The Recovery: From Psychosis To Full Functionality

(To establish the proper context for this blog entry, please read The Meltdown: Decompensating Into A Psychotic Break)

2 Years Ago...

6 weeks after getting on the 4 medications that were combined to bring me back to reality (2 anit-psychotics...Seroquel & Risperidone, 1 anti-anxiety...Ativan,  and 1 anti-depressant/anti-anxiety...Zoloft), I began to see the light of day. Most importantly, sleep returned and with this a desire to participate in life. Simultaneously, all the paranoia and delusions fell away. Recovery had begun. But this recovery went through stages. 

Stage 1: Dealing with Embarrassment, Shame and Fear of the Unknown.

Working hand in hand with the meds, while still in Ohio, I found a phenomenal psychologist to work with. He was incredibly educated, supportive, encouraging and practical; giving me simple daily tasks to accomplish as hope returned. I attempted to get up early every day, eat breakfast, and do some sort of exercise (be it a light jog or gentle yoga) and to the degree I could, super short periods of meditation (we're talking 3 minutes or so). At this point, this is all I could handle.

As all of this was happening, I had tremedous clarity around the fact that I now wanted to be a Dad (this was a HUGE change from where I had been). And not just any Dad, but the best father I could possibly be.

On the home front, Liz and I had decided to end our relationship based on lots of things, but we were going to try to find a way to co-parent our son when he arrived, to the degree that was possible based on my health.

Understandably she had to think of our child first and foremost. And there were still so many unknowns regarding my mental health at that point. So I was doing my best to recover with the knowledge that there was the possibility that I wouldn't have much of a role in our son's life if my health didn't stabilize.

I stayed in Ohio for about another month recovering before I made the decision that I was healthy enough to return to my life in LA. While I was clear that it was time, I was also scared to death. My relationship had fallen apart, my clients had been left in the lurch and I was dealing with tons of shame and embarrassment around what had happened to me.

Here I was, having been in the fitness/wellness industry since 1990, amassing numerous certifications, practicing and espousing the importance of exercise, meditation and mindset, guiding others in their desires to optimize their health and well-being, and with all my knowledge and experience, I had just lived through serious depression, anxiety, insomnia and psychosis. At that moment and time, I could't quite see the lesson/blessing in having gone through what I went through.

My new "reality" was that I was struggling mightily to find my voice as wellness professional. I felt like a tremendous fraud and it was paralyzing. The embarrassment and shame I was feeling was super intense. There was a huge part of me that wanted to hide from life and everyone I knew.

Stage 2: Taking Time To Process

Over the course of the next few months, Liz and I did some serious work to repair our relationship, and we did. Was there still a lot of work for us to do, you bet, but we were back together. With the help of Liz, I came to the conclusion that for ME to truly heal, sooner rather than later I had to come clean to all my clients and everyone.

This happened gradually at first, because I had a lot of processing that was necessary to get to the point where I could fully go there. My egoic-self felt like a complete failure and this same part of me was super worried about what others might think. I feared judgment and ridicule. But I decided to act in spite of this fear. 

So back in early 2018 I wrote some social media posts explaining (to the degree that I was ready to), a great deal of what I had been through. Frankly, this was the first time I had been so vulnerable openly about anything. And for a few days after I hit Post, I suffered a vulnerability hangover. I questioned myself and thought, "what have I just done?". But somewhere deep inside it knew it was the right thing to do for ME. Is this necessary for everyone, not even remotely. I just had a knowing that it was time for me to live life tearing off all my masks of masculinity and to lead from my heart as much as possible.

A big part of that was admitting my human-ness to others. I had majorly fallen but was getting back up. At the end of the day, what I've discovered is that no matter what point we get to and how successful we become, life can throw some real doozies in our direction, and all that seemed stabilized, can fall away in a moment.

And that's ok, it's a part of life. There's a quote I love which reads, "The most beautiful stones have been tossed by the wind and washed by the waters and polished to brilliance by life's strongest storms." The reality is were going to fall in life, in fact, more than likely over and over again. But's it's how we think and what we do from that point that will determine our destiny; not the falling. Nelson Mandela once said, "Don't judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again."

A huge part of my fear related to being open about my experience stemmed from the fact that I felt so weak for having to be on psychotropic meds to get me through the darkness. (BTW, I no longer feel this way at all) I'm quite certain I'm not the only person whose felt this way. In addition to this, for most of my life, I had believed that BIG PHARMA was evil and driven by greed rather actually caring about the health and well-being of people who were struggling (admittedly I still believe this is true). And here I was dependent on them for my sanity. 

So should you medicate or not? I firmly believe there is a time and place for going the medicinal route. Administered thoughtfully, they most certainly can act as a bridge to re-establish balance of the bio-chemistry of the body and brain in a way that can allow the individual to hopefully put holistic practices in place, which serve to put the power to heal back in their own hands.

I can say without a shadow of a doubt, that if it weren't for the medications that I was administered when I was psychotic, I wouldn't be here writing this today. I was unreachable. When I was in psychosis, nothing anyone in the world could have told me to do holistically would have worked. I was gone and out of my mind.

Having said this, it was and is my intention to slowly and progressively get myself off these medications (with the guidance and supervision of a psychiatrist) and substitute them with "good, clean living" when the time is right. I found an excellent psychiatrist here in LA who supported my desire to thoughtfully wean off of the meds over time.

It is my understanding is that the reason so many folks who try to wean are unsuccessful is that they...

1. Go cold turkey 

2. Do it too quickly

3. As they attempt it, there are no holistic practices in place to support the weaning.

4. They drink alcohol while on the meds or while they are trying to get off.

I was determined that I was't going to fall into any of these categories.

