The question everyone asks
Can I get better without medication? That’s a great question. I will put a bunch of links below to stimulate some ideas. (I will address Bipolar Medication separately at a later stage because most people have to be on some though maybe not as much) Whether you are coming from a perspective of weaning yourself off medication, getting well without medication, or trying to get better results with medication, it is a really sensible idea to be wanting to do more than just swallow a pill. Maybe a pill is the magic that makes the difference, that’s great.
This post is about not just leaving a pill to do all the work. After all, you can have the best pill in the world, but if your lifestyle sucks, your nutrition drags, your exercise is non-existent and your mental patterns and emotional patterns of coping could work better, this stuff DOESN’T come in a pill. Nor does meaning and purpose, living life aligned with your values, improving communication with significant others, and becoming more engaged with the world, healthy work, social interaction and vitality.
Are you looking for a strategy or a miracle?
Can I get better without medication, sounds like a lot of work? Therefore you would need to be strategic and probably tap the support of a coach/therapist if you were to not lose your way or lose motivation. This is why The 12 Principles of Mental Health exist because with a strategy you are more likely to not lose your way, maintain motivation, know what you are doing even if it hasn’t yielded a result yet, and learn from what is not working even if your idea doesn’t work out. Think of Mental Health as having an extra job. Ordinarily we have a rhythm and routine called a job that means we don’t have to think about what we do, we just do it.
This means as Roy Baumeister from the book Willpower tells us, is that you need less willpower to get through your day because it is largely on track. You already own the ryhthms and routines. What happens when we lose mental health is that all goes out the window. Suddenly there is a whole plethora or rhythms and routines that don’t exist or must be created. Perhaps that doesn’t happen suddenly, you are fine for a while but persistent mental health disorder whittles you down. Gradually you can sink. And how we handle that may be more a non-medication and lifestyle issue than a medication issue per se. It may involve both. Okay, that’s my ramble, let’s get to some links.
If you don’t measure, you can’t treasure.
Points to note from The 12 Principles of Mental Health are Measurement (because if you don’t measure what may or may not work for you then you will forget over time, and waste your time and the power of information). Also Medication is a Conversation so you will want ideally to involve your doctor and not be running loose although sometimes we choose to do that to some extent. Remember, Mental Health is a game of who can stay motivated the longest, who links in the best support to get where you want to go, and achieves all this in as short a time as possible, which may not be short. You ‘want yourself working with yourself’, not working against your best interests, rushing. That is why an outside doctor and coach can help them learn or you avoid, or recover quicker, from trial, error. mistakes and our own stupid/brilliant selves and impatience :).
Some great books.
Stephen Illardi in his book The Depression Cure – The 6 Step Program to Beat Depression Without Drugs covers lifestye approaches to beating depression. His 6 include Brain Food; Don’t think, do; Anti-Depressant Exercise: Let there be light; Get connected; and Habits of healthy sleep.
Dr Liz Miller has a great book (it is available online as an ebook) called Mood Mapping – Plot your way to emotional health and happiness. I will do a video on this and post a link. It is one of the most useful tools I know, to track how we are going without getting caught up or down about where we are at. I need 5 minutes to run you through it. I will come back and post the link once I have it for my youtube channel.
Julie A. Fast has a great package of resources available to buy on her website. This includes her very popular The Health Cards System For Bipolar Disorder which includes handling depression, anxiety, paranoia and being obsessed about things. So it is good for all of us. She also has her book Get It Done When You’re Depressed – 50 Strategies for Keeping Your Life on Track. A great book.
Tapering medication? Be cautious. Involve your doctor.
And if you are serious about looking to taper your medication, I will write a post which you can consider providing you do so in consultation with your doctor. Depending on your situation and your sensitivity and your doctor’s advice and your personal response to medication withdrawal you may come off medication for example relatively quickly or it may be that a 10% reduction per month strategy allows your brain to adapt to the changes.
Sometimes this means we still remain on a small maintenance dose, but this avoids the side-effects of a higher dose, allows the principle of MED (Minimum Effective Dose) to be realised, which then provides the benefit you can upscale if you hit a rough patch. It is not recommended to just chop and change your medication at will. This is part of a doctor coordinated/tolerated approach to having life work for you. After all, it is your life. Not a doctor’s. Remember, they work for you.
Which brings me to the last tip, Julie A. Fast’s book Tips for Talking with Health Care Professionals. I will do a post on this too.
The gut micro-biome and nutrition.
Oh, and we haven’t even covered nutrition yet. The wonderful new research into our gut biome and the importance of anti-inflammatory processes to major health issues like heart disease, osteo-arthritis, diabetes, and potentially, even depression. Go think, it may be your gut. Cheers.