Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
This is the second half of my Bipolar story. For the first half, you will want to read The God in the Valley: A Bipolar Story. Since I am not a psychologist, or in any way a professional in this field, I’m going to draw on outside sources for my article and let you see some videos and interviews so that you will know that this is not just my opinion.
To begin, what is neurofeedback (also called biofeedback)? Watch this brief yet informative video to help you understand how neurofeedback works.
Going back to my own testimony, I was under the care of a psychiatrist and being treated with medicine for my bipolar symptoms. The mood swings were more or less under control, but I did not like the stigma of being under the care of a psychiatrist, nor did I like being dependent upon daily medications. If I missed a single dose, my family noticed because it showed up in my mood. But the worst part was that over time the medicine lost its efficacy, and my doctor and I would need to increase the dose or find something else in order to keep getting the desired result.
Then a dear friend of mine, who is also like a father to me, suggested I try neurotherapy. He knew of a therapist with a private practice nearby. The two of them had gone through the Naval Academy together. I had never heard of neurotherapy before, but on the recommendation of my friend I decided to give it a try. I called and made an appointment with Dr. Lanier Fly of Fly Family Therapy and drove 30 miles to his clinic. Believe me, it was worth every mile! In our interview he asked about my symptoms and background, and he said he could help me. Then Dr. Fly explained what I could expect from each session. There would be 30 minutes of talk therapy followed by 30 minutes of biofeedback. And more good news: he accepted my insurance. I agreed to the terms and started the treatment with two sessions per week.
Dr. Susan Othmer in the video above explained the biofeedback process quite well, but the actual procedure at Dr. Fly’s office was a little different, so I’ll tell you what we did. They put the electrodes on my head as explained in the video, but instead of watching a video game, I watched a movie of my choosing—well, a 30-minute segment of that movie, since the session only lasted 30 minutes. I could generally watch the entire movie in three sessions.
If my brain functioned as it should, the movie played normally. But if things weren’t working properly inside my head, then certain negative reactions would occur on the screen, depending on the setting that had been chosen at the beginning of the session. Usually for me it was a black curtain that would come over the picture. Also, muscular stress—such as laughter, yawning, or intense crying—would cause the picture and sound to fade, and I discovered that I could manipulate this to some degree. The blackout feature, however, was totally beyond my control to manipulate, but was all my brain’s doing. I could not consciously do anything to open the black curtain when it closed. My brain had to do that on its own. And eventually it learned. It’s amazing what the brain can learn.
Incidentally, something else I learned at these sessions was how to stop watching a movie partway through. One problem I had was that I was terribly sleep-deprived, but I would binge-watch my favorite movies even when I desperately needed sleep. Dr. Fly was elated the day I told him that the night before, when I got tired, I turned off the movie I was watching and went to bed. He told me that my brain needs sleep even more than my body does. During REM sleep our brains process thoughts, throwing out the trash and filing away the important information for easy recall later. When we don’t allow ourselves to get proper sleep, then our brains cannot function as they were intended. Ever since that day—with a few rare exceptions—I have made good sleep a priority.
After four months I was able to begin tapering off my medication–under the supervision of my medical doctor. Within six months of starting the neurotherapy I was completely off the bipolar medication, and I have never had to take it again! We also cut my biofeedback sessions back to once a week, then every other week, then once per month. All told, I went there for a little over a year, but about half of that was maintenance.
Is neurotherapy, or biofeedback, a cure for Bipolar Disorder? According to the experts, no, it is not. But is it an effective treatment that in many cases eliminates the need for medication because it retrains the brain in proper function. I like to think of it as remission. I have been off mood stabilizers and anti-depressants for six years and counting. Last year I actually passed a medical examination that qualified me for life insurance. That was huge!
There may be one more question on some of your minds: “Can I retrain my brain without biofeedback?” The misfiring is on the cellular level, and I’m inclined to think we might need some help with that. After all, God gave the doctors wisdom and knowledge. He has allowed us to understand how the brain works so that we can take measures to correct it when it is not functioning as it ought. God has made biofeedback possible, and it is certainly no sin to make use of this tool for healing and therapy.
However, biofeedback is expensive, and it is not available everywhere. What hope is there for those for whom neurotherapy is not an option? Again I ask, can I retrain my brain without biofeedback? I’d like to say yes, from a biblical standpoint. Biofeedback is all about teaching the brain to control its behavior. With God all things are possible, and God tells us to exercise self-control. He will not tell us to do something without also enabling us to do it.
2 Peter 1:3-8 According as His divine power has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who has called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Did you get that? According to God’s divine power, He has already given given us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Christ. The moment you become a child of God, everything you need to live a successful Christian life is given to you. You will not know how to use all the tools in the toolbox just yet, but they are there just the same. That means the more I study God’s Word and come to know Him, the better equipped I will be to manage my mood swings and every other part of my life.
But keep reading in the passage above. God has given us exceedingly great and precious promises. He has allowed us to be partakers of His divine nature. What does that mean? God desires to make you and me more and more like Him. When Satan told Eve in the Garden of Eden that she would be like God, he was distorting the truth and appealing to her pride. But God genuinely does desire for us to take on His characteristics, and right here He explains that. This passage is not for the unbelievers, but for those who have placed our faith in Christ for salvation. We are to add certain things to our faith as a natural product of maturity: virtue (courage), knowledge (of God and His will), temperance (self-control), patience (cheerful endurance), godliness (obedience), brotherly kindness (love for Christians), and charity (love for all mankind). These characteristics are evidence of an abundant life in Christ. It’s hard to be emotionally unstable while living abundantly with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity.
Perhaps if I had been more mature in my relationship with the Lord, I would not have struggled so much with manic-depression. I don’t know. And again, I’m not a professional. I’m telling you what I tried and what worked for me, and I am glad to have received the neurotherapy. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. My battle with Bipolar is over. I do not give science the credit for my healing/remission. All that glory belongs to God alone. As I said, He opened the eyes of the scientists whose studies have brought us this treatment in the first place, He allowed friends’ paths to cross so that I would learn that such a treatment exists, and He provided the funds necessary for me to receive it.
Neurotherapy is better than medication, but best of all is having a personal relationship with the God who created your brain and loves you far more than you can imagine. If you want to know more about biofeedback, I encourage you to search the Internet because I don’t know the answers. But if you want to know more about God, you may send me a message, and I will be very happy to tell you more.
“Neurofeedback for Depression” from About Neurofeedback. Published on YouTube April 1, 2015
“What Is Neurofeedback?” EEG INFO Videos” from Kurt Othmer. Published on YouTube April 8, 2007
“Neurofeedback: Bipolar Disorder” from Doctor Clarity. Published on YouTube July 29, 2010
“Dr. Carlton personal story with bipolar disorder and neurofeedback” from Carlton Neurofeedback Center. Published on July 14, 2016