Alternatives and Non-Pharmaceutical Aids for Bipolars, Depressives and Other Mentally Ill
I am Manic-Depressive, more specifically, Bipolar 1. Unable to take the mood stabilizers usually prescribed for Bipolar Disorder—Valproic acid, Lithium Carbonate, Tegretol, Neurontin and Depakote, my therapist had me on a cocktail of anti-psychotics. Been on an old anti-psychotic, Thiothixene, for about 20 years and a new, atypical anti-psychotic, Zyprexa, for 15 years (more on that drug later).
The anti-psychotics, however, or the neuroleptics as they are called, while keeping me out of the mental hospital and enabling to live a somewhat “normal” life, had a depressant effect on me, robbing my life of all the joy and creativity I used to enjoy, as well as, my mystical experiences in nature.
In an effort to get my spark back, I was put on practically every anti-depressant there is. From the old ones like Tofranil, Elavil, Norpramin and Pamelor, to the newer ones like Effexor, Wellbutrin, Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft. All of them were rejected for reasons as numerous as the drugs themselves. From blunted affect, severe nausea, and weight gain, to a total inability to function or outright mania, even minute doses were problematic. As were my trials of the newer anti-psychotics. And I have heard from many that they have had similar or even more severe reactions to the same medications. A friend of mine attempted suicide on Wellbutrin.
Finally a psychologist recommended St. John’s wort. I was very worried about taking that after all my bad experiences with anti-depressants. But I found a research grade St. John’s wort and gave it a try. I felt a difference the very next day despite being told the effects would kick in gradually. The change was dramatic as demonstrated in what I wrote after one day on St. John’s wort:
Ko-ko, our four-legged, faithful companion, runs into the bedroom, eager to join me on the bed, awash with pure joy. She takes a flying leap up and we lounge together like lizards basking in the sun, reclining requisitely together. It is day 2 of St. John’s wort. Am filled with a loving glow as Ko-ko nestles down to sleep beside me. The beauty of yesterday lingers in my memory—a vacation day spent with my husband in the Palisades on an early October day. The sweet, crackling autumn air filled our lungs as we climbed the Palisades for a spectacular view of the Hudson River. Our path strewn with crunchy, dry leaves. A trail leads us further upwards, the spongy ground, soft underfoot is strewn with paint box colored leaves. Yellow, crimsons, golden russets lay on the damp path, wet from yesterday’s rain. I give thanks to God in this cathedral of color. Try to experience the mysticism of my youth. Yearn to return to the photography and poetry writing of my pre-breakdown days. A revival of creativity. Thank you , God, for giving me my sight back.
As the days went by, more and more of the depression lifted. My husband was happier with me on the St. John’s wort because I was more loving. I also stopped drinking. Completely. And I had been a borderline alcoholic. The door to the prison had been opened and I was now freer. This improvement gradually leveled off and at times I found myself fighting depressions at times but nothing like the deep, black depressions before the SJW.
Still without a mood stabilizers I would cycle, but not psychotically. Next change to be made was to learn the hands on healing technique called Reiki in an attempt to recover my spirituality. Reiki continues to be a blessing as I do it daily to myself and in a prayer form for others. But I was still craving the spirituality of my youth.
Brought up Presbyterian and made to convert to Catholicism in grade school, organized religion was not working for me. I had done Transcendental Meditation in my twenties and dropped it for a reason I no longer remember. Continuing to pray rote prayers I followed Pema Chodron and Paramahansa Yogananda and others. I took about twenty of Yogananda’s lessons offered by Self-Realization Fellowship and meditated according to his teachings. I regard Yogananda as a saint, a true saint, but his path was not “doing it” for me. Tremendous anxiety would take over. And then, through Hariod Brawn on Contentedness.net, I met Mooji and I began listening to his guided meditations and watching his satsangs. Additionally, while convalescing from pneumonia recently, my husband read books written by an old friend he had while pursuing religious studies at the University of Edinburgh. A Celtic Christian minister and reformer, J. Philip Newell. Curious, I read him, too, and he helped me on the path with Mooji. Through Mooji I found that the Self is not Bipolar or OCD or Asperger’s or depressed. Those are troubles of the body/mind/ego self. The “person” in other words. If I can go into the “Presence of God” as Newell says, or into the “Self” as Mooji says, I can be well. Mooji has helped me regain my spirituality and is making me whole.
The last change I made was to get off the newer anti-psychotic, Zyprexa, for health reasons. The drug has horrid side effects including dizziness, heavy weight gain, problems with heat and more. The withdrawal from Zyprexa is very,very hard. I still have .5 mg to go to get off it completely. Meantime, the same company where I buy the research grade St. John’s wort, offers a homeopathic Lithium Orotate (not Lithium Carbonate) spray called Symmetry. Have been using that with great results. Am very even. Gone are the manic nights of insomnia and the deep, dark depressions that sometimes broke through the St. John’s wort. Gone is the rapid cycling.
