Lifestyle changes that have worked for me

Last night was my first Risperdal free night. I’m done with 15 years and 11 mg of Risperdal.

I’ve also come off of stimulants, anti-depressants, Seroquel and half my Lamictal dose. I have 3 mg of Klonopin and 200 mg Lamictal to go. It’s been three years since I started. I’m more than half way done. My tentative goal is to finish in the next 6 to 8 months.

I’m not celebrating about the end of the Risperdal yet, but I’m very optimistic. I slept four hours last night. The night before five hours with a couple of naps during the day. I don’t do well at all with less than 9 or 10 hours. I’m exhausted and fatigued and somewhat sick. I’ve had no appetite for the past couple of weeks and get nauseous when I eat. I’m not well. These are withdrawal symptoms.

On the other hand after two years of struggle I finally and truly cut out caffeine. It’s been a month now, save one day. My PMS/PMDD seems to be almost non-existent. This is truly amazing. Perhaps not surprising as I’ve known for a long time that caffeine is a great offender in all things mental health, but damn it was my last hold out. I just couldn’t do it for so long. I’m pretty damn pure now. I can pretty much say I have no vices. None that I put in my mouth in any case.

The dietary changes were easy for me. Not sure why. No sugar, no refined flours or grains, no processed foods. No alcohol came pretty easy as my body started refusing it—I didn’t choose to stop—it just started making me sick. No cigarettes finally came easy too. They progressively made me feel sick and it was obvious. I was off and on them once I started the withdrawals (I had quit for about 3 years before) and each time I started I felt much worse within a few days. Again in the end it wasn’t a choice. And finally the caffeine—just a month out now without it. I had one cup of green tea about 6 or 7 days ago and I paid for it for 2 days–with nasty ass PMS symptoms. It’s pretty easy to make a connection at this point. And now none of it is really a choice anymore. I can feel everything I put in my body. It’s a super sensitive machine. Now that I know what offends it, how can I willingly put any of it in my mouth anymore?

This has been an evolution. I did not do it over night. This is one of the reasons radical lifestyle changes are not truly encouraged. They may be mentioned, but they are not encouraged. It’s not easy. It takes time and commitment and if mental health professionals are clueless about it all and on top of it eat like shit themselves they are in no position to help a client make better choices. And because it’s an evolution everybody’s process has to be honored and respected. Bottom line not everyone can get where I am. It comes from something internal. It’s almost like faith. Religion. And like any other faith you can’t force it down anyone’s throat and it’s extremely important that everyone’s process is respected. I’d like the opportunity to help people make these choices some day—if they want to.

There is a new mental health organization in my town. It offers alternatives and does not expect people take drugs. I don’t know too much about it, but I occasionally fantasize working there as a social worker (or a nutritionist–if I go back to school), as in my past life and being “out” and helping people make healthy decisions if they choose to. Being part of a system that offers complete and total informed consent complete with alternatives which is usually missing when people are talking informed consent. In most people’s minds informed consent usually just means letting people know the dangers and limitations of drugs, but there is so much more. Alternatives abound. Without mention of alternatives it’s not informed consent. Without the real option to refuse drugs and make other choices for healing it’s not informed consent.

And my process is not complete. I still have meditation to add. I’m in process there too and I’m doing it. I’ve meditated off and on for years. I know how to do it. I know that ultimately I will do it regularly. I’ve started Qi Gong classes which is a movement meditation. Though I’ve just started, I can sense it’s power. I do both Qi Gong movement and meditation with my teacher. I will be patient with myself with this lifestyle change too. The discipline will come just as it did with all things dietary. It’s all a matter of intention. It comes with intention. I feel vaguely powerful.

My path is not for everyone. People achieve recovery in different ways. I know this and deeply respect it. I know, however, that my path is for some people and I hope to share it broadly beyond this blog someday. Even if beginning that only means working in a mental health clinic one person at a time.

20 thoughts on “Lifestyle changes that have worked for me

  1. I’ve read up to and including the 5th paragraph. I didn’t have to read anymore to realize your treatment has been wrong.

    Now I’ll tell you what you really have. It sounds like you have Celiacs Disease. A Little known disease. When you ask your doctor he may look at you like your from Mars. Doctors don’t want to deal with a diease there’s no cure for.

    Your gradual lifestyle change is curing you. Stop eating all grains, ceral, bread, etc. You will start getting almost right away.

    When you look up Celiac Disease it probably won’t say anything about smoking, it does say not to drink certain beverages; beer is made from grains. (When ever you smoke it’s not long before start feeling uncomfortable, right?) You will have to deduce this yourself. Becareful of everything you INGEST; even vitamins, ANYTHING.

