*My Legal disclaimer due to our sue-happy, over litigious society: I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. This blog is for educational and entertainment purposes only and not meant to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease. If you decide to act on your own based on something I have said worked for me, please do so under medical guidance. Also, I am not your judge, or jury….please do not be mine.
I am going to be writing my story, although it is a journey that scares me to death. I am afraid of so many things I do not even know where to start, but it is time more people spoke up about the stigmas that bipolars face, what it is like to live with this diagnosis, and how I have done it med-free for over ten years. The term, for your information, is “MED-free Bipolar”, NOT “Un-medicated Bipolar”, there is a HUGE difference. There are a ton of un-medicated bipolars out there who should be getting help; but there are others, like me, who cannot, will not, choose not to take medications. And you would never know it. Most people would think I am the exception to the rule. I am not. There are thousands like me, living med free. You just have to know how, and why.
What does it really mean to LIVE med free? Does it mean crazy highs and dark lows, a moody personality that destroys everyone around you? NO!!! It also does not mean living out of control, giving into your moods, or burdening others so that you can have your euphoric ‘highs’. It means living a life where if you did not choose to share your diagnosis, no one would know. It means living in a way that you can enjoy the personality that you have been given without feeling deadened, out of control, or hopeless; in other words, “normal”, but better somehow. Because I think being bipolar does make you a little exceptional (if you disagree, that is another day topic). Could you imagine? No shame, no doctors, no med management, no blood tests, no hospitals, no out-of-control symptoms, and NO SIDE EFFECTS!!!
When I say have been “med-free” for ten years, that does not mean that I am 100% symptom-free/100% of the time, or treatment free, or that I can ignore my bipolar. Nor does it mean that I was somehow “misdiagnosed”, like I have had so many people tell me. I was diagnosed as Bipolar I (The most severe of the three: I, II, and Clythomania) in 1999 after a two-week involuntary stay at a little vacation home some might call the psych ward (story for another day). Believe me, I was diagnosed properly. I have even had a few times where I thought I was cured and stopped my natural treatments, only to come so close to crashing that when I went to a psychiatrist for help (twice in 10 years), she put me on the latest and greatest drugs to hit the market since my last episode. All of them made it worse, but when my supplements worked their way back into my system I was fine. What I mean by being med free bipolar is what I will be talking about in the months ahead.
Those drug cocktails and the side effects are worse than the disease, for me at least. Some of you know what I am talking about. Here are just some of the drugs I have taken, some only for days they were so bad: Depakote (over a year), Seroquel, Abilify, Lamictal, Lithium, Paxil, and Zyprexa. So why am I determined to be and STAY a med free bipolar? Because a dull life with a litany of side effects is not an option for me. On medications I was joyless, hopeless, personality deprived and a zombie. I was so even- I experience every side effect on every med, and I was even more surprised when I learned how many bipolars STILL have a ton of symptoms, episodes, and hospitalizations even on the right medications! I do better without medication than most people do with! And apparently that is not supposed to happen for a severe Bipolar I. So how am I doing med-free? I think I am doing wonderfully. (But I will still blog about my bad days and my manic days, when I have them). And my purpose here is to share and maybe inspire hope in others that there is another way.
Fast forward twelve years from my diagnosis: I am a great mom to three amazing kids, I am a successful entrepreneur who even shows a profit on my tax returns, I have been married to my wonderful husband for ten years, and I have not seen a straight jacket since 1999. Why is this so special? Why would anyone care? “So what if you are a mom, and married, blah blah blah, everyone is”. (Sorry, that’s just the voices in my head). Why am I proud of my accomplishments and want to help others with the same treatments I have found? Because. Lots of reasons. But here is a big one: my first psychiatrist when I got out of the hospital gave me best and worst case scenarios for being Bipolar I that read like this, and I quote:
“Best Case Scenario:
- Will be on medication (legal street drugs more like) for the rest of your life.
- Will have trouble keeping a steady job (like I ever wanted a ‘job’ anyway).
- Will never be symptom-free despite medication.
- Will probably have severe postpartum depression if you decide to have kids (implying maybe it’s a good idea not to).
- Probably have not seen the last of a mental hospital.
- Oh, by the way, a few people can and do live normal lives as long as they stay on their medication. (emphasis mine)
Worst Case Scenario:
- Could be hospitalized A LOT.
- Won’t be able to work normally.
- High-risk candidate for postpartum psychosis (yea, the baby-drowning-type).
- Financial ruin due to manic spending sprees
- May have to go on permanent disability to afford treatment and meds.
- May not ever be able to get health, life or disability insurance.
- Most marriages end in divorce. And the list goes on.
Are you kidding me? I was only 22 years old, about to graduate college, and this is the life I was presented with? Where is my hope and my purpose? What about my dreams, aspirations, the 3.5 years and tens of thousands of dollars I had just spent trying to get my degree? I now know this guy was wrong in his trying to prepare me for what lie ahead, and that fortunately not all doctors say these things to new patients, but I have actually heard people being told way worse (like a mother telling her daughter that bipolars end up on the streets sleeping with homeless people because they can’t control their urges!! Are you kidding me? The mom actually told me that personally not knowing I was bipolar!!!) I am glad I did not believe him (but I did for over a year).
Here is MY scenario, which I chose instead:
- No hospitalizations since 1999
- Only three months of psychotherapy in twelve years.
- Found a great natural treatment plan that works when I take it; I have symptom breakthroughs or episodes when I don’t.
- Three kids, NO postpartum depression or even “baby blues.”
- Have better-than-a-job: a business (even business woman of the year last year)
- A great marriage
- Only occasional symptoms that usually do not interfere with my life.
- I Live a life full of hope, opportunity, and abundance
- No one outwardly knows I am Bipolar unless I choose to share
So why am I so scared? Because I have so much to lose, and it’s hard to talk about it. When I have told people in the past about my bipolar, even though they would have NEVER known had I not shared, I have lost friendships, relationships, job opportunities and more. People have said things that were mean and hurtful, and treated me differently when they found out. So why am I still choosing to share my story now?
- Because people are waiting for me to show up and speak out
- Because people need to hear my message
- Because I only attract people who love me and accept me
- Because no one in my life judges me
- Because I am strong and well enough to speak out and change stigmas
- Because I am a rebel and I hate the status-quo
- Because people are searching for answers to their pain
- Because I have so much to give
- Because I can
If I am so scared, someone who in day-to-day life is outgoing, outspoken, mouthy, and not afraid to speak to thousands of people at a time about ANYTHING else, then who else will? Who will speak about the stigmas and stereotypes, the false information out there, the misdiagnosis, the bad treatments and everything else? I will. But I will speak more of the brilliance, the contributions this ‘illness’ has given to society, and I will give hope to the fact that there is a common underlying cause that can be treated naturally and effectively.
There is Hope.