Stop Normalizing Bipolar Symptoms!

symptoms of mania and depression

Something that I have noticed on social media over the past few years is the normalization of the symptoms of mania and depression. It is usually motivated by the desire to “raise awareness” or help foster compassion for people that are experiencing the symptoms. Awareness can be beneficial if it helps people recognize the symptoms in themselves or others so that they can get help, but normalizing the symptoms is different.

To normalize something is to “make it normal and natural in everyday life”; should we normalize bipolar symptoms?

Is It Normal?

If I had been able to see people normalizing bipolar symptoms 13 years ago it might have felt validating for me and it would have made me feel less alone. At that time, I believed the best I could expect out of my life with bipolar disorder was learning how to suffer well with it. After 12 years of trying dozens of different medications prescribed by my doctors, hospitalizations, electroconvulsive therapy and suicide attempts I had resigned myself to an existence of just surviving life.

Experience had taught me that no matter how hard I tried, or what medication I took, I would always suffer helplessly on the manic-depressive rollercoaster. The idea of helping people understand what I was going through and asking them to have compassion for me when I was compulsive and irrational would have been very appealing. 

Over the past fourteen years, however, my understanding of bipolar has changed. In 2010 I found the first tool on the road to wellness. My doctor and I found a micronutrient treatment that helped my brain begin to heal. Over the following decade I started finding other tools to continue the healing process and I eventually discovered that I could recover completely. 

Once I recognized that it was possible to heal, I realized that normalizing bipolar symptoms is actually very detrimental to those who are living with it. 

A Mind in Distress

Bipolar symptoms are information, they are indications of a mind in distress. We don’t normalize the symptoms of other illnesses, so why do we do it with bipolar?

If someone consistently ran high fevers you wouldn’t seek to normalize that because you didn’t want to make the person feel bad. That would be ridiculous! You would recognize that there is something wrong with the body. It is in distress and needs treatment to identify and address the underlying cause of the symptoms.

The same should be true for bipolar symptoms of mania and depression. They are indications that the mind is in distress and needs treatment to address the underlying cause. Normalizing these symptoms doesn’t help you when you’re suffering, it just prolongs it unnecessarily.

Damaging Relationships

One of the worst challenges that I experienced when I was struggling with bipolar for the first decade was that I would do and say things when I was manic or depressed that I wouldn’t normally say or do. This included behavior that was abusive and painful to my family. 

When I was back in a rational state of mind, I felt humiliated and discouraged by what I had done and vowed that I wouldn’t repeat it again, only to break that promise the next time I experienced symptoms. This left me feeling helpless and hopeless. I knew I was damaging relationships, and I didn’t know how to stop it. 

The most distressing experiences came in 2008 when my symptoms were at their worst. That year I was hospitalized multiple times, experienced my first psychotic episode and I made three attempts on my life. The symptoms I was displaying were emotionally and mentally damaging to my husband and my children. Regardless of whether I was doing them on purpose, my family was being harmed and I knew it. 

Normalizing the symptoms that were hurting me and my family wouldn’t have helped, it would have hurt us. It wasn’t fair to me that I had bipolar symptoms, but it also wasn’t fair to my family. I needed to find a way to heal and recover, not expect them to accept abusive and damaging behavior as part of our relationship.

Normalizing Perpetuates Stigma

Finally, the idea that trying to “create awareness” for bipolar by normalizing the symptoms actually has the opposite effect than what is intended. Instead of creating more compassion around the disorder, it can make people who see it from the outside more cautious about entering into relationships, or hiring people who have bipolar because it looks like people are trying to make excuses for unhealthy behavior.

While it can create a feeling of solidarity among those suffering with bipolar, it perpetuates the stigmas for those who do not. Additionally, it can make those who are newly diagnosed feel more helpless and hopeless that they can ever recover.

The Road to Recovery

The road to recovery from bipolar begins with proactively managing your symptoms. Healing takes time and rather than be a victim to the mood swings during your recovery process you can learn to proactively manage them by using a Mood Cycle Survival Guide

This guide will help you:

  • stop feeling like a victim to the mood-swings, 
  • lessen the impact on you and your family, and 
  • shorten the duration of the symptoms.

The next step is getting curious about what caused your symptoms to occur in the first place. There is a misconception that a bipolar diagnosis is describing an underlying medical condition that is chronic, incurable and requires medication to treat for the rest of your life. None of these have to be true. You can identify the underlying causes of your symptoms and then treat them using a research-based, integrated approach that leads to recovery and healing.