    You my contact me if you like. I don’t know how, I won’t leave any contact on this page. You could ask” Beyond Meds” to contact me.

    Hope you read this and it helps.

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  2. Moss there is a ton of info about what I do with supplements etc on the “About” page. And I’ve been a member of the group you mention for a long time! I know you from it!

    Thanks for stopping by.

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  3. I’m glad to hear you’re reducing your meds. What are you doing in terms of supplementation to give your body what it needs to work properly? I guess I’m something of a pioneer, having co-founded the ALT-therapies4bipolar Yahoogroup… our website lists a variety of effective ways of treating bipolar using nutrition and nutritional supplements. Since we don’t make any money at this, I guess it’s not an ad… LOL

    There is also a local group which might help, Radical Mental Health Collective. They meet on Monday nights at the YWCA…

    I took myself off meds… the last time I took anything was early November of 2003. I’m doing well, and getting better all the time. If you need a pep talk, this is it LOL…

    Hugs,
    Moss

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  4. thanks HSP for the second expanded response. I’m already sleeping through the night, and then some. I’m sleeping too much, ama! I don’t feel good. I’m avoiding everything. It’s the PMS and my period. Hopefully I’ll feel better today. The third day of my period is usually when I feel human again.

    In any case—I AM at this time sleeping through the night and that seems damned amazing.

    but, ama, my ability to sleep comes and goes and will, I’m sure again go, as I begin the Klonopin withdrawal. I usually lay down in the living room with the light on in the middle of the night. I don’t generally do much. I try to get rest. Of course if I’m up at 3:30 or 4 am after sleeping some, I just get online.

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  5. i also sleep in chunks. it works. ideally one would sleep 10 hours through the night and be as fresh as a day at 8 in the morning, but NOTHING in this world is ideal, so one wonders why one’s sleep should be…. 🙂 have you found a way to while away the night hours? sometimes it get be rough…

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  6. this is very moving and inspiring, gianna, the thing itself and the way you talk about it. there’s some quiet wisdom in what you write that touches me. and your determination and success are admirable and exemplary and will help many others. i hope you and your husband had a bang-up celebration!

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  7. It was indeed anti-climatic when I took my last dose of benzos. It gets more thrilling as times passes, believe me.

    For me, it’s been 8 weeks benzo-free, but only in the last two have I been able to not obsess about falling asleep. For the first 6 weeks, I’d worry I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep “fast enough.” I would take some melatonin, benadryl, or other herbal “sleep aids.” Now, I take nothing, and I fall asleep pretty quickly.

    Within a few weeks, Gianna, you will feel an amazing wave of gratitude and accomplishment. And, I’ll bet you start to fall (and stay) asleep better with each passing week. My anxious chest and panic attacks are fewer and father between, too.

    Most importantly, I feel better overall. I feel like I’m starting to trust myself, my mind, and my body more than ever. It’s not “there” yet, but I am really proud of what I did.

    You, too, should take a deep bow! Smile. Brag about yourself to your husband. Allow your friends and loved ones to repeatedly tell you what an extraordinary accomplishment you’ve achieved!

    You are strong. You are healing. You are fabulous!

    Remind yourself, all this withdrawing is temporary. All the crappy feelings and lack of sleep is temporary.

    Like you say, this too will pass.

    I am so happy for you!!

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  8. thanks everyone for your support and comments.

    HSP woman,
    I kinda found the whole thing anti-climactic and then someone I know who has been part of the c/s/x movement for a long time told me they had never met anyone who had been on neuroleptics 20 years (because before Risperdal I was on Thorazine) get off of them successfully. It almost made me cry.

    I went and told my husband I thought we should do a real celebration. This is truly a pivotal moment in my life!! It just didn’t dawn on me at first especially since I have other stuff to get off of still.

    What should I go out and do??? How does one celebrate something like this that is not recognized anywhere in society?

    Did you do anything special when you finally got off the last bit of Xanax? I seem to recall you found it anti-climactic too.

    I’ll take ideas from anyone about how I should celebrate. (take into consideration my chronic fatigue—at the end of all this if I actually get my energy back I’m going out dancing—all night long!!)

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  9. Hey Gianna – hooray on the Risperdal – hearing about your success coming off so many drugs is always smile-provoking!

    Great Post too!

    I agree wholeheartedly with your comments about informed consent not just about being about truthfulness re:medication.

