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Bipolar Disorder…And Me…Discovered & Embraced
By M. LaVora Perry

For almost 40 years, I struggled with depression and a nagging feeling that something was “wrong” with me.

In 1983, at age 21, I’d dropped out of college because I had been too depressed to get out of bed and attend class. A few months later, I spent seven weeks in a mental hospital because I’d abused LSD and other drugs, including the bottle of antidepressant medication I’d tried to overdose on. The drugs had made me manic and psychotic. I didn’t sleep, I had excessive energy, and I thought God was telling me to do things like set my high school photograph on fire, which I did.

In my mid-twenties, I stopped doing drugs.

Ever since 1987, when I began chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as a member of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) Nichiren Buddhist association, I chanted (prayed) to completely overcome depression. I also held onto a vision of the person I hoped to be–confident, able to fully love and appreciate me, happy. I’d wanted to be this person since I was a teenager. I thought I’d be her by my fortieth birthday. But I wasn’t.

My longest episodes of depression occurred between 2008 and 2011 and left me unable to get out of bed and, eventually, led to thoughts of suicide. Basically, I was depressed for a year, six months at a time. I took an antidepressant, which helped. Or so I thought.

I was so depressed, I rarely chanted; although I usually recited my daily Buddhist prayers. I was so low that sometimes it got on my nerves to hear my husband and 15 year-old daughter chanting. But other times I was glad that at least someone in our house was chanting a lot, because I sure wasn’t.

Even so, I made myself chant my few Nam-myoho-renge-kyo’s with energy and I fulfilled my responsibilities as an SGI East Cleveland District leader the best I could.

I began to realize that I didn’t want to have to chant simply because I felt afraid, depressed, and suicidal if I didn’t chant. After all, I thought, there were plenty of people who didn’t chant and who were not depressed and suicidal like I was. I wanted to cure myself of fear and depression once and for all. So I chanted to do that. And I took action.

I returned to psychologist Jessie Gordon. I’d first visited her for a few months in my 20’s, after I was released from the mental hospital. During my first therapy session with her in March of 2011, I told her I wanted to deeply connect to people.

I also told her that, as a Buddhist, I believed I was the universe, one with every person, place, and thing. She asked if this belief made me happy. I had to admit it didn’t. I believed in Buddhist theory, but I was still miserably depressed.

Jessie asked many questions and listened to my answers. Then she said I was holding a major grudge against myself and that the person who I needed to deeply connect with was me.

Later, I cried in one session when I realized that, as I neared my 50th birthday, I was afraid I would die without ever being truly happy.

Jessie encouraged me to keep chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in front of my “mirror”—the Gohonzon [the spiritual mirror, in the form of a paper scroll with "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo" written on it, that Nichiren Buddhists focus on while chanting]. She encouraged me to listen to my inner voice and pay attention to what I had to say.

Finally, after several sessions, and after chanting to totally embrace the wounded little girl within my heart, the little girl who felt like no one really heard her or knew her, one day I got it:

Instead of looking for someone else to listen to me, know me, and be my friend, hero, and protector, I had to be those people for myself. I was the only person who could always be there for me and totally fulfill my needs. I was the only person who could take my final journey with me—Death–all the way to the end.

Ever since I was a very little girl, I’d felt a huge hole in my soul. I discovered that even though I was chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, I never filled that hole. I’d built my Buddhist practice on top of it; so even though I chanted, I felt incomplete because I was looking for someone or something outside of me to fulfill me. It was like what Nichiren said in his letter “On Attaining Buddhahood in this Lifetime”:

“Even though you chant and believe in Myoho-renge-kyo, if you think the Law is outside yourself, you are embracing not the Mystic Law but an inferior teaching….”

During my time of awakening, I discovered I have Bipolar Disorder, a mental illness that runs in families and that is also known as manic depression.

The kind of serious depressions I’ve had since I was a teen are typical for someone with Bipolar Disorder. These depressions cause Bipolar Disorder to often be misdiagnosed as clinical depression. That’s the diagnosis doctors always gave me.

But unlike someone with clinical depressive disorder, I’ve also had bouts of hypomania–times when I’ve felt naturally high. I never recognized my hypomania episodes as being a problem because, although sometimes I got violently angry during them, sometimes being hypomanic felt good. However, during those “good” hypomanic times, I did abnormal things–like rarely sleep and spend so much time working, or doing SGI activities, that I neglected myself and my family.

I realized that the antidepressant I’d recently taken had made me hypomanic because antidepressants can do that to people with Bipolar Disorder. I learned that my psychotic and manic reactions to LSD and the antidepressant I took in my twenties were typical for someone with Bipolar Disorder. Like other people with Bipolar Disorder do, as a young adult, I’d abused drugs to end my suffering.

Before I learned I had Bipolar Disorder, after doing some research on the Internet, I’d started a natural treatment for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)–severe depression and anger that I experienced monthly before my menstrual periods. I found out that PMDD can be worse for women with Bipolar Disorder.

