If you or a loved one suffers from bipolar disorder, you or they are in good company. More than 20 million Americans will suffer an episode of depression or mania during their lifetimes. Bipolar patients can be at serious risk for suicide during their depressive phases. Manic episodes, though they may be infrequent, can sabotage relationships, jobs, and happiness.
Bipolar disorder has affected very well known and talented individuals throughout history. King Saul of the Bible found solace in David’s music, which soothed his despondency. Eminent leaders and statesmen, including Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Theodore Roosevelt were known to suffer from mood disorders. The writers and poets Goethe, Balzac, Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, and Ernest Hemingway suffered mood swings, as did the composers Handel, Schumann, Berlioz, and Mahler. The condition seems to fuel a certain kind of drive and creativity leading to impressive achievements, however the other polarity is, far too often, searing anguish, shattered hopes and relationships, psychosis and even suicide.
The clear message that we wish to convey through this article is that homeopathy can be very effective for bipolar disorder. In some cases, patients are able to discontinue medications such as lithium, Depakote, Tegretol, antipsychotic or anti-anxiety medications, or antidepressants. In other cases, patients can use homeopathy successfully long-term along with their pharmaceutical drugs. The results that we have seen with our long-term bipolar patients are:
- Few, if any, psychiatric hospitalizations.
- Moods are stable. If a serious mood swing occurs, it can generally be addressed by simply adjusting the dose of the homeopathic medication. Occasionally the medicine will be changed if a better match emerges. In our experience, moods even out in a matter of days.
- An increased sense of happiness and well-being.
- Amelioration of other heath problems, since homeopathy treats the whole person.
- Improvement in interpersonal relationships.
- Far less disruption in work or study due to mood fluctuations.
We also want to point out clearly that there are over 3500 unique homeopathic medicines, and that only one is the closest match for the patient. The science and art of homeopathic medicine is finding that one best medicine for the individual. We share with you two cases of patients with bipolar disorder, father and daughter, whom we have treated for many years. A third patient, whom we have treated for seventeen years, has responded extremely well to homeopathic treatment, but did need a brief hospitalization a year ago. Had the patient or family called me as soon as she began to decompensate, I believe we could have avoided it. Overall, this patient has weathered one marriage and two divorces, additions to her family, graduate school and a number of professional career changes remarkably well.
A Fist of Iron and a Heart of Gold
We have treated Bill for nine years, during which time he has not had a single hospitalization for bipolar disorder.
Bill is a fascinating character, and one of our most engaging, insightful, and favorite patients. A police officer from the Washington coast, by the age of forty-eight, when we first saw him, he had seen and experienced more slices of life than many do in a lifetime. Though strong, industrious, and fearless of speaking his mind, Bill complained of “a general sense of unhappiness and dis-ease. An undercurrent of melancholy. Sometimes I feel like I’m on the verge of tears. I have episodes of being gripped by anxiety. They pass relatively quickly. I cycle rapidly between hypomania and lower levels of agitation. I rarely feel enthusiastic.”
“I have a lot of insomnia, especially in the winter. I label it SAD [seasonal affective disorder]. Some people call it ‘monkey mind.’ I call it ‘squirrel cage.’ Where the brain is spinning. If I could address these issues with homeopathy, I’d be a happy camper. I’ve been on a whole laundry list of medications with various effects and side effects without a lot of satisfaction. I’ve been through any number of counselors. And quite a number of injuries, including several head injuries and on-the-job accidents. I was inadvertently whacked on the side of the head with a steel beam on a building site when I worked as a contractor almost twenty years ago.”
“In school I was the smartest kid in the class and got the highest grades. But I got in trouble a lot. My father was an angry alcoholic. I drank too much, too. They tried me on four or five antidepressants, but the side effects weren’t worth it. I’m just unhappy with myself. I can define exactly why. I’m a gregarious fellow. As soon as I am by myself, a shadow falls over me. If feel jumpy. A tightness in my chest. Like I’ve got a spring around my sternum. Like it’s wound way tighter than it should be. I just feel compressed, twisted, bent into unnatural positions. My ribcage is on the verge of exploding. As if you set off an explosive in a gallon can. Shards of metal dangling. Pinched. Tight. Binding. These forces are putting unnatural pressures on me. “ We observed that, during the interview, Bill continued to play with a silver, metal slinky toy in our office.
