For me, 1996 began as a regular year, playing music, enjoying friendships and working part time, but it ended like no other. It was the year I became more acquainted with mental illness than I ever thought I would, or wanted to be. By early December, I had experienced my first psychotic episode, which marked the beginning of a battle that raged for over a decade.
Its entrance into my life in early fall was insidious, stemming from indecision in my social life. My constant reflection of pros and cons in effort to make the perfect decision robbed me of sleep and attention to detail. I had a hard time organizing my thoughts to support the tasks of everyday life. Soon, simple choices such as which route to take home from work or which grocery store to shop at became agonizingly difficult. I ascribed an importance to these decisions that is generally reserved for life’s weightier matters.
Past mistakes became my obsession, followed by compulsion from voices that instructed me to carry out actions I believed would restore peace to my troubled mind. Instead, a growing sense of anxiety, guilt and impending doom developed. Any nightmares I had while asleep paled in comparison to the daymare I lived wide-awake. Friends and family members noted changes in my skin tone, weight and commented that, “I looked somewhat haunted.” Through a series of events involving no sleep for a number of days and self-harm, I was hospitalized, heavily medicated and diagnosed with psychosis.
Fast-forward almost 10 years to 2005: the year of my fifth and longest hospitalization. After three months, I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. At this point medical professionals wrote off all hopes of recovery and suggested that my wife leave our marriage, as I would most likely remain in the hospital for life. The prognosis was crushing, but we were undeterred in our search for answers. The next year, my wife and I found a medical doctor, Dr. Don Colbert (New York Timesbestselling author), who supplied my link to recovery – understanding the gut-brain connection. He taught us that the digestive system’s health plays an integral role in the health of the nervous system. His philosophy, supported by evidence, is: if you can heal the gut, you can heal the brain.
Vitamin and nutrient deficiencies and inflammation were both implicated in my poor mental health that developed in the preceding years. Most importantly, Dr. Colbert administered tests that measured neurotransmitter and hormone levels using biomarkers found in urine and saliva. And thanks to those results, I was able to see lab values that correlated to what I was experiencing for the first time. With this biochemical picture now in hand we had a way to positively impact my health through dietary changes and supplementation. Dr. Colbert and I worked together for almost five years to bring me where I am today; symptom and medication-free.
We believe what helped me will help others and we are determined to share our story to achieve that end. A documentary showcasing the gut-brain approach that includes interviews with the medical professionals who helped me recover is underway. The documentary is slated for release in summer 2013 with a book following closely behind in the fall.
For more on Sean’s story and his upcomng documentary, please visit:www.thrivementalhealth.ca
Sean Miller, an accomplished musician and vocalist, struggled with severe mental health issues for over a decade. Now, Sean is a determined Mental Health advocate and co-creator of Thrive Mental Health, an organization devoted to sharing the approach that helped him become symptom and medication-free. Sean is currently pursuing a degree in health sciences and lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with his wife, Doris.