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Inner Fire:http://innerfire.us/My Story:
My name is Tino Benson, I'm 20 years old and I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 in February of 2018. Since then, my world has turned on its head and back again, I've gone through so much that I feel as though I've lived multiple lives. The amount of transformation has been unbelievable but there is still healing to be done!
My goal is to taper off of my medications in an environment that specializes in tapering as well as providing the tools of self-discovery and introspection needed to establish a relationship with the mind, body and spirit so that I am best suited to thriving with Bipolar, not just simply getting by as a zombie.
I currently need $1500 to visit Inner Fire, a holistic mental health retreat so that I can spend three days there to see if it is a good fit. (There are no other places in the Nation that are offering what Inner Fire offers, it also happens to be less than 20 minutes from my house, and to put it in perspective further, staying at a state funded hospital where there is no profound growth happening with the treatment and meds are all that is used, it costs three times what Inner Fire costs per day. Let that sink in.)
When I was first diagnosed, I was in complete denial. I had just lost my job because I was experiencing amnesia caused by a psychotic break. For my last week at the cafe I was working at I was losing touch with reality. My five senses were on overdrive and my mind was getting too much stimulation to process it in a timely fashion. I remember my coworkers one day whispering to one another "It's like he's forgotten everything!".
Hearing that truly frightened me as I realized that I had no control over what was happening. Soon after this I spiraled out of control. I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 and acute psychosis and sent to the Brattleboro Retreat for a few days shortly after my birthday. For the following months I was getting into all sorts of trouble with my families, neighbors and everyone I interacted with on the internet. One day I found myself walking into a neighbors house in just my underwear, another day I was smashing a hole in the wall of my step-dad's shop, thinking I was a samurai. Another time I pretended that I was a 150 year old German who had been transported to another body. I even shaved off one of my eyebrows!
I was in and out of mania and depression. There was no end in sight. Eventually I wound up back at the Retreat, this time for 22 days. I got straightened out after a whole lot of even more unbelievable things happened.
I was released and I started the medications. They worked, mostly, but I had still clung to this rule-breaking, boundary-pushing identity that I formed during the prior six months. I for some reason missed two days of my dose and ended up in another manic state, this time I removed the license plates from my car, along with the rear-view mirror and was picked up by New Hampshire state police. Go figure.
My final stay at the Brattleboro Retreat was very constructive as I began to re-establish the rules of society and spent a LOT of time reflecting on the previous months, doing a lot of drawing and journaling. When I was released, my psychiatrist had strongly suggested that I attend Soteria, Pathways Vermont up in Burlington where I could taper off my meds. He had made it clear that I should only be on the meds for a few months.
So, I got in contact with Soteria and was put on the waiting list. During this time I was adjusting to regular medications and let me tell you, they were STRONG when I first started taking them. It was as if I was being knocked out right after taking each pill. I was sleeping for an additional four or five hours each morning and was groggy the rest of the day. Soon I couldn't go on long hikes without feeling like I was going to pass out. I started binge eating and gaining weight. My self esteem was plummeting. By the time December rolled around, I was a totally different person than who I was just a year earlier; I was no longer driven, motivated, inspired, excited or happy. I was just getting by. I even bought an Xbox and was spending all my waking hours behind the screen. I had gained 10 pounds and felt awful most days.
My wake up call for me occurred when I was told that Soteria was no longer an option because I was in remission for too long. It was like a slap in the face; I had to wake up to the reality that the whole time, my healing was up to me and that I had actually been making things worse by not taking a proactive position in my life.
So, I made a total U-Turn. I sold my xbox, stopped playing videogames and began spending more time learning about Bipolar and the effects of medications. I implemented a daily routine to my life which involved meditation, breathwork, yoga, positive affirmations, reading and journaling. I fixed my diet and lost all the weight that I had put on. I was transforming myself into a person who believed that the world was happening "for" me rather than "to" me. I spent lots of time researching alternative treatment centers until I came across Inner Fire.
It was everything I was looking for and more.
It is a proactive healing community that offers a choice for people to recover from debilitating and traumatic life challenges without using psychotropic medications. Those who attend are not referred to as "clients" or "patients" rather as "seekers" due to the nature of the program. It is a unique journey of empowerment for each individual. Unlike all of the other healing centers that I had found (Vermont has a lot of which I am super grateful for), Inner Fire seeks deep and lasting healing that replaces meds with a holistic care regimen that addresses core issues surrounding emotional pain. It empowers seekers to become enthusiastic and vital members of their communities.
Specifically, the program entails a year long work and therapeutic program broken up into three stages. The Foundation which deals with laying the groundwork for healing, The Transformation that constitutes the bulk of the program and healing process, and The Transition to Independence which prepares the seeker for life after Inner Fire.
Holistic therapies include biographical counseling, eurythmy, hauschka artistic therapy, music therapy, rythmical massage, spatial dynamics, speech arts and drama. Detoxification and tapering with the help of a professional psychiatrist and naturopathic physician. Family education and support. Mentoring, life skills and life coaching. Organic food and nutrition (This is HUGE when it comes to mental health and so many people miss this aspect! Your gut has 90% of serotonin and 50% of dopamine so when you're filling it with GMO foods, medications and environmental toxins you're dircetly contributing to mood disorders and a whole slew of other health issues). The practical work in the program includes animal husbandry, cooking, crafts and trades, forestry, gardening, homemaking and cleaning. If you want to find out more, check out http://innerfire.us/
and read through everything they have available. There is also a 40 min interview with the founder Beatrice Birch that really shows what she's all about.
I want to stress to you all that tapering off of psychotropic medications alone or simply with the help of a psychiatrist is often very painful and can lead to relapse, re hospitalization or further medication because the concept of withdrawal is very poorly known in the conventional medical community. There is no concept of a holistic picture and gaining deep insights into one's self and getting to the core of the illness is highly unlikely in this situation.
And despite all of the changes I have made to my lifestyle, I still have so much to learn regarding my condition and I know that I need an environment where it is safe for me to express myself and where there are people who are available to foster true, vulnerable and honest communication. As I am now, my meds have been in my system for over 8 months now, FAR longer than I had origninally intended. My energy levels have never been the same since I started taking them and although I have been adjusted for a long time, I still have a feeling of being drugged to sleep rather than naturally feeling tired and going to bed. The longer that I am on these medications, the longer my brain is trying to compensate for the foreign substances in my system.