A Multitude of Recoveries Through Alternative Mental Health Treatments
During my junior year in high school, I met the love of my life. We married following my graduation from college, and I began my first teaching job. My husband was much like me – a people pleaser and an over-achiever. Succeeding in our careers was our highest priority. The people pleasing pace eventually took its toll on me and I began to have anxiety attacks and uncontrollable bouts of crying. I began counseling and struggled to find a balance in my life. The years passed quickly. My husband received several promotions over the years that brought about moves to different parts of the country. Each time I embraced the move and spent my time finding our new homes, unpacking our household goods and searching for new teaching jobs. I continued to be plagued by bouts of depression, anxiety attacks, and fits of uncontrollable crying, which only I knew about. Our last move as a couple was to Washington State. It was in Washington, were the sun was behind the clouds on most days, that the inner battle with depression and manic behaviors surfaced. I was living a life of luxury. My husband’s climb up the corporate ladder allowed me to be a stay at home wife. After a few months of staying home and sleeping and crying everyday after this new career change for me I took a trip to the doctor’s office. At that time, I thought I might be suffering from “seasonal affective disorder”. My general practitioner prescribed Prozac to me after my first appointment with her and after I completed a 20 question survey. The “happy pills” helped for awhile. Though the depression lifted a little, I began having difficulty sleeping. My husband left for an extended business trip. Each time he called, he noticed that my speech was becoming more and more rapid and I was having difficulty staying focused on even short conversations. While he was gone, I was not sleeping much at all. After seven days with little or no sleep I returned to my general practitioner and I was told to try an over the counter sleeping pill. On my way home from that doctor’s visit, I heard the news about the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado. This tragedy sent me over the edge and I began having hallucinations about saving the children of the world. My husband returned from his business trip and found me talking non-stop and planning grandiose world saving missions. After planning to go to school and teach my preschoolers in my “Sleepless in Seattle” pajamas , my Denver Bronco baseball hat, and a box stuffed with a few of my favorite childhood things for “show and tell”, my husband had the wisdom to call the last therapist I had visited before our move to WA and she advised him to get me to the hospital. Within an hour after my admission to the psych ward, I was diagnosed “bi-polar”. The doctors put me on Depakote because it was the drug working for my brother who had been diagnosed with the same illness a few years prior to my diagnosis. I was also on Klonopin, Ativan, and Zyprexa and nothing seemed to help me. Five days after entry into the hospital a new doctor came for his rotation and took me off of the Depakote and put me on Lithium. After a ten day visit to the psychiatric ward, I was released and sent home to begin my life on a cocktail of drugs and by-weekly visits to a therapist and psychiatrist. After my severe manic episode, I went into a drug induced sleep mode. I began to gain weight and quickly put on 30 pounds. I no energy and generally spent much of my day sleeping. My daily goals were to make it to the shower and walk to the mailbox before my husband returned home from a long day of work. My doctors told me that things would get better but I would have to learn how to live this way. Six months after my bi-polar diagnoses I went to Europe on vacation with my parents. It was during this trip that I realized that I needed to accept the diagnosis and somehow find a way to make the best of it. The fog and depression were beginning to lift and I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, upon my return from Europe I had another cycle of severe depression. I began having suicidal thoughts and I began withdrawing from everything around me. A few weeks after this episode of severe depression, my husband told me that he didn’t love me anymore and he wanted a divorce. Needless to say, I did not take the news well. I went into a “depressed by day, manic by night “ cycle. After two months, my husband left me to begin a life with another woman he had met at work. I went into another manic episode and I spent all of my time trying to figure out what happened to what I thought was a happy marriage and relationship of 22 years. My manic/depressive cycles continued while I stayed in WA during our divorce proceedings. The depression and anxiety became so severe that after my doctor’s increased my dosages of medications for anxiety and sleep deprivation, I attempted to end my life and go to sleep forever in my three car garage. Just before I fell asleep in my car with the engine running and the garage door closed, I had an amazing spiritual experience that changed my life. I saw an image of Christ with his arms open. I also saw an angel like figure who resembled my cousin. My cousin had committed suicide three weeks after her bi-polar diagnosis. The angel reached out and shook me awake. I opened the garage door and backed my car out. As I sat and wept in the Seattle rain, I knew at this point, that I had reached my deepest and darkest point in life and I had somehow survived it. I thank God that I got out of the suicidal