I am a journalist and an editor with numerous bylines in everything from Chatelaine and Canadian Living to HealthWise and Canadian Family but my most challenging assignment in life has been as a mother. My daughter and another close family member both have bipolar and I have seen first hand the enormous cost that this most serious of mental illnesses exacts.

Early last year, our 19 year old daughter began showing increasingly serious symptoms of bipolar. She had experienced several bouts of depression but I told myself it was just normal teenage angst. She always had a very difficult time in school and it was only with a lot of extra curricular help that she was able to squeak by. Even though I knew she was intelligent, she had a terrible time concentrating and was continually disruptive in class - something that did not win the hearts of her teachers. At one point she was diagnosed with ADD but thankfully I refused to allow her to be put on Ritalin. At 19 she was drinking heavily, bouncing back and forth from distracted, giddy behaviour to not being able to get out of bed. Then we started seeing the terrible raging anger that is so typical of bipolar. She couldn¹t concentrate on her studies, was distraught about her chances of getting into university, was wracked with unnamed anxiety and was generally getting worse and worse.

One doctor suggested putting her on lithium but I could not face the prospect of watching a young life destroyed by the ravages of both the disease and the medications. I had read about an organization called Truehope in the National Post that was having success with treating bipolar with something called Empowerplus - high potency vitamin and mineral supplements modeled on those given to pigs and other farm animals to control behavioural problems. It sounded wacky but I was desperate. If it doesn¹t work what have we lost? I thought. The drugs will always be there.

Today my daughter still takes the Empowerplus supplements and has no symptoms of depression or mania or the horrible anxiety that goes with bipolar. Nor has she ever experienced any side effects. She is now happy, stable and normal ­ a far cry from the emotional hysteric we had been struggling with. She was able to concentrate on her studies, finish her year in high school with decent marks and get into Dalhousie University. She was even able to successfully navigate all the distractions and emotional upheavals that come with first year university (leaving home, keg parties, new boyfriend etc.) and score a 75% average - something that for a kid with bipolar is truly a miracle.

I know this is not a placebo effect because we have tried all sorts of things such as salmon oil and pycoganol to no effect. I also know that it is not just coincidence because she diligently filled out the detailed mood charts that are standard for any kind of treatment of bipolar. I wanted to see for myself what was happening so I charted her progress. Up until she started on Empowerplus her symptoms had been getting worse. However, there was a distinct and steady reduction of symptoms right after the time she started taking this stuff.

Empowerplus has changed her life and allowed her to be the sunny, happy, normal girl she deserves to be. Every day I thank God that I found out about this treatment when I did so that she never need enter the nightmare world of psychotropic drugs.

Sheila

Toronto, Ontario