“Forces. Powers that I have no control over. There is the light that is me. And this dark thing in the middle of it. A cylinder going from my bladder to my breastbone… Like in a factory where solids are converted to a viscous form of liquid to create a new form through a process of forging, extrusion. A liquid form of metal. Great pressures are used… hydraulic… like on a factory floor where things are being built from raw materials. These hydraulic presses will take a molten sold and force it into a new shape. Steel, glass, plastic. Anything that requires heat and pressure to reform. That’s what it feels like is going on in my core… It feels as if I’m being forced into a space which is too small to hold me. Releasing myself would be a huge relief, though I might disintegrate. A sense of impending disintegration. The knowledge that anything when squeezed too tight will crumble, explode, change form. Even metals will. If you try to force too much steel into mold, it will break the mold and spew all over. The same applies to pig iron, carbon steel, stainless steel. If you put too much pressure on them, they break, warp. Then it becomes useless or has to be re-rendered. It is no longer good for its intended purpose. you need to throw it away or melt it. A long time ago I did some welding work. If I were liquid steel, that’s how I would feel. Being twisted, forced into unnatural positions, overheated. Extreme pressures exerted against me. Being forced into a mold of one sort or another. Something forced on me against my will. A feeling that this is not right. It goes against my nature. “
“I’ve felt that way since I was twelve or thirteen. Always forced to be ways I was not. Every day I had to fight against the bullies through junior high school and high school. It was not my nature. Fist fights on a daily basis. Get tough or die. I was beaten by my dad every day from age four to fifteen. The only way my father knew how to deal with people was with his fists.”
“I became an advanced warrior. I don’t have to fight anymore, but I still carry the ceremonial armor. I’m an old warrior. Life was very traumatic, even as an adult. Nobody messes with me. That ceremonial armor that I was talking about is a form of protection. You wear the gear and have a scary appearance that conveys the impression, ‘Don’t tread on me.’ I was in Viet Nam. I knew I’d end up in jail if I didn’t go. I hated getting pushed around by the littIe, punk lieutenants. I had friends killed in the war. Somebody you know gets splattered in front of your face. Now that traumatizes you. I don’t ever want to fight again. Cops wear a uniform to elicit a certain reaction. They look tough so nobody will mess with them. I know no one will come up and pick a fight with me. Policemen are the most insecure guys on the face of the earth. When I get on a police motorcycle, I feel a desire to be free of everything. During those moments I feel ageless. Sheer joy. It’s about the only time I feel completely at peace. Free of any conditions, pressures. Just a state of total calm.”
We gathered more information from Bill to confirm the prescription we were considering. “They tested me quarterly. I used to get B12 injections. My fears are based around money and financial security. For years I had combat dreams every night that were way worse than anything I ever experienced in Viet Nam. Now they’re pretty rare. I have occasional dreams where I commit a violent crime and wait to get caught. My other dreams are goofy, fun, nonsensical. I like meat, vegetables, and rice.” As we suspected, Bill loved tomatoes. His physical symptoms included chronic leg pain from a bike accident.
An Iron Man
Bill had a tough, “Don’t mess with me” exterior. Yet, inside he sought freedom, peace, and had no desire to fight. His was pushed around by his father and during the Vietnam war. Metaphorically, he described being “forced into unnatural positions…. extreme pressures exerted against me.” “Like I’ve got a spring…. like everything is compressed and wants to break loose… My natural position is of being at rest… 90% of the time I’m not in that state. I just feel compressed, twisted.” Bill’s issues centered around structure, security, and performance, which point to a homeopathic medicine made from a mineral.
