Last night I was poking around the bipolar section at Health Central
I discovered a thread about recovery and there was some interesting posts there. In particular was a post by John McManamy
He stated “Recovery is uncharted territory”
I guess that really depends on who you talk to.
I was Dxd with manic Depression for recurring suicide attempts and psychotic mania at age 14. This was comorbid with ptsd from child abuse and schizophrenia.
After 8 years in therapy, 3 psychiatric hospitalizations, 4 years of living in and occasionally being abused in the juvenile mental health system Topped off with 6 nightmarish months of forced medication with LC and perphenazine, my prospects were pretty bleak.
I had severe and treatment resistant mental illness that no drug, no therapist could deal with. I never ever considered ECT. ECT is brain damage and I value my brain.
I also refused to be an experimental guinea pig for big pharma. The obscene side effects of lithium carbonate at 1500mg daily was absolutely unacceptable. It was very clear that lithium was hurting me. I am sensitive to my body and I listen to it. My body said this is poison.
I was put on perphenazine, with no exit plan, no strategy for me to ever come off it. My experience under the influence of neuroleptics was that of death of personality. Coupled with posioning my body. I was more suicidal on those drugs, than off of them. A half a year of my life was wasted to those drugs. Gone, irrecoverable. They never healed me of anything at all. I had to recover from being on psych meds.
By the time I was 20 I had been on the street homeless, too anti social and manic to hold down any job longer than a month. I was addicted to cannabis. I was in debt, had been in jail and most of my family turned their backs on me for the hell I put them through.
Left on my own I finally put myself in a brief coma from my 6th and final suicide attempt. My life had flashed before my eyes and I had an out of body experience.
Afterward, I moved 3000 miles away to a place where I knew no one. There with 400$ in my pocket, I started my life over from scratch.
Living one day at a time I taught myself how to live. I controlled every stress in my life. Living alone and in seclusion for 5 years I used all my money from occasional part time work to take yoga and tai chi classes and I learned meditation from a recognized master.
I realized, that since I was so thoroughly mentally ill, there was no way I could have a normal life anyway. I did not expect to see the age of 21. I did not want to be here anymore. Going to college, joining a union, creating a family, any planning for a future was inconceivable to me, given the fact that I was not planning on a future.
Poor and alone I sat in my small apartment. I took a vacation from life.
With no responsibilities and commitments and no one to deal with but myself, I got to work self therapying.
I spent 6-10 hours a day living a true yogic lifestyle. I changed my diet, took supplements, and changed my sleep habits.
I quit smoking, taking street drugs and cut down or eliminated such excesses as drinking 12 cups of coffee a day which I needed just to have the energy to move.
After practicing ayurveda, chinese medicine, tai chi, yoga and prolonged isolation meditation I became healthier and healthier.
Then the first year came and went without Depression for the first time in my life.
Bit by bit I recharged my body and mind and let the accumulated years of chaos and madness catch up to me and then leave me.
Eventually through the practice of mind-body discipline and clean living. I was able to stay relaxed and keep my mind calm. Then I began prolonged meditation retreats.
After some 10,000 hours of meditation I had a spiritual experience. I discovered myself, quite accidentally. For the first time in 25 years I gained self love. The experience completed me and deeply healed my heart and mind leaving me with real emotional and mental stillness and peace. The noise, the storm of racing thoughts were finally gone.
Within this profound stillness my entire being celebrated the discovery of self love and mental stillness and I basked in the radiance of self realization and peace.
I love myself unconditionally. I know who I am, and what I want out of life. I have never self harmed since.
It has now been over ten years since I was last depressed. I have been mania and psychosis free for about as long. All the ptsd triggers caused by the abuse at the hands of my parents and the abuse I suffered in State facilities are gone. No memory has any more power over me.
I finally found a reason to live. I went on to continue living that lifestyle, but I no longer need to live like that 8 hours a day.
I picked up where I left off at age 20. I got my GED and stepped foot into college, 13 years after dropping out of high school. I am in a loving and stable relationship for 3 years after a ten year hiatus from all relationships of any kind.
All in all, I am just fine today.
My mother has been suicidally depressed for almost 50 years. She remains untreated and unwell. She thinks drugs of any kind are against the Bible. Her therapy has been a rosary and a cigarette, all her life. It has done her little good. She had been a capricious, mercurial, permanently irritable, mean spirited and vengeful person all the years I knew her growing up before she gave me over to the state. In all these years since my abandonment, nothing has changed for her.
