the key activities which has nurtured my morale, dare I say my soul, has consisted of consistently doing my daily spiritual readings and short meditations”

One of the most stimulating activities I’ve been involved with in 2020 has been having the honour and privilege of holding Santa virtual sessions with children of all ages from as far away as Vancouver, Whitehorse, Calgary, Ottawa, Toronto, Kingston, Sault Ste. Marie, Gatineau, Montreal and even England. What a joy in doing so! Seeing the smiles and excitement on children’s faces whenever they spoke with Santa directly from the confines of their own home made it all worthwhile.

Throughout the past year, one of the key activities which has nurtured my morale, dare I say my soul, consisted of consistently doing my daily spiritual readings and short meditations. These have and continue to provide me with the inner strength to face whatever new challenges may come my way at any time

And now with the arrival of the vaccines to fight this COVID-19, the light at the end of this life-threatening tunnel, dim as it may appear to be at times, is now here to hopefully bring us through one of the “darkest and deadliest periods of our lifetime.”

In conclusion, even though I’ve occasionally entertained some fears of becoming a potential victim of this virus, all I can say is that I am trying my best not to succumb to this fear by regularly washing my hands, wearing my mask when I go out and keeping a safe distance from others. In addition, I will continue to keep my mind occupied with creative activities, my body well fed with proper nutrients, and my spirit well nurtured with positive thoughts and hope.

So I promise to continue “befriending my enemy” not only to prevent myself from becoming one of its victims, but to be able to look myself in the mirror and say, “I am strong.”

Raymond D. Tremblay (Ottawa)

About the author: Raymond Tremblay

Raymond lives well with bipolar disorder. He is also a prolific writer, having self-published more than 25 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.

(Paul Galipeau/

(Credit: Paul Galipeau)

Featured blog posts by Raymond Tremblay:

Writing Poems – One of My Mental Health Safety Valves
Whispers of a Healing Heart: a collection of poems
Bipolar Disorder: My Creativity’s Muse
Even the Winding Roads Can Lead You Home
And What If?

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