Mental Mondays #1 - Coming Out Bipolar

I'm Joy, and I'm living with bipolar disorder

I’m Joy, and I’m living with bipolar disorder

Recently I posted on facebook, wondering if people wanted to know more about my personal journey with bipolar disorder. The response was overwhelmingly positive. But I realized it would be impossible to wrap everything up in one neat post… my story is long and convoluted, and continues to this day. So I’m introducing Mental Mondays. I may not get a post up every single week, but I’ll try!

You can find all of my Mental Mondays posts here.

Fears

You might be wondering why a food blogger and special diet coach would want to tell the world about her mental health issues. The stigma attached to any kind of mental weakness, especially bipolar disorder, is intense. So far, I’ve kept this topic to a minimum because I feared it would make me lose credibility. But I think the struggles I’ve been through and still face are actually what make what I have to offer so special. To put it simply, I hope others can benefit from my experience, and that writing about it will also help me.

It makes sense to talk about bipolar disorder on our real food blog because real food has been one of the (several) keys to stabilizing my mental health! Most people find out about the GAPS diet through the autism community. Our family was a bit different… we started the GAPS diet as a family more than a year and a half ago, mostly because of our son’s physical problems. After reading the book, with my history of mental health issues, it seemed like an extra-good idea for me to try it, too.

Gluten, the Gut, and the Brain

While autism is the mental health issue Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride has focused the most energy on treating with her GAPS protocol, she explains that mental health issues such as ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, depression, OCD, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia can all be related to the same underlying imbalances of gut flora and resulting damage to the gut! She also draws connections with other physical problems ranging from digestive upsets to allergies and eczema.

The research is starting to bear her out. Connections between celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, food allergies, candida overgrowth, and other forms of gut dysbiosis are starting to emerge. Here are a few studies of interest:

As we begin to understand connections between incidence of mental health issues and conditions such as celiac disease, more questions will get asked and more answers will be found. At the moment, big mysteries are still out there. Many of us have experimented with diet and have found that there are things we can do to stabilize our mental health without the use of pharmaceuticals. In this weekly-ish feature I’ll share some of the techniques that are working for me.

I am not Giving Medical Advice!

I want to be very clear from the very beginning that I am not a doctor of any kind, I am not giving medical or therapeutic advice, and I do not recommend stopping any medications which your doctor has prescribed based on the experiences I share. I am just a person with some life experience I’d like to put out into the world for consideration. If you are inspired to try something I’ve tried, please consult about it in person with qualified health care practitioners before making any changes!

Coming up next week – My first taste of what it’s like to be bipolar.

So far Mental Mondays has been all about me and my experience with bipolar, related mental issues, and GAPS. But I’d like to branch out. If you have a story about the connection between your (or your child’s) mental health and dietary or lifestyle changes, I’d love to help you share it! I’m open to guest posts and am willing to do interviews!

This post is part of Fat Tuesday, Traditional Tuesday, Gluten-Free Wednesdays, Real Food Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday, Freaky Friday, Fight Back Friday, Sunday School.

Related posts:

22 comments to Mental Mondays #1 – Coming Out Bipolar

  • I’m looking forward to reading your series. I am often asked through my blog and FB page if I know of people who have had X or X issue resolved with GAPS and now I can share your blog under another header – you’ve already been a great resource for gluten and Celiac issues. I know it’s scary to put this stuff out there, but I am sure it will help many people.

    • Joy

      Thank you, Starlene! I feel like there is so much more to research and learn but hopefully the little I know and have experienced can help point folks in good directions and we can all support each other along the way!

  • Sara Grambusch

    I think it’s awesome you want to talk about this more. Talking about mental health is something that needs to happen more and what you eat has SO much to do with what your brain does. Most people don’t realize nutrition is a very serious way to help yourself.

    • Joy

      Thank you, Sara,
      You are so right! Last weekend I went to two talks by a neurologist at the gluten free food fair. She was amazing! One of her talks was all about nutrition. Not any one diet in particular, but more about the way that different nutrients affect the brain, and the way that damaged guts and other organs can impact the levels we have in our bodies. It’s fascinating stuff, and I’m glad to see that the word is getting out into the medical community!
      Joy

  • So glad that you are willing to talk about this in a public way. Anything to lessen the stigma of mental illness!

    • Joy

      Thank you, Soli! You’re right, the more people show that bipolar doesn’t have to mean you are crazy all the time, the less of an effect the stigma will have.

  • Brianne

    Thank you so much for starting this! I’ve been researching GAPS because I have MDD and that’s how I came across your blog. I’m really hoping GAPS can help end my 10 year struggle with depression. You must be so incredibly strong to go through all of these issues and be able to write about them. So awesome!

    • Joy

      Thank you Brianne,
      While GAPS isn’t a cure-all for everyone, it can certainly help many of us with mental health issues! I hope you find relief for your depression. Thank you for sharing with me!

  • Ann Petersen

    Hi Joy!

    You are a soul sister! I was bipolar, too! 1985 was my last manic episode. I met a maverick doctor that changed my life. He asked me if I considered that I might have candida albicans overgrowth. I said, “What?” He said, “Read these books!” (“The Yeast Connection” by William Crook, M.D. was one of them). I got so excited that I brought the books to my psychiatrist. Of course, he said, “Put the books away! There are a few witch doctors in town that believe in that sort of thing. You have to accept that you have a serious mental illness and you will have to stay on heavy drugs for the rest of your life!” Bah! I had to work against my terrified parents to put myself on the candida diet, which is very similar to the GAPS diet–especially at first. But within a month and a half, I felt better than I ever did in my whole adult life! The candida diet is mostly gluten-free by default. It wasn’t until later in life that I discovered my gluten intolerance. I had to go through being homeless first and I’m writing a screenplay about it. Thank you sooo much for coming out about this. The more of us that do, the less power that stigma will have. I talk about it too because if I reach just one receptive bipolar person in the process, I will have helped someone out of their misery. I’m sharing your info far and wide! Thanks again!

