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.
We who are mentally ill are at the mercy of our psychiatrists. They throw pills at us hoping to help us. Okay, to be fair, some pills DO work. At one point in my life, they kept me out of the mental hospital. But sometimes they don’t. I have been ailing for months and my general practitioner could not find anything wrong despite constant low grade fever, three or four migraines a week, faintness and dizziness. He never called me a hypochondriac. The thermometer did not lie. But I felt he thought me a complaining nuisance. My psychiatrist was mystified! He should not have been.
Miraculously, for some reason, out of the blue, I remembered years ago, when the psychiatrist first put me on Zyprexa, never being more sick so often than when I went on it. I googled “Zyprexa side effects” and found fever, faintness and dizziness as side effects, especially when combined with other drugs I am taking, prescribed by said psychiatrist.
Zyprexa IS a miracle drug psychologically. It DID help me over come much, but definitely not all, anxiety. It DID stabilize my moods better than anything before since I cannot take typical mood stabilizers. Recently, though, the physical symptoms have been taking a toll on my life. I have found it hard to keep up friendships. I became housebound due to feeling ill. I found it hard to keep up with the blog and haven’t been posting like I used to, nor able to read nearly as many posts of people I love to follow. Maybe some of you noticed. Maybe not. In desperation I finally told my psychiatrist that I wanted to get off Zyprexa. He was all for it due to side effects of serious weight gain and a propensity towards diabetes. Why had he not told me to get off it before???
Well, two days into withdrawal, I am nauseous and have flu-like dizziness and weakness. And I am nursing a husband who has bronchitis. I have started the withdrawal and intend to try to continue. Trying to figure out just what was going on, I googled “Zyprexa withdrawal.” Guess what? Flu-like symptoms, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, all for an indefinite length of time. I only decreased the dosage by one half a pill, 1 measly milligram, and am having this hard of a time. I will have to go through this again when I decrease the other half dose.
Why don’t doctors know about ALL the side effects of the pills they prescribe??? And why don’t they warn the patients of the withdrawal possibilities??? I have been on Zyprexa for 10 or so years. So this will be heavy duty withdrawal.
We who are mentally ill must suffer not only symptoms but the opprobrium of our friends, doctors and all who come in contact with us. It is not just the mental illness we suffer from but side effects from the medications as well.
In part, I blame myself. I should have been more informed. I should have questioned the doctors. I should have googled symptoms earlier. I should not have blindly trusted my psychiatrist. I should have remembered back to a time when I had health. But I didn’t.
A warning to all those Schizophrenics and Bipolars out there or anyone else whose doctor is thinking of putting them on Zyprexa, MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION! Discuss the costs and the benefits, not just the benefits.
And if you are on Zyprexa and want to go off it, tell your doctor first!!! Don’t do it on your own!!! Abrupt withdrawal can be fatal. Yes, fatal, as in dead.
And to my followers, I am sincerely sorry for not always responding, visiting or reading your posts over the past few months. Have no idea how this is going to play out but it has to be. I will do what I can.
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!
September sunlight dances on drying leaves, sparkling like diamonds against a flowing stream, an azure sky. The plants of summer are dying. Flowers that have given such joy all summer long are now spurned by us as they shrivel into the paradoxical beauty of old age. The sun burns lightly on summer-drenched skin as clouds intrude intermittently into the almost- Autumn interlude– a gentle foretaste of the cold to come. The last butterflies of summer flit among the blossoming Goldenrod and browning Joe Pie Weed.
The beauty of Fall is the beauty of a dying season. It is the season of death– an alternative to the dew-like bloom of youth in Spring.
When I was very young, I felt death in nature. I could feel what it must feel like to be a tree or a flower—to just “be”—the Buddhist dictum which I cannot now master. In my late twenties, my mind broke into smithereens like shattered glass, and I had a choice to make between going on psych meds or going to hospital. I chose the former and have lived some 40 years more with that choice. I will not say it was a happy choice, at the risk of sounding ungrateful, because I have become driven into a fury of manic activity and self-seeking in stark contrast to the just “being” of my early youth. The psych meds have dispelled my “egolessness” which, in turn, makes me more able to “function”– at a price. For I no longer feel the waves of peace lapping at the shores of my mind and my religious feelings have, comparatively speaking, shriveled up like the summer flowers in the Fall. “It’s always a trade-off” I am told over and over again. My doc told me once that I am one of the lucky ones because for some people the meds don’t work at all. That shut me up and those words periodically pump gratitude into my system. I have remained med-compliant mainly because the meds have kept me out of hospital, DO allow me to function, and, most importantly, I have discovered that being able to function means allowing me to love.
And although more self-seeking, paradoxically this med-induced functionality allows me to give back to the world. My gift is to describe the “just- being” in nature that was imprinted indelibly on my mind when I was young. Death seemed beautiful to me then, a state of simply being at one with the soul of nature. Now I confess to a fear of dying, rather than a fear of death, but most of all, a fear of loss of the love of my life. For we are in the September of our lives and all is intensified now that we are more aware of our finiteness. Truth be told this was always potentially the case, but we lived, like most youth, in the inevitable delusion of immortality.
So I function now at the cost of loss of my revered altered states of consciousness. Perhaps I am in September mind, channeling words and images of the beauty of nature that flooded me long ago are a mere trickle now, as my time to “just be,” once more for this time round, approaches.