Essential Oils Don’t Cure Bipolar: A Coming-Out Story – Part One


I don’t know how much longer I can fake it
That it’s all alright, that I can do this alone
And I know that life is what you make it
But it’s hard to see stars when you’re always caught in the folds

Every night in my mind it’s a fight
But I won’t stop dreaming
‘Cause this isn’t over
It’s never over

Facing forward
Lights out
I won’t stop running
Falling backwards
Hands tied
I won’t stop running
I’ll take another sunrise
Another hand to hold tight
This isn’t over
I am way too young and I won’t stop running

~ “Won’t Stop Running”, Great Big World

It is a Saturday as I write this;  May 28th, 2016.  It seems important that I note that, because when or if this story is ever shared, I know it’s one that will need to come in bits and pieces over time, not as a one-off post.  In a way, what I’m about to write about is the culmination of what’s actually been going on for years (decades, if I’m being honest) but in many many others it is just the very beginning baby steps of what will become a lifelong journey.

I have bipolar disorder.

I’ve been practicing saying that, even if mostly inside my own head.  I say it very well, don’t I?  Hello, my name is Jennifer and I have bipolar disorder.  Did anyone else just hear Richard Gere in Pretty Woman when I said that?  “Hello, my name is Mr. Lewis and I am very angry with my father.  It cost me ten thousand dollars in therapy to be able to say that sentence.” 

I haven’t (yet) spent ten thousand dollars in therapy, but I am actively going to therapy, which in and of itself is… unexpected.

But I’m getting way ahead of myself, and should really start at the beginning.

It was a cold and snowy day in 1974 when I was born …  KIDDING!  Well, only partly kidding, because it was a cold and snowy day when I was born.  I was born during a snow storm in fact.  That’s completely irrelevant to the story though.  Except that now that I’m thinking about it, it’s actually pretty poetically perfect that I was born during a storm.  I wouldn’t be ME if I’d been born on a calm, quiet, balmy day in June.

I’m just not the calm, quiet, balmy type.

I’ve always been open about my issues with depression and anxiety … and when I say “open”, I mean I’ve written about it a grand total of a whopping 4 or 5 times (out of 1,000 posts) over the course of the 10+ years that I’ve maintained this blog.  But while I was always as raw and honest as I could manage at the time, those posts only told a part of the story.  They were tentative.  Testing.  Dipping my toes in the water as it were.  I feel like I shared a great deal, but I subconsciously held back at least as much as I revealed.

I’m tired of holding things back.  My only personal goal right now is to get myself well, and I believe that part of that process is going to be total, uncensored honesty.

This spring I had a breakdown.  “Breakdown” is a weird word (one that’s a way too often and flippant word of hyperbole) that doesn’t convey the severity of what happened to me, but it’s the only word I’ve got.   As was my usual pattern, I’d just come down from feeling AMAZING. Life was so painfully beautiful it made me cry.  I’d been full of energy.  Full of grand ideas.  Full of huge plans.  I was going to write another book.  I was going to expand my blog.  I was going to start more blogs.  I spent hundreds of dollars on online courses to teach me how to do exactly that.  I was going to CHANGE THE FREAKING WORLD.    I felt like I could do absolutely anything.  And then….. I didn’t.  And then I got depressed.  And then I got really depressed.  And then I wanted to die.  And then, in the middle of taking the 8 year old to play rehearsals, and the 12 year old to football practice, and taking care of the kids and the house and the pets and everything else that comes with adulting, I had a breakdown.  To put it into perspective, the only reason I didn’t end up in the ER was that I found a psychiatric facility that could get me in for an evaluation right away.

Only a couple – less than five – trusted people knew how much I was truly struggling.  Even then, I spared them the gory details.  The little bits I did share here and there though were more than enough encouragement for well-meaning advice.  I just needed to exercise.  I needed more sleep.  I needed to change the way I ate.  I needed to use essential oils.  I needed more supplements.  I tried really hard not to be offended – and deeply, deeply frustrated – because I was exercising.  I was eating well.  I was getting sleep.  I was taking appropriate supplements.  And essential oils?  I tried pretty much all of them that were supposed to be helpful.  Daily.  But the thing is, motivation is great.  Exercise, sleep, and vitamins are great.  But there are some things they Just.  Don’t.  Cure.  I couldn’t fix it.  Sheer willpower was not doing it.  And it was insulting and minimizing every single time someone suggested otherwise.

It was reminiscent to the end of my journey with my gall bladder.  It was full of stones and sludge, it was starting to get inflamed, and there were stones lodged in the common bile duct.  I was due to have it removed, but then it started to get infected.  I ultimately had an attack that lasted about 72 hours, and in desperation called the surgeon’s office for advice.  The overly cheerful woman on the phone told me, “Oh you’ll see a big difference if you avoid things like fried foods.”  Fried foods?  Was she kidding me?  I hadn’t been able to eat ANY fat for several months, and hadn’t been able to keep down anything – at all – for days.  And she was talking to me about fried foods?  I ended up in the ER, where I checked in for a five day stay, one emergency operation, one endoscopic procedure, and a truckload of necessary medications.

