Bipolar Disorder Story of Remission and Recovery

16th October 2023

How Dr. Liz Miller fully recovered from Bipolar Disorder I through intensive journaling and writing therapy, subsequent self-insight, and lifestyle changes.

Dr. Liz Miller’s story of full recovery and remission from bipolar disorder serves as an inspirational example for those suffering from bipolar disorder, or for those who are just seeking more order within themselves, whether it be with a formal diagnosis of bipolar disorder, or dealing with symptoms associated with the disorder.

Dr. Miller's bipolar disorder story demonstrates a path to recovery through self-insight and therapy, lifestyle changes and self help rather than through lifetime maintenance with pharmaceutical drugs, as is most commonly recommended. Hers is a story of how basic lifestyle changes and practicality, as well as therapy through intense journaling for introspection, through writing about moods and devising ways to become aware of changes in mood and then making appropriate changes, resulted in gradual, and finally, full recovery from what is now referred to as Bipolar Disorder I. (Bipolar disorder I is a more severe form of the disorder, bipolar disorder II, somewhat less severe).

Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis, Denial and Resistance, Hospitalization

Dr. Miller began to experience severe symptoms associated with depression, mania and bipolar disorder at the age of twenty-nine when she began to isolate herself after a prosperous medical career and as a student of neurosurgery. Like many in the same situation, she was in denial and returned to work upon release, hiding her hospitalization from everyone outside of her immediate family.

As a result, she was admitted to the hospital twice more, resisting treatment despite her inability to concentrate or comprehend the difficulties she was going through. Feeling like she was backed into a corner, she couldn't see a future and soon slipped into depression with corresponding bouts of mania.

Acceptance, Self-Education, Self-Agency, Self-Management

With time, she came to accept her situation and started reading all of the bipolar disorder stories and studies that she could get her hands on. Reading material on the subject of bipolar disorder beyond mere medical model analysis, or anything pertaining to self help for bipolar disorder, was extremely sparse, and she joined support groups and began to volunteer for the Manic Depression Fellowship, now referred to simply as the Bipolar Organisation (U.K.), which is where she was introduced with the concept of self-management as a means of controlling the symptoms of the disorder.

Intensive Writing Therapy, Journaling, Mood Documentation and Mapping

Using this as a launching pad, she began intensive writing therapy, documenting her moods, activities, traumas, and day to day experiences in journals, as well as in short stories and novels, detailing every part of her day. She chronicled her moods and feelings as she experienced them, endeavoring to pin them down for inspection. What contributed or preceded depression? Mania? What made her feel worse? What alleviated symptoms?

She was able to pinpoint specific lifestyle habits and activities along these lines, and this led to lifestyle changes, significant adjustments, resulting in overall improvement. The writing therapy, especially intensive journaling, in itself was therapeutic.

This process and the improvement she experienced, led Dr. Miller to the development of a system that visually mapped moods that proved to be more detailed and comprehensive than the mood chart from the Bipolar Organisation used in their program and that had initiated her approach to this method.

"I stopped listening to anything that might upset me, such as loud music
and disturbing films."

Miller's Bipolar Disorder Story: Isolating Five Aspects of Mood - Positive Affect

During this time of intensive hour-by-hour journaling, she isolated five differentials affecting mood:

Physical body
Inner nature
Utilizing these facets of the inner self, the effect of environment, and the affect that day to day interactions with others had on her moods, Dr. Miller self-evaluated and found that once she knew more about her illness and the symptoms associated with it, connected with others, and acknowledged her disorder, her depression began to lift, her manic episodes began to equilibrize, and she became assured in her belief that self-management was beginning to work.

"I had been told I would be on medication for the rest of my life, that I was at constant risk of further episodes of mental illness, and that I would probably never work again."

Bipolar Disorder I Recovery Through Lifestyle Changes

Next, she began to make lifestyle changes in harmony with the newly developed self-insight in order to initiate further equilibrium on other aspects of mood associated with her bipolar disorder diagnosis. Since she noticed that her energy level directly affected her mood, she started making changes with physical habits.

