I was a Master’s degree student aimlessly wandering the streets in East London on a damp and dreary day when I saw a sign outside a church that read, “Even the devil can come disguised as an angel of light.” I had no doubt it was a message from God, talking directly to me. He was summoning me inside, ready to debrief me on my holy assignment.
Inside the church, I was greeted not by God, but by a man teaching an ESL class. Interrupting him, I kindly, but firmly, insisted that he go get God for me. I had an urgent matter to discuss with him. I also translated my request to a student in the class who had emigrated from Pakistan. I am fluent in Hindi, a language very closely related to Urdu, because I’d lived in India for a few years prior to moving to London.
The instructor looked at me with bewilderment and fear in his eyes. It was not long until the police showed up and dragged me out of the church kicking and screaming.
They drove me to a hellish place with harsh, bright lighting. It reeked of disinfectant. This must be some type of limbo, I thought. A gateway. One final trying journey on my path to transcendence and being able to finally meet God. After numerous forced injections and weeks of taking medication, I slowly began to comprehend that I was a patient in a psychiatric hospital. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Mental illness is unlike any other form of illness because it often feels like an inextricable part of one’s identity. The psychotic, delusional world that had swallowed my reality so suddenly and ruthlessly in London, slowly dissipated after my return home to Illinois. But I was left with an unfamiliar, cold, dark version of my former self, completely devoid of pleasure or joy.
Everything and everyone now seemed to be covered in a thin, grimy film. I had incessant, visceral, suicidal thoughts. My body felt physically heavy, foreign, and excruciatingly difficult to move. It was a battle to get out of bed, brush my teeth, or change my clothes. I sought out healthcare professionals and was trying to heal, but no one seemed to truly understand the gravity of my pain and grief. I was mourning the loss of myself. I was sure I had irreparable brain damage and would never be the same again. I doubted there was a point to staying alive.
Recovery was especially difficult as I faced side effects of the medicine that had completely altered my body and mind. Within six months of being on antipsychotics, I had put on seventy pounds and no longer had the energy to jog or exercise. I felt like I was wearing sunglasses that I could not take off. I was unable to focus or think creatively. I was no longer confident there was a bright and beautiful world outside.
I eventually stabilized and got over my suicidal ideation, but felt that I had to settle for this new, diminished version of myself, physically confined to a body and mind that no longer felt like my own. While I was able to maintain a job and go through the motions of daily life on medication, I never seemed to regain the adventurous, imaginative, passionate energy that had defined my life prior to my bipolar diagnosis.
I tried going off of the medication twice over the course of a decade, once, a little over six months after my first episode in London. And then again after seven years of stability on medication. Both of those experiments resulted in psychotic breaks and weeks of hospitalization. After my second attempt to get off of antipsychotics failed in June of 2021, I had to accept that I could not stay mentally stable without some form of treatment. I was determined, however, to scour the earth for an alternative to antipsychotic medications. When my search led me to the work of Dr. Christopher Palmer and the Brain Energy theory of mental illness, I discovered a path that has fundamentally transformed my life and restored me to my true self.
Implementing this new form of metabolic intervention was challenging. I read everything I could find about therapeutic ketosis. Unfortunately, at the time, I could not find a single psychiatrist or doctor who would take my insurance and knew how to help with ketogenic therapy. I wanted nothing more than to be monitored and guided through the process by an expert.
The scientific research about treating mental disorders with metabolic strategies was so compelling, and it all made perfect, logical sense. I was confident that the ketogenic diet would be an effective treatment for my bipolar disorder. I understood the risks involved in trying it on my own without a trained medical professional. Completely fed up with the side effects of medication that were ruining my life, I decided to do it anyway. I bought a Keto Mojo ketone meter and strictly adhered to a dairy-free, vegetarian keto diet.
Now, not only have I succeeded in fighting my way back to baseline, I can honestly say that life is even better than it was prior to my illness. I feel physically fit, as well as creative and focused, but without any of the frenetic energy that comes with hypomania, or the side effects of the drugs. Metabolic therapy, including a ketogenic diet for bipolar, makes me feel, for the first time that I can remember, simultaneously deeply calm and optimally productive.
This treatment has required discipline, fostering a deeper appreciation of how my choices and behaviors shape my life. Having temporarily lost my mind, I cherish my conscious control over my thoughts and actions above all else. Rather than taking medication, my treatment today consists of a combination of life-enhancing routines and diet. I cultivate a positive mindset through daily breath work meditation, journaling, eliminating alcohol, prioritizing my sleep, and exercising. What seems particularly key for me are a therapeutic ketogenic diet and fasting. These promote mitophagy and mitochondrial biogenesis.
I once again feel creative, introspective, focused, and energetic. I relish the experience of deep joy, love, connection, and purpose, without the fear that I will fall into the clutches of mania. I feel like myself.
Although I was repeatedly told that bipolar is a lifelong, chronic illness, I now know this is not true. The Brain Energy theory of mental illness has liberated me from psychiatric medications. I have learned that my experiences were just symptoms of metabolic brain dysfunction, and thanks to metabolic treatment interventions, I am no longer bipolar. I am in remission and on a path to lifelong healing. It’s a beautiful place to be.
Disclaimer: “Although Hannah was able to adjust her medications and start a ketogenic diet safely on her own, not all people can. There are serious risks with both. We strongly recommend that people work with their healthcare providers to adjust medications and/or start therapeutic ketogenic diets as a treatment for mental health conditions. The Brain Energy movement is working to educate more healthcare professionals to be able to offer these treatments.”
Hannah Warren is an artist, writer, and social entrepreneur. She joined Baszucki Group and its initiative, Metabolic Mind, in November 2023 as Mental Health Communications and Advocacy Manager. These organizations are focused on advancing the science of metabolic psychiatry to drive long term, systemic change in the mental health field, while equipping patients, families and clinicians with resources to implement metabolic therapies today. Hannah promotes the brain energy theory and spends much of her time researching and writing about metabolic interventions, as well as actively implementing treatments for neurometabolic dysfunction including a vegetarian, dairy-free keto diet, intermittent fasting, exercise and meditation.