Full Circle Wellness

Typically, my notes on posts appear in orange.  Today I am writing the copy myself, so this article will appear in black.

 

Today marks a dramatic turning point for my family.  Many of you know about my personal struggle with mental illness.  Fourteen years ago, when my daughter was less than two years old, I was admitted to a psychiatric ward and participated in a trial for Zaprasidone, an antipsychotic drug.  I called this drug “my little blue lifesaver” and felt it was the main reason I was able to come out of my psychotic state.  Over the next few years my diagnosis changed from schizo-affective disorder (a combination of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia) to depression and finally “a brief, reactive psychosis”.  The illness I experienced was limited in duration and a reaction to extreme stress.  In truth, my illness had an organic cause.  In the no-fat/low-fat craze of the early 1990’s, I decided it was okay to eat no fat whatsoever.  That little gem landed me in the psych ward and I lost everything important in my life, including custody of my daughter, now 16.  I remarried and had two more wonderful children, experiencing a severe, lethargic postpartum depression with my second child.  Thankfully, this episode was much more brief than the first, life-altering experience.

For all these years, I have fought back against mental illness.  My work with new mothers has been fueled by the need to find answers for other women.  What causes their mood and anxiety issues?  Is there an underlying etiology common to many disorders?  What is the logic in emerging treatments such as acupuncture, cleansing, chiropractic, nutritional supplementation, herbs; etc.?

About five years ago my Mother, Jane, started struggling with mood issues herself.  My Mom cared for me tenderly during my own downward spiral- during the time when I was losing control, the time whenI gave up on life, and during my six week hospitalization over the holidays.  She was there when I was served legal papers in the psychiatric ward, threatening a change in my daughter’s custody.  And afterward, when I was so fogged out on meds I didn’t even realize when my own daughter was saying, “I love you, Mommy”, my own mom would prompt me back into reality so I could provide basic maternal tasks like looking my daughter in the eye.

I remember being a student, getting my bachelor’s in psychology and scoring ‘depressed’ on tests regularly given to students, the captive audience of university research.  How I went ahead to thrive, remarry and get a master’s degree could be considered a miracle if it weren’t for the support of my Mom.

To have my own Mother struggling in this way made no sense at all.  I couldn’t imagine that she was actually having a late onset of bipolar disorder.  I rejected the idea that mental illness might be genetic or that it is a life long illness.  I’m so glad I did so because this attitude allowed me to fight for answers.  I was devastated, perplexed and more deeply empassioned to find answers.  I was desperate to have my Mother- and a grandmother for my children.  I wanted a real relationship with her.

For these five years, my search has turned up many intriguing bits of the puzzle- many of which I post here at WellPostpartum Weblog.  I found which nutrients help psych meds to work better.  I learned about food allergies and systemic candida infection.  I found that mercury interferes with lithium absorption- that was one particularly interesting bit.  My poor, ill Mom tried to muster up enough hair for a hair analysis to determine if she had elevated levels of mercury.  I thought we had found the culprit, but each time something new was tried, her illness reared its ugly head and I cursed the situation and cried out to God for answers.  It is by His grace that I was able to live in faith and fight. 

I don’t care to recall the very recent times, when it got really bad.  Too many times, my family members remarked at how horrible she looked.  She made them cringe and mourn for her.  One relative said, “I hate to even say this, but she is dying.”

Countless others would ask about her and then say, “Oh, that’s too bad.  Your Mom is amazing!”   “She’s the sweetest person.”  “She’s a doll.”  ” We can’t believe she’s anything other than the live wire we know her to be.”  “She has the greatest sense of humor”.  And on and on and on…

Well, I thought, defeatedly.  She IS near death.  She IS NOT who we thought she was.  Her life IS ENDING badly.  It’s over and none of the kind comments about her relate to what is going on with her now!

So, dear readers, much of what you are learning through WellPostpartumWeblog is due to my experience with supporting new mothers.  And some of it is directly from supporting my own Mother.

Today I am writing to you about her recovery. 

On December 18th, 2008 my Mom started using a nutritional supplement called Empower Plus.  I had read Dr. Bonnie Kaplan’s Vitamins, Minerals and Mood and became convinced that this wonderful meta-analysis held truths that would turn the mental wellness arena upside down.  We had nothing to lose, so I ordered the supplement for my Mom.  Though it was tough to get her to use it, she complied.  (I may have threatened her at this point).

Through True Hope the company that produces Empower Plus, she has access to daily telephone support by trained professionals.  If she doesn’t call them, they call her.  The support personnel tirelessly explains the research behind their product, the protocol’s use, how to taper psychiatric medications during treatment; etc.  They have held her hand through every stage of her recovery.  Their fee was included in the reasonable price of the supplements.  She now has a “wellness coach” to corroborate everything I had talked with her about over the years and help her navigate her recovery.

Weeks later (after one depressed and one manic phase) I started noticing she was much more insightful than usual.  She actually started asking me about myself for the first time in years.  I was stunned when she listened to the answers I gave and responded to them.

Then, another miracle.  Her manic phase didn’t end in a grand plan or a huge project she’d later regret.  It just smoothed over into relative stability.  She then really surprised me and went into therapy.  I had strongly suggested this for years and years. 

Seeing her back out of mental illness has helped me to realize how bad the experience has been for her.  Now, instead of remaining quiet and confused in her paranoia, she is trying to sort out what is real and what is fear-based.  Little admissions will surface that take me back to my own confusion and paranoia.  Because she is not lethargic, I now know where she is better than I ever had.

Now, in addition to the research I post here, I have personal anecdotal data about using a nutritional approach to treat mental illness.  I knew from my own bout with illness that proper nutrition is needed for wellness.  Now, I have seen my Mother successfully use nutrition to treat her own mental illness.

To use Cheryl Beck’s terminology, we are in a “guarded recovery” phase.  We are so much more hopeful than in the past, but the numbers on True Hope’s Symptom Evaluation Chart don’t lie.  She is getting better every day.  The tool box she uses to fight certain aspects of recovery is full of options and support by True Hope staff.

I would be doing my readers a disservice by not writing to let you know about her journey.  Please look into True Hope for yourself

And, be sure to buy a copy of A Promise of Hope, by Autumn Stringham.  Autumn powerfully outlines her own story of living with a mother who experienced bipolar disorder.  Though her mother died, describing her own full recovery from the disorder using Empower Plus leaves us with a sense of hope.  I’ve known for many years that recovery is possible- I’ve seen it countless times in new mothers.  Now, I am witnessing it in my own mother.

Though Autumn’s mother died while ill, she gives us a wonderful gift in A Promise of Hope.  I am reaping the rewards of her bravery in regaining my relationship with my Mom.

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Comments
2 Responses to “Full Circle Wellness”
  1. Sheryl Cozad says:

    So glad to hear that you dear mother is doing better! You are right–she is a wonderful person, and I am delighted to hear that her kindly insightful nature has returned.

    Thank you for sharing this difficult story with others, and providing so many resources for healing others who suffer from the spectrum of illnesses which plague so many families.

    Bless you always Cheryl J!

  2. Sheryl Cozad says:

    The Well Postpartum Blog has shared many good ideas from the realm of psychiatric holistic medicine.

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