You Must Have Been Misdiagnosed

When I share that I have healed my bipolar disorder I frequently have people accuse me of never having bipolar in the first place. They say, “You must have been misdiagnosed.”

This brings up a couple of important questions: “What constitutes an accurate diagnosis?” and “What is bipolar disorder?”

What Constitutes an Accurate Diagnosis?

A medically reviewed article on Psycom.net describes bipolar based on the DSM-5:

 “Bipolar disorders are described by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as a group of brain disorders that cause extreme fluctuation in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function.”

The article then goes on to define the three subcategories of bipolar:

  • Bipolar I disorder is a manic-depressive disorder that can exist both with and without psychotic episodes
  • Bipolar II disorder consists of depressive and manic episodes which alternate and are typically less severe and do not inhibit function
  • Cyclothymic disorder is a cyclic disorder that causes brief episodes of hypomania and depression

The problem with these categories is that there is no underlying cause identified, the categories are clusters of symptoms that can vary widely from person to person—if you meet the diagnostic criteria you are diagnosed with the “disorder”.

I was diagnosed with bipolar in 1998 and during my first twelve years of treatment saw more than seven separate psychiatrists due to moves and hospitalizations and each one independently confirmed my diagnosis. I met all of the diagnostic criteria initially for bipolar two and later for bipolar one after I experienced a psychotic episode during a hospitalization.

What is bipolar disorder?

When you received your bipolar diagnosis what explanation did your doctor give you? I was told that I had a chemical imbalance that required medication to correct. I was later told that bipolar was like having diabetes and medication was like insulin and finally I was told that bipolar is chronic and incurable.

Chemical Imbalance Theory

Did you know that the chemical imbalance theory was debunked in the late 1980s? It was a theory that was developed to try and explain the need for psychotropic medications in treating mental illnesses like bipolar disorder. 

The theory was repeatedly put to the test and consistently failed. Interestingly in the effort to try and prove the theory scientists actually discovered that although there was no preexisting chemical imbalance in the brain, the psychotropic drugs used to “treat” the disorders was causing a chemical imbalance to occur. 

Bipolar is Like Diabetes?

The first time I heard this claim it was made by my psychiatrist. I was struggling with my medication and had told my doctor how much I hated taking the drugs—the side-effects were intolerable and I was still experiencing symptoms.

My doctor had told me that having bipolar was like having diabetes and the medication was like insulin. He reassured me that although I was still struggling that eventually we would find the right combination of medications to give my brain what it was missing.

At the time this convinced me to keep taking the medications because I hoped that I could eventually find relief but looking back the comparison is ludicrous! Bipolar and diabetes are NOT THE SAME!

Diabetes is a clearly defined, measurable medical problem with a consistently effective treatment protocol. The insulin is replacing something the body is missing.

“Bipolar disorder”, on the other hand, has no single, clearly defined cause. It is diagnosed based solely on symptoms and then the drugs used to treat the symptoms are not something the body normally produces. In fact, as stated above, the chemicals introduced into the brain with psychiatric drugs abnormalize the function of the brain instead of normalizing it.

WARNING: If you decide to switch from medication to micronutrients DO NOT go off of medication “cold turkey”, or stopping all at once. Medication alters your brain chemistry and withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous, even life-threatening. DO work closely with someone specifically trained in cross-titration—either Truehope customer support or a trusted psychiatrist who has been specifically trained in cross-titration—to safely withdraw from the drugs and transition to the micronutrients that will help heal your brain.

Is Bipolar Disorder Really Incurable?

The reason people assume that I was misdiagnosed when I share that I have healed my bipolar disorder is that they believe it is impossible to heal. I often ask people why they believe that and no one can ever adequately answer the question. 

The reality is that the treatment approach of using psychotropic medications long-term to address the symptoms is itself preventing the cure. Bipolar is a group of symptoms that indicate the brain is in distress. There can be a number of different underlying causes.

Researchers have begun to uncover some of these underlying issues that lead to symptoms of mania and depression: 

The first twelve years after my diagnosis I diligently took every psychotropic drug I was prescribed and got progressively worse. Then I began to gradually uncover the causes of the symptoms and the tools and resources to treat those issues. As the underlying problems were treated the symptoms went away and I healed.

Bipolar disorder doesn’t need to become chronic and incurable; it can be healed using an integrated, research-based approach designed to address the underlying causes of the symptoms. 

To learn more, check out: The Mindset Shift to Heal Bipolar Part Three: The Steps to Heal Your Disorder

Phantom Electric Ghost Podcast

My guest appearance on the Phantom Electric Ghost Podcast.