The issue of warriors, strength, attack and defense, as well as his literal references to metals, suggest a metal. The strong aversion to being forced to do anything, by his father, punky lieutenants, someone who might put him in jail for not going to Viet Nam, and anyone else who might make him do something against his will, all suggest Ferrum metallicum (iron). So do the references to iron and steel, jail, and armor. Those needing homeopathic iron hate being forced by anyone to do anything. They can be quite strong-willed, self-determined, and can feel, in their daily lives or their dreams, that they are at war. This explains Bill’s identification with being a warrior. Individuals needing medicines in the Ferrum group commonly have dreams about having committed a crime, as did Bill, and, particularly about ending up behind [iron] bars. It is the main remedy for “Delusions, imagination, being at war,” which in no way suggests an actual delusion, but rather that they would attract war-like situations or images in their lives. In Bill’s case, this includes being beaten by his father, needing to fight to be who he was, actually fighting in the Viet Nam war, and the feeling that he had to put on a tough image in order to avoid conflict (wars) or quarrels with others. This state even extended into Bill’s profession and dreams.
The history of anemia, typically iron-deficiency, in patients needing Ferrum metallicum and other iron salts. Individuals needing Ferrum often love tomatoes, as did Bill. The other medicine that we considered in this and would have given had his response to the Ferrum not been so undeniably positive, was Stainless Steel. It is a remedy we gave to another patient successfully some years ago, though there is no proving.
We first prescribed Ferrum metallicum 10M in a single dose. Bill called three weeks later to report that he had felt great for the first five or six days after the remedy, then began to feel agitated. So much so that he didn’t sleep on entire night. Two days before he called he began to experience “huge waves of good, old-time, black-dog depression,” a familiar feeling from his past. He commented that he drank coffee by the gallon, which led us to change his prescription to Ferrum LM7 once a day. Bill is an example of someone who cannot take a single-dose medicine and drink large amounts of coffee without the remedy being antidoted.
One month later we spoke with Bill and he felt much better. “I feel much more at ease than before homeopathy. Fairly balanced.” His “monkey mind” mental agitation was considerably reduced. His self-dissatisfaction had reduced considerably as had his jumpiness. “My dreams have been pretty innocuous lately, though I did dream the other night about getting arrested for drinking while driving. Before I would wake several times a night with intense dreams up to three nights a week. I have had no combat dreams in a while. Overall, I notice a marked improvement. If I can continue to function the way I have been the past three weeks, I will be fine.” He rated his feeling of pressure at 1 ½ out of ten compared to 8 ½ before starting the Ferrum. We instructed him to continue taking the same remedy, potency, and at the same frequency.
Three months after we first met, Bill remarked that he was feeling well, but noticed that he went back into rapid cycling if he missed a dose of the homeopathic medicine. He was drinking two to three cups a day of very strong coffee. He was happy to be free of worry, unlike before. “When I take the remedy every day, I am eighty to ninety percent better. I’m always wanting to twist it to full throttle. It’s like having a battery that’s not quite up to par. As long as you run it every day, it holds a charge. If you let it sit a few days, it doesn’t. He expressed surprise at how faithful he was in taking the Ferrum, unlike his previous experience. Dreams were pleasant, no longer war-related. Energy and focus were quite good. “I have not been experiencing the stress and pressures that I discussed with you since being on the remedy. That has been fabulous for me.”
In the nine years since that follow-up, Bill has responded very well, despite a few blips here and there. He has experienced several short bouts of drinking, and is well aware of his alcoholic tendencies. “I start out drinking casually. Everything is ducky. Then, at some point, I dive into it. I can go forever with booze in the house and not touch it. Then something shuts off in my brain that enables me to ignore the consequences.” We continued to prescribe the Ferrum LM8.
Three months later, at his six-month follow-up visit, Bill continued to do very well despite his elderly father’s stroke. The progress on the same potency of the Ferrum has persisted, with brief, periodic ups and downs in moods typical of patients suffering from bipolar disorder. Bill has days of agitation and depression, but they are few and far between. He changed careers to selling life insurance, and has been a “top performer,” which is no surprise for a someone needing a homeopathic metal. We have rarely needed to raise the potency of the Ferrum: LM8 to LM11 in nine years, each time when Bill experienced a significant mood swing that did not respond to the potency he was taking. Over the years, Bill has faced many career, personal, and interpersonal changes during which he has continued to be well, maintain equilibrium, has not returned to drinking, and has not been hospitalized.
