Bipolar Disorder and no medical insurance. I need help!
I am a 34 year old single mother of two girls. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 17. I had been prescribed Lithium, Zoloft, and Xanax in the past. I lost my job (and health insurance) in January 2010 and have been off all medications since. My life has been falling apart since then. My phone has been shut off, I've had to move back in with my parents, my car has been repossessed, and I feel like everyone that I love hates me. I have attempted to find a psychiatrist and/or a counselor, but since I don't have a job or health insurance, no one will see me. I have gotten to the point that I don't want to get out of bed, I don't feel like eating, and I just don't look forward to doing the things that I have always enjoyed. I am looking for some non-medicinal ways to cope with life and stress. Do you have any suggestions or advice?
I'm sorry to hear about your troubles. This is a national crisis and one that many people face. There are ways that you can take control of your own health and well-being; First, you need to have some courage and hope and not give in to the notion that psychiatric medication is the only means to stability.
You were taking an antidepressant, an anti-anxiety, and a mood stabilizer. Of the 3 it is likely that the Lithium was the most essential in keeping your mood balanced. Some people take an over the counter health supplement called Lithium Orotate; You will have to do your own research on this. Some consider it controversial; It is considered to be more "bio-available" and thus a much lower amount is required to have the same therapeutic effect as a far higher amount of conventional prescription Lithium carbonate. Most sources agree that it is unlikely to cause a toxic effect - especially in these lower doses.
There are also non-pharmaceutical replacements for Zoloft (an SSRI antidepressant). St. John's Wort, SAM-e or 5-HTP are all common herbs and amino acids that result in higher levels of Serotonin - achieving the same aim as the SSRI drugs, and generally with far fewer side effects; However any of these could potentially trigger manic symptoms (Just the same as Zoloft, Prozac, Celexa, Paxil, Lexapro and other Rx antidepressants can trigger mania in bipolar people).
Last, Xanax is a powerful antianxiety medication and if taken daily will almost surely cause a physiological dependence; When you stop it is likely to cause a great deal of rebound anxiety. There are other things you can try for anxiety, including exercise, meditation, yoga and various supplements such as Passion Flower, GABA, L-Theanine, Valerian and many others.
Standard additional supplements that are extremely helpful and important all around - are fish oil (Omega 3 fatty acids); vitamin B complex; and vitamin D; Magnesium is also important.
Please refer also the the info on this site on the Alternative Bipolar Treatments page of this site for more tips.
For mania, depression, stress, anxiety, and insomnia (and all the major symptoms of bipolar disorder), I would most highly recommend learning to use EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) - also called "Meridian Tapping." It is a powerful therapeutic self-help technique that I use with most of my clients, as well as for myself and my family. I can think of no single technique that is more powerful and useful than this, when used properly.
Alternatively, if you don't want to mess around with selecting and buying your own supplements, you can try a company called TrueHope (www.truehope.com) for a complete supplement that many have found extremely useful as an alternative to medication; It will cost about $140/month - but one visit to a psychiatrist is likely to cost more than that, so in the long run this is likely to be less expensive.
Please note: I make no guarantees and you need to research these things and try them at your own risk; each person is unique and what works for one person may not work for another (just as with Rx meds). Whenever possible, seek the guidance of a nutritionist, naturopath or other health professional with expertise in these approaches.
With all of these things, and ideally, the support of a few compassionate and understanding souls who can stand by you, it is not impossible to achieve stability again.
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
Santa Rosa Psychotherapist
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