A few months ago my writing came to a grinding halt. I felt I had shared the important parts of my story and quite honestly I didn’t think I had anything else valuable to say. From time to time I would get an idea, but never wrote more than a few sentences before throwing in the towel completely convinced it was just another stupid idea. Nothing felt right. But in hindsight I see how it was all part of a process nudging me to change the direction of where I am going with my blog.
I’m quite confident I made my point of being outraged at our current mental healthcare system. Hopefully I’ve raised some awareness as to the reality of what people go through. What I want to focus on now is everything I am currently doing to get and stay healthy because as we all know, part of maintaining a healthy mind and emotional state involves making peace with our past experiences and moving on. Saying I’m moving on does not however negate the seriousness of the shortcomings I’ve written about nor does it mean I no longer care about the glaring problems within the mental health community. It simply means I’ve decided to focus on being proactive with my health to find alternative solutions. And that is what I want to focus on sharing.
Four months ago I took a big step. After countless hours of research and consideration (along with the support of my psychiatrist and therapist) I stopped taking my medications. That decision came after researching ways to help improve my cognitive function — something that had radically changed over the past few years ultimately leading to a leave of absence from work. It’s no secret that bipolar disorder can often be linked to cognitive difficulties, but medication can also be a factor so I couldn’t just sit back and continue to wonder if the meds were the culprit and if so were there other alternatives? During my research I discovered lots of fascinating information, but instead of just filing it in the back of my mind I decided to apply what I had learned to see if any of these alternatives really worked.
I spent countless days watching the latest Ted Talks and documentaries on brain function, mental health and nutrition. I devoured stacks of the most recent books written by doctors and researchers who have found alternative ways to treat mental illness along with testimonies from patients who are now thriving. I learned about the push for peer support in treatment and how many states are being proactive in the certification process and creating positions for people who are in recovery so when a person seeks help there are people available who can relate.
Of course I realize that as someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder the issue of stopping medication can be quite controversial and some may even say irresponsible. I dreaded telling my doctor my plan because I feared the reaction I would likely get, and although she expressed hesitation due to the obvious risks of stopping, she heard me out, realized it wasn’t something I was doing on a whim and ultimately supported my decision. I was in a healthy state of mind and my reasons and intentions were valid.
Another important point to consider is I didn’t just simply stop my meds and continue life as usual. Many other changes were made as well in order to prevent relapse and to improve symptoms. I do believe medication is sometimes necessary as I know it helped me in very difficult moments. But I do not think it is a long term solution or by any means the only treatment we should consider, yet throughout the last ten years of my treatment alternatives were never even discussed unless I had been the one to bring it up. Once I received my diagnosis I was basically told that I would need to be on meds for the rest of my life to control my symptoms and even then there was no guarantee it would actually work. I do not believe people should be told that once they are diagnosed with a mental illness they are subject to a life sentence on drugs with no cure or chance of recovery. And what I find so encouraging is that many people within the mental health community no longer believe that either.
This post is simply intended to be a general update and preview of what’s to come. My goal is to share all of the amazing things I have learned along with my experiences including the ups and downs, the positives and negatives and what we can all do to get and remain healthy as a whole. We have to take care of the whole person, not just segments of ourselves when they start to fail us. There are so many things we can do to help ourselves and others but we first have to shift our perspective. We can’t just look at mental illness as a disease of the mind. We have to look at all the extraordinary facets of what makes us who we are and how our physical, mental and spiritual health is all intertwined. When we see how everything connects we see how small changes in one area of our lives can greatly affect the others. It’s this knowledge that gives me great hope and has helped me become healthier. I love how there are more and more doctors and researchers speaking out on this topic and showing people that you can and should expect to be able to thrive despite having a mental illness diagnosis.
It is my intention to share what I have learned about this new movement within the mental health community and show you how I have implemented it within my own life. (Of course I am not a doctor and I do not suggest anyone stop taking any medication without doing their own research and talking to their doctor.) I will continue to be open and honest about everything in order to help all of us who are faced with mental illness and in the process I hope to reassure people that they are not alone. A diagnosis is not a life sentence. There absolutely is hope. Recovery and a fulfilling life is possible! I hope you continue to join me on this journey!
From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.