Like Father Like Daughter
We began to see Carley, Bill’s daughter, twenty-two years old at the time, eleven years ago. She was exuberant and flamboyant, just like her dad and her paternal grandmother. She came for homeopathic help for bipolar disorder as well. In fact, she was on the verge of a manic episode at her first visit. We noticed immediately her large hoop earrings and matching necklace. We found Carley, like Bill, to be very endearing—two of our favorite patients.
Carley didn’t have an easy time in school. Teachers lost patient with her uneven attention span and her peers didn’t know what to make of her vibrant, but different, personality. She was called “stupid” even though she was bright, curious, and highly creative. They couldn’t seem to appreciate her uniqueness. “I was one to enjoy clothes and music that no one else had ever seen or heard. I’ve been drawing pictures of Jesus in dreadlocks since I was eight. Paintings of him with baggy pants and a low-rider car. Even shape shifting pictures of J.C. I’ve known about angels since I was a child.”
“I feel my brain goes to different dimensions. I lay in bed and feel a shadow over me. Sometimes I can stay in my body. Sometimes I go off to other worlds. It can be pretty hard when you’re driving down the road. I can get stuck in those worlds. The ideas just flow… I have other dimension dreams. I’ve been labeled as bipolar 2—just manic. There’s this part of me that wants to fly. I’m called ‘Carlie the Crazy Girl. In the final manic attack, I think I’m some sort of ascending master like Jesus. Or Mary Magdalene. Invincible.”
“I do off-the-wall things. I get bored with normal people who can’t think past their nose or who have routines that can’t be broken. I call them ‘Wonder Bread People.” I like witty, obsessive-compulsive, unconventional people. But sometimes I can get grandiose. I hate it because it keeps me separate. I’ve always wanted to be separated but accepted at the same time. The thoughts are exciting, intriguing, but only in the mind… I have lots of daydreams. What I’m going to be in the future. Will I have a great big profession? I want to do something that nobody else has ever done… I can do or say things on a whim. I’m an idea maker. “
Carley had experienced “two and a half” manic attacks.” They let me out of the hospital early and I crashed. Then they gave me Prozac. After that Risperdal, Lithium, Zyprexa. They affected my night vision and caused me to be anxious. Limictil and Seraquil were the best. Depakote caused major hand tremors and my eyes glossed over. I’m on a half dose of Limictil, Seraquil, and Depakote now. On the full dose of all the meds I wasn’t even able to give you directions nor to picture anything in my mind. “I don’t get depressed but my self-esteem is low and I can cry at the drop of a dime, but it only lasts for three minutes.”
Recurring dreams were plentiful. Carley even had clear recall of a dream she had at fifteen months of age. Each of my dreams has different episodes. Like five to eight TV shows in the subconscious. The shows remain the same but the episodes change.”
“My father and I are like identical twins. If it weren’t for my mom, he we be on the streets. Dad’s just like me: a poet and a writer, intellectual, unconventional, impulsive. He’s out of his body all the time just like I am. We both like attention, recognition, friends. I love being around kindred souls with advanced perceptions. I want to be accepted for my individuality.
A Completely Different Medicine
The uniqueness of homeopathy is that even two people with the same diagnosis may need two very different medicines. Bill was a salt-of-the-earth, grounded kind of guy. Carley, on the other hand, was much more diffuse, flighty, in the air. Her dad has benefited long term from a mineral. Carley clearly needed a plant. Those individuals needing plant medicines are sensitive, changeable, and adaptable. Those qualities definitely fit Carley, who delighted in engaging in different personas in different settings. In feeling free to be whoever she felt like in the moment, depending on whom she as with. Most minerals are too structured and rigid to experience the inconstancy and flamboyancy of Carley. It was, however, a blessing and a curse. A highly creative, engaging, active mind. Yet she had great difficulty adapting to the everyday world, which she found to be monotonous, or, in her words, “Wonder Bread.”
There are thousands of plants, over a thousand, or so, of which have been made into homeopathic medicines and thousands more yet to be proven. This is a tiny fraction of the number of plants on this verdant planet of ours.