The treatment I used–natural progesterone cream–totally stopped my Bipolar symptoms. Progesterone is a hormone–a chemical messenger in the human body. The natural progesterone cream I use is similar to the hormones our bodies make. Natural progesterone corrects the chemical imbalance in my brain that caused my depressions and hypomanic episodes.

This may sound funny, but it thrilled me to learn I was Bipolar. I finally knew what was “wrong” with me—I had a brain condition I was born with. And, best of all, I had found a cure for it.

For 24 years, I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and helped other people chant–even when it seemed like I’d never be truly happy. By practicing, studying, and sharing Buddhism in the SGI, I believe I empowered myself to find the therapist I needed and a cure for my depressions.

At last, I feel like the woman I always hoped to be. I’m deeply connecting to me–flaws and all. I judge myself less; so I judge other people less, and I feel closer to them.

I’m chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with a joy I never felt before and I’m reading Nichiren’s writings with fresh eyes.

More and more, I understand that I alone create my reality. I no longer feel like I must earn a certain income, do a certain job, own certain things, or be praised, approved of, noticed, heard, or understood by other people in order to be happy.

Sometimes I slip into my old ways of thinking. So I have to go back to recognizing that I am limitless and that, at any moment, I can change anything just by changing my thinking, my attitude, my determination. It’s like SGI President Daisaku Ikeda said: “When your determination changes, everything will begin to move in the direction you desire.” So I return to the realization that when I change the only person I can truly change—me—I can do anything I set my mind to.

What I like best of about my new self-discoveries is that, within my heart, I have found an endless supply of all I will ever need. The hole in my soul is filled up with me. It feels so good to–at last—listen to, know, love, and fully enjoy and appreciate being myself.

###

Of course, my experience is all my own. If you’re wondering about your health, see a health professional you trust.

Also, there are several recognized types of Bipolar Disorder. I have Bipolar Disorder II.

WebMD is a good Internet source for learning more: http://www.webmd.com/bipolar-disorder/default.htm.

Below are other websites that helped me.

Nichiren Buddhism as practiced by members of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) http://www.sgi.org and http://www.sgi-usa.org

WebMD Bipolar Health Check (a tool to use to see if you, or someone you know, may have Bipolar Disorder)http://www.webmd.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-disorder-health-check/default.htm

Curing Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia by Doris King, CMHP http://www.dorisking.net/book.html (I emailed Doris King to find out how she’s doing. She told me “Progesterone saved my life.  I get scared when I think of how my life would be without it.”)

“Facts about Progesterone Cream” by John. R. Lee and Virgina Hopkins http://www.johnleemd.com/store/faqs_progest_crm.html

(John R. Lee is the M.D. whose theories Doris King, and I, followed.)

“Creativity and mental disorder: family study of 300 000 people with severe mental disorder.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21653945

AND, BP parents pass our creativity onto our kids: http://fyiliving.com/mental-health/depression/do-parents-with-bipolar-disorder-breed-creativity/)

“Back to School with Bipolar: How College Can Unleash Mania” http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/09/21/health.bipolar.college/index.html

NYT:  ”Expert On Mental Health Reveals Her Secret” (After overcoming severe mental illness as a young adult, Dr. Marsha Linehan went on to develop a breakthrough mental health treatment that is used worldwide) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/23/health/23lives.html

The Miracle of Bio-Identical Hormones by Dr. Michael E. Platt http://www.amazon.com/Miracle-Bio-Identical-Hormones-2nd-ebook/dp/B001N2ZWL6/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2

M. LaVora Perry Bio:

M. LaVora Perry is a freelance writer and the author of the critically acclaimed children’s novel, Taneesha Never Disparaging, a funny and tender story about a feisty 5th grader who is taunted by her imaginary evil twin and a very real, very mean bullying teen. Visit M. LaVora Perry’s website at http://www.mlavoraperry.com/

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COMMENTS (3) | Bipolar, depression, self growth, self worth, spiritual
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3 Responses to “Bipolar Disorder…And Me…Discovered & Embraced”

  1. joybells
    January 9th, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

    wow. i am going through the same journey! thanks for helping me & assisting me with that journey!

  2. Katie
    February 27th, 2013 @ 5:12 pm

    My name is Katie. I’m 40. I have only visited your website, haven’t purchased your book yet.

    I’ve been diagnosed bi-polar since I was 22. I recall severe detachment issues from age 4. My mom was there for me, my dad was physically present, but not much else.

    I started drinking young and used a lot of drugs in my 20s. I rarely drink now and if I do it’s less than 1-2 drinks once or twice per month. I do not do street drugs. I had issues with Xanax and don’t use any Benzos anymore either. I am currently on 15mg of Paxil. This drug has helped me a lot off and on since I was diagnosed. I was on a very low dosage of 600mg of Lithium for about 5 years. I’ve been off almost a year now and do not want to ever be on Lithium again. I take 25MCG Synthroid to deal with thyroid issues.

    I have seen a naturopath for 9 years. I use homeopathic remedies, Bach Flowers, Black Cohosh, Evening Primrose Oil, B-12 and a few other supplements to combat my anxiety, depression and hormonal mood shifts.
    My naturopath tells me that hormone therapy is very risky and dangerous.