From Suffering to Thriving-How to Heal Bipolar Disorder: advocating for a radical shift in the treatment of bipolar to facilitate healing and recovery.

 

 

 

Healing Bipolar Part One: From Medication to Micronutrients, What I Wish I’d Known

When I was first diagnosed, I was told that bipolar disorder was chronic and incurable and required psychotropic medications to treat. 

After following that treatment plan for over a decade and getting progressively worse I finally discovered that there was another way to treat bipolar. Utilizing an integrated, research-based method that included micronutrients as part of the treatment plan I began to heal. There are a few lessons I learned along the way that I wish I’d understood beforehand.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional, and I am not offering medical advice. I am sharing what I have learned about healing bipolar through my personal experience and research.

The Difference Between Psychotropic Drugs and Micronutrients

Psychotropic drugs and micronutrients do not serve the same purpose in treating bipolar disorder. Medication is designed to address the symptoms, not the underlying causes. They also cause a chemical imbalance in the brain and often cause uncomfortable or even damaging side-effects. 

Micronutrients, on the other hand, are designed to treat one of the underlying causes of bipolar symptoms—micronutrient insufficiency. This occurs when the brain is not getting a sufficient level of micronutrients to function in a healthy, balanced way which leads to symptoms of mental illness. Micronutrients are not foreign substances to the body and brain and therefore do not produce the damaging side-effects that the drugs often cause. 

Not All Micronutrient Supplements Are Effective for Treating Bipolar

In the book The Better Brain Dr. Bonnie Kaplan and Dr. Julia Rucklidge shared that while the best source of essential nutrients is through a natural, whole food diet, there are some people who need higher levels of micronutrients than they can get through food alone.

When I first switched from medication to micronutrients, I used EMPowerPlus by Truehope. Over the following years I tried two alternate treatments and discovered quickly that although the ingredient lists looked similar, they did not provide the same benefits as EMPowerPlus.

I later learned that just because a bottle lists certain vitamins and minerals doesn’t mean that it is all being metabolized into your body. In The Better Brain Kaplan and Rucklidge state that “99 percent of [over the counter] supplements have never been tested at all for health benefits! Even fewer have been evaluated by independent scientists—people not biased by any affiliation with the manufacturer.”

Truehope developed EMPowerPlus in the 1990s as a treatment for bipolar disorder and has been refining and improving the formulation continuously over the past two decades. They have had thirty-five separate independent clinical trials done providing proof of their efficacy.

NOTE: I have never and will never receive any compensation for recommending EMPowerPlus. I recommend that treatment because it has been independently verified as effective and it helped me heal.

Work with an Expert!

When I first decided to switch from medication to micronutrients, I learned how important it was to work with an expert who understood how to help me safely through the cross-titration (cross-tapering) process. Cross-titration involves very slowly, carefully decreasing the dose of medications while increasing the dose of micronutrients. In my case I worked with Truehope’s customer support department very closely throughout the entire process.

There are three main challenges created by psychotropic drugs in cross-titration: withdrawals, overmedication and med-releases.

Withdrawals

Psychotropic drugs don’t fix a chemical imbalance in the brain, they create one. The problem this causes is that when you stop taking the drug you go through withdrawals which can range from uncomfortable to dangerous–even life-threatening–if not done properly. You should never attempt this process without guidance from someone who understands how to safely navigate drug titration and withdrawal.

Overmedication

As your brain begins to heal on the micronutrients it doesn’t need the medication anymore and you can become overmedicated. As in the case of withdrawals, it is necessary to work with an expert to recognize and safely address overmedication symptoms.

Med-release

One of the most frustrating discoveries I made was that psychotropic medication builds up in your soft tissues and can stay there for years. Extreme stress can cause what’s known as a med-release and push that medication back out into your system. When you don’t need it, that leftover drug can cause uncomfortable symptoms—for me it caused depression.

Thankfully each time I was able to work with Truehope customer support to treat the problem and get it out of my body safely and quickly. 

WARNING: Popular over the counter detox cleanses can be extremely harmful for those who have been on psychotropic medications—especially for those on them for years. Cleanses can trigger med-release and severe symptoms.

Be Consistent and Patient

To be successful with healing your brain using micronutrients you need to be consistent with taking your supplements, tracking your symptoms and communicating regularly with your expert. 

You also need to be patient and persistent because healing takes time. In The Better Brain Kaplan and Rucklidge recommend that if you aren’t taking medications, it can take about three months for you to feel the effect of the micronutrients on your brain. If you are taking medication, it can take six months to a year due to the cross-titration process. It can be challenging but the result is worth it! 