Carley’s forever unfolding array of exciting, variable, and intriguing thoughts brought to mind the Rubiaceae family, the same family from which coffee is derived. In fact, if you think of Carley’s highly active mental state, it resembles that of someone who is strung out on caffeine. The Rubiacea family is, in fact, called the coffee family, and also contains gardenias as well as medicinal plants such as China officinalis (the first homeopathic medicine and the source of quinine), Ipecachuana (from which we get the emetic, ipecac), and Yohimbe (renown for its aphrodisiac properties). Some of the characteristics of medicines from this family are:
- excessive mental activity; rush of ideas (Carley: “I have a talker in m head.” and “I can’t shut it off.” “Loosey, goosey mind.”)
- difficulty sleeping, primarily due to an overactive mind
- exaggerated emotions of any kind
- colorful, vivid daydreams and lucid dreams
- activity and creativity
- excitement, exuberance, vivacity
- remarkable clarity of mind
- an exquisite degree of sensitivity (all plants exhibit sensitivity but those needing Coffea are some of the most sensitive in the Materia Medica.)
- non-conformist (summed up by Carley as “I’m the kind of person who wears polka dots and stripes, Quirkyville
This is s state that members of our society emulate, evidenced by the popularity of such mind-enhancing, wiring beverages such as Red Bull.The two best-known homeopathic medicines from this family are China and Coffea. Those needing the first are famous for building castles in the air and for elaborate fantasies, dreams, and daydreams in which they are the superheroes who save the world from evil. Also typical is lying awake at night making plans, theorizing, thinking of the wonderful things (s)he will do one day. These individuals may appear to be larger than life, which was the case with Carley when she was on. In her case, it was also possible to confuse the remedy picture with another plant family, Hamamelidae, of which marijuana and hemp are members. Those needing one of these describe out-of-the-body experiences, which was true at times of Carley. The sensation is heavy/light, which was not primary in this case.
The sensation keywords of the Rubiaceaes, according to Dr. Rajan Sankaran’s Schema are: creative, fancies, ideas, plans, imagination, surprise, stimulant, sudden joy, theorizing, air castle, arouse, daydream, excite, incite, innovative, inspire, rouse, thrill, whim, bliss, delight, ecstasy, elation, happiness. You can see how well these might fit a bipolar state.
Over the years, the other polarity of the Rubiaceae family became more obvious in the case. She described this state as being a zombie, her brain was saturated, This somnolence is the opposite of the overamped Coffea state. Sankaran describes the passive reaction keywords of this family: exhaustion, weariness, fatigue, dullness, catalepsy, dull, boring, uninteresting, tedious, monotonous, lackluster, lifeless, exhaustion, gloomy. These words may depict well a depressive state. They are quite apt for how Carley described her life when it was “beige.”
“This Stuff is Awesome”
“The stuff that I’ve been taking is awesome. I haven’t taken my antidepressants. I can’t go very far anymore with the story lines in my head. I can’t even bring them into reality. I still have my belief systems about Jesus just being a buddy. Someone who might swear, pick his nose. I believe Jesus is a soul mate to crazy people. .. Parents, friends, everybody notices the difference in me. Before they thought I was out there. Now they can sit and talk to me for an hour straight. We can switch off being interested in each other’s conversations without me going off on a tangent and expecting them to just listen.”
“I started a new gardening job. I am able now to register what is going on outside of me. My job gives me time to daydream. People are starting to come back around and want to be with me. Before I just sucked people’s energy right out of them. I still go on my whims. My dreams are not quite as lucid and magical as they used to be.”
We wish we could say that Carley never had another bipolar episode, but that was not the case. However, when she did, over the more than a decade since we have worked with her, an adjustment of the medicine generally snapped her out of it and, throughout the entire time, she has never had a psychiatric hospitalization. Great credit is owed, not only to the homeopathy, but to her extremely supportive and patient parents.
“I have had delusional thinking. I feel apart from the world, detached. I’ll be too far off awake dreaming. I bring bliss when I go to parties… I start imagining being closer to God than anyone. I feel either deliriously happy or completely angry… My dreams are vivid. Deliriously happy. It’s like dreamer’s disease… If Frieda Kahlo were still alive, we’d be best buddies. Most people bore me. Sometimes I can be fashionable, eccentric, and also normal. But, if I haven’t gotten enough sleep the night before or I had coffee or a hangover, it will turn into an episode. We changed Carley’s prescription at this point to Coffea 1M.
