A Journey Within and Beyond Bipolar Disorder

Most people can relate to the bipolar disorder profile to some degree. We realize that our energy states move up and down in wave-like patterns, with crests and troughs. That is why we say we are feeling “up” or “down” or “somewhere in between” on any given day. We experience our moods as oscillating between two poles. For people who qualify for a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, this natural property of emotion is more pronounced. Calling the bipolar profile “disordered” may sound like it passes judgment on the state – that is not the intention here.

Rather, looking closer at the particular suffering a woman with this pattern tends to live generates empathy and understanding for her particular heroism. If the higher and lower end frequencies of a sound recording are too intense, they will “clip” and distort and hurt our ears – we are not equipped to hear such intensity in those ranges. To counteract this, a sound engineer will apply a filter to compress the sound wave – so that the highs are not quite so painfully high and the lows are not so painfully low.

Simultaneously, if she applies too much compression to a recording, it becomes very flat and loses its appealing, lively quality. Therefore, a good sound engineer finds a balance between reducing the upper and lower frequencies, making sure she does not drain the life out of the song. People with bipolar disorder face the same dilemma – how to reduce the painful frequencies coming through them, to make life’s intensity more tolerable, without flattening their richness.

People who are eligible for the diagnosis of bipolar disorder experience the amplitude of their waves and the rhythm of their cycling between highs and lows in more exaggerated ways than the rest of the population. They are outliers on the bell curve, with special sensitivities. They have positive and negative experiences, which are more extreme and intense than people who cannot access frequencies in those ranges.

Some people with a bipolar diagnosis have a variant of it, described by “rapid cycling,” which means that they pass between the highs and lows at a fast rate. Some people experience mania or a painfully intense “up” side of the cycle, and some mostly stay around the depressed node, with occasional visits to slightly elevated mood (called “hypomania”). Mania typically involves an increase in energy, outlook, and mood, often involving extended periods of little or no sleep and intense creative outpourings of activity, thought, and speech.

Mania is often accompanied by irritability, speediness, scattered thought, and inflation of ego. People in a manic state may access a superficially positive, grandiose, or unsustainably optimistic perspective that loses touch with the ground of their more balanced, felt-sensed truth. People in a manic state typically take risks, often dangerous ones, because they are currently feeling invincible.

On the other end of the pole, women with bipolar patterning experience staggering depths of depression, drop in mood, and deflation of the ego, which are so intense and painful, these women are often at risk for suicide. In such troughs of their emotional waves, these women suffer from a depth of feeling some people would not handle. Some women with the diagnosis have such amplitude to their waves that their experiences are classed as “psychotic” on either end.

They can experience delusions of grandeur during mania, seeing and hearing things that most people are not seeing. A woman may believe she is a famous historical figure, a messiah, or in possession of supernatural powers which are not actually manifesting now in this world. On the low node, she may hear terrible voices or sense entities that convince her of profound unworthiness and do destructive things. Many creative, charming, intelligent people, indeed many of our cultural icons past and present, have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

There is a documented connection between giftedness and bipolar disorder. Women with bipolar have extraordinary, uncommon, and vibrant life experiences that shine through them and make them interesting and attractive to others. The creative output during manic states and the spiritual wisdom gained during a time in the dark often help bipolar women fulfill their roles on earth. These women are the ones among us who are born to surf the waves of emotional waters.

For a society obsessed with being normal and out of touch with symbolic, emotional realms, people with bipolar may be here to help us integrate those parts of the human experience we have excluded. At the same time, having bipolar is typically a source of great pain for the individual. These special humans need our support for their experiences, which are often wild beyond their ability to hold and integrate alone fully. Likewise, being close to people with the diagnosis is typically very challenging for loved ones due to the “emotional roller coaster” feeling that is part of their reality.

Bipolar disorder is frequently misdiagnosed, confused with other disorders for the simple reason that it has a little bit of a lot of things in it – it can look like substance abuse, depression, anxiety, psychosis, narcissism. So a careful diagnosis will look at an overall life pattern. Like all diagnoses, it is important to name it. It will likely bring relief to treat it if it is a problem – if it is painful, disruptive, counterproductive, or toxic to your being, relationships, and life.

People with bipolar disorder are highly susceptible to substance abuse problems for the obvious reason that a person attempting to stabilize and soften the edges of her experience may self-medicate. Typically a poly-substance pattern appears – something to help sedate when the ups are uncomfortable and something to try to pull herself out of depression when the downs are uncomfortable, and an overall attempt to stabilize the cycling to experience more internal coherence.

Integrative, Holistic Treatment for Bipolar Disorder in Women

It is important for a woman who suspects she may have bipolar disorder and substance abuse problems to seek holistic treatment for bipolar disorder in a capable dual diagnosis facility. She needs support from a team who can appropriately support her experience in a nourishing way while educating her about how her two conditions interact with each other. Women with bipolar usually benefit from extra help, becoming aware of the sometimes-destructive role of their fluid moods and shifting sense of self.

