Bipolar In Uniform

Annette Vermette

© Copyright 2023 by Annette Vermette

Photo by Edward Eyer  at Pexels.
Photo by Edward Eyer  at Pexels.

In the present day, Terrance is doing well. To his family and loved ones who have witnessed the many episodes of mania in the last thirty years, some are clinging to the behaviours they saw back then, and some are proud of his current state and relate to him as such. Terrance does question if the people who are choosing to remember only the days of mania, before the right medication had been prescribed and had time to take effect as well as a supportive environment, if they are making a choice to remember the sombre days only. Those are the ones who relate to Terry as a person with an illness only. He does question which trait they are hoping to lasso him with, or could it be fear of looking at their own inherent behaviours. What about the positive choices and decisions Terrance has made in the last thirty years? What about the fact that he retired from the Force with a full pension: doesn’t that speak of his character and definiteness of purpose and self-belief. Terry is certain of that.

There have been many times in the duration of his illness that distrust could be exemplified. However, there are many stories Terry can retell that, to some outside the storyline, would call coincidence: and others don’t believe in coincidence. For those who negate the chance of coincidence may use the words orchestrated, planned, and choreographed. But are those words and sentiments that a person diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder would give credence to? The possibility does exist either way.

Terry has never hesitated to utter the statement, ‘I’m Bipolar, I’m not stupid.’ After several years of working and meeting people who fantasized or gave themselves credit to knowing such illness, in fact, only knew a fraction of the information. Seldom did people give Terry credit for his character. Even fewer gave him credit for the before and after the diagnosis. It is a shame that people, including his loves ones would, and continue to do so, pigeonhole Terry into the resemblance of a stupid fellow.

One such example in the office where Terrance worked as an officer, the comrades had been talking about a Biblical verse concerning walking on water. The staff sergeant questioned Terry if that was a skill he possessed. He was no fool, Terry knew that his colleagues were mocking him, so he replied: ‘Yes I can.’ He chuckled inside, and still does, remembering the three faces turn to him in disbelief at his reply. Until, of course, Terry added ‘In February I do’ (in Northern Ontario). Terry laughed, but he was the only one. All others walked away with the realization that the joke was now on them. Had his colleagues been hoping to lasso him into a story which they could relay to the staff sergeant or higher and adopt a persona of an officer who caught the bad guy? In some environments that type of story relating would be reason to earn a trophy. Terry did not portray that as a good story; he would call it deception. In the line of duty, that same type of betrayal could prove to be dangerous.

To those who believed in Terry from the beginning, even as a child when there was no illness, he continues to express his gratefulness. Those are the ones who would not mock his behaviours and thinking pattern. Those are also the ones who have maintained friendships for the past sixty years.

There has been a multitude of research about the onset of Bipolar Disorder. Some of which are easy to research from online engines. But Terry relates that those are the symptoms he has been ridiculed for also. Look deeper, he would say. Under those superficial explanations, there is a person with individualistic strengths and knowledge. Look deeper again! Under those headings there exists conditions that very few know about. Dig some more, and certain realities will start to emerge.

Those realities are what individuals like Terry have witnessed and survived in the Force. Bodies cut in half that need to be removed from the accident scene; children thrown from the vehicle who had been calling for their mother and can no longer be heard before their body is found at a distance from the accident. The toll is real, the effects are unforgiving!

While clothed in uniform, there was no room for symptoms and behaviours for certain ranks. Yet in the position of commander those are accommodated. Positions where uniform is respected, decisions are well supported, and ridicule is reprimanded. A comrade is a comrade and a colleague. There were some positions where the knowledge and the decades of experience mattered for the good of the Force. Terrance would have been one of those comrades that recognize and value the skills of his entourage. But ridicule was a favoured defence mechanism of those who knew so little about the illness. The way the people in Terry’s circle would dissipate could also be witnessed in the potential female partners he would fraternize. In the identical speed he had witnessed work colleagues disperse, women were even faster. After several years of regaining his composure after the diagnosis, and after being cast aside by a multitude of love interests, Terry had begun to introduce himself as: “I’m Bipolar and I’m retired.” There was no patience, time and energy left in him to beat around the bush.

Trauma has its effects on a family. Some doctors have told him that Bipolar Disorder is hereditary, others maintain that BD is a cause of repeated trauma. Terry has read extensively about the subject: there is no consensus of the onset of Bipolar Disorder.

One incident in the Force which does seem suspicious, and which appears to have triggered the onset of the symptoms of Bipolar occurred while working a night shift. It was during the first half hour of Terry’s shift when he poured himself a freshly brewed coffee. Some kind and considerate co-worker had prepared a fresh pot, ready for the night crew. He poured a cup and began to drink, at first small sips to test the heat of the liquid, then bigger gulps. In no time was the content of his cup gone, and he was still in a standing position. He had not sat down to enjoy this cup of coffee.