“My PMS is great after this last remedy. I didn’t even know my period came. I have no anger. My mood is good. A little spacey, but grounded. I’m sleeping better. The talking or laughing out loud during daydreaming is much better. “
“Good… Diversity is so exciting. I like little jolts of motivation. A little boost. Like drinking a jolt. It wakes you up a little bit… Euphoric. Like soda with all the caffeine in it. It peels your eyes open. Takes away the lethargy, the fog. It clears it out and makes you exciting to be present.” This is a beautiful description of the Rubiaceae sensation of Coffea (coffee) and the other members of the family.
Carley experienced another manic episode. with nonstop talking, though her conversations did make sense and she was cooperative. What she told us during the mania provided keen insight into her state. “There are so many different neat types. I’ve almost taken them on as my own identity. It’s fun to be other people. Melting into different cultural situations and belief systems… I like to change my look every few months. Be creative. I want to be exotic… I feel dirty, used up. Like you have a garbage can inside for your spirit. Slime. Grime.”
“It’s fun to be materialized, out there. To hold the magic and not let it take over. Euphoria. Everyone around me is on the same wavelength. Our surroundings are sparkly and beautiful. The water looks crystalline. The sky is blue. The flowers are blooming.” These musings provide insight into Carley as well, in her creative, inspired, but not manic state.
“I’m struggling a little with obsessive thinking. I totally recognize the cycle… I still have a problem shutting off my head. It takes an extra hour to fall asleep because of the hyperactivity… I’m able to do my job. I’m progressing.”
“I have identity issues. Where do I fit in? Not with the yuppies or hippies. I don’t fit in anywhere… I’m at a bland point.”
“I just lost my best friend… I am not having monkey mind. I’m dating someone but not madly in love. The relationship and my life are kind of beige.”
“I sprung a leak. It’s been six years since I experienced anything like this. Delusional. Little cartoony clowns giggling on one side of my brain. I wasn’t in my right mind. I’m much better now. I just turned 30.”
“Pretty good. I could only get six hours of sleep last week because I was excited about stuff… I was horribly bullied in middle school and high school. Mainly because I was my own person… My moods are usually good… I don’t like falling in to a category like New Ager or conservative. I just want to be me… Everything is hunky dory. No weird thoughts. I’m daydreaming less and writing and reading novels more… I met my grandmother’s relatives for the first time. They’re all bipolar. Six of them.”
Sleeping well. A bit of daydreaming. The remedy is working pretty quick. I drift off to la la land for moments, then it brings me back. It is still my nature to have a drifty mind. “ Taking some Seroquil. The homeopathy works fine. When I have a free moment, I daydream. I can daydream about whomever I want.”
After giving Carley a number of other medicines from the Rubiaceae family, we finally chose one that was so unusual that only one pharmacy in the world carries it—one in Austria. It is China boliviana. It is the member of the coffee family that best corresponds to Carley’s feeling of being dirty, slimy, shunned, disgusting, freaky an outcast. This medicine is prepared from the bark of Chinchona calisaya It was available from only one pharmacy in the world, Remedia in Austria. We felt fortunate to be able to find it because about twenty years ago we were unable to locate the same medicine for another patient. Sometimes a similar medicine will work well, but in other cases the precise match is needed.
From the Materia Medica: absentminded while talking; cheerfulness and gaiety; happiness alternating with moroseness; painful sense of humiliation; mirth, hilarity, liveliness; remorse, persistent thoughts of the future.
The most recent report from Carley’s mom: “She is doing great on the latest remedy. Focused, enthused. Planning her life. And her great sense of humor is back.” We will continue to follow Carley. We find it remarkable that has remained as balanced as she has. We hope that, now that we appear to have found the precise member of the Rubiaceae family that best fits Carley, she will do even better in the future.
If you or someone dear to you is suffering from bipolar disorder and would like a safe, natural alternative, we believe that homeopathy is a very good choice.