It is empowering to see and better handle how their powerful feeling states sometimes mislead them and impair better judgment. Such women can use support getting in touch with their inner neutrality, their ability to observe from a state of compassionate dis-identification, learning to see the difference between the patterns of illness and their true self.

Women seeking holistic treatment for bipolar disorder are called to activate the inner part inside them like a wise older woman, who can see through the ebb and flow of emotions, urges, moods, and states and sagely choose what is best at that moment. Villa Kali Ma is a dual diagnosis center offering holistic treatment for bipolar disorder, where practitioners specialize in treating substance abuse and versatile in a wide range of integrative mental illness healing treatments.

We hold a positive, humanistic view of people – we will celebrate, not stigmatize, the special gift-challenge of this disorder, should it apply to you. We invite you to come to discover how you can learn to surf rather than drown in the emotional waves, which are your special soul gift!


What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder, previously known as manic-depressive disorder, is the the broader term for a group of psychological disorders listed and described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). The diagnostic family includes three types of bipolar disorder: Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and Cyclothymic Disorder, also called Cyclothymia. 

Bipolar Disorders feature periods of very amplified energy, called manic episodes. Manic episodes are followed by eventual mood crashes that represent the opposite pole of mania, hence the name bipolar to indicate the see-saw quality of the experience. 

Depending on the severity of a person’s mania, an individual will be diagnosed differently across the three categories. 

Bipolar I refers to the case when an individual experiences a dramatic, acute manic phase for at least one week. A depressive episode is not necessary for the diagnosis, but in the case of Bipolar I the mania can be so extreme as to warrant hospitalization. 

Bipolar II refers to the case when a person experiences a hypomanic episode of several consecutive days (hypomania is a less pronounced version of mania), combined with a serious depressive episode. 

Finally, Cyclothymic Disorder describes a pattern of recurrent mood shifts between hypomania and depression over a longer period of time (a minimum of two years for diagnostic purposes). 

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

The distinguishing feature of Bipolar Disorder is the presence of mania, as depression alone would place one more in the diagnostic category of depressive disorders. 

When experiencing mania people will present as more grandiose than normal, with inflated projections of one’s abilities. A person may be sleeping less, talking more, and be noticeably distracted, as well as choosing to engage in high risk activities relating to money or sex.

Hypomania is similar in tone but less severe than mania. It will still be noticeable to others but would not warrant hospitalization as the person does not represent an immediate danger to themselves or others, nor are their statements as noticeably bizarre. Someone in a Bipolar I type manic episode may feel distinctly “crazy” to others, whereas the hypomania of Bipolar II is not experienced as so dramatic. 

During episodes of mania of any degree, a person is likely to initiate multiple projects and display a sense of limitlessness with regards to oneself and one’s potential, independent of a grounded assessment of one’s capacity. 

There may be an intensity around the need to communicate, and a rapidity of thought. The manic person may express irritation with those who do not follow her train of thought, or who interrupt.

Mania is experienced as an unpleasant state for those around the manic person, and there is often a clear lack of regard or ability to place energy or focus on anything other than the person’s internal experience of expansion and energization. 

Signs of hostility and frustration may attend the state, related to the manic person’s inability to feel fully heard and seen in the size of their experience, vision, and ideas for what is possible and must be undertaken. 

If you are concerned that you or your loved one may have bipolar patterning at play, do seek professional assistance to judge the matter. Due to its complicated and shifting nature, Bipolar Disorder may be mistaken during different stages for other patterns, and diagnosis can be tricky. 

The key benefit of diagnosis, as with all diagnoses, is to help in an individual’s self-recognition, and understanding which paths of support will be most likely to lead and individual into stability, in which they will be able to experience the highs and lows of life more safely and enjoyably. 

Diagnosis is also helpful for validation of individual difficulties and struggles, as it will help highlight the particular types of burdens and sufferings that a person carries, as well as create a platform and language for being able to discuss certain types of psychological experiences. This supports creating community among those who will understand each other and share resources, ideas, and collective knowledge for how to best work with these types of challenges. 

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

The cause of Bipolar Disorder is unknown, though it is an ongoing subject of research. Currently the scientific community believes it is a coordination of many factors. 

Genetics and/or epigenetics feature fairly clearly, as family history and the presence of mental illness in the family is a strong predictor. Iit is difficult to determine whether this correlation is due to being raised in chaotic, emotionally overwhelming family relationships and circumstances, as is usually the case in families with mental illness, or whether there is a specific gene associated with the disorder, as some suggest.

