Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Status Update: May 2011

It occurs to me that doing all this researching & experimenting in ways to control my bipolar disorder won't really count for much if I don't tell you how I'm doing on that front. So I figure a quick update at the end of each month should sort that out.

So ... May 2011. Well, let's see ... I had a rather odd couple of weeks in the middle of May, I suppose what would be called a mixed episode ... my thoughts were fuzzy & muddled, I wasn't sleeping very much & I felt very agitated a lot of the time; I thought I was due for an upswing, but it went totally the other way around, & then - as I said previously - I ended up suffering migraines. Once the headaches cleared I was ok, though.

Not the best way to start this, I suppose, but I don't get to pick & choose, more's the pity ...

Monday, 23 May 2011

Alternative 2: A New Diet

In the documentary 'The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive' (linked on the right), Stephen Fry talks to a woman who manages her bipolar disorder without drugs, by paying close attention to what she eats. Now the psychiatrist who diagnosed me said that food has no effect on bipolar disorder, but a) he was talking about it triggering, rather than preventing, episodes, & b) the woman in the documentary was also a psychiatrist! So it sounded quite promising to me, & I promised myself I would look it up.

Well, I have, & I have to say it sounds good. I've added a link to a couple of the better sites I found, but the general gist is as follows:

Fish!!!!! Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna etc. These are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which apparently help with regulating mood, as well as keeping your heart healthy. Bonus! Personally I was jumping for joy after reading this, because my favourite food is salmon. Smoked, baked, fried ... i love it! Now if I can convince my lovely fantastic-cook boyfriend to cook it more often, I'm on to a winner ...

But if you don't like fish, the cod liver oil supplements you can buy in the supermarket will do the trick. So will seeds & nuts like walnuts, sunflower seeds & so on.

The fish thing was the main example given by the woman in the documentary; she said that she would eat fish at any given opportunity as well as taking supplements. However, a lot of sites report that there isn't enough evidence to support this, so at the moment it's a possibility rather than a definite help. Still, if it means I get to eat more salmon, I'm willing to play guinea pig ...

St John's Wort is a common herbal treatment for depression; however it can play havoc if you're on the contraceptive pill, which I am, so unfortunately I won't be trying this one out. If anyone has any experience with this, though, I'd love to hear it.

Diets high in fat or salt are also mentioned as being problematic, because they might interfere with some medications. I'm not on medication - yet - so I'm going to pass over this for now. But there's more information in the articles.

Avoid stimulants & depressants. This means cut down or avoid alcohol, which is - as I'm sure everyone knows - a depressant. No problem for me there; I rarely drink. It also means cutting down or avoiding caffeine & sugar. Now THIS is a problem. I don't drink much, I don't smoke, & I don't do drugs, & I don't have much of a sweet tooth, but my one vice is Coke (the fizzy stuff that comes in cans, not the white stuff that gets you thrown in jail!). I love it. I've tried to cut down on it several times in the past because it is ruining my teeth (I have way too many fillings already), with ...er, variable success. I'm definitely drinking less than I used to. But if I'm going to test this out, I think I'm going to have to cut down on it even more. I also drink a lot of tea. So it's decaffeinated tea for me from now on, & ... does anyone know a good caffeine-free alternative to Coke?

A Link Between Bipolar Disorder & Migraines?

The reason I started wondering about this was because I've suffered from migraines since I was around 15, but after a long time of fiddling with my diet I haven't had any for well over 6 months. But then a couple of weeks ago I felt the usual symptoms of an oncoming mood swing - mainly, needing less & less sleep & feeling a little bit giddy. I thought I was going to have an upswing. But, as occasionally happens, I had the opposite, & hit a big nasty cloud of depression. Then I came down with a migraine. The silver lining there is that when I have a migraine, there's very little I can think about other than the pain in my head, so it sort of stopped the depression in its tracks. When the migraine lifted, I felt better in general, but after a couple of days the depression hit again. Then I got another migraine!!! After ages not having any, to have 2 within 2 weeks, along with the depression, struck me as pretty suspicious.

It's pretty easy to say that migraine sufferers would of course feel the occasional bout of depression, because migraines are just ... well, horrible. But in my example, the depression hit first. This isn't always the case - usually I don't get migraines whenever I'm depressed, & when my migraines were frequent I can't recall them coinciding with any of my mood swings (but it's difficult to accurately recall as up until a few years ago I didn't really register the mood swings as being out of the ordinary, & even after that I wasn't really sure what the mood swings were). So I thought I'd Google it. Hooray for Google, the bringer of all wisdom ...

