I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder in 2003, after months of hypomanic symptoms. I was barely sleeping, and experiencing a heightened mood, which combined euphoria, irritability and anxiety – I had previously suffered from depression.
For three years after that I was put on medication, which helped in a way, but also came with unpleasant symptoms – weight gain and drowsiness being the worst and most obvious. When, in 2007, I started to feel constantly tired I came off the medication because it was exacerbating it. As my chronic fatigue took hold, all hypomanic symptoms stopped, I was simply exhausted, depressed, anxious and off work, barely able to walk more than thirty paces.
When I went for the Lightning Process seminar in the autumn of 2007, I wasn’t thinking about my bipolar disorder, I was focused entirely on treating the M.E. At the end of my first day I went on a bike ride; the relief that the fatigue was over was immense. At the end of the second day I went out with some friends and was feeling so positive and ecstatic about consigning ME to history, that those old euphoric feelings started surfacing. By the next morning my mood had shot up even further. It was horrible and scary – I thought, because I hadn’t had any hypomania for months that it was over.
I arrived for day three of the seminar and Phil Parker knew immediately that something was wrong. I told him that I had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and that I was having a hypomanic episode. I wasn’t expecting the Lightning Process to help. But Phil suggested using the exact same principles and processes that you use the LP for on fatigue symptoms, as on manic symptoms. The difference is that you use different previous experiences according to the mood you want to achieve. So I took myself back to a place of incredible calm and stillness. For the rest of the morning I stayed there, and if I strayed from it, kept taking myself back. It brought my mood down to the point where when I left at the end of the last day, which would have been early afternoon, all the mania was gone, and I just felt calm – almost sedate.
Since then I have remained off the medication. What was so transformative for me on the LP seminar was simply learning that you have a choice, that when manic or depressed symptoms arise, you don’t have to accept and experience them, that they aren’t random external things happening to you, but reactions which can be altered. Sometimes a little bit of mania can be enjoyable so in those circumstances I don’t use the LP to bring my mood down. But very often it’s really unpleasant so I do turn to the LP. It’s a little different from treating fatigue symptoms – if you’re manic it can take a bit longer to quell than it does to feel energised if you’re treating fatigue, so you need to patient. It’s also easier to do so if you catch the mania early, when you’re on the way up. But with mania, depression and fatigue it’s important to use the techniques consistently, and you need to really want to get better and believe that you can make that happen. The more evidence you have of times when you have altered your symptoms, the more that belief strengthens. Don’t expect to be able to eradicate all manic or depressed symptoms – I am not able to do this, but then the medication certainly wasn’t able to do this either.
From my experiences I would encourage someone with bipolar II to look at their life and environment and think about making changes if possible or necessary because in order to use the LP properly to ease symptoms you need the space to do that. If your life is incredibly busy or stressful, or you don’t have safe spaces to look after yourself, it will be a tougher job using the LP to good effect.
I would never tell someone with bipolar I disorder that LP is the answer for them. It’s a more serious illness, involving hallucinations and sometimes psychosis, though the LP may well help with certain symptoms they have. But for bipolar II people, LP is a constant resource to improve background symptoms, to intervene early when you’re spiraling up or down and to act healthily when you’re in a spot of trouble with your symptoms. As long as you have self-awareness, that you know when you’re spiraling too far up or down, then you can use the LP to good effect.
I will probably always have a propensity to moods which are higher and lower than average, but now I know that I will always have the tools to deal with them. I have that choice