Brain-imaging work implies distinctions in the brains of people with Bipolar Disorders affecting how stimuli are processed and there may be a relationship with cortical thickness. However, causation of these differences cannot be determined through imaging. 

Some scientists believe glandular imbalances, specifically in the thyroid, may be connected with cycling moods and energies. 

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorders, although serious, are treatable conditions and getting help is highly encouraged to make life more livable. It is an achievable goal to work towards stabilization and reduction in the severity of mood swings.  

Treatment will be multimodal to address the complexity of the condition, and will involve therapy that supports self-observation, including tracking and monitoring one’s own state, using tools and journaling. Additionally, it is good to engage in emotional healing work as well as work that supports emotional release, as well as physiological interventions through diet, exercise, and lifestyle change for regulating states of being.  

Traditional treatment strategies typically center around psychotherapy in combination with psychoactive medications. Some MDs, psychiatrists and researchers believe that nutritional therapies, detoxification, exercise and significant lifestyle changes may be a better and more sustainable path to health than psychotropic medication. 

With or without choosing to use pharmaceutical product medications it is good to be aware of the benefits linked to nutritional and lifestyle interventions, as these may be engaged without negative effect regardless. If you are interested in this angle you may like to peruse case studies establishing the  many benefits to body and soul of nutritional support: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/?term=nutritional+therapy+for+bipolar&filter=simsearch3.fft

General recommendations from the functional medicine angle suggest the following changes to be supportive when working with bipolar patterning: 

Reducing inflammation through consuming anti-inflammatory foods like ginger, chia seeds, broccoli blueberries, as well as avoiding known toxins such as sugar, carbohydrates, fried foods, soda, as well as foods with additives, dyes, preservatives, and chemicals. 

Supporting the brain with lean protein, wild fish, and healthy fats from coconut oil, avocados, and walnuts. Abstaining entirely from alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine, as well as non-organic animal products.

Regular detoxification through drinking a lot of water, eating cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, etc), and increasing foods that are naturally high in fiber. 

Recovery from Bipolar Disorder

Recovery from Bipolar Disorder is supported with a combination of psychotherapy to heal emotional troubles, with nutritional, exercise, and lifestyle changes. 

Lifestyle changes recommended include generally seeking more balanced and sober approaches to life, including but not limited to total abstinence from substances and avoidance of high-stakes, adrenaline-charged activities (such as betting or overly adventurous sexual practices). 

Lifestyle changes may also mean changing patterns of daily life in a way that you have more time in nature, more time outside in general, more time with animals as well as positive, safe people, and developing spirituality as a resource. 

Contemplative, meditative, and spiritual practices are shown to have significant benefits to emotional and physical health, and are known for stabilizing, calming, soothing, balancing, and softening the blows of life in general. 

Practices like yoga are spiritual in addition to providing significant benefits to physiology, including glands, organs, and nervous system support. 

Building a personal toolkit of go-to solutions for self-stabilization and support is wise for recovery from Bipolar Disorder. Women with Bipolar Disorder may find creative activities, journaling, and connecting with a loving community of their choice to be helpful, as well.  

Prevention of relapse in future episodes or occurrences of the illness

Prevention is an important component of living with mental illness. While we should not have a perfectionistic attitude towards ourselves, ideally we try our best to give ourselves chances to succeed given the impairments we acknowledge to be part of our story.

Some ideas for preventing relapse in future episodes of occurrences of the illness of Bipolar Disorder in particular include: 

Maintaining self-awareness practices, through mindfulness meditation, yoga, spiritual practices, and journaling

Tracking one’s mood, state and triggers with gentle self-responsibility. It can be helpful to visualize one’s variation in moods and develop a scientific, almost data-oriented approach to observing the tides of one’s emotional state to look out for patterns and changes associated with oncoming episodes

Regularly engaging in ongoing healing emotional work with a professional, to further increase psychological balance, connection and coherence

Staying away from known problematic areas and triggers, including substances, behaviors, settings, and people

Maintaining involvement in a community of others who understand the illness and know you as a person 

Getting involved in community service, helping others with the same disease

It is important with all diagnoses to remember that while the DSM uses language of pathology to describe suffering, a person is never completely defined by their diagnosis, nor is a person’s experience to be diminished, looked down upon, or underestimated just because it matches descriptions of bipolar. 

The goal should never be to get rid of a diagnosis, but rather to better understand and embrace its true spiritual gift and purpose into a person’s life. It is suggested to maintain an attitude of reverence and regard for the mysteries of psyche, even in its greatest imbalances, as imbalances in the psyche should always be understood and viewed in spiritual and higher dimensions as relating to each soul’s path, purpose, and destiny in this world. 

Each person’s wound is also where their strength is, so for the person with bipolar patterning, it is best understood that in the depths of the often excruciating experience of this pattern lie many spiritual riches and perspectives not given to another who does not know this path.

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