    To learn more read: The Mindset Shift to Heal Bipolar Part Three: The Steps to Heal Your Disorder

    Bipolar Symptoms Are NOT a Disease, They ARE Information

    When someone is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, they are led to believe that they suffer from a clearly defined medical condition or disease similar to diabetes. However, bipolar symptoms are not a disease, they are information

    The Problem with the Disease Model of Treatment

    Over the past fifty plus years the psychiatric industry has been operating under the assumption that bipolar symptoms are evidence of a medical condition. The problem is that they have never identified any underlying medical condition, despite diligently searching for one for over five decades.

    The chemical imbalance theory continues to be used to explain the need for medications, but there are three problems with this theory:

    1. It has been repeatedly debunked. “…mental disorders have. . .been touted to the public as diseases caused by chemical imbalances but there was never any evidence to support those claims.”
    2. This false claim is used to justify the use of psychiatric drugs in treatment and those drugs themselves cause a chemical imbalance in the brain.
    3. It prevents any curiosity into the actual underlying source of symptoms. 

    The Medication Trap

    Psychiatrists use the DSM criteria to assess symptoms and assign a diagnosis based on symptom clusters and then prescribe drugs. This is a bit like playing Russian Roulette because everyone reacts differently to the medications and often the drugs can make things worse. For example “…60 percent of those with a bipolar diagnosis said they had initially fallen ill with major depression and had turned bipolar after exposure to an antidepressant.” 

    The psychotropic drugs cause a chemical imbalance in the brain—they abnormalize brain function instead of normalizing it. Therefore, for some people with depressive symptoms, when their brains attempt to adapt to the introduction of the “antidepressant” it causes symptoms of mania. It is not revealing that a person actually has bipolar, it is causing it.

    In addition to the potential for side-effects that are identified as another psychiatric diagnosis (i.e. depression turning into bipolar), when someone discontinues the use of the medication it causes withdrawal symptoms and often those symptoms are attributed to the bipolar disorder instead of the drug withdrawal.

    Because there is an assumption of an underlying medical condition and zero curiosity about what else might be causing the symptoms the underlying issues that led to the diagnosis persist and are never addressed. This leads to a dependence on drugs and doctors for life!

    Doctors tell you that bipolar disorder is a chronic, incurable mental illness that you will need medication to manage for the rest of your life. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy! The reality is that the disease model of treatment is creating a chronic, incurable, medication dependent condition. The treatment is preventing the cure.

    Bipolar symptoms are not a disease, they are information. If you can learn to interpret that information and treat the source(s) of your symptoms you can heal. A bipolar diagnosis does not need to be a life-sentence!

    To learn more about how some of the causes of bipolar symptoms see The Mindset Shift to Heal Bipolar Part Two: What is Bipolar, Anyway? 

    Psychology Today Article Review “A Psychiatric Diagnosis is Not a Disease”

    This week I read a fantastic article in Psychology Today that highlights one of the primary issues with bipolar diagnosis and treatment. The article titled “A Psychiatric Diagnosis is Not a Disease” by Jonathan Shedler, Ph.D., points out that the diagnoses listed in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) identify descriptions of symptoms, not causes.
    In the article Dr. Shedler states,

    “Confusion arises because medical diagnoses often point to etiology—underlying biological causes. This is why “chest pain” is not a disease, it is a symptom. Atherosclerosis, myocarditis, and pneumonia are diseases. They are underlying biological conditions that can cause chest pain.

    Psychiatric diagnoses are categorically different because they are merely descriptive, not explanatory. It’s not that we don’t know their causes yet. It’s that DSM diagnoses cannot speak to causes, now or ever. The DSM was not designed to speak to causes, only describe effects.”

    The problem with the DSM diagnosis of bipolar disorder is that it promotes the misconception that an underlying cause has been identified when in fact the diagnosis is simply describing a symptom cluster.

    Dr. Shedler further clarifies:

    “The ever-expanding list of entries in the DSM sound a lot like medical diseases, especially with the ominously-appended term disorder, but they are not. If we speak of generalized anxiety disorder or major depressive disorder as if they were equivalent to pneumonia or diabetes, we are committing a logical fallacy called a category error. A category error means ascribing a property to something that cannot possess it—like emotions to a rock.”

