Reflecting Back on My Initial Diagnosis: Part 4

Author: Scott Walker

During my final five months living in Japan I definitely had varying degrees of depression for most of that time. Different mental health professionals in the psychiatric hospital in New Zealand told me there was a good chance of this happening… Coming back down to earth being “normal” again after being manic, blended with a big mix of both shame and embarrassment for things I did and said while manic, was very challenging at times. I remember one time a friend coming to pick me up at my place in Japan. At the time my place was a pigsty and I didn’t want to let her in. When she saw the state of my place I was so embarrassed.

Luckily she was totally understanding and non-judgemental. She was the same friend of mine who had also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. So she knew exactly what I was going through. When I went to see the psychiatrist once a month in Japan, our conversations focused on two topics: medication and sleep. While I am grateful that I went from four medications down to one during those five months, and that I was sleeping well, my gut feeling was that there had to be more to managing my mental health.

To be honest I didn’t do any research or make inquiries on how to improve my mental health. At that point I was content to take my meds and not be in the psychiatric hospital. Even if I was depressed or mildly depressed nearly the whole time. That being said…there were times that I felt really good during that last five months in Japan. I did a trip on my mountain bike and island hopped via ferries to different islands south of mainland Japan. Those islands were gorgeous!

Another time when I felt really good (and sad) at the same time was the number of people who came to the Kagoshima Airport to send me off before flying back to Canada. I had never experienced that sort of send off before. It was humbling and emotional.

When I got back to Canada at the end of June 2000, I went to see a psychiatrist in my hometown of Selkirk, MB. At that time I was on one psychiatric medication called Lithium. My appointment with her focused strictly on medication. I also got my blood levels checked.

Out of the four or five psychiatrists that I had seen in New Zealand, Japan and Canada, my experience was that their primary concern was psych meds. And in some cases…their only concern. The one in Japan was more holistic in nature asking about my sleep and other components of health.

Once back in Canada I stayed with my Mom in Selkirk for two months. It was great to catch up with her, friends and some family. However I definitely had reverse culture shock.

I wrongly “assumed” that everyone would be very interested to hear about Japan, my experiences there, and about different places that I had travelled to while being away from Canada for two years. The odd person was interested. Most were really not. I missed my friends in Japan. I missed my job. I missed the bike club members and outings with them. I missed many others things about my life in Japan. I don’t remember a lot about those two months back in Selkirk. Before moving back to Canada I had already decided to move to Calgary in September of 2000.


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