His thoughts immediately were transported to, what appeared like a heavenly scene. The presence of his deceased grandfather could be felt. He didn’t know his grandfather well while he was still alive, but he could feel that it was him. The presence Terry could feel was calm and reassuring as if to tell Terry that his life would be good. Another presence of a man Terry knew as a child was there with his grandfather. He could feel the same compassion he had felt with him while he was still alive. His friend’s father Elvin, a kind soul, was there.

Terry’s grandfather and Elvin were both standing alongside Terry, as if to surround him with a heavenly comfort. In front of Terry beings of light were floating in distinct formation. They appeared to be emerging from an arch and circling to the right and to the left. The flow was continuous; those beings did not stop emerging from within the arch. There were hundreds of them.

No one spoke while Terry witnessed this scene. He had no fear either. The most prominent feeling he remembers is “I am well protected.” What that meant, I do not know. Without warning the entity whom I identified as Elvin appeared in front of Terry as a light. He knew who the being was. Without warning, the light passed through Terry, entering in his chest area. He never saw him again.

Still standing in the office Terry’s thoughts were now in the present. He was surrounded by the familiar furnishings and equipment of his work location. He sat down, remembering the scene he had just witnessed while standing and found it impossible to focus on anything, other than the heavenly scene he had been part of just one minute ago.

‘What happened? How did I ever experience something so strange?’

The following day, after a good night’s rest, Terry’s wife at the time and he had scheduled some holidays for two weeks. They loaded the car, locked up the house, and left for their destination on the East Coast.

The trip would take three days before they could board the ferry crossing from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland. Once boarded on the ferry, one fellow was frequently around Terry and his wife.

The stranger stared at Terry often, as if watching his every move, and every blink. Terry brushed it off as coincidence. That night unable to sleep Terry decided to take a walk onto the common area of the ferry, only to find that same man sitting in the hard plastic seats which are common to ships and watercraft. The stranger took only a few steps once Terry entered the common area. The man rose and walked towards him.

Terry did not move, allowing the stranger to choose where his steps would take him next. He stood in front of Terry. So close that he could hear him breathing. The man was as tall as Terry, and he stared into his eyes. He seemed to be searching for something. He inspected everything about Terry’s eyes: were they dilated, were they bloodshot? He didn’t know. His head would slightly move to the right, then to the left, always staring in his eyes. The man was looking into Terry’s eyes, as if he expected to find an answer or a clue to something. Then he walked away. It takes eight hours for the ferry to cross to Newfoundland, and Terry never saw that man again.

Two weeks go fast when sites are breathless and plentiful in Newfoundland. Back to work is inevitable, though. Upon his return to work, Terry was informed that his co-worker who was also on duty the night he experienced a heavenly scene had been on sick leave since the day Terry left for his two-week holidays. The comrades telling the story, related that upon arrival at home after their night shift ended, the colleague was heard and seen firing his gun in his backyard. The Force deemed him fit for an early retirement preceded by sick leave. Must have been a good blend of coffee he and Terry drank that night!
Would any good doctor interpret this incident as Bipolar Disorder, as a coincidence or as an orchestrated experiment? Terry dares not state his explication of this scenario: they would never believe me, nor would the doctor.

The evening after Terry’s return from holidays, while at home, he was talking to a friend on the phone. They talked about usual guy stuff: work, family, projects. While talking about work he expressed that “my boss is a real cone head.” He didn’t mean anything by that statement other than the boss treats Terry unfairly. The next morning Terry presented to work and had just arrived at his desk. The staff sergeant, his boss, stood in front of him. Slowly Terry took his coat off and could feel he was about to speak. Terry pulled his chair and sat down. “Look, my head is round. Do you see that my head is nothing else but round” as he circled the circumference of his head with his finger. The staff sergeant then walked away; nothing else was said. Terry considers that in the most common forms of delusion, the affected person may experience fears such as being stalked, poisoned, harassed by other individuals or an organization, spied upon, obstructed, conspired against. These fears were not part of the scenario between Terry and the staff sergeant, he simply made his statement, and did not experience any fear.

Is it coincidence that just the night before he had uttered the words to his friend on the phone about his boss being a “cone head”? Not all incidences during his career in the Force can be disputed as coincidence or orchestrated if it can be called by that name.

Two months later Terry was hospitalized for several weeks for experiencing delusions and strong thoughts of self-harm. While in hospital and until the right combination of medication could be found by the medical professionals, Terry was always aware of his surroundings and the people who visited him. He remembers distinctly the conversations held with loved ones and co-workers. Terry relates being dumbfounded on his vivid memory of these occurrences.