    A bipolar diagnosis does not need to be a life-sentence. If you become curious about what is causing your bipolar symptoms and then treat the source of the symptoms, you can heal.

    To learn more about healing your bipolar symptoms, check out The Mindset Shift to Heal Bipolar Part Three: The Steps to Heal Your Disorder.

    Why Do You “Push” Micronutrients?

    I received an email from someone this weekend accusing me of being a “snake-oil salesman” and asking “Why do you ‘push’ micronutrients” when people really need help. I could feel her pain in the message and wanted to answer her and anyone else who might be wondering the same thing.

    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.

    To understand why I do what I do you need to understand my story. I was diagnosed with bipolar in 1998 a month before graduating college. I had been struggling with increasingly severe mood swings for a couple years and when I finally went to the psychiatrist for help, I was so severely depressed that I couldn’t think of what to say. 

    I was initially diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorders, but when the antidepressants triggered mania, my diagnosis was changed to bipolar 2. My doctor told me that I had a chemical imbalance that would require medication to treat for the rest of my life.

    Trusting that the doctor knew best I proactively sought treatment with medications for the next decade, taking every psychotropic drug I was prescribed. Nothing really helped and I got progressively worse, especially after the birth of my first two children. 

    This culminated in a breakdown in spring 2008 when I was hospitalized three times in two different states. I received twelve rounds of electroconvulsive therapy (shock treatments) during the first hospitalization, experienced my first psychotic episode (resulting in a change of diagnosis to bipolar 1) and made multiple attempts on my life.

    I felt completely defeated and hopeless.

    Then in 2010 my doctor and I found the first glimmer of hope for me—micronutrients from a non-profit company in Canada called Truehope that specializes in treating bipolar disorder. This proved to be a turning point for me in my struggle. 

    The process of titrating off of my psychotropic drugs that I had been on for twelve years was horrible. With the help of Truehope’s customer support, however, I made it through the process. Several months in I woke up one day feeling like I was fully awake for the first time in over a decade.

    Over the next decade I gradually discovered the tools and resources to help the rest of my brain and mind heal (although I didn’t realize I was healing at the time). When I began to recognize that I was no longer experiencing symptoms I was incredulous. I had been told it was impossible to heal bipolar. 

    I began researching the tools that I used and discovered that there was solid science behind each one proving their efficacy as treatments for the various underlying causes of bipolar symptoms. 

    Then I became angry—I felt lied to, robbed and betrayed. Why had I been told it was impossible to heal bipolar? Why had I been left to figure out the path to healing myself?

    Finally, I realized that it did no good to nurture bitter, angry feelings in myself and my frustration turned to determination. I was determined to help anyone else who was suffering needlessly, like I had for years, and wanted to heal. I clearly identified the integrated, research-based treatment plan I had used to heal and began sharing it with others.

    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.

    Taking Your First Step Towards Healing

    There is no “quick fix” or “magic bullet” treatment for healing bipolar. It takes time. While you are healing you will continue to experience symptoms at times. The Mood Cycle Survival Guide is a plan to help you manage your symptoms proactively while you go through the healing process. This plan helps lessen the impact of the symptoms on you and your loved ones and shortens the duration of the mood swings.

    Micronutrients

    Here we come to the reason I “push” micronutrients. Psychotropic drugs do not treat the underlying cause of bipolar symptoms, they treat the symptoms. They do this not by normalizing your brain function but by abnormalizing it. Medications cause a chemical imbalance in the brain. While medication may be helpful in the short term for extreme symptoms–when someone is a danger to themselves or others–long term they can prevent healing and even lead to early death.

    Micronutrients, on the other hand, address one of the underlying causes of symptoms—micronutrient insufficiency. They help the brain get what it needs to function in a healthy, balanced way, which makes it possible to work through the other steps to healing the underlying causes of your bipolar symptoms. (For more on the steps to healing read: The Mindset Shift to Heal Bipolar Part Three: The Steps to Heal Your Disorder)

    Why Do I Speak Specifically About EMPowerPlus? Am I Being Paid?

    First, no, I have never and will never receive compensation in any form from Truehope for promoting EMPowerPlus. I share their treatment first, because it helped me heal. Second, they have been tested in 35 independent clinical trials and proven their efficacy (none of the researchers received any compensation from the company for their research). 

    Finally, in the book The Better Brain they share that most micronutrient treatments have never been tested for brain health. While anecdotal testimonials are nice, they aren’t scientific proof.

