Two Mavericks I Admire: Dr. Liz Miller, med-free author of “Mood Mapping” and Stephen Fry’s “The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive”

search                                            Dr. Liz Miller, author of “Mood Mapping”imgres                                            Actor and bestselling author Stephen Fry

Some people with bipolar disorder can live healthy, thriving lives without medication. Despite my doing tons of research, consulting with top experts and giving it my absolute best shot, I could not live medication-free.  Maybe in the future, but definitely not now.

A person with bipolar who is able to live without medication is neurosurgeon and general practitioner Dr. Liz Miller.  I discovered her in actor Stephen Fry’s acclaimed documentary “The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive”; she was one of his subjects.  If you haven’t seen Fry’s film yet, I highly recommend it – he profiles both celebrities and regular folks, and it’s inspiring and fascinating.  I got emotional watching him as he narrated the film.  I felt tears come to my eyes as he shared about his suicide attempt. He has been there in bipolarland hell, and he has made it back to the other side to help people and has become a major mental health advocate in the U.K.  Fry is vulnerable, funny as hell, and immensely likable, plus he has the British accent going for him!  You can watch the film on YouTube – here’s the link for the first part, and you can easily find the other parts on YouTube :

Dr. Miller was the only subject in Fry’s film who was living medication-free and doing well.  I was impressed by her philosophy and I appreciated how she shared what helped her stay sane, i.e. healthy eating, etc.  Aside from working part-time, she co-founded the Doctors Support Network, a confidential self-help group for physicians in the U.K. with mental health concerns.  I liked what Dr. Miller had to say so much that I tracked her down through the internet.  I asked her to write the foreword to my book, which would chronicle my becoming medication-free.  I conservatively planned my tapering process to take a full year.  After reviewing my proposal and sample chapters, Dr. Miller agreed to write the foreword, and I was thrilled.  Unfortunately, when I relapsed, that version of my book went out the window.  I cancelled the book deal I secured with a women’s health publishing company, and I never thought I’d write more than a few lines again.

Despite the fact that I refuse to toss away my pills, I can still incorporate some of Dr. Miller’s suggestions for remaining stable and healthy.  She wrote a  book titled  Mood Mapping (Rodale) and it’s for anyone who wishes to keep track of her moods and learn from them.  Mood Mapping is on Kindle and here’s the Amazon description:

Mood mapping simply involves plotting how you feel against your energy levels, to determine your current mood.  Dr. Liz Miller then gives you the tools you need to lift your low mood, so improving your mental health and wellbeing.  Dr. Miller developed this technique as a result of her own diagnosis of bipolar disorder (manic depression), and of overcoming it, leading her to seek ways to improve the mental health of others.  This innovative book illustrates: * The Five Keys to Moods: learn to identify the physical or emotional factors that affect your moods * The Miller Mood Map: learn to visually map your mood to increase self-awareness * Practical ways to implement change to alleviate low mood.  Mood mapping is an essential life skill; by giving an innovative perspective to your life, it enables you to be happier, calmer and to bring positivity to your own life and to those around you.


I am the Procrastination Queen…


I’ve had Dr. Miller’s book for a long time, and I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t read it all yet.  However, I intend to finish her book soon, try out Dr. Miller’s Mood Map, and report back here.

Here’s Dr. Miller’s Facebook page link for Mood Mapping:

1 thought on “Two Mavericks I Admire: Dr. Liz Miller, med-free author of “Mood Mapping” and Stephen Fry’s “The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive”

  1. I found much of mood mapping to be self evident,I am lucky enough to have good insight into my condition,& am usually aware of when I am starting to become manic/hypomanic,this is the only time that I really use meds,I don’t think that it is possible to manage mania without recourse to neuroleptic tranquillisers &/or benzodiazepenes.My disorder,Bipolar 1 with commorbid GAD is characterised by prolonged depressive episodes with intrusive suicidal ideation,with the additional problem of excess production of adrenaline/noradrenaline due to GAD(that’s if you buy the separate condition aspect of commorbid GAD,which I don’t,I believe that it is simply a part of bipolar disorder,when informed that 70% Of people with Bipolar affective disorder also have a com morbid anxiety disorder,that tells me it is simply a facset of Bipolar)this mixture of depression & too much adrenaline manifests as dysphoria,one can learn to manage nearly all aspects of how to regulate ones mood,however dysphoria is an evil bitch,it is the irritability,or should I say extreme irritability. One of the side effects of producing far far too much adrenaline is that it causes all your muscles to start to contract,ie the intercostal muscles & diaphragm stop working effectively killing ones ability to breathe,at this point I will sometimes use Valium as a muscle relaxant,this allows you to breathe deeply/properly which resets the adrenaline mechanism,at least for a while.
    These 2 exceptions aside,I find that with diet,exercise,acupuncture/osteopathy,aromatherapy & cognitive programming,I am able to deal with this disorder without recourse To meds.To be able to do this meant that I had to get used to routinely crushing/suppressing very nasty intrusive thoughts,but this habitual ritualistic response to vile thoughts becomes easier & easier as you continue to do it,in much the same way as learning to drive,ride a unicycle etc,once you become adept at it,it eventually becomes a habitual response to the shite thoughts,you don’t even have to think about it as it has become an autonomic response,this takes time & effort to achieve,so don’t become too dispirited with it,it took years to get right,so just keep at it.
    One final thing,the goal is to live with as little use of meds as one can,not to live med free,the goal is coherence,to be able to live coherently without having this very challenging condition deliniate all aspects of ones life.
    It is also wise to note that Bipolar affective disorder is a very broad catchall term,it encompasses a very very broad range of symptomology,& so never compare your management strategies too closely,as you may well be having a far far worse time than the person you are comparing yourself too.Dr Peter Breggin & the anti psychiatry movement have some valid points but are far far too rigid about being med free,this condition may only be treatable with meds at some phases ie mania.But this doesn’t mean that life has to be a huge cocktail of pills.Carry on with your quest for minimal med use Dyanne,it is defo the way to go.
    Also it helps to remember that a part of the management skills needed is that you have to get used to feeling shit,it sucks to have to write that,but it is true,you have to get to a point where you realise that accepting that you feel lousy & then Just ignore those feelings.I found the idea of controlled folly useful,I came across this idea when reading Carlos Castaneda whilst at college doing my Geology degree.I have found that during some periods of intense depression that pretending that it wasn’t happening & then manifesting behaviours & activities that I associate with happiness can help,it is almost like you trick yourself into forgetting you are suicidal,so on one hand you try to stop the stupid thoughts,to ignore them & on the other you are trying to do something that you find enjoyable,dancing to old school 1960’s Ska with my cat for example,forcing yourself into that moment(a bastardised version of a mindfulness meditation,with a bit of Merry Prankster living in the monument)I find this works well in conjunction with the vapouriser.
    Anyway enough of this rambling discourse,hope it is of interest & helpful.
    Luv 1Wheel

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