In his room alone, Terry had been experiencing thoughts of a dark nature. For two days he had been considering that certain people, including the psychiatrist, were collaborating in aggravating his symptoms. He formulated thoughts that all those medical staff were attempting to poison him or instill some grave harm in some ways. In an instant when his thoughts were at their darkest, contemplating the ploy people were conjuring, the psychiatrist walked into his room. Terry instructed the doctor to “stay away from me, I know what you’re trying to do to me.” Terry had imagined that the doctor was “a demonic entity” and was attempting to poison him. As much as the psychiatrist resisted his attempts to speak to Terry or ask questions, the doctor did not leave his room. Terry repeated the instructions to stay away from him. In his thoughts of delusion, Terry reached for the glass of water that was on the night table in his room. He hurled the water at the doctor, soaking his clothes and his face. The doctor left the room without further questions.

That psychiatrist continues to provide care for Terry, years later. Usually, Terry presents for his appointments in the same location. It was only recently, years after the onset of his symptoms, that Terry noticed a sign in the waiting area at the doctor’s office stating, “Do not bring beverages in the doctor’s office during your appointment.” Terry chuckled considering he was not the only person throughout the years who had hurled water or a beverage at the doctor.

As a diagnosed person with Bipolar Disorder, the symptoms and thought processes are not easily defined and categorized. A diagnosed person who states that God has spoken to them may be considered delusional and experiencing thoughts of a strange nature. However, a person within a position of religious belonging who states that God has spoken to them is in essence professing their worldview and their beliefs. To explain further, the identical statement of “God has spoken to me,” has the potential to be interpreted differently depending on if a diagnosis has been given. The thoughts Terry has experienced can be explained and defended in various contexts.

Some people have laughed at his statement that he can walk on water, and others appear to be stern in their interpretation of the statement.

At the time of the frequent breakdowns in his life, Terry did not realize that the absence of supportive care such as counselling was a problem. Years later when counselling was finally offered for employees in this line of work and as part of the benefits package, it became apparent that it was a necessary benefit for the employment sectors who deal with difficult situations every day.

When a social worker and Terry became friends in their community, she did not discount his stories as coincidence nor as distorted thinking. As the conversations became frequent and detailed, Terry’s mental health greatly improved, and he felt like a valued member of society; it took years to perceive himself that way after the initial diagnosis. Society including the Force as an employer have done their share of making something out of little information. As stated earlier, the spectrum of fears certain mental health conditions encompass is not all applicable to one diagnosis, but people do not take the time nor make the effort to get to know the person: there seems to be a greater benefit in labelling a person.

Terry questions how different this behaviour is from the treatment from family members and loved ones who potentially possess the same inherent genes and who are quick to respond adversely when the walking on water joke is uttered. If Terry’s loved ones and acquaintances were well informed, took the time to ask questions, and offered support would be more intuitive.

Terrance was born in Newfoundland, and he retells many stories of his childhood which are wholesome and loving. He admits that there was a presence of sibling rivalry and competition, but there was also the family gatherings which continue to this day to encompass love.

Some experiences and stories which have affected Terry during his school years continue to bother him. He speaks openly with his current wife, Anita, about the frequent acts of racism aimed at Terry and his family who were not condoned by the school personnel, including the teaching staff. When Terry moved to Sudbury with his family at an early age, the dialect he had been raised with was evident to everyone he spoke to. Last year Terry engaged in a conversation with a friend of the host where he and his current wife were visiting. He was being mocked for his roots in that province by an adult man. The sound of imminent laughter from that guest was heard by the group as Terry related his story. The incidences of racism may never stop, even during adult years.

Terry abides to strong beliefs and opinions. He has witnessed a lot in his lifetime already. These are from thoughts that have been considered deeply and encompass a strong influence from experience and observation in his life. As an example, Terry
acknowledges that slavery is a sensitive word around the Black peoples, but he can relate instances from the Bible which also discuss slavery, subjugation, and servants. He relates one passage which implies that living a life of sin is a form of slavery and that Indigenous people were sent to countries outside of America to become slaves and servants. There are current stories of slavery in the media whereas people from Mexico are grossly underpaid for the work they do in America considering the absence of their immigration papers and status. Reading is a coping method for Terry. He recognizes that a critical eye is required to interpret the material he comes across. With a diagnosis such as his, Terry discusses these sensitive topics with only a chosen few. The ridicule from his childhood, and the continued judgment from his peers is a barrier to his self-belief and worth.

Terry can be seen staring ahead or intently watching the movement from the two cats in their house. Following these instances of staring Anita tells of the wisdom which he communicates. She relates that his mind had been deeply considering his perceptions of a specific topic or issue. She also defines Terry as intelligent and wholistic. Anita is aware that the word holistic holds a meaning of all encompassing although she questions why the word has been adopted with roots in holy as opposed to the whole. If a person means a methodology is whole, then the proper word to employ would be wholistic. Perhaps she and Terry have similar methods of thinking. They can often be seen laughing at their mirrored ways of being.