    I don’t want to inadvertently harm someone by encouraging them to just take any vitamin/mineral supplement on the market. I want to help people heal and so I promote a company that was started for the purpose of helping people with bipolar heal and has been independently verified through research to be effective.

    (To learn more about how to be successful in switching from medications to micronutrients read: Healing Bipolar Part One: From Medication to Micronutrients, What I Wish I’d Known)

    I understand not everyone is going to resonate with my message. I am here to help people who are struggling, like I was for so many years. People who don’t want to live the rest of their lives trying to learn to suffer well with their bipolar. 

    I teach the treatment plan I wish I had been given when I was first diagnosed twenty-six years ago. An integrated, research-based method for healing and recovery. 

    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

    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.

    For part two in this series go to: Healing Bipolar Part Two: Therapy and Trauma Healing, What I Wish I’d Known

    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.

    The Mindset Shift to Heal Bipolar Part Three: The Steps to Heal Your Symptoms

    Continued from Mindset Shift to Heal Bipolar Part Two: What is Bipolar, Anyway?

    NOTE: This post DOES NOT contain affiliate links. All links are provided for the convenience of the reader.

    One of the misconceptions created by the “bipolar disorder” diagnosis is that everyone is suffering from the same illness. The reality is there are underlying causes that vary from person to person. 

    Clearly, the treatment model being used does not treat the cause of bipolar but attempts to mitigate the symptoms. Additionally, as mentioned in part one of this series, the medication used to “treat” bipolar is causing a chemical imbalance in the brain that compounds the problem.

    In order to heal bipolar, the underlying causes need to be assessed and treated using an integrated, research-based approach that helps the brain and body heal.

    Step One: Mood Cycle Survival Guide

    The first step in this process is to proactively manage the symptoms of bipolar using a Mood Cycle Survival Guide (MCSG). Over the first decade of living with bipolar symptoms, each time I experienced a mood swing—mania or depression—I felt helpless, like a victim getting yanked onto a rollercoaster and holding on for dear life until the ride was over. Those mood swings were often devastating to me and those I loved.

    I finally learned, however, that it was possible to take back control with simple tools found in a MCSG. This helped l minimize the impact of the mood swings, on me and my family, and shorten their duration.

    This is an essential first step because healing takes time; and having an MCSG in place at the beginning of the process will help you manage your symptoms more effectively and keep you moving towards healing.

    Step Two: Specialized Micronutrients

    The second step is to provide the brain the nutrients necessary to function in a healthy, balanced way. Our brains demand significantly higher levels of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) than the rest of our body. In The Better Brain, Drs. Bonnie Kaplan and Julia Rucklidge explain:

    “…brain metabolism responsible for the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine is dependent on an ample supply of micronutrients…We now know that there are many people with underlying risk factors, often genetic, that may make them more vulnerable to emotional distress when their diet is poor.”

    Drs. Kaplan and Rucklidge also share that in recent decades eating whole food diets is not always sufficient because:

    • the soil has become so depleted in nutrients, and 
    • there are people who have a genetic need for higher nutrient levels to support healthy brain function. 

    That combination has contributed to a dramatic increase in the number of people suffering from mental illnesses like bipolar. 

    EMPowerPlus is a micronutrient treatment proven through numerous independent studies to be three times more effective than any medication on the market because it actually addresses common underlying causes of the bipolar symptoms.

    Switching from medication to micronutrients requires a process called cross-titration where you very gradually reduce the psychotropic drugs and simultaneously increase the micronutrients. This process should be carefully supported by Truehope’s customer support. They have developed a cross-titration protocol to guide people in recognizing and managing drug withdrawals and optimizing the micronutrients for you personally.

    WARNING: Do not ever attempt to stop taking psychotropic medications cold turkey (stopping suddenly). This can be VERY DANGEROUS, even life threatening, due to effects of drug withdrawals. 

    Step Three: Therapy

    Many people who develop bipolar symptoms are suffering from emotional dysregulation caused by unhealed trauma, unhealthy thought and behavior patterns and unhealthy boundaries. The difficulty that many people have, however, is that they don’t understand how to use therapy effectively to process and heal trauma.

    In the post Six Tips for Getting the Most Out of Therapy I share how to utilize therapy as a healing modality—not just for coping.