She was being helpful to the best of her ability, but I didn’t need to be told to avoid fried foods.  It was so beyond that point.  What I  needed was intervention.  And in this case, I didn’t need to use essential oils.  It was so beyond that point.  What I needed was intervention.  It wasn’t that I was hanging on by a thread.  My thread WAS GONE.  I had no more thread, and I was hanging over a precipice.  The only recourse I had left was to seek the help of a professional.

So I did.

And it was the hardest, and scariest, thing I’ve ever done in my life.

(Continue to Part Two)

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Filed under about me, bipolar, depression, mania, mental health

25 Responses to Essential Oils Don’t Cure Bipolar: A Coming-Out Story – Part One

  1. wendy meijer

    So good to read your post. Well done for taking that step. Trusting your journey goes well. Amazing what advice is given when there is lack of understanding or education on mental health issues!

    • jen

      Thanks, Wendy! And yes, there definitely needs to be more understanding and education. I am encouraged to see more people speaking out about it, and hope to see the tides start to turn.

  2. Anonymous

    I took the same step about 2 years ago after lifelong symptoms (and a diagnosis 20 years ago that I mostly ignored). I am feeling better than I have felt since as far back as I can remember. Glad to hear you reached out to a professional. Big hugs.

    • jen

      I am so happy to hear that you too reached out, and so, SO happy that you are feeling much better now. This gives me so much hope and encouragement. xoxo

  3. Miquela

    Hello, Jen.

    I found and started following your blog after listening to a podcast you did with Pam Larrichia.

    I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this and to let you know you are heard. I have an aunt who has bipolar disorder and know how unhelpful it is for people to give her all the “solutions,” no matter how kindly-intentioned they are.

  4. Donna bright

    Please describe your breakdown, I think folks don’t realy u detest and what one is. Love 😊

    • Donna bright

      oh geez spell check, *understand

    • jen

      I think that if you asked this question to 100 people, you’d get 100 different descriptions. For me, it was like…. I’d fallen into a hole, and was just immobilized. I didn’t feel safe in my own body. Nothing made sense. I couldn’t think, couldn’t feel like normal person. It was like a panic attack (racing heart, nausea, feeling like I was going to pass out), but one that never ended. It wasn’t that I wasn’t able to do what I needed in my day to to day life; it was so beyond that. It was like, just EXISTING was too hard, and there was nothing I could do about it.

  5. Elizabeth

    Jen, like always, I love what you write. I had no idea that we had so much in common, I just knew that you spoke my language. Thank you for your honesty. Praying for you.

    • jen

      Thank you so much Elizabeth, for the kind words, and for the prayers. Feeling less alone in this is a huge, huge thing.

  6. Keely


    I have read your blog on and off for a while. I am a autistic bipolar person too. I can totally relate to what you have said and I look forward to reading more. I too feel I can be open about so many things but others just feel closed and shut down.

    Have a wonderful day.

  7. Angela

    I’ve been at “hanging by a thread” more and more often lately…I’m 46 with a 10 year old son, and an almost 13 year old daughter. I likely have bipolar too, but not “extreme”…so could be dysthymia. I try to manage without meds, but I am looking forward to hearing what helps you. If you are ever in Atlanta, stop by for some tea! 🙂

  8. Lisa from Iroquois

    I salute your bravery. Professionals can be life savers. I tried therapy once, she was a quack. Different city, different therapist – miracle worker. It took about five years of sessions and drugs to get past a chronic depression that I had apparently been struggling with since childhood. My family just tolerated me as moody but apparently I was already exhibiting symptoms eons back. Anyhow, work with your pro. Together you can make it easier, maybe never totally better, but occasionally – easier.

    • jen

      Lisa, I’m so glad that you found a good therapist, after a not-so-good first experience, and that you are moving through it, and standing strong. I feel so much more hope now (though I guess ANY hope is an improvement after having none for so long) to feel like I’ve found a good professional team, and am on the right track to learning to live with this. Much love to you!

      • Lisa from Iroquois

        I have no words of wisdom, just sending many good wishes as you continue to struggle. Any kind of mental illness can only be handled one day at a time, sometimes minute by minute. Hang in there.

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  11. Erin Fisher

    I am sorry you got to the point where there wasn’t anything to hang onto. My birth father and my older brother both suffer from bipolar disorder,alcoholism, plus, possible manic depressive personality. I know how they functioned so much better when they stayed on their bipolar medication. My older brother would benefit so much from therapy.
    I hope you never felt like I was trying to fix you like when I suggested my feverfew tincture for your migraines.
    I am praying for you.
    Thank you for your honesty. I can just get imagine how hard it was to share so much with strangers.

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