Bipolar Disorder is a chronic condition that involves dangerous behavior, requiring lifelong medication stabilization and optimization. Right? Well, that’s what Ali once believed. As I wrote in my “Four Stories of Recovery” blog last year, Ali had been labeled with multiple diagnoses as multiple medications and hospitalizations somehow yielded more and more instability instead of less and less. Her perception of herself as sick, broken, and beyond help seemed like the only rational conclusion. Every month, she experienced a delusional rift with reality, steeped in a hall of mirrors of self-hatred. She had made five serious suicide attempts and was heading toward a residential facility, bumping up against the glass ceiling of outpatient treatment.
When she came to my office, it was the end of the line and she was at the end of her rope. But amidst the despair, there was a flicker of determination. A small light of belief that there had to be another way. That perhaps she wasn’t broken in the ways that she had been led to believe, and that it was possible to end her relationship to psychotropics. We implemented the lifestyle medicine I outline in A Mind of Your Own and Vital Mind Reset, completed her medication taper, and she went on to heal her symptoms and then to experience a total rebirth before my eyes.
Because she had begun the process of medication taper before our work together, we agreed to a strict commitment around a self care and lifestyle protocol, and she implemented it to the letter. Within two cycles, she experienced resolution of her luteal phase psychosis and suicidality. Nine months after our work together, she stated, “Of all the bridges I’ve crossed over the last year I think the biggest hurdle has been the actual withdrawal from the drugs.”
The early wins in her symptom resolution gave her the strength and resiliency to weather the withdrawal process. She knew what was required to heal, and she committed even further, stating, “…while I know I have a lot of healing and work to do, for the first time in my life I feel empowered to heal myself and not at the mercy of a doctor or a drug.”
As is detailed in the report that follows, this case draws from twenty years of published scientific literature around psychoneuroimmunology and the connection between the gut, immune system, endocrine system, and the brain. Through this systems biology lens, lifestyle interventions are the only corrective measures that are sufficiently complex to resolve the stress response factors that drive pathology.
We are taught — in medical school, as patients, and as a populace — that mental illness is a disease entity that requires lifelong pharmaceutical management. We are also not properly educated about, nor given the opportunity to consent to, the dependency risks and adverse behavioral effects of psychotropics. We are never given the opportunity to believe in a full recovery and a reclamation of wellness and vitality. Ali is an exception that violates the dogmatic perspective of chronic, medicated mental illness so thoroughly that the entire paradigm should be threatened if her single case were to be documented. It is my hope that the publication of this case does just that. Click here to read the full case study.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.