One of the best resources for me during this process was developing a Mood Cycle Survival Guide to help me proactively manage my symptoms when they occurred and to become more self-aware. 

There’s No “Magic Bullet”

As I mentioned earlier, micronutrients treat only one of the underlying causes of bipolar symptoms. An unfortunate misconception created by the “bipolar disorder” diagnosis is that everyone is suffering from the same illness. The reality is the underlying causes vary from person to person. The good news is that it is possible to use an integrated, research-based approach that will help you identify and treat the underlying sources of your bipolar symptoms so you can heal!

To learn more, see The Mindset Shift to Heal Bipolar Part Three: The Steps to Heal Your Disorder.

Am I a Liar?

This morning my social media feed was filled with bipolar content creators saying things like:

“If someone tells you they healed their bipolar they are a liar,”

or

“You can’t cure bipolar disorder and anyone who says you can is dangerous.”

I was so sad when I saw these videos because I remember believing this once, too! But it isn’t true! 

I was diagnosed and treated for bipolar for over a decade with traditional treatment (psychiatric drugs) and I got progressively worse until I was hospitalized multiple times and made several attempts on my life. I became convinced that the best I could expect out of life was learning how to suffer well with my bipolar.

Mercifully I discovered a research-based, integrated treatment plan that helped me heal and I don’t experience any symptoms anymore—ever.

So why do people believe bipolar is chronic and incurable so strongly that they call me a liar for saying you can heal? What provides their “evidence”?

What is the evidence?

A Paradox

We have been told a story about bipolar disorder for decades that has convinced most people that you have a chemical imbalance in your brain. You’re told that similar to diabetics who need insulin, you need psychotropic drugs to treat your “chemical imbalance.”

That is simply NOT TRUE. The “chemical imbalance” theory of bipolar was disproved decades ago. Even worse, it was discovered that the drugs used to “treat” bipolar create a chemical imbalance in the brain!

If you try to discontinue drug use, you experience terrible withdrawal symptoms and frequently the bipolar symptoms become dramatically worse! The withdrawals and worsening symptoms are then blamed on your “disorder” and you are convinced that you really do need medication to survive.

Bipolar symptoms are not a chemical imbalance, and they aren’t even a “disorder”. They are your brain’s way of asking for help! Instead of trying to “shut up” the symptoms with drugs you need to figure out what it is trying to say so you can help it heal!

The Truth

The truth is there is a rapidly growing mountain of research that is actually identifying the root causes of bipolar symptoms. This research also prescribes effective treatments that resolve the symptoms at the source, which leads to healing!

YES! You can heal bipolar disorder if you use a research-based, integrated treatment plan that addresses the source of your symptoms enabling you to heal and recover!

To learn more, check out the three-part series The Mindset Shift to Heal Bipolar:

WARNING: If you decide to switch from medication to micronutrients DO NOT go off of medication “cold turkey”, or stopping all at once. Medication alters your brain chemistry and withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous, even life-threatening. DO work closely with someone specifically trained in cross-titration—either Truehope customer support or a trusted psychiatrist who has been specifically trained in cross-titration—to safely withdraw from the drugs and transition to the micronutrients that will help heal your brain.

To Medicate or Not to Medicate, That is the Bipolar Question

When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was told that I had a chemical imbalance that required medication to treat. The doctor’s explanation seemed to make sense to me at the time. I definitely knew something was wrong with me—I had been living on an emotional rollercoaster for over two years and I needed help.

For the following decade I proactively went to every psychiatric appointment and took every medication my doctors prescribed but became progressively worse. My nightmare culminated in a massive breakdown in 2008 when I was hospitalized three times in a two-month period, received electroconvulsive (shock) therapy which triggered psychosis–and was put on medications that triggered three suicide attempts.

Medication wasn’t helping me; it was making things worse.

When I read social media posts that insist medication is necessary to treat bipolar–comparing bipolar medication to insulin for diabetics–I think back to my experience with medication and know it is not true. 

Yes, the symptoms of bipolar are frightening, and we all want solutions. The reality is, bipolar is not a chemical imbalance and it cannot be cured with drugs. In fact, drugs often make the condition worse, as my experience bears out.

The truth is that bipolar symptoms are just that, symptoms—an indication that the mind and body are in distress. Over the past thirty years there has been a rapidly growing body of research indicating the underlying causes of bipolar symptoms and providing effective treatments that resolve the symptoms

Medications do not treat the cause of the bipolar symptoms. They attempt to mitigate the symptoms by messing with the brain chemistry and if used long-term could do serious damage to both the brain and body, which is why 83% of people treated with medication for bipolar will become severely impaired and will die on average 8-12 years earlier than the rest of the population.

