Life After the Meltdown

life-after-the-meltdownIt was 23rd of May, 2003 when the carpet was pulled from right under my feet. A Psychiatrist pronounced that I had the dreaded mental illness, Bipolar Disorder (a term I had not even heard of until then!). Hospitalised for a week and in the dumps months afterwards..

It has been twelve years since that day…What has been my journey like? Is it a nightmare that I would best like to forget and wish never happened in my life? On the contrary. I think that it (yes, this might shock you) might have been the best thing to happen to me at that stage.

Our darkest moments make us the strongest.
Until then I had not even imagined the extent of my own powers, and believe me, in order to keep bipolar at bay I needed all of them! For bipolar entailed chronic fatigue, irritability, focusing and memory issues, years of depression, lack of drive and absence of confidence- my cup of sorrow was overflowing.

I shall share in brief how I managed to firstly get out of the emotional, psychological and physical quagmire that I found myself in.

Acceptance was the key to the recovery process.
Denial is the biggest barrier between one struggling and the solution.
Discipline was the next step: like a workhorse, I adopted a new lifestyle that would facilitate recovery- Yoga, exercise, meditation and sensible eating. Of course, along with this I had to scale down my career goals to match my drastically reduced energy levels. Self belief and faith of course, are crucial in any journey as arduous as this and I mustered all that I could pull together.

Anybody who is a Bipolar would readily agree that medication has little impact on our mindset~ at the most, meds help regain our sanity, yet we must stick to the treatment as advised by the Doc. In order to regain a semblance of normalcy one has to strive much harder. This is where our ancient practices come in handy. Yoga helped me keep my mind focused and maintain my fitness.

The definitive change came from my shift in focus~ from struggling with bipolar to restoring wellness. 

Science now supports the belief that Yoga and Meditation have immense benefits where wellness is concerned. This is especially so in case of mental illnesses where the mind has to brave great distress. I have had the benefit of having learnt meditation from spiritual Gurus of renown such as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (The Art Of Living) and the teachers of Siddha Centres of Meditation. Decades of meditative practice helped me continue in the same vein even in times when the mind was in great turmoil.

To be honest, I practiced meditation daily because I simply fell in love with it. The benefits (not that I was aware of any at that time) were the icing on the cake. Recent research has proven that regular meditative practice can actually rewire the brain! I have in recent times become very interested in learning about neuroplasticity, that is the brain’s extraordinary ability to build new connections and neural pathways.

This is very exciting news for people like me because science also tells us that the prefrontal cortex and amygdala regions of the brains show abnormalities in cases of bipolars. Now, we can take hope from the knowledge that meditation can actually reverse this! Empowering thought indeed!

Physiology apart, how did I benefit from meditation? Meditation is the finest way to connect to our subconscious minds and it is also said that the subconscious mind is a reservoir of much more knowledge and wisdom than our conscious minds can even comprehend. I became privy to profound insights about myself and this made me a calmer, more compassionate human.

When I now think about spirituality, I think ‘introspection and meditation’. This process of learning, understanding and questioning made me much wiser and broadened my perspective of life. Along with my resilience, my equanimity increased too.

Amid all this, Bipolar now sulks in a corner craving for my attention!

Would all this have been possible without the terror of bipolar in my path?

Our greatest challenges transform us into who we are meant to be.

(This article was first posted by me on invitation by a very good friend and coach,
Malti Bhojwani, on her website~ thank you for the opportunity, Malti!)

  • Saravana Raja

    But my psychiatrist and my yoga trainer advise not to do Meditation (Yoga is fine) as it has the potential to induce Mania. One of my friend who also suffers from BPD said some Isha Yoga meditative practices induced Mania in him. What’s your say?

    • prasad

      raja u r from which location me from hyd

      • Saravana Raja

        Sorry. Just now seeing this comment. am from Chennai, Prasad.

  • ArtSleuth

    Vijay, I recently read a publication where the psychiatrist/author had the temerity to suggest that psychiatrists are somehow the new shamans, or, in other words that psychiatry has roots in shamanism. This is utter nonsense. Think of your own deep spirituality and suffering, your deep-rooted struggle with injustice, and the futility and frailty of human existence. Why would you want to be labeled by someone who is a drug-pusher and who sees only logic and science and world order (oh, and money) on his (or her) journey from birth to death? You cannot right all the world’s wrongs, but your struggle is not with yourself or Bipolar. You are already special. Why would you want to be any different?