    • Find a good therapist: Therapy is a tool, and the therapist is a facilitator. You need to find someone that you feel safe working with and opening up to. It is also important to find someone proactive and well trained that is going to help you heal, not just cope.
    • Give your therapist something to work with: Therapists aren’t mind readers; they only have the information you provide. You can become more self-aware through utilizing the MCSG, mood tracking apps and journaling. Then share what you learn with your therapist to get to the root of triggers and symptoms in order to heal and recover.
    • Use therapy proactively, not just reactively: Only going to therapy when you are in a serious crisis as a sort of triage isn’t helpful if you stop when the crisis is past. Use therapy in a proactive manner that will help you uncover the underlying causes of symptoms to heal and prevent future issues.
    • Focus on healing, not blaming: If the focus in therapy is on a person or people who harmed you rather than the resultant emotional and mental injury it can be disempowering and prevent progress and healing. Instead, a focus on healing and setting healthy boundaries will empower you to recover.
    • You get out of therapy what you put into it: Do your homework! It is as simple as that. If you want to change, you have to make changes. Set goals with your therapist, use a therapy notebook and follow through on implementing changes in thought and behavior between sessions in order to progress towards healing.
    • Therapy takes time: Be patient. It takes time to uncover and heal emotional and mental injuries. It may not be comfortable, but the end result is absolutely worth the effort, no matter how long it takes.

    Step Four: Mindfulness Meditation

    Bipolar symptoms can cause you to feel like you can’t trust your own mind. There is often a disconnect that can result from the emotional overwhelm and coping mechanisms developed as a result. Mindfulness meditation will put you back in the driver’s seat of your mind and help you become friends with your brain again.

    One of the best programs for understanding and practicing mindfulness meditation is Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). This therapy is recognized in the United Kingdom as being more effective than antidepressants for treating depression. The book Mindfulness: An Eight-week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman teaches MBCT in a very simple, easy to use format. 

    MBCT facilitates:

    • a deeper level of self-awareness making therapy more effective, and
    • your ability to stay present thus overcoming many of the causes of anxiety, and depressive symptoms.

    Step Five: Yoga

    The mental distress that causes bipolar symptoms has a profound impact on the body. Yoga takes the benefits of mindfulness and incorporates them into the body. Yoga has proven to be a powerful healing modality for mental illness and trauma. It can facilitate reintegration of the mind and body and heal the mental and emotional dysregulation that was caused by trauma.

    Step Six: Exercise

    Perhaps the most well-known of the steps is the positive impact of simple, consistent exercise on healing mental health. It is important to keep the exercise:

    • Simple,
    • Easy, 
    • Accessible, and
    • Focused on supporting your mental health, not damaging it.

    Check out the post The Benefits of Exercise to learn more.

    Step Seven: Living Mindfully

    Recovery from bipolar symptoms is a process that takes time and is not linear. Understanding what the recovery process looks like will help you be more intentional and persistent. 

    Recovery Cycle

    Recognize that when you experience symptoms you have not failed, it is an opportunity to learn. The recovery from bipolar symptoms is similar to the addiction recovery cycle. Each time you “relapse” or experience symptoms is an opportunity to learn something new—identify a trigger, better understand your micronutrition needs, establish healthy boundaries, etc.

    Over time your self-awareness and knowledge will grow, your recovery will progress, and you will experience longer periods without symptoms and begin to live a healthy, balanced, productive life.

    If you are ready to begin healing your bipolar disorder, check out the Upsiders’ Tribe where we support people through the steps to heal. 2024 is the Year of Healing—are you ready to heal?

    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.

    Click here for Mindset Shift to Heal Bipolar Part One: Three Bipolar Myths

    The Mindset Shift to Heal Bipolar Part Two: What is Bipolar, Anyway?

    Continued from The Mindset Shift to Heal Bipolar Part One: Three Bipolar Myths

    When the bipolar diagnosis was first created it was done in hopes of finding a “magic bullet” treatment to cure what was thought to be a disorder. Since psychiatrists were unable to identify the underlying cause of the symptoms people presented, they developed a diagnosis based solely on symptoms. Over time, as people did not fit into the categories they created, the diagnostic parameters were expanded.

    The reason bipolar has become chronic and incurable is the treatment model. Instead of investigating the underlying causes of symptoms, psychiatrists prescribe psychotropic medications that “muck up” normal brain function which compounds the problem.

    Misdiagnosed?

    When I share with people that I have healed my bipolar I am told that I must have been misdiagnosed. So, I ask you to consider this question: What constitutes an accurate diagnosis?