If medication isn’t the best long-term treatment for bipolar symptoms, what is?

Micronutrition

The research of Dr. Bonnie Kaplan and Dr. Julia Rucklidge connects micronutrient deficiencies to symptoms of mental illness, including bipolar. In their book The Better Brain they explain::

“Our brains demand a disproportionately large amount of the nutrients we consume…most Americans don’t know that the brain metabolism responsible for the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine is dependent on an ample supply of micronutrients.”

I discovered this for myself when I found a micronutrient treatment for bipolar disorder called EMPowerPlus from a company aptly named Truehope. Studies confirm it is three times more effective in treating bipolar symptoms than psychotropic drugs. Why is this so? Because while medications are attempting to treat the symptoms, the micronutrients are addressing one of the primary causes of the symptoms—micronutrient insufficiency.

It is important to note that not all supplements are the same. In fact, in their book Drs. Kaplan and Rucklidge indicate that there are only two micronutrient treatments that have been proven effective at treating bipolar and other mental illnesses. EMPowerPlus has had 35 independent clinical trials done across the United States and Canada proving its efficacy.

When I went through the process of cross-titration (titrating off of the medications and onto EMPowerPlus) I experienced some pretty nasty withdrawal symptoms—exhaustion, confusion, depression. Then one day, several months into the process I woke up one morning and felt like I was fully awake for the first time in over a decade. Over the following years my brain continued to heal as I worked with Truehope’s customer support to optimize my micronutrient intake. 

I have been off of medications for over thirteen years and my brain feels healthier and more balanced than ever before!

WARNING: If you decide to switch from medication to micronutrients DO NOT go off of medication “cold turkey” or stopping all at once. Medication alters your brain chemistry and withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous, even life-threatening. DO work closely with someone specifically trained in cross-titration—either Truehope customer support or a trusted psychiatrist who has been specifically trained in cross-titration—to safely withdraw from the drugs and transition to the micronutrients that will help heal your brain.

Unhealed Trauma

Another underlying cause of bipolar symptoms is unhealed trauma which can lead to emotional dysregulation, unhealthy thought and behavior patterns and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Unfortunately, as Dr. Bessell van der Kolk noted in his book The Body Keeps the Score, diagnosing someone with a mental illness like bipolar disorder doesn’t “begin to meaningfully describe who these patients are and what they suffer from.”

Trauma should be treated through effective therapies like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Rapid Resolution Therapy (RRT), Internal Family Systems (IFS), among others. This enables you to 

  • heal the deep emotional wounding caused by trauma, 
  • re-regulate your emotions, and
  • learn to interact with the world in a healthy way—eliminating this as a source of bipolar symptoms.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation—ironically referred to often as an “alternative treatment”—has been around for thousands of years. Over the past fifty years, however, it has become the subject of rigorous research and study. A treatment that has grown out of this research is mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). In their book Mindfulness: An Eight-week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World Dr. Mark Williams and Dr. Danny Penman share that MBCT is:

“…at least as effective as antidepressants, and has none of their downside. In fact, it is so effective that it’s now one of the preferred treatments recommended by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.”

Mindfulness addresses two of the sources of bipolar symptoms: antidepressants and negative, intrusive thoughts. 

Antidepressants are a leading cause of bipolar symptoms; nearly forty percent of people put on antidepressants will develop manic symptoms. In addition, sixty percent of people with bipolar disorder were initially diagnosed and treated for depression. 

When I was struggling with bipolar symptoms my emotions were heavy and my mind was trying to make sense of it by going through the “files of my mind” looking for a reason to explain the darkness. This resulted in a barrage of negative, intrusive thoughts that made my mind a horrible place to be. I developed coping mechanisms to try and escape my mind, which caused anxiety because I couldn’t handle my life.

Mindfulness meditation taught me how to stay present in my mind and body. It helped me learn how to sit with uncomfortable emotions and experience them without judgment. That skill halted the spiral and helped me become friends with my mind again.

To Medicate or Not to Medicate

When you are making the decision whether to treat your bipolar symptoms with medication ask yourself, what is your goal? Do you want to put a band aid on the symptoms and try to learn to cope with them or do you want to heal and live a healthy, balanced, productive life?

Bipolar is not a “disorder”—a disease that you will live with for the rest of your life. It is a group of symptoms that are indications that your brain and body are in distress. You can learn to listen to what your brain is trying to tell you and give it what it needs to heal by using a research-based, integrated treatment plan that addresses the underlying causes of your symptoms.

What choice will you make?