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 ...