As a child during the primary school years, children were often derogatory in their mockery of ‘Newfies.’ Were the frequent instances of exclusion circles in the schoolyard any less hurtful than the other forms of racism which other children have been subjected to. Terry considers that most things in life are scored inappropriately. A lower mark on one assignment in university brings the average down very quickly, and in the same downward manner as a person’s credit score. Yet the higher scores on assignments and a high frequency of positive steps drive the credit score up by one point at a time in contradiction to the one hundred in the opposite direction. He considers that society has come to expect perfection and flawless methodology and behaviour. Terry considers that people are the same as they belittle others. Ten occurrences of racism towards someone may be the beginning of a lifetime of low confidence and worth.

The examples of belittlement in Terry’s workplace in the Force were no different. Colleagues were not discouraged from the negative behaviours inflicted upon Terry. He abides to the belief that ‘it is easier to beat the person who is already down.’ It is no wonder that children have been inflicted such cruel behaviour, the grownups were also doing it – often stemming from a lens of racism and pain.

Terry also ponders if the medical authorities would defend their position about his views on racism, belittlement, and pain as a generic form of delusional thinking, or harassment by other individuals or an organization or conspiracy against. The organization did not discourage it, but also encouraged the staff to report their
interpretation of delusion they had witnessed in Terry – such as the joke about walking on water. Terry still laughs with Anita about his incident. He often states his gratefulness that his wife is a social worker and eloquent in explaining and interpreting the motives of the humankind.

Terry had related a story to Anita which initiated the beginning of distrust toward adult school personnel. Terry had written a poem as instructed in one of his classes. The children were encouraged to send their poem to a judging committee within the city with the hopes of being published. Terry was advised that his poem had been chosen as a winner. When the teacher of that class was informed of Terry’s achievement, he called the judging committee and advised them that Terry was ‘not capable of writing such a poem.’

It is common knowledge that dialects can be detected when speaking to people - Terry’s dialect and accent were no different. It became quickly known at the school and in the neighbourhood that Terry and his family were from Newfoundland and the mistreatment began from there. If the teacher who was an adult of sound mind, it boggles Terry’s mind that such treatment would be supported within the profession. He also questions if this could be defined as harassment from not only an individual but from a school board also. The pattern of abuse was becoming evident in all classes and schools where Terry attended.


Fast forward the story to Terry’s workplace, the instances of mistreatment and abuse were also common. In one such story, Terry had been approved for short term sick leave by his psychiatrist. When Terry communicated the outcome to the staff sergeant, he was informed that papers would need to be signed allowing the Force to access all his medical files since the beginning of his employment there. In addition, Terry was advised that if he did not sign, his revenue from sick leave would be terminated immediately. In his state of mind, and in conjunction with the strong medication he was being administered, Terry felt the need to contact his psychiatrist to inquire about this development. During the discussion with his doctor, Terry related that a threat had been uttered – and the situation was deemed by the psychiatrist as an imposition of duress. The matter was dropped immediately.

Terry remembers during a class of psychology while attending university that a breaking point or the beginning of a defined trauma for people could possibly occur following a slew of annoying and difficult events in a person’s life, or a serious and singular event which would be deemed as a life-changing instance. He pondered the validity of that choice in definition and questioned if the participants in that survey or questionnaire have lived both forms of events. Terry determined that a person cannot state with certainty if it was the slew of events or the singular and serious event which tipped the scales. If a person deems their answer valid but having experienced only one method of severity of the event, then how can they know with certainty that their experience is the correct answer.

Terry acknowledges that he may never know if these serious experiences of racism, exclusion and trauma filled contributed to his diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. The medical world acknowledges that there is no definitive answer to the onset of Bipolar Disorder, and further state that it has potential of stemming from childhood trauma,

family genetics, brain chemistry, stressful life events, or use of medication, drugs or alcohol. Terry tells the story of his indulgence in a fresh cup of coffee at the office at the beginning of his evening shift. He knows with certainty that a spiritual experience occurred as related above, and his colleague exhibited the onset of distress as well on the same evening. He questions if the indulgence in coffee at the office contributed to the experience, but he also questions if an unknown ingredient was part of the recipe of ground coffee beans which affected more than one person.

Annette Vermette is an aspiring author who has self-published two books in 2023 with FriesenPress. Although the sale of books is minimal (less than 20 total), Annette enjoys story writing. In her professional role of Social Worker, Annette has witnessed many injustices committed onto people and now takes interest in personalizing the stories. Born in the Sudbury area, Vermette has worked in many northern Ontario communities. This has enhanced her knowledge about limitations, injustices, and worldviews outside her comfort zone. Her perspectives are broad and realistic.

Contact Annette

(Unless you type the author's name
in the subject line of the message
we won't know where to send it.)

Book Case

Home Page

The Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher