Monday, February 01, 2010

Bipolar Chronicles

These podcasts detail the reasons I went on a 10 day vipassana meditation course, what the course was like, how I had a manic psychotic episode followed by depression (bi-polar), and the actions which I took to come through it.

All up it's probably about 2 hours or so of audio - so I've broken it up into chapters. The first one is just an intro - 3 mins long detailing what I'm going to talk about.

Feedback welcome.

Introduction (Download mp3)

Chapter 1 - Why I went on the vipassana course. (Download mp3)

Chapter 2 - What happened on the vipassana course. (Download mp3)

Chapter 3 - Being manic. (Download mp3)

Chapter 4 - In acute psychiatric care. (Download mp3)

Chapter 5 - Depression (Download mp3)

Chapter 6 - Recovery and synopses (Download mp3)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

truly well spoken. its surprising how similar my mania was to yours( or perhaps to all mania in general? ), beginning with complete unconditional 'trust' - the circle and the numbers ( 0 and 8 in my case) healing with thoughts-having a noble vision to spread compassion-guiding a train using thought power- its all strikingly similar.

A little different from all that was that I had a 'personal word' that made perfect sense as a key to the future. I also (un)consciously decided to do away with all forms of personal identification-perhaps a form of ego-death.

I am now harboring a desire to take the course again to 'heal' myself back to normalcy-but now that i know it is possible to be back to normal with meds - i will rethink this decision.

Thanks again for the effort-and marvelous idea to read from your diary.Very inspiring.

9:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for commenting - I must have forgotten to mention that I also had the "getting rid of personal identification" thing. I turned up for a flight with just a piece of paper saying I'd lost my drivers license (I had, prior to going on the course - found it after) and went to the man with the white shirt - being sure he'd let me on ;)

Also left my passport and everything else like that at my Aunts.. funny the similarities..

Hope you come through ok!

11:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved your account, was really fantastic. I also had a terrible experience on the Vipassana course but I left on the morning of day four because I just thought uh-uh this is not right for me, I am "disassociating" badly! I have to admit that the Assitant Teacher or whatever they are was nice, but USELESS. I would have gone into full blown mania but I recognised the warning signs and got myself to a safe place (with a close friend) where I felt calm and loved and reassured and able to stop the crack, cracking further. I fortunately had kept my car key on me, so there wasn't any of that holding on to your belongings in an effort to keep you there (which I am enormously relieved about).

Your blog is great, full of humour and intelligence - I hope all is going great for you now! :-)

9:44 AM  
Anonymous Craig said...

Hey man--I'm enjoying your podcasts about the Vipassana course. I've been doing it for about 8 months in conjunction with Ashtanga yoga and I'm really finding it beneficial. I've been hesitant to do the 10 day course because I don't want it to interrupt yoga. I've just started a blog and hope it grows.....

3:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greetings from Toronto and many thanks for recording your experiences and reflections so honestly and openly. Very sorry to hear of your suffering, but very happy to hear, even from just the tone of your voice, that your recovery was so successful. All the best to you!

6:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi There Toronto :)

Yup, all's well now - though it was quite the experience at the time.

Thanks for commenting - it's great to hear it's of some use putting the audio up.

All the best

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was intrigued by your balanced recant of your vipassana experience, you seem to have a very healthy attitude to the whole experience. I just finished my 10th course a few days ago and am experiencing my normal post course mania not a fair comparison to your experience but definitely busy catching up with the world to the point of overstimulation. I also appreciated the link to the critique of vipassana its the first negative critique i've read about it. Interesting to see the author's slant on the interpretation of what is taught at a course. I would say the information of what occurs at a course is accurate though it has'nt swayed me against the whole practice. I think it will make me think about how I recommend it to other people in the future. Regarding the teacher's inability to help you i have observed a stronger emphasis recently on course applications about the fact that the AT's are not trained to deal with severe psychological disturbances so applicants need to really be sure they are going to be able to get through it. Another thing i have observed is some applicants may lie about any prior mental health issues when applying to a course allowing them to fall through the usual filters that exist to prevent someone from getting in over their head. I'm not saying this was the case with you as i did not listen through all the material you posted and i have heard of some other people over the years being a little blown out of the water after a course. For the majority i think most participants benefit from the experience.Thanks for sharing your story

2:16 AM  
Blogger mborrero said...

thank you for leaving such a detail account of your Vipasssana and life after experience

9:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're most welcome!

10:38 PM  
Blogger pvivi said...

I'm about to undertake my first vispansanna at the end of this month in Costa Rica at and I'm very happy to have to opportunity to do so. I'm going to research this site to help give me some insight on what I'm getting myself into :)

7:50 AM  
Blogger Lotus said...