    I found a lump in my breast at 23 and was told to go off birth control. I had been on it since 15/16. I have tried the morning after pill and the Nuva Ring once. I had horrific anxiety when I had those hormones in my body. So, I’m pretty afraid to try progesterone. I don’t know a physician that specializes in this sort of hormonal therapy for bi-polar depression. Can you help me with a referrel?

    I got my Gohonzon last June. I lost my dad, 2 ex-boyfriends and a friend separately and tragically in 2011. I had been aware of SGI and chanting for a few years, but it wasn’t until I was in severe mourning depression that I decided to really start chanting.

    I have a great deal of trouble chanting consistently. I am improving, but still not chanting or doing Gongyo every morning and evening. I have been unemployed for almost 2 years. I have no children. I live alone with my 4 dogs. I was dating someone, but we have decided to be friends so to put less pressure on each other during these rough times. He is rebuilding his life after losing everything. I’ve adopted
    3 of his dogs. I hope that we can have a loving partnership in the future when we are both more stable. For now we are supporting each other as bestfriends.

    I never graduated from high school. I hope to pass my GED in March. I have been a massage therapist and esthetician for 20 years. I am really burned out with this work and feel I need to find a new source of income. I hope to brush-up on my computer skills and do some sort of work from home or virtual assisting.

    I am supported by my family. I desperately need autonomy and to feel like I can manage my emotions, anxiety and depression. I just started volunteering at a local Foodshare bank and that is giving me more purpose. Other than that I fight not wanting to die every day. My 4 loyal dogs, Mom and Seth keep me alive. It’s time to really get serious and consistent about chanting and overcoming my darkness/karma.

    Do you have a hormone therapy doctor referrel for me? I live in Ventura County near Los Angeles. What else can you suggest for me?

    I really enjoyed reading your experience. In many ways we have lived similar lives. I really want to be happy. Hope you have some tips for me…,,

  3. Rahulbh28
    June 3rd, 2015 @ 10:41 pm

    Dear Members,
    Please help me. . . I’m sharing my painful moments which my brother and my family members are undergoing since 8 years and its still on. . . .. We are praying every day that we find solution one day. . . but. . . .
    Firstly. . . . .
    I’m writing expressing some facts with lots of pain and seeking hope and encouragement from you.
    this is with regard to my brother’s health condition( He is having Bipolar Disorder) since 8 years and the illness in him still causing a trouble to him and this a serious worry for my father and mother who are witnessing a very painful days and bad days at home at their old age.
    My Brother Mahesh is under medication and he just be at home and plays music instruments and he is a talented guy seeing this we got him admission in various music schools. . . .he attends it for few months and then leave the course in half way complaining about institute and instructors. . .this is happening every now and then.
    He is 24 year old. My Parents are to getting old and have several health problems and on top of this my brother’s health condition and his illness is causing a worry for them. I want my parents to stay happy and lead a peaceful life in their old age.. . . but nothing seems to change though we are chanting rigorously everyday.
    Everyday we are living in fear and worried about his future because he is neither did his education to survive on his own nor he is capable of taking any task to survive on his own. He is having well built physique and personality we cannot say anything to him or impose anything on him because if he gets angry he will ransack every household items doesn’t bother whether it is Television, or any music systems.
    I have taken many guidances on my brother’s condition, some says chant rigorously, some say have faith, some say chant for his happiness. . . .I did everything but I’m not seeing any changes or victories in my life or improvement in my brothers health condition.
    For how long My brother has to struggle this Bipolar disorder, he is on medications since 8 years, why there is no improvement in him? he is on mood stabilizer tablets and sleeping pills since 8 years
    why a innocent person facing such painful health karma in his lifetime. . .. I’m into tears and agony every day, every moment of my life. I dont want to see my parents suffering and witness painful days anymore. . .. Please please please I plead give me some concrete guidance on how I can transform my family karma. especially my brother’s health karma(he is not chanting).
    Secondly. . .
    As I would be turning 30 in next few months. . my parents want me to get marry and settle down in life.
    Even I feel this is the right time for me also get marry to right life partner……but worst condition at my home is keeping me away from getting marry. These days getting a right life partner who can look after spouse and family is very difficult. either girls are over ambitious, demand luxurious life, want to stay away from in-laws to lead peaceful life.
    My brothers health condition is worry for me and there is always noise at home. . . .in such situation how can i think of marriage, what is the guarantee that my life partner will tolerate and support me and my family. I’m highlighting this point because I was engaged 3 years back and fiancee (She was a chanting member too.) broke the alliance just two months before my marriage. . . . . . .and this happened because she was worried about her happiness and peaceful life. she was complaining that my bother wont allow us to lead a happy life because he is Bi-Polar who might cause lots of disturbance in our marriage life.
    I look upto you all for your guidance. I’m helpless, my parents have become helpless. each problem is interlinked to my brother health. how we can see him being happy like us, when we can see him being normal and lead normal life and enjoy his life and be happy.
    Thanks for going through this sad happenings of our f

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