The company that offers the research grade St. John’s wort (the only brand of St. John’s wort that has worked for me) is Hypericum.com. The homeopathic Lithium Ortotate is offered by the same company. I have no interest in this company and am not paid by them to offer this information. I am not saying that all these things will work for those you touched by the fire of Bipolar Disorder or the black hole of depression or any other disorder. And certainly you must consult your therapist before trying any medication. For example, you cannot mix St. John’s wort while taking certain drugs. Specially mixing St. John’s wort with other antidepressants can be very dangerous. I am just offering alternative to those of you who may have had the same experiences and presenting what has helped me in my own battles. Talk to your therapist if interested.
And last but not by any means least, is Mooji. All information about him is to be found at Mooji.org. There are many, many free Satsang and guided meditation videos available there and on YouTube.
He answered my question about being able to being “realized” despite having Bipolar Disorder and I see now what he said made all the difference in the world. The person is Bipolar but the Self is not! Through watching his satsangs and doing meditation with him daily I am returning to the spirituality of my youth, before my breakdown. I have miles to go but with his help I am more able to cope with this dream we call life.
“Dear ones, the light of God is moving through me this day… I am in His sea of Light, in that eternal land. Wherever I am, in this life or beyond, I am always roaming in that eternity. I want you to come there also, for you are my brothers an sisters and I cannot bear to see you left in delusion.”
Patterns of the microcosm
echoed in the macrocosm
lots of frustration
can’t calm down
do the Hong Sau
the only hope
in this mind
doing 120 mph
in a 35 mph zone
time soon for sleep
a pre-dawn high
drained at noon
back to racing
to feel awe
love in the afternoon
a natural anti-
sent sight soaring
in noisy ears
the hum of quiet
seems too loud
with all over
stop I say
stop I pray
stop the way
the world spins
hurling in space
take this body
in your arms
work your charms
on this alarm-
these frantic antics
quell the panic
break the day
and bring on
Beyond the Stars
Sitting in the sun, acclimating to the gentle June heat, swatting away an annoysome fly who keeps returning over and over, I know this swatting is definitely wrong—a stirring of the killer instinct. I remember naturalist artist and writer and turtle man, David M. Carroll, keeping his hand steady, while being bitten by hordes of mosquitoes, so as not to scare away the turtles as he paints them . Clearly he is a superior soul in his patient endurance of being bitten and as his, almost spiritual, beautifully poetic, writings and drawings reveal. I remember, too, the words of Pema Chodron, Buddhist teacher and nun, who teaches and preaches practicing compassion on little things, learning not to “bite the hook” of anger.
So I let the fly alight on my ankle and he seemingly happily stays on my leg and does not bite. I begin to try to image feeling kinship with this fly who likes my leg, fighting the idea that he is laying eggs in my skin. Pema Chodron has clearly inspired a city girl, afeared of bugs, to make friends with a fly as I watch the universe of insects beneath my feet. A Daddy Long legs crawls on my camera bag, hitches a ride to our bed when I go inside the house. I bring him back to his home outside.
This compassion things feels right, start small and grow big. As if to reinforce this point a butterfly lands on my chest when I return to my contemplation spot in our back yard. But all is not sweetness and light. Later the same fly (I swear it is) who landed on my leg now activates karma for my earlier murderous impulses towards him. He lands on my toe and bites me. A cautionary tale against getting too carried away with being virtuous. Still worse, later as I walk in the coolness of early evening, a bug lands on my arm and attempts a vigorous bite. In an instant, a reflexive smack smooches him dead.
So it would seem I have to start even smaller with my acts of compassion. How much smaller can one start? I wonder with daunting discouragement about the many, many more lives I will have to live to learn lessons of compassion and no anger. I contemplate the prospect of how many, many more films I will have to view in this movie house of Maya we call life. When, oh when, will I learn all my lessons? When, oh, when, will the sun set for good for me on this circle of life so I can exit the orbit and rest beyond the stars??
Fell in love with the ornamentation
A closer look…
And TWO “third eyes”!!
“From winter’s tomb of lifeless blossoms, thou, O Christ, art resurrected in new buds of roses, marigolds, bluebells, jasmine, and worldful varieties of flowers. Ever-mutating, multicolored flowers of lifetrons growing in the gardens of the astral land are fragrant thrones of thy Presence” ~ Paramahansa Yogananda
Hallelujah! He is risen.