situation and after that experience I found a thread of hope and faith. Through my faith in God, the support of friends and family, and a new appreciation for my life, I was able to go off all of my anxiety and sleeping pills after this incident. I remained on the Lithium because I trusted my doctor and believed I needed it to survive. A few weeks after I almost took my life, my husband met me in court and ended our marriage. I moved back to Denver to be with my family . I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life on a drug that treated my symptoms but made my life miserable in many other ways. I spent considerable time searching for a doctor who could help me find a way to get off the lithium and take control of my moods. It took a great deal of effort, but eventually I found a doctor willing to listen to me. After another year of therapy, EMDR treatments, and decreased lithium dosages, I was feeling much better. My doctor told me that I would probably always need the lithium and I just needed to accept the weight gain and lack of energy as part of my new bi-polar life. The blessing was that my moods had finally stabilized. As I continued to search for an alternative to the lithium, my dad read a brief article about the use of vitamins to treat bi-polar patients. Shortly after, a friend told me about her sister using vitamins to recover from bi-polar. I was beginning to believe that an alternative to lithium was possible. My doctor was also searching for an alternative and found an open case study using Equilib vitamins. I agreed to become a part of an open case study with her guidance. I began my program of adding vitamins to my daily routine and gradually lowering the Lithium dosage under my psychiatrist’s guidance. Along with the vitamin program and maintaining a daily log of my symptoms, I began calling Julia my “safe call counselor” who was provided to me by the makers of Equilib. Julia helped me understand the nutritional component of my treatment plan. I called her weekly to begin with and if she didn’t hear from me, she would call me with a message of support. My calls to Julia and anyone else on staff at Evince International gave me more support then I could have ever imagined. The safe call system not only helped me manage my nutrient program but it has also helped me to grow and identify feelings and emotions that not other doctor/counselor could get out of me. I know that I can pick up the phone and call for support anytime and if I don’t connect with Julia directly, she will get back to me within hours. I don’t have to ever make and appointment and I know longer have to wait for days to get in to a doctor’s office to get support. The “safe call” system has helped me continue to develop a clear understanding of who I really am. With Julia’s support and encouragement I have learned to make it through many of my trials and struggles in this new “drug free” life on my own. The weekly charts helped me to monitor and recognize the early signs and triggers that affected my moods and they helped me become aware of my true feelings. The most difficult thing for me to understand is that it is OK for me to have real feelings. I have had a few life traumas recently and thanks to the “safe call” system, I have been able to get support and understand that what I was experiencing was “normal”. I know that this element of the nutrient program has been a huge help for me in making rapid progress. I have been stable for over a year and the support system is still there for me if I need it. During the past three months I have finally started to lose the extra pounds that I put on while I was on Lithium. My diet has changed drastically. I follow a well balanced eating plan. I limit my intake of carbohydrates and I limit my intake of refined sugar and processed foods. I am happier now than I have ever been in my life. I am finally able to look in the mirror and love what I see. I have lost 20 of the 30 pounds I gained while I was on Lithium. I am able to ride my bike again and work out like I did when I was in high school. I can hug my own family for the first time and I can honestly say “I love you” and really mean it. I recognize the triggers that would have put me back in the hospital a few years ago. The triggers now just cause me to reflect on the emotions they stir in me. I am aware of my emotions and my sleep patterns and I am able to adjust my diet, or increase my vitamins during stressful times to help me get through the difficult times. I was never a breakfast eater. I usually skipped meals and I craved sweets and other carbohydrates. I now realize that when I stay on my diet plan, the cravings decrease and the weight I struggled to lose before is coming off with little or no additional effort. I am aware of the effects of food on my emotional state of mind. I am able to take on more responsibilities at work because I am organized and my mind is clear and my thoughts are focused. I enjoy going to concerts and the theatre and I am excited about finally being able to hear the music. I am able to attend a conference and read books and actually remember the content without having to reread the material five or six times. As each day passes, I feel better than the day before. I am excited about this new drug free journey I am taking. I rejoice in knowing that I am still alive and happier than I ever imagined I could be. I reflect on how far I have come, especially in the past year, and I give thanks to God for knowing that I am ready to handle anything that comes my way. I have come out of the drug haze and I see a beautiful horizon in front of me. Listed.