The quick version: I’m probably quite similar to a lot of you (or someone you know). I’ve been through years of anguish, despair, hopelessness, low self esteem, emotional fluctuations, extreme anger, anxiety, lack of concentration, racing thoughts, grandiose ideas, alcohol & substance abuse and much, much more. Things intensified from about 2007 when I started to have very few periods of stability, I was either up or down.
After years of confusion, wondering what was wrong with me and dead end leads I was finally diagnosed with Bipolar 2 with rapid/ultradian cycling in 2015 when I was in my forties. It was actually a relief to know there was a reason for my sometimes odd behaviour and feelings. I made a decision right then to research the condition as much as possible and to do what I could to control it so that I could minimise the impact on my family.
By using a combination of techniques, I’ve learned to manage my bipolar condition without the use of medication. In fact I’ve not taken medication for my bipolar disorder so far. I have always kept an open mind about taking it if needed though but at the same time was convinced that there was a way to get better without drugs.
It did, however, take me about 4 years from the time of diagnosis to get to the stage where I felt relatively stable. During that time I had some successes and lots of failures where I wondered if I was doing the right thing. I was not always the nicest person to be around, I came pretty close to getting booted out of the house I shared with my wife and children due to my unpredictable behaviour and emotional fluctuations.
I decided to up my game and take things more seriously. Since my diagnosis I had been exercising regularly which hugely reduced the worst of my depressions if I stuck to it. The problem is sometimes I didn’t and then faced weeks of climbing back out of a hole each time. I also experienced hypomania for most of the time I wasn’t depressed.
I tried to get to bed earlier and establish routines and that helped a bit. It was hard since I’ve always been a night owl and at my most productive from 8pm to 2 or 3am. I also love a good party and found it almost impossible to tear myself away before the early hours of the morning.
I had discovered the basics of mindfulness at the time of diagnosis but hadn’t been using the correct techniques to harness it. Studying and practising mindfulness properly was the beginning of me learning to control my hypomania. Coupled with cognitive behaviour therapy I discovered a winning combination that has since lessened by far the extreme highs and also negative thoughts that can lead to emotional upsets. There’s a lot more too it but I want to give you hope that you can get better too.
Although not perfect by any stretch of the imagination I am much, much better than I was. I am able to concentrate far better for work, feel better about myself, mostly experience just slight ups and downs and am able to use the tools I have learned to bring myself back to a more normal emotional range much quicker.
Here’s the rub though, it takes a lot of hard work to stick to the methods that make one stable. It’s not for everyone and sometimes for one cause or another you just can’t keep it going. You’ll need a very good reason to keep at it when you don’t feel like it and also to get back on the horse when you fall off.
I do believe though that most people will be able to make huge progress in controlling their bipolar, whether they continue to take medication or not, by making some lifestyle changes, learning about their thought patterns and understanding that their brains can change given the right training.
If you feel ready to make some changes in your life, take a look at our getting started section.
Enjoy the journey!
(***Please do not stop your medication without the help of a professional, it can have severe consequences including sending you into mania, depression or any number of other effects. I have never had serious suicidal thoughts, made an attempt to take my own life or experienced full mania, which is the reason I have chosen a more natural route. You may be different to me so please do not take a chance with your mental well-being. Find out more about whether you should stop medication***)