Together at the Poles

At the Crossroads

I have been living with Bipolar Disorder for about the last 7 years.  Well that’s not really true…I have been living with Bipolar Disorder all my life but I only learned of my condition 7 years ago.  Since then I have been surrounded by a number of professionals: psychiatrists, a family doctor, psychiatric nurses, a CB therapist, and of course the pharmacists.  All of these individuals have played an important role on my road to stability.  I would say that I am much more stable now than I have ever been in my life.  I don’t drink, I don’t take illegal drugs, and I don’t smoke cigarettes so I feel stable…but bored.  The problem is that I am dealing with some very powerful urges to go back to self-medication, the street, to return to the world of addiction.  These feelings even invade my dreams.  So now I find myself at the crossroads.

Copyright 2017 Michael Ligtenberg

Copyright 2017 Michael Ligtenberg

The first prescription drug I took made me fly so high and yeah it was great and I loved it.  I have never had so much fun as I did that summer.  On the downside though, I also completely freaked out on a very good friend a couple of times.  I am lucky she understood and forgave me.  So they took my off the lamotrigine.  And to be honest I miss it.

Now when I go to the pharmacist I pick up 13 bottles of pills, and every day I swallow 23 pills.  So I have no more highs and the lows are manageable.  Instead of flying high I have gained a lot of weight, about 80 pounds in 2 years.  My self-image and self-esteem have gone awry.  I used to run 2 kms a day and now I do nothing.  I also had plantar fasciitis for about a year which was crippling so even walking any distance was extremely painful.  I still managed to do 40 sit ups most every day, but somehow that got lost to.  My healthy routines were shattered.

Now I watch a lot of TV but it is just a way of passing time.  I don’t feel any interest or motivation to do the things that I used to love doing: writing, reading, photography, woodworking, walking.  Even my sex drive has been adversely affected; I just have no libido.  In fact, I just don’t feel much at all.  The only thing that gets me excited for a few moments is online poker and online sports betting.  Fortunately I am not gambling high stakes…I do understand how to win…or at least not to lose too much.  But how long will that last?

Copyright 2017 Michael Ligtenberg

Copyright 2017 Michael Ligtenberg

This isn’t the life I thought I would have.  Lots of people live off my salary…a very respectable one but one that I only see of about 30%.  My present spouse cannot work (bipolar disorder and fibromyalgia), and I have 4 children who have all pursued post-secondary studies (and I’m so proud of them all) so I still have a very high child support payments to make every month and I pay the taxes on that.  It’s depressing because I can’t put away much money for my retirement.  I am 52 and I want to retire when I am 60…I just don’t know if I will be able to afford that.  I have spent 23 years of my life in small rooms filled with 25 teenagers and with only one door out (the escape hatch).  Such is the life of a high school teacher.  Maybe I can get a job as a greeter at Walmart when I retire.

So what is this crossroad?  Well, this is the way I see it:

If I turn left, it leads me back to self-medication.  The urge to drop all of the prescription drugs and go back to self-medication is very strong…wrong but strong.  The consequences would be huge…it would destroy my relationship with the woman I have been living with for more than 4 years.  She would be immensely hurt if I decided to turn left.  It would destroy all the years I have put in to regain my children’s trust.  And to be honest, I don’t know if I could survive that nether world either.  I don’t want to die and I don’t want to go to jail either.  Fortunately the closest big city from my home is about 1600 km (1000 miles) away.

Copyright 2017 Michael Ligtenberg

Copyright 2017 Michael Ligtenberg

If I stay the course and just go straight ahead, I will just have to accept that I am obese and bored, the status quo.  I hardly take showers anymore because that means I will see myself in the mirror and see that old fat ugly guy staring back at me.  I will continue to provide for all the others and continue to countdown the years to go until I can retire, ennui being the flavour of the day.

If I take a right turn, well, it is the most daunting of them all.  It requires motivation.  I will need to improve my diet, exercise more, pick up my camera and go for walks even if it is painful, make a workshop in the basement, read, and take Viagra if need be.

As I read over this blog with my therapist I noticed something, something important.  Subconsciously I think I decided to make the best choice, a right turn…right because perhaps it would be the right decision.  But I am just so tired of fighting with myself.

Do I have the strength?  Should I just grin and bear it?  Or do I go looking for desolation row…

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Counselling from Daniel
Daniel Bader, Ph.D., RSW, CCC
Daniel Bader, Ph.D., RSW, CCC is a Registered Social Worker and Canadian Certified Counsellor with a private practice operating out of Kitchener, Ontario. He provides in-person counselling in Kitchener and email, video or telephone counselling within Canada.

To find out more, please visit the website for his private practice, Bader Mediation & Counselling Services.