    From the time of my initial diagnosis I met all of the diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder 2—I cycled between periods of severe depression and hypomanic episodes. I was treated by at least seven separate psychiatrists due to moves and hospitalizations. Each doctor affirmed my diagnosis. When I experienced my first psychotic episode, my diagnosis was changed to bipolar 1. 

    On the website for the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) it states that the exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown. However, it is not true that the root cause of symptoms is still unknown. The following are three of the most common causes of bipolar symptoms.

    Micronutrient Insuficiency

    During the 1990s, Dr. Bonnie Kaplan was doing research into the connection between micronutrient deficiency and the symptoms of mental illness. She tested a specialized micronutrient treatment formula from a nonprofit in Canada called Truehope and found that the bipolar patients in the study showed significant improvement on the treatment.

    Dr. Kaplan and a colleague Dr. Julia Rucklidge continued to do research in the field and wrote The Better Brain outlining their findings:

    Our brains demand a disproportionately large amount of 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. . .We now know that there are many people with underlying risk factors, often genetic, that may make them more vulnerable to emotional distress when their diet is poor. Improve and fix their nutritional needs, and many of them can and will get better. —Dr. Bonnie Kaplan and Dr. Julia Rucklidge

    The founding of Truehope itself was in direct response to one founder’s desperate search for an effective treatment for two of his children who were suffering from bipolar and medication was failing them. You can read more about this extraordinary discovery here.

    As our diets in our society have become poorer and soils more depleted of nutrients, the number of people being diagnosed with mental illness, including bipolar disorder, has skyrocketed. 

    Trauma

    One of the great tragedies of the label bipolar “disorder” for people who have a history of trauma is that it makes them feel helpless to heal. The idea that you have a disease that must be treated with medication makes you feel like there is something wrong with you that can only be fixed by drugs.

    Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps the Score, talks about how severe trauma, especially in childhood, causes emotional dysregulation and adaptation as the brain tries to protect you to help you survive. The symptoms are indications that the brain and body are in distress. Instead of masking the symptoms with medications, you need to identify the cause to facilitate healing:

    Many psychiatrists today work in assembly-line offices where they see patients they hardly know for fifteen minutes and then dole out pills to relieve pain, anxiety, or depression. Their message seems to be ‘Leave it to us to fix you; just be compliant and take these drugs and come back in three months’. . .Our increasing use of drugs to treat these conditions doesn’t address the real issues: What are these patients trying to cope with?  —Bessel van der Kolk

    Antidepressants

    Strangely, use of antidepressants is now known to be a common cause of bipolar symptoms. Someone goes to a psychiatrist because they are struggling with depressive symptoms and they are put on antidepressants. After being put on antidepressants, they develop manic symptoms. The doctor then tells the person they were misdiagnosed and actually have bipolar disorder. Sadly, doctors do not realize or acknowledge that psychotropic drugs are what caused the manic symptoms.

    In his book Anatomy of an Epidemic investigative journalist Robert Whitaker identifies research showing that 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. None of these people started out with a chemical imbalance, however when they are placed on psychotropic medications the drugs cause a chemical imbalance in the brain.

    In a 1993 practice guide to depression, the APA confessed that ‘all antidepressant treatments, including ECT [electroconvulsive therapy], may provoke manic or hypomanic episodes.” —Robert Whitaker

    WARNING: Do not ever attempt to stop taking psychotropic medications cold turkey (stopping suddenly). This can be VERY DANGEROUS, even life threatening, due to effects of drug withdrawals. 

    Physical versus Mental Illness

    I frequently see people online suggesting that bipolar is a real, physical illness, just like diabetes. However, we don’t treat them the same. If you went to the doctor with symptoms of diabetes, he or she would not automatically assume you have it and then start you on insulin—that would be dangerous and irresponsible! The physician would run tests to identify the underlying cause of the symptoms before prescribing a treatment.

    The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) diagnosis of bipolar disorder is describing symptoms, not the cause.

    It is possible to uncover what gave rise to symptoms of mania and depression. Then by following a research-based treatment plan that addresses the source of symptoms it is possible to heal!

    Continue to Mindset Shift to Heal Bipolar Part Three: The Steps to Heal Your Disorder

    The Mindset Shift to Heal Bipolar Part One: Three Bipolar Myths

    Over the first twelve years after my diagnosis with bipolar I was consistently told three things: 

    • Bipolar disorder is a chemical imbalance,
    • Bipolar is like diabetes and medication is like insulin, and
    • Bipolar is chronic and incurable.

    I believed what I was told because I didn’t know any better. Doctors are the experts so they must know, right?

    I followed the treatment plan I was given, using psychotropic medications to treat my bipolar. During that time, I continued, like tens of thousands of others, to struggle with mood swings and terrible side-effects. And, like 83% of the people diagnosed with bipolar, I was becoming “severely impaired” by my condition. 

    Then my doctor and I found a specialized micronutrient that enabled me to get off medication and I began to improve. As I incorporated additional tools my healing progressed and ultimately eliminated all of my symptoms

    That was when I began to question what I had been told. I discovered that the beliefs I held about bipolar were actually myths.

    Myth #1: Bipolar Disorder is a Chemical Imbalance

    I was diagnosed in 1998 and later learned the chemical imbalance theory had already been completely debunked prior to my diagnosis. As I’ve studied the research, I’m shocked that this myth continues to be perpetuated.

    To understand the origin of the chemical imbalance theory you need to understand the history of psychiatry. Back in the early 1900s the medical field was making extraordinary discoveries of what were deemed “magic bullet” cures. Previously devastating illnesses were being eradicated thanks to the discovery of treatments like penicillin. 

    Psychiatry wanted to find its own magic bullet treatments, but the difficulty was that they couldn’t identify what caused psychiatric symptoms in the first place. This wasn’t like the discovery of penicillin where there was a known pathogen that could be treated.  

    The trouble with psychiatry was that they created diagnoses based on symptoms and then developed medications that were discovered almost by accident. The medications only addressed the symptoms. 

    To try and justify this approach psychiatrists developed the chemical imbalance theory. The problem was, there was never any evidence to support the hypothesis. By the 1990s, the notion had been completely disproven. Sadly, it was also discovered that the medications being used to treat the symptoms actually caused chemical imbalances in the brain.

    “Prior to treatment, patients. . .do not suffer from any known “chemical imbalance.” However, once a person is put on a psychiatric medication, which, in one manner or another, throws a wrench into the usual mechanics of a neuronal pathway, his or her brain begins to function. . .abnormally.” (Whitaker, 2010, 84)

    Myth #2: Bipolar is Like Diabetes and Medication is Like Insulin

    The comparison of bipolar to diabetes is used over and over by doctors and patients alike to justify the need for medication in treating bipolar, and I believed it for many years. However, I now know there has never been any evidence to support this comparison. 

    In reality, the comparison is ludicrous. Even though doctors don’t know what causes diabetes to originate, they understand that the symptoms are caused by the body’s inability to produce insulin and regulate blood sugar. 

    This has resulted in a standardized treatment that works for most people. Standard protocol is to monitor blood sugar and regulate it using insulin and food. This approach is designed to normalize the body’s chemistry.

    Bipolar, on the other hand, is a “disorder” diagnosed based solely on symptoms with no known cause. The psychotropic medications used to “treat” bipolar are not treating the cause, but instead disrupting the normal function of the brain—abnormalizing it.

    “Researchers determined that the drugs work by perturbing the normal functioning of the neuronal pathways in the brain. . .Rather than fix chemical imbalances in the brain, the drugs create them.” (Whitaker, 2010, 207)

    Myth #3: Bipolar is Chronic and Incurable

    For the first twelve years after my diagnosis, all of my experiences with bipolar seemed to support the claim that bipolar was chronic and incurable. I consistently took my medications for years but became progressively worse.

    I discovered there were tools available that helped eliminate my symptoms and allow my brain to heal. I soon understood that the reason bipolar was chronic and incurable was because of the treatments themselves. Psychotropic drugs were the culprit.

    Prior to the use of medications, the symptoms that were used to diagnose bipolar were rare and rarely led to permanent disability. 

    Since the use of medications became common practice, the number of people diagnosed with bipolar has skyrocketed and the outcomes have been devastating. The treatment of bipolar is actually preventing the cure.

    “. . .bipolar outcomes have dramatically worsened during the psychopharmacology era, with experts in the field documenting this at every turn . . .it was becoming apparent that psychiatric medications were worsening the source of a mental illness.” (Whitaker, 2010, 185-6)

    If these three common explanations of bipolar are actually myths, what is bipolar disorder?

    Continue to Mindset Shift to Heal Bipolar Part Two: What is Bipolar, Anyway?