Were there side-effects from the meds? Yes. I experienced some weight gain, poor memory, developed a tongue chewing tick, and felt pretty emotionless at times. The 2 anti-psychotics and the 1 anti-anxiety can be addictive and harder to come off of the longer one is on them. So our plan was once I felt pretty stabilized (about 3 months into medicating) we would begin weaning off of these 3 medications while maintaining the anti-depressant (which tends to be less harmful comparatively speaking).  

First we reduced and eliminated the Seroquel over a period of about 6 weeks. As we eliminated it we increased the anti-depressant (Zoloft) to counteract any negative fall-out. There was none thankfully. Next our plan was to eliminate the Ativan over about 8 weeks.

So now it was 8 months after all the medications began that I was on 1 anti-psychotic (Risperidone) and 1 anti-depressant (Zoloft). Over the course of the next 6 weeks, we progressively weened me off the remaining anti-psychotic (Risperidone). The plan moving forward now was to move a little more slowly in the weaning process for the anti-depressant so we had less chance to relapse.

At the same time I had established holistic protocols to begin to support my mental health naturally (i.e. 20 minutes/day meditation first thing in am, supplementation with Omega 3s and B12, eating more cleanly, exercising more regularly (particularly cardiovascular work to get freshly oxygenated blood to brain)). So we decided to work in 2-3 month windows to get off the 150 mg of the anti-depressant I was currently on. We would decrease 25 mg every window.

There was no rush in my mind at this point to get off. I wanted to do it thoughtfully and intelligently. All the while carefully monitoring how I felt and if there were any side-effects or withdrawal symptoms. At different points I did experience some headaches and some irritability and anger. But that was pretty much it. The other holistic practice I added to my morning routine was the Wim Hof Method for breathing and cold-immersion. I feel this practice alone is life-changing and will help you feel healthier, happier and stronger. But more on that in another blog.

Presently I'm still on 50 mg of the Zoloft and I feel great. If all goes as it has, I will be off of it too within the next 3 months. It should go without saying that I certainly won't be foolish. There is too much at stake...my mental health, my love Liz, our son Skye and our 2 dogs.  If any symptoms come back, they won't be ignored and will be addressed. But I feel that the supporting practices I have in place are retraining my brain (neuro-plasticity) and bio-chemistry to be able to self-heal. I can honestly say that at this moment I feel as grounded, clear-headed, playful, appreciative, holistically healthy, loving, courageous and creative as I ever have. For the first time in my entire life, I feel comfortable in my own skin and that feels flippin fantastic!

Stage 3: The Awakening

This phase happened about 6 months ago now. As I was weaning off the meds, I began to see the lesson/blessing in the experience. I saw that there were parts of me that needed to die so that others could be born. For me to become all that I was meant to be on this planet in this lifetime, I needed to shed some skin. These layers were about arrogance, deceit, pretense, jealousy, victimhood, self-centeredness, divisiveness and insecurity needed to go. The parts that were being born were authenticity, vulnerability, honesty, humility, compassion, inclusivity, playfulness, spontaneity, courage, and other-centered thinking.

It became clear to me that I was ready to share in great detail what I had experienced so that others could learn. I wanted to use what I had lived through to be of service to others. I found my voice again and realized I had a lot to share that I hope will be of value to others. There was going to be no holding back. I was going to practice radical transparency and honesty like I had never done before. So I began to write about it openly on my social media. I felt and still feel if I could help one person out there, it was worth it.  

All that I went through, also lead me to a realization that I was ALWAYS meant to be a father. I must say that in the first 15 months of my son Skye's life, I have come to believe that being a parent is the hardest yet most rewarding job on the planet.  

It was my destiny to be a dad. And not just any dad but a conscious dad. One who lives in awe, ever-evolving, free to become, moving my mindset from me to we, having a passion for conscious evolution; living with an interest to see things as they are not as we wish them to be, unflappable & rooted yet expanding; to be a dad who is man enough to admit your fears yet to take action regardless and not be afraid to “fail”; to be a Dad who is human enough to stop fighting fire with fire, rather to be like water (adaptable, fluid); to be Service-oriented, less stubborn & more flexible; to live as man who isn't afraid to cry, who listen more than they speak, who is spacious, safe, joyful, expansive, and conscious. I wanted to be a Dad who is raising his child to be loving, kind, courageous, considerate, helpful, generous, patient yet persistent, strong yet gentle, playful, humble, eco-friendly, and never afraid to truly be themselves. 

This ultimately lead me to what I believe is my calling; the creation of Conscious Dads. A global community which is set up to present fathers with tools to consciously evolve as a parent, partner and person on the planet. You can learn more about Conscious Dads HERE.

The moral of all of this rambling is to say that if I can go from literally losing my mind to a place where I'm perhaps at my healthiest and most fulfilled point I've ever been, anyone can. But it took me a lot of work and it will for you as well. But it will be perhaps the most important work you will ever do. I believe each and every one of us is on a unique path that is ultimately leading us to Self-realization; to recognize the miracle that is our life, to activate the pure potential that flows through us and animates our very existence, and to honor and appreciate the underlying connection between us all.

At the end of the day, remember that life is not happening to us, it's happening for us and one's perception is their reality. Rather than asking asking Life questions like "Why me?", choose to ask things like "What is it I'm meant to learn from this?".  "Stuff" is going to happen in this lifetime, but it's not the stuff that defines us, it's how we respond to it that matters and determines our destiny. Enjoy the journey my friends, we come this way only once. AMB

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