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?