    I also want to agree with you that lifestyle changes can be pivotal in a person’s recovery. My list includes: Eating. Yoga, no alcohol and gardening.

    I sometimes struggle with how to put across my firm conviction about the harm that the mental health system/antidepressants have done to me, without it sounding like I’m being dictatorial about what others should do. You have seen my attempt at getting this across on my own blog. So basically I concur with your views on ‘faith’ and withdrawal etc and the difficulties that come with trying to explain your position without coming across as evangelical or a scientologist! As you have reminded me elsewhere (and thanks for that) – our stories need to be told so that all sides/options/experiences are there for people to peruse.

    Take care
    Keener

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  10. My last two vices are caffeine and sugar. I’m on Day One for both. After cigarettes, marijuana, and Klonopin, these are my last hold-outs, and both are just way to easy to get. I know what you mean about feeling the effects whenever you put something into your body that isn’t good for it. I do feel it when I eat a simple hamburger now. Or when I go too long without working out. Sometimes I feel trapped in this new way of being, but I guess if you have to be trapped, this would be the trap to be in. I was inspired yesterday to put up a Wellness section at gmhcn.org. Georgia is opening a new respite center that will be providing alternatives. It will also provide 3 beds for anyone needing respite instead of hospitalization. It should be opened by the end of January! I’m very excited about this and I put in my resume yesterday. Maybe the center you’re talkng about is like this one, too.

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  11. Hi Gianna, great news about the Risperdal. I can relate to a lot of what you say about coming off bad foods and stimulants. It was easy for me too, when the right time came. I certainly think that a wholefood diet that is optimally healthy actually helps you give things up…I mean it militates against addiction. That’s certainly my experience. I read with great interest about your ambitions for future work, maybe as a nutritionist or helping people with MI make better decisions for their own health. I am so totally a believer, and I have thought the same thing for myself. The only thing that puts me off is studying a shedload of science in order to qualify as a nutritional therapist! I never was particularly scientific, all my qualifications have been in the arts. I still wouldn’t rule it out though. Hear what you’re saying about the sleep, that’s a tough one. I went through a bad patch as you know with withdrawal, fatigue, insomnia and hormonal imbalance, but now I’m back on track and sleeping a ton better. It helps when you can exercise properly. I hope it happens for you soon. In the meantime I will be reading fascinatedly along! Thanks so much for sharing.

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  12. Sara,
    Risperdal raises prolactin which makes PMS worse—but I had nasty PMS dating back to when I was 16. It’s why I got diagnosed with bipolar in the first place. So I might have just had a good month or a combination of several things maybe made it better and I’ll continue to do better. (I make no assumptions at this point.)

    I’m not willing to have “no” sleep. If it comes to that I will hold my tapering. Sleep is utterly important, but I agree with you I need to be prepared for poor sleep and I’ve had that intermittently throughout this last year.

    I did go back to bed this morning and had a wonderful 2 hour nap. That is something I couldn’t do before I cut out the caffeine, so that’s another plus for no caffeine.

    Mark,
    I exercise a bit. I try to walk around the roads in my neighborhood everyday, but I can’t do anything strenuous right now because the withdrawal has caused a profound fatigue that gets worse if i exercise strenuously. I have to do gentle exercise. So I walk some and I do the Qi Gong. I’m happy to just move a little for now. For a while I wasn’t doing anything, but by nature I’m an athlete. I used to hike strenuously several hours a day several times a week. And before that I was a cyclist, swimmer, runner etc. I live for the days I can get back to that.

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  13. I think sleep is going to be an issue throughout the rest of your withdrawal and probably well afterwards too for a period of time. But you seem to be addressing this possibility well by trying to minimize stress in your life and adding spiritually rewarding activities like meditation and Qi Gong. I wonder if you think your insight is increasing as this process goes on because frankly I really believe I sense that in your writing. In fact I am continually bowled over with the amount of insight you have (I know it’s taken a long time to get to this point). Disrupted sleep will be a challenge but you have to believe that it will be restored at some later date and that it will all be worth it and that you can live with less sleep (even no sleep) in order to get through this very worthwhile process. Probably one of the most important things is not to panic when you can’t sleep and to have some mantra that gets you through the night. Just my opinion of course. That’s fascinating that the PMS is so much better — probably a combination of no caffeine AND way less/no Risperdal — don’t you think?

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  14. Congrats on the withdrawal!
    I’m no expert in being healthy as you know, but I read your “I slept four hours last night” and wondered if you are getting enough physical exercise? Like an hour of something somewhat strenious? and NOT near bedtime as the exercise can be chemically anti-sleep

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