The Hum of Life
jump across time and space
to another receptive heart
The reverberations of suffering
resound around the earth
picked up by open souls in prayer
The reverberations of Aum
most sacred of sounds
pulses through our minds in meditation
Love brings the possibility of loss
Suffering brings a totality of pain
Aum brings the reality of God within
Maya in Nature and the Nature of Maya
A Tribute to Paramahansa Yogananda
I wish this were my tribute to Yogananda but it is not. Perhaps you will know of him in his”Autobiography of a Yogi”which is world famous. That is where I first found him. But he has written many other books and lectures. In other posts, I have written much about how psychiatric meds for my Bipolar Disorder have destroyed my closeness to God. Only in Yogananda’s writings have I been able to feel God– to go back to communion with God. Interestingly enough, my husband’s best friend is a monk in Self-Realization Fellowship which Yogananda founded to bring Kriya Yoga out of India to the West. Yogananda came to me recently when I was sick and brought me joy in my despair and rekindled my dedication to learning Kriya Yoga. Yogananda is an avatar, a man of God. I hope these images pay him homage and inspire!
Though I write about meditation, spirituality, animal rights, mental illness and nature on this blog, I would be remiss in not sharing my passion for Indian dance and Bollywood movies. Bollywood movies, like Western movies, are vessels of escapism, but Bollywood movies add morality, family values and frequently, religion, into the mix. The dance and music is uplifting and, yes, sensual, without resorting to the blatant obscenity of Western films.
In this excerpt from the film, “Khalnayak,” Madhuri Dixit and Sanjay Dutt star. Madhuri is the diva of Indian dance and, in fact, I am taking free online lessons with her just for the fun of it. And fun it is. Madhuri makes no bones about using one’s feminine wiles to beguile. If interested the lessons are available at http://dancewithmadhuri.com. Sanjay Dutt is the handsome, irresistibly vulnerable heartthrob of the Indian screen and he dances as well. Most Bollywood stars not only act but dance, too.
In this scene, Madhuri Dixit plays an undercover cop acting as a dancer to allure and apprehend the soft-hearted criminal, Sanjay Dutt. They have great chemistry and the dancing is definitely an earthly pleasure, a blatant manifestation of Maya, to which I am attached. But I think I must follow to see where it leads. Experiencing writer’s block and artist’s block at the moment, perhaps dance is good for my soul. Critics might say my interest arises from a Bipolar mania or an Asperger’s obsession. Perhaps. I don’t know. I am certainly not manic at the moment. All I know is that the allure of this form of Maya is powerful, and to deny its existence may lead to the necessity of pursuing this manifestation of it in another life. Paramahansa Yogananda says that all life is Maya, a picture show. Perhaps by indulging in Bollywood films, I may get a new perspective on so-called “reality” and see it as Yogananda did, as a film show of the earthly passions, a dream from which we will awaken one day.
“Sound and light affect our consciousness, for we (like them) are composed of vibrations.”
Beware the enticements of worldliness
lest it lead you to the frazzle of despair.
Look behind the Light of nature,
and let the eyes be
bedazzled by the Beauty
of God hiding there.
“As the thread is hidden behind the beads of a necklace, and as the dreamer’s consciousness is secreted behind the garlands of dream images, so the Divine Coordinator remains unseen behind the dream lei of creation… It is God’s consciousness alone that sustains all the dream appearance of creation.”
~ PARAMAHANSA YOGANANDA
Barn Window Reflections
We live in a dream world the Hindus call “Maya”
All is illusory–
a cosmic dream from which we will awaken
when we die.
Just as a baby may think
it is the “end”
of life as he knew it
when he is being shuttled through the birth canal
while being born,
so, too, we may think it is the end
when we are dying
to this world of delusion.
But we will be born to something real,
something just beyond the veil of illusion
in which we are so enmeshed during this “life” as we know it.
“When we awaken in God we shall realize that mortal life is only a picture made of shadows and light, cast on a cosmic movie screen” ~ Paramahansa Yogananda
“The Butterfly of the Soul”
“The butterfly of the soul must be freed to spread its wings of beautiful divine qualities… To the last day of your life, be positive; try to be cheerful.”
~ Paramahansa Yogananda
Full Moon Blues
The foundations of daily life are crumbling
It is all “Maya”
a dream we are living thinking it is reality
We have no choice but to go on
All that matters is love
and God is Love.
Heart to Heart
“Love cannot be had for the asking; it comes only as a gift from the heart of another”
~ Paramahansa Yogananda
“Thou art everywhere;
Where’er Thou art, perfection’s there” ~ Paramahansa Yogananda
Transformations no. 2
“It is so interesting to see the marvelous evolution of complex matter from the singular consciousness of Spirit. How intricate it is, and yet so simple” ~ Paramahansa Yogananda