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Recovery from bipolar disorder   

 

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Mental illness is a devastating disease. The illness I had was depression, also known as bipolar affective disorder. It first presented itself as a mild depression just before my 11th birthday. The fact that it developed at the onset of puberty and the teenage years with all the emotional turmoil that kids experience at that time made it very difficult to pinpoint what was going on with me. It went undiagnosed for about 13 years. 

During those times there was depression, sometime mild, sometimes severe and brief manic episodes that were extremely mild. They ranged from from sleepless nights with speeding thoughts to a general feeling of confidence and energy that was uncharacteristic.

Everything changed in my early 20s when I had a major manic episode. It was a horrible experience, totally humiliating and undermined my confidence to say the least. I had a complete psychotic break where I believed that I was in control of the world and that world peace depended on me routing out the spies in my neighborhood which I happily did. I forced myself into my neighbor’s house and denounced them and I tried to break another neighbor’s window with an iron rod. 

These delusions of grandeur landed me a police escort to the local psychiatric hospital. I was so clear on the ride over that there was nothing wrong with me and there had been a terrible mistake until I saw a billboard melt and the images displayed on it disintegrated into a cartoon character. That was the first time that I knew there was something going on that wasn’t quite right.

I was put anti-psychotics and finally lithium. The lithium seemed to control the manic episodes but did nothing to alleviate the depression which was truly devastating - very heavy depressions where the simplest task seemed insurmountable. I tried anti-depressants but they would simply put me over into a manic episode. As horrendous as the manic episodes were, the depressions were worse. It was almost impossible to have a life. After 4 years I had another major manic episode. It really shook me up because I had been taking my medications properly.

I asked my doctor what my prognosis was and he said I probably would not get better, and hopefully I would not get worse! This was a wake up call for me big time and I realized I was in a system that didn’t believe I could recover! I believed I could heal and this didn’t have to be a life sentence. I decided to take control of my own health and find other ways to make my life more livable.

I began with daily meditations where I sat quietly and stayed open to the idea of a healthy body and mind. To my surprise in a few weeks a guide started showing up in my meditations and gave me very specific messages to follow. The first of which was to stop smoking marijuana and drinking! What a concept! 

I did stop smoking pot and drinking. Over the next couple years I cut out cigarettes, caffeine and sugar. I started exercising daily and going to workshops and classes on dealing with health. Within a year of embarking on this path the depression had all but disappeared! It would take 5 more years to completely recover. 

The key is to get your body and mind as healthy as possible. Cleaning up your diet so you are eating mostly unprocessed, unrefined organic whole foods is vital. I also used techniques such as deep breathing and yoga. I believe they act to calm down the body and rejuvenate the emotions. I also found that it is really important to be around people who are supportive and avoid those who would put me down. 

Today I have not had a serious depression in over 15 years or a manic episode in over 10 years. This makes me believe that if I can recover with nothing but self discipline and consistency, then anyone can! 

 

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