Unfortunately it didn't bring me all that much. After ploughing through several articles, some of which were so academically written it was like they were in another language, I got the general idea that YES, there is a link between bipolar disorder & migraines, but NO, nobody really knows what it is & why. I've linked one of the articles for your perusal.

Apparently both bipolar diorder & migraines are what they call 'comorbid' conditions, & can & often do occur in the same person at the same time, but without causing or affecting each other. It appears to be a simple case of having the right (or wrong) sort of brain - a brain that is home to bipolar disorder would also be a suitable habitat for migraines as well. (Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, my in-depth reasearch begins & ends with what I dig up online.)

So there is a link, but so far no real information on that link exists, pending further studies. I shall have to keep an eye out for further studies; If anyone hears more on this, I'd love to hear it.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Alternatives 1: Reiki

The reason I'm choosing this as my first alternate 'treatment' is because I'm a trained Reiki practitioner. To those in the know, I'm trained up to level 2. To those not in the know, that means I'm trained enough to practice it professionally, but not to teach it. I got the training partially because I wanted to have a go at practicing, & partially because it goes so well alongside my Wiccan beliefs, & partially because I seemed to have a bit of a knack for it before I even trained at all.

So ... what is it? 'Reiki' is a Japanese word which, roughly translated, means 'Universal (Rei) Energy (Ki)'. It's a very gentle, non-invasive complementary therapy which works around the channelling & redistributing of energy. The theory is that our illnesses & injuries manifest in our personal energy fields (or auras, if you're so inclined - & I am, so let's go on with that), either as patches of excessive energy or thin areas (hot & cold spots respectively), so by rebalancing these spots we can have an effect on our physical bodies, encouraging them to heal naturally.

Reiki is also used as a relaxation aid because it is really, really, REALLY relaxing. Having a treatment of reiki is an appointment where you don't get frowned upon for falling asleep during (in fact, it's usually seen as a good sign!). So it's amazing for treating stress & anxiety, & if anyone is troubled by these, I highly recommend you seek yourself out a reiki practitioner - it is AWESOME.

There are those who would consider reiki to be a cure for many things in & of itself. Personally, I'd say not. It's very gentle & works very gradually, & if someone were to say, stop taking their meds in favour of reiki, they'd probably do themselves more harm than good & give the reiki practitioner a much harder job in fixing them (not to mention their doctor!). However, if this person were to receive the reiki treatment whilst staying on their meds, they might discover that before long, they wouldn't need the meds any more. It depends on what the condition is, of course - & I should stress I'm not a doctor. But reiki can work wonders alongside conventional medicine, for all kinds of illnesses. Whatever the problem is, if you can get your head around the rather hippy-ish ideas of auras & energy channelling, I'd say reiki is always worth a try.

Plus most reiki practitioners practice other therapies as well as reiki, so you'll in all likelihood get to have more than 1 type of therapy at a time! Bonus, right? If you're curious, check out http://www.naturalhealthhouse.co.uk/ - Valerie Lowe trained me in reiki, & I have to say she's both a lovely lady & a great therapist.

So will this help with bipolar disorder? Theoretically - given the theory about energy imbalances - it should. If bipolar disorder is chemical imbalances in the brain (which I believe is only 1 theory, but let's go with it for now), that would correspond with energy imbalances in the aura, right? Before I was diagnosed I had a fair few short treatments where the therapist commented on my aura around my head being either 'buzzing' or 'cold', both before & after I'd had one of my 'moods'. At the time I didn't think much of it. I know that when I treat myself, it helps to calm me down when I'm feeling agitated, & if I'm feeling a little down it can cheer me up - albeit in a sort of dreamy, sleepy kind of way.

However ... I have to admit that if I'm already really low, or alternatively if I'm really sped up, performing reiki - especially on myself - is nigh on impossible. It involves getting into a meditative state, & I doubt I have to tell you why that won't happen if my mood is running to an extreme. If I'm hyper, I just can't sit still or concentrate enough. I just can't. & if I'm depressed, sitting still is easy ... but emptying my mind of all those nasty, self-indulgent, self-destructive thoughts? Not going to happen.

So I guess this means reiki would be good as a preventative measure, something to get into the habit of doing regularly. I'm very bad at doing things regularly - I forget to take my pill all the time, I can never follow tv shows without missing at least a couple of episodes, hell, there's been a month gap between this post & the last - so up til now I haven't really tested this theory. Well, now I'm going to make a real effort to do so. Wish me luck, curious reader ... in due time I shall report back & let you know how it goes.

By the way, I'm aware that I've recommended that reiki be used alongside conventional medicine, whilst having already told you that I'm not taking conventional medicine. All I can say is, like a certain little girl in a blue dress, I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it ...