Monday, May 19, 2008


I've been doing a lot of thinking about what I've written over the last few days concerning the possible connection between my bipolar symptoms and my use of the artificial sweetener aspartame.

If that's actually what happened--and I understand that only time is going to tell, if I remain episode free, and I also understand that even if I do remain episode free, I may never know for sure--am I supposed to angry at someone?

Like maybe the FDA, for allowing this dangerous chemical to proliferate through our food supply?

Or maybe the maker of Nutrasweet, for their advertising hype that would have us believe that eating aspartame was no different from eating milk and bananas?

Or myself, for putting that crap in my body for so long?

Or my psychiatrist, for having absolutely no interest in my dietary habits other than whether or not I was putting too much food in my mouth?

Frankly, I'm not sure how I feel. I'm relieved that maybe I have an answer that makes sense. But I also feel angry at all of the corporations that put dangerous chemicals in food in order to make a buck. And angry that the FDA isn't doing it's job. I'm angry at myself, and I'm angry at a mental health system that sees a checklist of symptoms, hands out life sentences and meds, and doesn't inquire any further as to other possible causes.

Hmmm. I suspect the focus of my Writing to Heal project is about to make a rather dramatic shift.


Mark Krusen said...

I've been thinking about what you've been writing too. I don't drink as far as I know anyway anything with aspartame in it. But like I said. I have taken different drugs over the years that may have even help cause the very conditions I'm being treated for now. This blows my mind even more. I'll be waiting for further research on this subject from you.

Jazz said...

One of the things I think we can do to help ourselves, regardless of what our diagnosis is, is to eat the healthiest possible diet that we can, and do all the right things for ourselves, such as getting adequate sleep, getting exercise, and learning stress management techniques. I think that if we can do those things, they can help minimize the amount of medication we need to take. Just my two cents...and I'm not a doctor, or anything...

Anonymous said...

On getting angry.
Sometimes anger is the first step to solving a situation. You have to be frustrated enough to do something...or you stay the same.
Channel your anger.

Are you doing anything else beside stopping meds and aspartame?

Yo need to be careful and have a plan in place.

Jazz said...

Well, I stopped both of them three years ago, and have been episode free since...but only just made the "aspartame connection" recently, when I was trying to reconcile the lack of family history of bipolar and the lack of episodes over the past three years. I do still see a psychiatrist, but it's just an every three months thing, which usually goes something like this:

Doc: How's it going?
Me: Fine. No depression, no mania.
Doc: Have you thought about trying Abilify?
Me: *sigh*

Anonymous said...

Why do you still go to the doc every three months?

Jazz said...

Actually, I'm going to cancel my next appointment, which is coming up in June. I don't see a whole lot of point if I'm not buying the bipolar diagnosis!

Jazz said...

Naturalgal, I should add to that--when I stopped taking meds three years ago, I was completely disgusted with the doctor I was seeing, so I not only stopped meds, but I stopped going to him, as well. But I was still buying into the bipolar diagnosis at that point.

This past January, I decided it was about time I faced up to it and accepted it and did the responsible thing, and got another doc on board, just in case. Well, I found a doc, and I told him all the healthy things I've been doing for the past few years and how I haven't had any episodes...and his response was, "Well, you have a really scary family history, and you're taking a big risk not being on medication." The family history he's referring to is the depression which nearly everyone in my mother's family suffers from.

I didn't let him talk me into more meds, but he did agree to see me every so often to keep tabs on things.

But over the last week or so I've been doing more research, and I'm just not sure that the bipolar diagnosis is accurate. I may have presented with those symptoms when I saw my first doctor, and I had certainly had mood swings the whole time I was using aspartame. But I find it very interesting that the mood swings have stopped completely since I stopped the aspartame. The only mood issues I've had lately have been from trazodone withdrawal (I've been using trazodone to help me sleep since I saw my first psych doc five years ago...because you know, if you're bipolar, sleep is the most important thing...)

Sorry it's so long-winded, but that's why...this bipolar/aspartame connection has only occurred to me recently. But it makes a lot of sense.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Jazz,
I, too, went through an anger phase, which then turned into a huge grief and loss phase. While I think there is a value in anger, as there is a value in expressing grief and loss, I let it all go on too long.

Part of my saving grace with this illness has always been my sense of humor, and my positive attitude.

After awhile, I began feeling "bitter," which is an emotion I would never have used before to describe myself.

I was not only angry/bitter at my doctors who'd possibly misdiagnosed me, and then turned me into a bipolar person with their medication, but at friends and family members who abandoned me when my behavior became erratic due to the medication, and I guess I could go on and on.

Anyway, I finally decided that I don't enjoy being around angry/bitter people so I needed to stop exhibiting this behavior.

I'm back to playing music, exercising, writing, and coming up with more positive ways of dealing with my feelings about what happened.

P.S. Love the quilt! The bold colors and simplicity of design are truly wonderful!

Jazz said...

I'm not sure if grief and loss are going to come or not, since I feel I already went through those with the initial diagnosis...we shall see. I'm working on writing it out and trying to stay in touch with myself so that it doesn't go on and on.

Glad you liked the fish quilt. It's not the sort of thing I usually do...

Marissa Miller said...

This is certainly a shift in thinking for me. I'd consider myself to be much fatter without artificial sweetener but I've never analyzed whether it correlated to my mental health.

Jazz said...

It was a big shift for me, too. It took a long time for me to find another way to get my morning caffeine, but I find I'm drinking a lot less of that now, too. Just two cups of tea a day does it for me. And I can tell myself that tea is actually good for me!

Jazz said...

I should add, Marissa, that I actually stopped drinking the diet soda about three years ago, but have only recently made the connection that it may have a lot to do with my current mostly-unmedicated stability.

Marissa Miller said...

I'd love to get into but it doesn't seem to give me that kick I need in the morning. I have to cede that I am now addicted to coffee (or caffeine).

I stopped drinking soda completely two years ago and it hasn't done anything for my sanity. :( But I'm glad the change has helped you!