Healing Foods, Part 1: Bipolar and Beyond

My quest to heal mental illness through nutrition began over two years ago. I had just formally resigned from my dream job as a high school English teacher. I had invested in my Master’s and grown my career slowly from preschool lead to middle/high substitute to a high school classroom of my own. I envisioned a life-long career in that classroom. In October 2014, I took medical leave because my bipolar had pushed my mental health to a breaking point. I was unable to surface from depression and anxiety in the 3 months allotted for my recovery. My mind and heart were broken.

I resigned from my dream job on the last Monday of January, 2015. I cried out to God for direction, for purpose, for hope and for healing. That Saturday, David and I had dinner with a couple from our church. She has bipolar too. They shared with us their search for alternatives to medication for her mental health and specific ways that nutrition has improved her condition. That conversation was the direct answer to my prayer. We decided then and there that we would try a holistic approach that would treat the actual source of my disease and not just the symptoms. We haven’t looked back.

I began by eliminating sugar and gluten. I implemented principles of gut healing from the Body Ecology Diet and a whole-foods approach, like homemade bone broth. By the spring of 2016, I was feeling better, although still fatigued, overweight and suffering mood swings (Eastertime, wintertime).

We hoped to start a family someday and knew that the first step was my changing my medication, because the mood stabilizer could cause birth defects. The withdrawal from that medication was hell. The migraines, depression and nausea bound me to the house for weeks, dependent on a friend anytime I needed to get somewhere. If I had come off of this drug and introduced another in its place, as my psychiatrist at the time recommended, this cycle would have continued for the rest of my life, because medications are addictive and like any addictive substance, you have to increase or replace it with something stronger in order to maintain the same effect.

We decided that the price medication required to keep me “stable” was a price were no longer willing to pay. Depakote prevented suicidal impulses and mania. It also restricted my ability to travel, caused continual weight gain, and failed to stop my emotional yo-yo. Not to mention debilitating migraines and nausea when we changed medications with no guarantee that the new one would work for me, the “dead” eyes I saw looking back at me every time I looked in the mirror, the constant fatigue and dragging out of bed in the morning after 10 hours of sleep, the always-present feeling of my spirit being suffocated or underwater…

There had to be better way. And there was. Tune in next week for my continuing story and how a British doctor’s autistic son sparked a movement to heal mental illness.

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