We all know someone who suffers with mental health and for many of my beautiful tribe, it’s a personal journey. I sat down recently with Dr Christina Bjorndal, Naturopathic Doctor, to chat about her new book Beyond the Label: 10 Steps to Improve your Mental Health with Naturopathic Medicine. Our chat uncovered a load of gems around the pillars of overall wellness so I decided to break it out into a 3-part series that I’ll be sharing here over the month of June.
First; a little background.
While doing her undergraduate degree at UBC in the late 1980’s, Dr Christina experienced debilitating depression and anxiety. Like many, she had not heard about naturopathic medicine so she was treated with medications that she found were not effective. Six months after starting an antidepressant for the very first time to help her depression and anxiety, she spun into a delusion, psychotic, manic episode. It took six people – her mom, boyfriend, two paramedics and two firemen to wrestle her into a straight jacket. After being taken to hospital she was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder type 1 and has since lived in shame because of this label. “I just wanted to be “normal”, Dr Christina shared with me.
After surviving a suicide attempt (which left her in a coma, on dialysis waiting for a kidney transplant), she finally began the healing process after reading a book called “ A Return to Love” by Marianne Williamson. Up until this point Dr. Christina has been living with the shame and stigma of the labels she had been given.
Since reading that book, and for over 25 years now she has been learning to accept and understand herself and her diagnosis with the help of many types of practitioners. “I have come to realize that there are 10 steps to mental wellness and there are more natural ways to treat mental “dis-ease” “. For the next few weeks on my blog I’m going to sharing wisdom from Dr. Christina and her beautiful new book, “Beyond the Label: 10 Steps to Improve your Mental Health with Naturopathic Medicine“.
Let’s dig in with the part 1: Looking At The Whole Self
Dr. Christina, when you look to understand a patients wellness what do you consider the “whole self”?
There are four aspects to health from my perspective; physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. In North America, most physicians are focussed on the physical level – ie take a pharmaceutical, herbal medicine or diet/nutrition, supplementation. However, I feel that to truly get to a state of healing and wellness, all levels need to be addressed. By solely focussing on the physical level you are missing 75% of the health puzzle.
However, with respect to the physical level, it is important to understand that you have 3 macrosystems in you: neurotransmitters, neuroendocrine or hormonal system and organs of detoxification. All these systems are working together in the one vessel that is your body and imbalances in one area can affect the functioning of another. The beauty of Naturopathic Medicine is that it addresses the root cause of disease so we can determine which macrosystems need to support and restore the body back to optimum function.
Addressing the other 3 pillars are my favourite; our mental, emotional and spiritual wellness. These include looking at our thoughts, how we behave and react in the world, our emotions, the environment we are raised in and how we each uniquely define our spirituality. Ultimately, I think it is important to wrap all these steps up on love and compassion for ourselves. At the end of the day, it really comes down to that.
Let’s do a little self-assessment. Close your eyes. Take some nice relaxing breaths and gently offer yourself time to contemplate; How do feel physical? Mentally? Emotionally? Spiritually? What bubbles up for you in each of these areas? Is there one that you are normally more focused on? Is there 1 or more that you’ve never considered before?
Next week; Part 2: Supporting Physical Health While Addressing Mental Health.