    • Joy

      Thank you for helping to spread the word and for sharing some of your experience, Ann! Isn’t it amazing how so many of us find these diets – anticandida, gluten-free, GAPS, etc from different approaches and end up with the same sorts of positive results?

      I hope you will continue to comment on the blog, and that when your screenplay is done you let me know all about it!!!
      Joy

  • We all either have said issues or know someone who does and you are right, the stigmas are real. Thanks for breaking the cycle!

  • Mary

    I’m so glad you are doing this blog!! You are very courageous and I know will help others. My daughter also was diagnosed BP and is now off all meds and doing well. We have to stop fearing mental illness so this valuable information can get to the right people.

    • Joy

      That’s wonderful, Mary! I love what you said about not fearing mental illness. In my therapy appointment the other day that fear came up for me… that I live in fear of my mania. But every time I am able to head it off, that reminds me that it’s not taking control of me any more. Now I have a choice! That’s a wonderful feeling!

  • Gretchen Lindsey

    I agree that being bipolar does not detract from your credibility, but rather, adds to it. I was undiagnosed, and as such, unmedicated, bipolar for 15 years before I finally got diagnosed earlier this year. I was told it was extremely rare to be undiagnosed that long and not have become a self-medicating drug addict. Well I never took illicit drugs and I also refused drugs for bipolar treatment, knowing that it would only be a “band-aid.” I also found the GAPS diet rather by “accident” in order to help my husband’s severe allergies and only after reading the book discovered GAPS can help bipolar as well. Your “It’s So Easy” GAPS blogs were instrumental in getting us started, thank you. Only one week on GAPS and I was feeling better. Not one manic, depressive, or hypo-manic episode while on GAPS. I am so thankful! I am a sociologist, so I am pretty outspoken already, but as soon as I knew what I was dealing with was bipolar, I talk to everyone I can about it, especially now that I know GAPS reverses it. I tell family, friends, even strangers – anyone who will listen because I figure we never know if anyone or their child or someone else they know is silently sufferig from any dis-ease on the laundry list of conditions that can be helped by GAPS. I have been amazed at how many people I know have conditions that GAPS may help. It is exciting and empowering to heal ourselves and help others. Something that has really helped me also is positive affirmations. I like Louise Hay and Deapak Chopra.

    • Joy

      Thank you, Gretchen! I’m so glad my posts were able to help you with GAPS, and that you experienced such quick results! I know the feeling of becoming an evangelist to the cause – just wanting to tell everyone. Actually, that’s why we have this blog. :) I hope you will keep reading the posts and commenting with more of your experience – it will be wonderful for people to see that this can work for lots of people, not just me!

    • Kristie

      I am so glad the GAPS diet is helping you! I may do it one day (I am dairy and gluten free right now.) I also agree that it gives more credibility to tell your story. I have found Joyce Meyer to be a great person to help with positive affirmations! She can be found at joyceMeyer.org. I hope to keep following your story and Joy’s story!

  • HMJ

    I applaud you for having the courage to speak out. I was stressed out during graduate school and had some problems with anxiety/depression. The campus psychiatrist also told me, “You need to accept that you have a serious mental illness and will have to be on psychotropic medication for the rest of your life.” He refused to take into consideration any aggravating nutritional or medical conditions. I eventually consented to hospitalization under threat of commitment. I still, almost three years later, deal with the emotional fall out and stigma from that whole fiasco. I am treated like an idiot by healthcare practitioners and a pariah by family and those I thought were friends. The only true compassion, understanding, and assistance I have received has been most recently from my health coach, acupuncturist, and holistic psychologist. Following a strict elimination diet, similar to GAPS, has made a big difference both physically and mentally.

    • Joy

      Hi HMJ,
      I’m sorry you were treated so horribly. The prevalent idea that there is *no* solution other than medication can do more harm than good in so many cases. I do think that medication has a place and can help many people, but forcing it on people rather than looking at all the options is a terrible practice! Whatever happened to “First, do no harm?”
      I’m glad to read that all these positive changes you are making in your life and the compassionate people you are surrounding yourself are leading to healing!
      There will be new friends, and I hope in time your family and old friends will come to see the error of their ways so that the relationships can be healed as well.
      Thank you for sharing some of your story with me!
      Joy

  • Jen

    Good for you Joy! I think these things need to be discussed otherwise many people who struggle think they are all alone with no hope. You’re doing a great thing. Look forward to reading your series and cheering you on!

  • I am begining to understand diet on our bodies. I am writing as I go. My mother has mental issues and myself and three sisters struggle also. We are each on a quest to not become like mom. My diet seems to really affect me so much. I find that If I do not eat enough protien and omega 3 foods I do not fare well. I am working on being healthy in body and mind. I love the whole body approach taken here. I am very much into holistic healing. I want to know the cause and fix the underlying problems rather than use a medical “bandaid” (medication) to just cover the symptoms. I want to eliminate my problems and symptoms rather then manage them. I will be sure to come back and read more soon. Thanks for linking up with fight back fridays where I found you.

  • I think it’s so wonderful that you are willing to share your experience. I’ve had several people very close to me struggle with depression and bi-polar, and I myself was almost diagnosed with depression after suffering undiagnosed from food allergies and gluten intolerance (if I was depressed it was because I was so ill and nobody was helping me!).

    I’d love for you to share this on my blog’s link up, Waste Not Want Not, so more struggling people can find it!

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