Meditation Q&A: Meditation and Bipolar Disorder

woman meditation on hill XSmallQuestion:
I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and take medication.  Is it okay for me to meditate?  I have not been able to go off the medication without causing horrendous consequences to my life ,and someone told me you should not meditate if you are diagnosed with a mental illness.  How true is this?

Answer:
Jogging in the fallYou can meditate, but just start by meditating for 5 minutes twice a day for now. If after a month you are doing well with it, you can increase  the time to 10 minutes. As long as you continue to progress and feel stable, you can continue this monthly evaluation and increase of your meditation until you get to a 20-minute meditation.

If the meditation is making you feel more unstable, then stay at the length of time you are at, or even cut back a little for the time being.  If you don’t already have a regular exercise plan,  it will also help for you to add physical exercise to your daily schedule, including cardiovascular (aerobic) training, strength training, and balance. In addition to meditation, this will add addition support for your mind/body as you move toward healing this imbalance.

To learn more about meditation, click here.

  1. I too have Bipolar ( 2) disorder so, I won’t go into it with you. I only add that I say “I HAVE” It, not “I AM” for the benefit of any reading so that they might know that we are people first who have a disease, after all, no one says “I AM CANCER or I AM LUPUS.” I mention this because it is part of my mindset and I believe I am blessed to have this, I understand the feelings behind your question, Oh, do I ever.

    Please know I am not pushing this as THE ANSWER, I am only offering it up my because I spent so many years looking for guidance and I couldn’t find it, until I discovered it for myself. So, I am putting myself out there in case anything, any word I have, is helpful to someone.

    I found that PSM [Primordial Sound Meditation]helped me half my Lamictal, stop another one of my Bipolar meds, and stop taking my anxiety meds that I was on 3 times a day. I have also managed to stop one of my chronic pain meds, on my own, something I was told was impossible (I just refused to believe in the word “Impossible”). Most nights, I don’t need to take my Sleep Rx either.

    None of this was instant. BUT It is now January and I started in October and it was determined to find a better way for myself. I am working on the days until I am mostly medication free. My goal is to have just enough that I feel like my Rx is the equivalent of the bumper lanes in bowling-No artificial highs or lows.

    As for PSM, Thirty mins is usually too long for me, but I sit for 10 or 20. (quality over quantity) I also find I DO need to have some sort of soothing music on myself, ie Loreena mcKenitt, some RAI, etc… or something Sufi, because it helps me block out other sounds. Silence seems to activate noise in my brain-
    Sometimes I cannot sit to meditate (maybe the pure VATA in me?) But I do ask myself the three questions of “Who am I? What do I want? What is my Dharma?” And then I get up to dance. I find this to be just as helpful on days that I feel that sitting to meditate would be forcing it.

    I do think with Bipolar the ways in which we go about meditating might be or need to be a little different. I.E, for me, self-abhy, even if quickly done, I use as a moving meditation, and as pain relief, I just take the five minutes to be totally present in my body-it helps. We who have Bipolar are adaptable if nothing else (and we are so much more!)

    This is a side note but I have an ND/CCT doctor who works with my ayurvedic dr here, and I have had blood testing for food allergies too-since I know I have celiac. I had blood testing to find food allergies I didn’t know I had-that helped me reduce my meds and my symptoms. And I follow and gluten/casein/soy free diet that really is a Godsend. My friends and family even know if I’ve eaten something bad, I think that’s saying something.

    Myself, I believe I have a true gift to be channeled, and I believe that this path allows me to do it. I think think somewhere inside our bodies know what it is they want us to do. And myself, for me, i think my very belief that I am blessed with this “disease” is my strength and I just need to know how to use it.
    All the best. Lis.

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  2. I was glad to hear about meditation. I have tried it and some times it helps and other times not as much. I think it depends how much else is going on in my head but I will keep trying it. I never liked the word bipolar or labels – somehow they make me feel worse.

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  3. I agree that bipolar disorder should be treated properly, including meditation treatment, so that a person with bipolar can get his or her life back.

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  4. I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder in March of 2009. I too do not like the label like Joan. I want to start meditating to see what good it will do. I had never heard the people with mental illness should not meditate. When I mentioned to my PDoc he said it was a good idea and encouraged me to try it. He even suggest a book by John Kabat-Zinn, “Where ever you go, there you are” I read the book and would like to start meditating with the companion CD’s.

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  5. I would like to share my opinion after reading this great post – Bipolar disorder is classified into four several types: Bipolar I, Bipolar II, Cyclothymic Disorder, or Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Mental health authorities separate the state into these four types because the indicators of bipolar disorder show up in a different way in different people. When medical doctors know what type any individual has, they are able to tailor treatment to that individual’s specific necessities.

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  6. how does a doctor determine if you have Bipolar. does he do blood tests, or what?

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  7. I have bipolar II, as well as OCD, and ADHD. I couldn’t get by without meditation. It has tremendously improved my symptoms. I also manage my diet carefully and this has been very important for me. I make sure to eat a ton of raw vegetables, and also do not eat dairy. When I consume caffeine, sugar, or any other type of stimulant my symptoms intensify. I do a ten minute chakra balancing meditation everyday, and also transcendental meditation. At one point in time I was in and out of psych hospitals, and heavily medicated. Meditation is, I believe, the main reason I am in control of my life today. Whoever told you that meditation shouldn’t be practiced by those with mental illness is misinformed.

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  8. I have bipolar II as well. I recently just attended a Buddhist monastery for several reasons. Number one- to get replace chaos in my brain with some inner peace of mind. I was diagnosed severely clinically depressed @ the age 30. I’m 47. I too have been from doc to doc, in and out of treatment facilities, w/many med changes. Until age 30 I self medicated w/alcohol. Not good. After diagnosed I went 10 yrs sober. Then relapsed. On top of the meds, definitely not good. Over the last 9 yrs, I’ve seen more downs in my life than ups with one period of about a year of calmness. For some reason, it left. More relapses. It’s cost me a marriage and my relationship w/my son. So after I met a Vietnamese woman I decided I wanted to settle down with again, I took her advice and attended monastery. Of course it included mindfulness meditation. At least one hr a day. This seemed too long for me, as I was never a practitioner of it before. But it has helped. I have found reading books on mindfulness and self love to be helpful. We are what we are. And we weren’t put here to be miserable. I will continue to practice, even after I am w/her and hope to decrease my meds. I take 4 a day, 3 times a day plus a sleep med. I certainly recommend it as at least an alternative. Three wks is what I was told it would take to make a difference w/concentrated practice. This is my 3rd wk. I noticed a big change after 14 days in monastery, but the “real world” has busted that bubble a bit. However I’m determined to get it back. Put peace back in my mind, love myself, reduce my meds and stay sober. God Bless to all.

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