I recently read the awesome book, Start With Why by Simon Sinek. In brief, all great companies or causes have a clear purpose, they start with why are we doing this?
So here's my story, why I founded Wellia. Here's why I have a (healthy) obsession with this business and its mission, why I happily lose myself in social media discussions about health, wellness and recovery. This is why I'm lost in happiness and purpose while producing the videos on mental wellness on this website.
Because I want to help millions of people avoid the stigma, hellish suffering, and wasted time that I endured after a mental illness diagnosis.
In 1998, I was diagnosed bipolar 1 - allegedly incurable. I spent the next 10 years toxically overmedicated, and suffered through a fog of depression and fear. Every facet of my life - health, happiness, family, career and finance - went backwards.
But I recovered, and here's what I learned - 4 keys to recovering and restoring your mental wellness:
1. Understand Healing Is Possible - When the reality of my diagnosis sank in, I lost hope. But I'm living proof that - even with the most pernicious of diagnoses - recovery and healing are possible. I've been medication-free for years, have no symptoms, and professionals and friends alike describe me as in full remission: cured.
This is possible. If you get an infection, for example, there was a time before the infection, when you were well. It’s often the same with mental health - there was a time before anxiety, depression, bipolar etc. - and thus it’s possible you can be restored to your previous, healthier state
What if you have a family history of mental illness, addiction or more? I do - disorders and addictions run in my family. But according to recent research, genetics account for about 25% of mental health risk. The other 75% is lifestyle - and that 75% is how I healed.
2. Avoid Side Effects - I don’t want anyone ever again to endure the awful side effects of psychiatric medication. My side effects included weight gain, mental dulling, increased mood swings, impaired judgment, suicidal ideation, depression, and more.
Today I actively manage my mood, but without drugs. I do this through - body, mind and spirit. My treatment includes exercise, healthy diet, supplements, spiritual practice and more. And here’s the great news - high protein diet, yoga, Omega 3s, meditation - none of these have any side effects!
3. Recognize Your Strengths - For years, I felt defined by my diagnosis - I'm bipolar. But I am not my disease, and you are not your disease.
And with time, I realized there are two sides to every coin. Bipolar is often associated with intelligence, energy, creativity, problem-solving and more. Today I embrace and live my strengths, and manage my weakness through daily lifestyle choices.
People with depression often have strong feelings - which can be a strength. People with anxiety tend to be very bright and intelligence is a gift. Try searching a list of famous people with anxiety, depression, bipolar, etc. and you’ll find you're in good company!
4. Heal the Underlying Disease - Everything happens for a reason. My illness was precipitated by a series of unresolved problems and overwhelming stress: a toxic relationship, spiritual malaise, and financial and work stress. My decision to take Depakote did not fix these problems, or ease my stress.
When someone is diagnosed with a mental illness, it's essential to seek to understand the underlying triggers and reasons. In most cases, no pill is going to fix those underlying causes.
Note: there is a time and place for psychiatric medications - they can save lives. But you can recover from anxiety, you can be healed from depression or bipolar. Hopefully for most people, psychiatric medication - like antibiotics - can be a short-term intervention, rather than the long-term solution.
So what about you?
About a decade ago, I was talking with a friend, who had a mental health disorder. I asked him what medication he took.
“I don’t take medication,” he replied. “I’ve found a different path that works better for me.”
Tim then mentioned the book The Mood Cure, by Julia Ross. This was a life-changing moment for me, and it might be for you too.
The title of Ross’s excellent book is misleading, because the book’s wisdom can be helpful to just about anyone, not just people diagnosed with mood disorders. (What exactly does mood mean?)
In brief, her book explores how to use supplements, as well as improvements in diet, to remedy what she calls four “moods”:
Have you ever felt down, stressed or scattered? Well then this book is for you
The Mood Cure devotes a detailed section on each of the above four moods. Ross then outlines vitamins and supplements to remedy the ailment, as well as changes in diet. Using supplements and diet to improve your mood and focus will further explored in our new video series on mental wellness.
What’s really awesome, is she generally recommends vitamins and supplements as a stop gap, as you transition to a healthier diet. So you fix your mood by improving your diet…
Generally, Ross’ diet recommendations focus heavily on increased protein. That’s not surprising, as most people with mood or cognitive issues suffer from neurotransmitter deficiencies. Neurotransmitters are the magic brain chemicals that make you happy and focused; a deficiency of these will make you more prone to depression, stress and lack of focus.
She also advocates for animal protein: meat, fish and eggs, as those are only foods that contact all amino acids, the building blocks of neurotransmitters.
Ross also advises against what I’ll call the freaky five:
I’ve cut all of those ingredients out of my life, which is surprisingly easy, and my health and wellness is better than ever before. Friends tell me that I look 10 years younger today, than I did 10 years ago (check out my YouTube videos to see how active I am at age 54!)
Also, I rarely feel depression or stress. And although I’m ADHD out the yin yang, I’ve been able to tap into hyper focus and lead a highly productive life (like founding Wellia and other businesses).
Julia Ross’ book is absolutely one of the most important and life-changing books I’ve read, which I further explore in my video review of the Mood Cure book. The book has blessed with me astonishing health and vitality, and profoundly changed my life. It might change your life too.