I have another brother with some undiagnosed mental illness. Some kind of ongoing mixed episodes and ODD like behavior that translates into a mental illness I whimsically labeled, ‘Inability to Stop Performing Criminal Acts Disorder” A mental illness that has landed him in jail for fraud, grand theft auto and an assortment of other charges that were listed on the docket.
I have a brother who qualifies as a kind of dysthymia with a bout of major Depression every other year or so at the height of SAD vulnerability. He self medicates and copes.
I have a sister who had a suicidal breakdown at age 20. She was Dxd with Bipolar 1, same as I was. She is disabled now, on drugs, still suicidal but so drugged and monitored she can not act on her impulses. She lives in an adult group home.
I only know this from reports I get from my brother. My family is far too dysfunctional, and so corrupt with ancient history, abuse and denial that dealing with them is impossible. You can not have a conversation with my mother without her going on the defensive or offensive or other histrionics. So I have chosen to remain away from them in order to preserve the peace in my life I worked so hard to create.
If you are curious about how meditation works, check out Dr Sarah Lazar’s work with imaging the brains of Tibetan monks. Dr. Lazer works at Harvard Medical School.
Research has proven that prolonged, proper meditation builds a circuit of stillness in the area of the brain responsible for cognitive and emotional processing. (Left prefrontal cortex) Meditation literally builds a bigger, denser, healthier more elastic brain that is calm and clear. It is scientific fact.
You do not have to shave your head, renounce All and move to a zendo, ashram or monastery full time to get those effects. You can get those effects in your favorite living room chair if you practice religiously and properly.
That may explain why 5 years of constant meditation restored my mental and emotional stability so completely.
For over ten years I have been free of disabling manic depression and free of any shred of the myriad other mental illness that consumed 20 years of my life.
I did this without therapy, drugs, safety net or support of any kind. I fully recovered from bipolar on my own. I never saw myself as diseased. I never accepted that my behavior, moods, thoughts and body were beyond my control. I was 14 when my psychiatrist declared that I was biologically ill and that I would be ill for life. She told me not to feel responsible and that my illness was beyond my control. I never believed her. I did not buy it for one second that my illness was both permanent and beyond my conscious control.
Far from it. I learned how to control my mind and body in the fashion of a yogi. I never set out to beat bipolar or anything else. I set out to gain inner peace and learn to live with myself. In doing so, I banished my mental illness and so cured myself. I don’t feel little bipolar cancer cells in my body or brain.
It hurts me to see people buy into the biological disease mentality, especially with so little scientific proof of it.
The reason people so readily believe and accept they have some life long disease is because for many people, manic depression describes their personality more accurately than any psychometric inventory or astrology. That alone is revealing. The bipolar personality is inherited in the same way as a love of art or music or an inclination to spirituality.
In that sense using my family as a model. My mother, sister and I have been deeply spiritual people all our lives. My dad is a completely unreligious, unspiritual atheist. He is also a mellow guy. He has never been a moody guy or had personality issues. I inherited my bipolar personality from my mother. My mother and I use to sing and play musical instruments together in Third Order Franciscan meetings. My mother and I use to sit with each other when I was very young and paint together.
I get moody on occasion. That is just normal for me it is my own temperament, passion and biochemistry. My thoughts don’t race anymore. My chemicals are all rebalanced and remain so, as long as I live in moderation without unnecessary stress. Permanent bipolar recovery was without doubt, the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
My mother(unmanaged, undxd) and sister (Dxd and Rxd) remain depressed, manic, delusional and self abusive while I am free of it.
My mother does not believe she has any problems at all. She is perfect the way God made her. If He did not want her to experience depression, He would lift it from her at His pleasure.
My sister, whose suicidal breakdown occured while she in training to become a Sister of Mercy, now believes she has some chemical imbalance inherited from Ma. After seeing my mother suffer mental illness for half a century I have no doubt my little sister will conclude that she too, is ill for life.
In the final analysis, I took the road less traveled and it made all the difference.
I had put all this behind me after the fifth year without depression had come and gone. I had really moved on from the whole thing. Ten years of being symptom free is a long time. Long enough for the entire experience to have become almost the experiences of someone else.
Over a year ago, on a lark, while browsing the BBC online, I took one of those “Are you depressed?” tests. 10-20 question multiple choice inventories. The answer was almost fortune cookie like.
The answer to my depression screen was something like “You are not depressed! You have discovered the secret of happiness!”
I just laughed and laughed. Then I typed in bipolar and was just stunned. During the ten years I have moved on, Bipolar has morphed. Now we apparently have an epidemic of Bipolar. I hope you folks read Philip Dawdy at Furious Seasons. This may be his best piece of all time on real bipolar recovery. “Once diagnosed, never undiagnosed”