The lonely journey of life

- Copyright JM Schreiber, 2013
– Copyright JM Schreiber, 2013

I had become, with the approach of night, once more aware of loneliness and time  — those two companions without whom no journey can yield us anything.
Lawrence Durrell, Bitter Lemons of Cyprus

Five months have passed since I left my place of employment, deep in the manic vortex of a mental health disorder that had been stable for so long that I failed to recognize the indicators that work stress was taking a critical toll. The first thing I did was hire a psychologist, someone I believed would be able to help me address some of the serious realities that the return of bipolar symptoms threatened to expose. I trusted that her experience would provide a safe space for self exploration and I have not been proved wrong. Mind you I was pretty manic when I arrived at her office, but over the months we have worked together to unspool many of the challenges and concerns that I brought to our very first session.

At the core of our explorations over these past months has been the loneliness I feel and my persistent ability to reinforce the very barriers that maintain this loneliness. When there are people in my life on the superficial, safe level; I cherish being alone. Now that I am making some positive and healthy attempts to connect with others, loneliness seems to follow in the wake of each moment like a hangover.

I don’t know the extent to which my mood disorder has impacted this recurring sense of social isolation. Certainly the up and down waves of manic depression have been marked by episodes of outgoing behaviour, often in conjunction with poor judgement, followed by retreat to safety and protection. There are also temperamental and identity factors that have skewed my experiences. Now my son has shared with me personal concerns that mirror my own in a manner far closer than I ever expected but may help explain the much more severe social anxiety from which he has suffered all his life (and treated with alcohol in recent years). I am not even sure what to make of his situation but I also know that as an adult he has to find his answers on his own because I am weary enough carrying my own baggage.

I accept Durrell’s edict about loneliness and time as necessary for growth, but they can weigh heavily because no matter how much we achieve on our journeys, there always seems to be more open road ahead that, in the end, we can only travel alone.

Author: roughghosts

Literary blog of Joseph Schreiber. Writer. Reader. Editor. Photographer.

11 thoughts on “The lonely journey of life”

  1. I agree, that is one of the most difficult aspects of being bi-polar, it does feel like we are each alone. My manic periods feel like happiness, until they’ve passed. Then I’m overwhelmed with embarrassment at my public exuberance. The embarrassment leads to depression. If I confess my feelings of depression, I become angry with myself for not being able to keep quiet. I’ve had no luck with medical treatment. The lithium I was taking took away the mania but also took away all ambition and creativity. Tried adding wellbutrin which took away my appetite to the point where just the thought of food made me nauseous. Quit meds and doctor, felt better for several months and now feel worse than ever. What a hideous cycle this disease is.

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    1. The difficult aspect is that it is hard to have any closure around behaviour that is too exhuberant, while depression is met by insistence that we pull ourselves together. No wonder loneliness is such a common denominator. I’m sorry you have had so much difficulty with medication. I was stable on an epilepsy drug for more than a decade and I unfortunately cut it back with my doctor’s support, unaware of the massive life stresses just over the horizon. I am hoping to restabilize on the same med but I am afraid an anti-psychotic might be needed for the short term.

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      1. I am also noticing another cycle – Denial of illness, distrust of psychiatry in general, feelings of being able to “fix self” through self improvement, then despair when nothing helps. I guess this coincides with the mania – feelings of grandeur followed by depression – feelings of hopelessness. I come from a long line of mental illness though most were undiagnosed and of course untreated. Also, ironically those same family members would fully expect that anyone who just tried hard enough, should be able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps without medication or treatment. I have to say, reading your posts is helpful and I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog when I randomly looked up something on Raymond Carver.

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      2. As someone who has been reading from an early age, I appreciate all your literary references as well. Discovering Miriam Toews work through your blog seems like a great gift! Books mean so much to me, they make me feel less alone than just about anything. I feel sometimes that I read to understand myself. I promise not to keep bothering you 🙂

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    1. Thanks! The sky is probably the main reason I live here.

      The psychologist is a huge splurge but no medication deals with the shit that a break down or mood disorder can stir up. She is an older lesbian woman with a strong background in LGBTQ issues and more than anything she provides a point of balance for me to measure my progress.

      And your friendship has been an important touchstone for me these past few months. I consider you part of my support network.

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      1. She sounds good, I wish I had someone like that, but my psychiatrist is enough of a splurge and she’s great. And I’m honoured to be in your support network; you’re in mine too. I think I’d love your sky.

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