    • Hi @susangrundy:disqus! Are you from the US? ( I have heard a lot about malpractices/ overcharging on drugs and lack of concern shown by medicos, from friends based there). However, am fortunate that my Psychiatrist is very ethical and cares about seeing me recover~ that always has been his priority. He is not money minded either!

      It’s true though that the field of medicine is alienated from the core issues that humans face on the psychological/psychiatric front~ that the problems arise from causes that they have not even begun to understand.

      What I have experienced is medical treatment is ‘the first aid’ we must resort to (and maybe continue forever!), for the mind to come to terms with itself. We can build on this to touch our higher selves, the unlimited reservoir of all that we need within us. Meditation and my spiritual quest helped me get there.

    • Hi @susangrundy:disqus ! Are you from the US? ( I have heard a lot about malpractices/ overcharging on drugs and lack of concern shown by medicos, from friends based there) However, am fortunate that my Psychiatrist is very ethical and cares about seeing me recover~ that always has been his priority. He is not money minded either!

      It’s true though that the field of medicine is alienated from the core issues that humans face on the psychological/psychiatric front~ that the problems arise from causes that they have not even begun to understand.

      What I have experienced is medical treatment is ‘the first aid’ we must resort to (and maybe continue forever!), for the mind to come to terms with itself. We can build on this to touch our higher selves, the unlimited reservoir of all that we need within us. Meditation and my spiritual quest helped me get there.

    • @Art Sleuth ! Are you from the US? ( I have heard a lot about malpractices/ overcharging on drugs and lack of concern shown by medicos, from friends based there) However, am fortunate that my Psychiatrist is very ethical and cares about seeing me recover~ that always has been his priority. He is not money minded either!

      It’s true though that the field of medicine is alienated from the core issues that humans face on the psychological/psychiatric front~ that the problems arise from causes that they have not even begun to understand.

      What I have experienced is medical treatment is ‘the first aid’ we must resort to (and maybe continue indefinitely!), for the mind to come to terms with itself. We can build on this to touch our higher selves, the unlimited reservoir of all that we need within us. Meditation and my spiritual quest helped me get there.

      • ArtSleuth

        Vijay I’m in Europe and my experience of psychology and psychiatry is vicarious. I’m an art historian. Your post moved me with its sincerity. I think the path of spirituality is a rewarding one for you, thus my allusion to shamanism. Yes indeed, in the US, psychiatrists themselves are owning up to the damage they have done through over “diagnosis” (actually its worse than that because they over zealously narrowed the boundaries of diagnosis in the first place) and also over (and totally inappropriate) medication. What I dont see a lot of though is useful proposals of how to fix their mess.

        • @susangrundy:disqus, Europe is entirely different. For instance, in my interactions with peer groups, I have learnt that in UK, for instance, the focus is on complete recovery. In fact, my inspiration for a return to normalcy came from there initially.
          Agree about the US, though. The Pharma lobby being what it is, emphasis is on dumping medication, at times needlessly. The overkill also focuses on treating symptoms rather than addressing root causes and healing the condition.
          Sadly, new illnesses are ‘discovered’ every now and then with exorbitantly priced, wonder drugs to address them.
          I agree, Psychiatrists have little to do with Shamanism or any spiritual practice as such.
          And thank you so much for appreciating and encouraging me on ,my path.
          Am no more satisfied with recovery, a spiritual being seeks further advancement. Without self inquiry life is that much poorer. Compassion and gratitude too have helped me in my journey.
          God is always there to light up the path when there seems to be none.

  • @Sarv

  • @bsaravanaraja:disqus, I don not know on what knowledge has your psychiatrist based that cautionary advice. It’s true that the medical professionals are often skeptical of alternate/unconventional healing methods such as meditation.
    However, I am surprised by your Yoga trainer’s reaction in particular.
    I have been practicing meditation for 18 years now and owe my recovery largely to the benefits I derive from it (and other regimen, of course).
    It is now proven beyond dispute by science that Meditation actually helps build grey matter~ here’s another link to support this~
    “An eight week study conducted by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) determined that ‪#‎meditation‬ literally rebuilds the brains grey matter in just eight weeks. It’s the very first study to document that meditation produces changes over time in the brain’s grey matter.”
    http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/12/11/harvard-study-unveils-what-meditation-literally-does-to-the-brain/

  • @Saravana Raja , my pleasure~ in fact thank you for shedding light on the ignorance among practitioners about Meditation and Yoga’s true potential as rejuvenating tools.