Some might call it a quiet revolution, others an evolution, still others a new renaissance. Whatever it is, it has already started, and it is transforming lives every day. Nutrients are restoring broken brains. Thousands of psychiatric patients who have spent years if not lifetimes plagued by weight gain, excessive tiredness, and structural changes in their brains, as well as by such esoteric-sounding afflictions as tardive dyskinesia, severe ketoacidosis, serotonin syndrome, status epilepticus and discontinuation syndrome, are experiencing hope for a normal life. Quietly, without a lot of fanfare and media hype, ordinary people are using nutritional solutions to restore brain functioning. They are talking about it on the Internet. From a province in Canada to Harvard University, innovative physicians and other professionals are investigating nutritional solutions to CNS disorders, recommending them to their patients, and researching and reporting the amazing results. This is the story of one family’s odyssey in searching for and finding drug-free solutions to bipolar disorder.
But the story is not just about my family, which has lived under the shadow of bipolar disorder for four generations. It is about the many families suffering from the full array of CNS disorders and about the professionals in the justice, educational, and health care systems who deal with them. While there is no single “cure-all” for CNS patients, extensive research supports the premise that proper nutrients can assist many patients to recover from their illness, frequently without any drugs, or with significantly reduced amounts.
In addition, substantial evidence exists that bipolar disorder and other biologically based disorders have been prematurely conceptualized and labeled as Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) disorders; that is, as “mental” disorders. Given that brain cells have both stimulating and inhibiting properties, and that highly complex processes keep those opposing functions balanced, it is only reasonable to assume that a multitude of causes disrupt that balance to produce the common behavioral manifestations of what we currently label “bipolar disorder.”
Too Good To Be True? is about a journey, not a destination. Except for the book’s bold and unambiguous central premise — that nutrients do in fact quiet the unquiet brain — the reader looking for a “one-size-fits-all” solution will not find it here. My intent is not to provide organized, complete, “shrink-wrapped” solutions. It is to ask questions. It is to describe our odyssey, a trip filled with both peril and promise. The odyssey involves visiting what I have come to call the American Gulag, exploring the parallel universe of alternative health care, and seeking refuge in the hoped-for safety of mainstream medicine. It involves plunging into the dark and dangerous world of bipolar madness, from the depths of hell to the equally terrifying heights of heaven. Like the illness, this odyssey includes stunning vistas and valleys of disappointment and despair. Each step of the odyssey points toward new questions, new paradigms, and ultimately new solutions.
While this book is based on a true story, I have changed the names and detailed circumstances of some ancillary persons. I have taken artistic license in writing fiction-like narrative, including details and dialogue based on actual events, in order to provide continuity and character development and to fill in portions of the story in which I was not a direct participant.
Some of the chapters deal with research into the causes and treatment of bipolar disorder. I claim no specialized expertise in this area, apart from having the persistence to track down leads by reading books, researching in local and university libraries, traveling through the vast universe of the Internet with my mouse, and talking with pioneers who are making inroads into our understanding of CNS disorders. Einstein once said, “Most fundamental ideas of science are essentially very simple and may be expressed in a language comprehensible to everyone.” I have attempted to make these topics as easy to understand as possible while at the same time trying to avoid oversimplification. Any conclusions expressed herein regarding the etiology, assessment, or treatment of bipolar disorder are based on my best-faith efforts to apply the facts as I understand them and may not be definitive statements of scientific fact. I am a licensed clinical social worker, a grandnephew, a grandson, a son, and a father of individuals who have exhibited bipolar symptoms. I am not a scientist.
My search was based on the assumption that there are no inappropriate questions, only unrefined ones. In retrospect, some of my questions were naive to the point of being ridiculous. Some were more sophisticated than I knew, touching on topics already being pursued by leading-edge researchers. In the process of finding new questions to replace old ones, I learned there are few simple questions, fewer still simple answers.
In my research, I explored a number of methods for assessing and treating the symptoms of bipolar and other CNS disorders. I tried to be open to all points of view. This made for an interesting journey, especially when the perspectives were mutually exclusive. These viewpoints are shared to stimulate thinking “outside of the box,” not necessarily to recommend a particular assessment or treatment plan. Given that things are not always as they seem, readers are advised to complete the entire book before exploring, with their health care provider, a particular assessment tool or treatment for themselves, a patient, or a family member or friend.
While I researched this book, various professionals told me certain alleged facts that had a profound influence on our family’s journey. Some of those “facts” were incorrect or in conflict with other “facts” I was told. Some, to be frank, are still, as they say, up in the air. Areas of conflict not addressed in the narrative are listed in Appendix 3. They are listed at the end to preserve the integrity of the story and to illustrate the risks and benefits involved in leaving no stone unturned.
I invite readers to share any feedback on the ideas in this book at the email address provided below. If you know an answer or a resource for any of the unanswered questions you find herein, I would love to hear from you. Too Good To Be True? Volume II will incorporate this feedback as well as late-breaking developments. The odyssey continues.
Finally, some words of caution and a disclaimer are in order. First, while my intent is to introduce the reader to novel ways of thinking about CNS disorders and their treatment, this book is not intended to substitute for medical care or to provide specific solutions to those suffering from CNS disorders. Second, if you are suffering from a psychiatric illness and experience troubling thoughts while reading this book, please discuss these thoughts as soon as possible with a trusted support person or a professional. While such a warning may seem overly cautious, perhaps even demeaning to the average reader, one lesson I learned from our odyssey is that long-held and cherished assumptions about self-responsibility and self-control become irrelevant myths when a person’s brain is broken. Lastly, my family and I have no financial or business relationship with Tony and Barb Stephan or David Hardy, except that we purchase nutritional supplements from Synergy Group, a nonprofit company established by them to promote the research and utilization of nutritional supplementation for CNS disorders. The text mentions stocks I own or have owned in companies not involved in the assessment or treatment of CNS disorders, and which play a minor role in the story. I have written this book as objectively as possible and I have no financial or business relationship with companies or professionals who provide diagnostic assessment services or products discussed herein.