The following are just some of the changes she made in physical activity that positively affected her mood and balance:

Quieted down and went to bed early.
Stopped smoking.
Regular exercise: Running and swimming.
Gave up drinking alcohol.
Positive changes in nutrition and diet - vegetarian diet, cut out junk food.
Paid more attention to sleep and energy levels.
Other psycho-physical changes
that Dr. Miller notes which positively affected and helped to balance her mood were:

Read as much as possible on her disorder.
(Reading stories or insightful professional material on bipolar disorder can be therapeutic as you connect with others, you gain relief from isolation and develop a sense of community with others who may be experiencing the same emotions. However, reading in itself, as a calming, solitary activity, can positively affect mood and emotions).
Making positive changes in music, toward music that was more calming.
Cutting out disturbing movies.
[For some, cutting out television as a lifestyle, or during a period of recovery is practical for many reasons. The news, as one example, with its emphasis on the negative, can contribute to depression or disequilibrium for those who are emotionally sensitive, which can include both women or men. The same can be said for similarly negative or intriguing journalistic television news magazines that focus on tense, intense, disturbing or negative situations.]

Self-management Effective for Bipolar Disorder - Miller's Recovery and Remission

The lifestyle changes made by Dr. Miller, with the correspondent positive affect on her mood, further reaffirmed that self-management was effective. Further, it aided in her eventual discontinuation with reliance on mood stabilizers and antipsychotics.
Mapping her way through a progressive bipolar disorder story that was ultimately successful, Dr. Miller finally struggled out of a dense jungle of extremes in mood that had previously eluded her, and it became quite clear to her that being cognizant of day-to-day, and moment-to-moment changes in mood and what precipitated those moods was a critical piece of the puzzle. She recommends a similar approach for others with bipolar disorder.

Miller has been off of psychiatric medications now for 14 years, and states that she there is no doubt in her mind that she will never have to go back on psychiatric drugs for bipolar disorder, after many years of battling with Bipolar Disorder I. She has not sustained a diagnosis of bipolar disorder during this time period.

Dr. Miller has been working secularly in Occupational Health and General Practice for years now, something that she gradually eased back into her life over the past two decades. Initially, she worked as a volunteer with supportive organizations with which she was affiliated, and gradually was able to handle secular work, which at first was only part-time.

What we can learn from Dr. Miller's success in overcoming bipolar disorder and similar successful bipolar disorder stories of recovery

Dr. Miller wisely observes that "mood forms the foundation on which different feelings and emotions grow." Through her experience, we can learn that if we put into practice changing the background music in our lives, we might achieve greater peace of mind and clarity. Through gaining self-insight and make changes that reflect what we learn in our journey of self-discovery and personal growth, we can map our way out of the jungle of the mood extremes related to bipolar disorder, and be to walk the path of remission and recovery, charting a course towards our own bipolar disorder success stories.

If we haven't been able to maintain our secular work, we can reintroduce work gradually, and with recovery, lead much happier and healthier lives. You can recover from bipolar disorder. Develop a sense of self-determination, self-agency, get control over your own life, make decisions conducive to a lifestyle that contributes to better physical and corresponding mental health. Dr. Miller's success in overcoming bipolar disorder is not an isolated case. There are literary thousands of bipolar disorder success stories to be related. Of the millions who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder I or II annually, literally hundreds of thousands recover and experience remission.

This biographical account is based on the book, Mood Mapping: Plot Your Way to Emotional Health and Happiness (off-site), Dr. Liz Miller's autobiographical summary of her experiences with bipolar disorder and recovery, and based on personal communication with Dr. Miller. In 2008, Dr. Miller was voted Mind's Mental health Champion of the Year. Dr. Miller also is a co-founding member of the Doctors' Support Group

Mood Mapping: Plot Your Way to Emotional Health and Happiness by Dr. Liz Miller is an informational and practical book based on a 14-day plan of self-management exercises that guide readers to a greater understanding of mood regulation. It provides daily exercises centered on comprehensive journaling designed to lead to self-insight, and as a method to micro-manage feelings and emotions before they affect moods.