How are you feeling right now about all this that you have reported and lived? Hope you are fine. Thanks for sharing your experience. I would like to be in touch, if you feel like. I can share somethings related to this.
All the best.

3:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Lotus,

Yip all's well now.. 6? Years later. It was quite the experience. I've learned quite a bit about what people can go through (which was good learning to do).. but I also think that the Vipassana crew should do more to identify people like me who are coming at this type of meditation from a point of complete inexperience.

Feel free to mail me at if you want to chat some more :)

11:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thank you for sharing your experiences. I have also had a manic-psychotic episode occurring at a Vipassana Retreat, there were many commonalities between our experiences like feeling as though I could heal people with my thoughts, starting with a feeling that I could heal myself while lying awake and ecstatic in bed.

This was not my first manic episode. I had one a few years before the Vipassana Retreat and didn't really think I would have one again. I'm feeling pretty much back to normal now after 6 months, but I'm still trying to understand more about what I went through. Maybe we could talk sometime?

8:05 PM  
Blogger Dreamer said...

I really needed to hear your words, so thank you for posting your podcasts.
It's been 1½ years since I did a vipassana course, and I went there in a state of light depression. I didn't know what a depression was, and didn't want to admit to myself that that's what was going on. I just thought that a meditation course could help me with dealing with the issues I had at the moment.

Boy I was wrong. I have really gone trough some stressful and depressive months, the course being of no help (I did another one because I thought I was doing something wrong)! And to this day I still find myself in sort of the same thoughts that you read aloud from your diary in chapter 5. You don't know reliefed I am to hear that at least 1 person out there has gone trough something like this and even managed to get through it one way or the other. I feel a little less alone! :)

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Benedikt said...

Dear all,

I'm a Vipassi and the technique has helped me incredibly in my life. However, I do know from my own experience that it can unleash many things dormant.

Actually, many techniques can do that - and I believe it's important to understand these dormant things more thoroughly (i.e. how they are being understood from a conventional clinical perspective, from a spiritual and healing point of view, etc.).

I would therefore like to point all of you to a wonderful book I read recently... which poses a fundamental question regarding bi-polar disorder as an 'illness':

"Bi-polar or waking up?" - The book's available as a free download and sheds light on this question.

Much love & light to all of you.

4:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this - I was recommended vipassana by a friend for depressive episodes lasting about a week every other week, for more than a year. But I've been nervous about it and I wanted to find out more about possible side effects of such an intense technique. Your blog was very useful and I am treading carefully with everything I try.

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My son completed the 10 day Vipassana retreat one week ago .He is at present in a psychiatric hospital on anti psychotic medication .He was in a manic state on the 9th day ,was in hospital 3 days later.From listening to him for the past week his experiences and attitudes in all aspects are carbon copies of what you have described.

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am extremely sorry to hear about your son having a manic-psychotic episode after the course. I do hope that he recovers well with time (just don't expect it'll be quick I guess!)

I do hope you can find professional support services for both yourself and obviously especially your son.

3:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you think that people who have experimented with illicit drugs (ecstasy,cannabis,LSD,and magic mushrooms )are more susceptible to having a psychotic episode after a 10 day Vipassana retreat?

3:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have no idea to be honest - and I'm certainly not qualified to answer :)

I would *imagine* that if the 'stress' on your brain of a 10 day silent retreat can kick off a manic psychotic episode in an otherwise normal person, that it would be even more likely in someone who has a history of psychosis... but I really haven't a clue!

10:02 PM  
Blogger Thijs said...

Thanks for the podcasts. I'm at the point where I see an awakening and creative man fall in the hands of a psychotic mental health system that forces people to take their drugs. For sure you needed help at that point, good they took you out of your house, but a good traditional temple in Asia could have guided you to expand on the process that it had started with. There is more to life than the material world, and yes there really was an interaction with something from spiritual realm in the last night of the retreat. Did you read Paul Levy? He was diagnozed having schizophrenia, but always refused any prescripted drugs. Instead he made art and with lots of discipline was able to increase his own consciousness and become a healer and pioneer in the field of philosophy. All in all I think the decision to do the retreat changed you for the better. thanx

1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Sorry for the slow response. I also think that I was changed for the better.. at least in the sense of having a clue about what depression is, what people can go through etc.

I've not actually read any Paul Levy.

I'm not currently on medication, and haven't been for 7 years or so now. I do keep a handle on sleep though and make sure I'm getting enough of it.

I certainly agree that being guided through would be better... but I honestly don't think I could handle a state of bliss like mania without tipping over the edge, it's just too damn attractive.

1:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have attended vipasana in March, 2015. I did not have any idea about what happens in retreat. I was in bad phase of my life , going nowhere in career so I thought I will take break and go for 10 days retreat. I searched lot of internet forums about vipasana and it's benefit.

I had hyperventilation problem in stressful situations but I have controlled them very well. I was completely fearless about traveling anywhere in the world , driving , being alone.

First night at vipasana I found out that everything happens is about breathing. I become little tens. Next day I went to the instructor and told him I have hyperventilation problem and could not concentrate on my breath constantly . He said just observe it and let it go. Fort three days I was at peace. I observed if I am letting it go then I don't hyper ventilate or become tens. Instructor told me to not expect anything from vipasana. If you expect anything then its not proper technique.

12:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have attended vipasana in March, 2015. I did not have any idea about what happens in retreat. I was in bad phase of my life , going nowhere in career so I thought I will take break and go for 10 days retreat. I searched lot of internet forums about vipasana and it's benefit.

I had hyperventilation problem in stressful situations but I have controlled them very well. I was completely fearless about traveling anywhere in the world , driving , being alone.

First night at vipasana I found out that everything happens is about breathing. I become little tens. Next day I went to the instructor and told him I have hyperventilation problem and could not concentrate on my breath constantly . He said just observe it and let it go. Fort three days I was at peace. I observed if I am letting it go then I don't hyper ventilate or become tens. Instructor told me to not expect anything from vipasana. If you expect anything then its not proper technique.

Before in life I had philosophical questions about existence and God. In my personal life I don't have good relationship with my parents. Pretty much negativity nagging all the time.

At vipasana , my room partner was having pain in his leg . He was handicap.after 4th day I started feeling different.

We first time exchanged few words I broke my silence at night. On 6th day after afternoon meditation session I came back to my room and found out my room partner was gone. He left the camp.

That particular moment I had sudden rush of anxiety about how I am going to live in this jungal alone in room at night. I rushed to the volunteer. He did not say anything. In the afternoon all anxious thought pouring on me for example my girlfriend is having horrible train accident and she is dead ,her body cut in pieces my parents died in home and their body is decaying. All thoughts concentrated around the death of loved one. I am finding Goenka's audio very irritating , scaring as he says everything is transients so death only.

1:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At night I could not breath properly , could not swallow, could not walk properly. At 7PM requested instructor to let me go home he said don't act like child , listen to the video tapes(pravarchans) and you will be OK. I could not digest one thing in lectures as he says the last breath you take on earth with same emotion you are going to take new birth. I never came across such deep idea. I am very much logical and scientific person. I did not like any of eastern philosophies due to some supernatural assumptions they make. I only agree about Everything comes from earth and goes into earth . Life is just play of molecules .

At night instructor called me at his room and told me you came o your own , you ha d to complete the course or you are always going to fail in life ,even in video tapes Of goenka he told vipasana is kind of neurosurgery so I scared and stayed at camp.

At night I changed room , I talked with other people. 60% people already broke the silence after 7th day.

1:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My thoughts about loved ones death was becoming repetative habit. Instructor saw me unstable during mediation. He called me in front and told me to do aanapana only. The audio instructions was horrible concentrating on body part, trigger is below your nose. I used to close my ears with hand during satsanga. I skipped morning 4AM to 7AM sessions and night 9PM to 9:30PM session.

Then there was pagoda. They told us to seat in that 1 feet square mediation room in dark.

I could not even sit for few seconds in that room.I wanted to connect with outer world. There were few workers building pagoda , I talked with them ,gave them my girlfriend's number and ask how she is?

Volunteer caught us , on 7th day I fucking lost my mind . I snatched mobile from one of the volunteer, he snatched it from me back.

1:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can't imagine how helpful your words and those podcasts are. Thank you from the depth of my heart. I had a very similar experience after vipassana. Numbers, feeling of a mission, telling everyone to do vipassana... It broke my life and I feel ashamed of what happened. Fighting a depression now and a fear of being bipolar... Could you share please if you had another manic episode/ got diagnosed with bipolar disorder? My psychiatrist says it's possible that after such an intensive stimuli like a 10 day intense meditation course it could have been as well an acute polymorphic psychotic disorder, which could mean it's a one time event that will never come back without doing another massive dissociation like vipassana... I'm with you concerning organising those courses differently.. I would love to write you an email if you allow. Lots of love

1:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're welcome to email, there's a link at the top of the page :)

I'm sorry for your experience, but, very happy these podcasts and pages could help in any way.

I did get diagnosed with Bipolar disorder (I mean, I did end up in an acute psychiatric ward, so, I had to have something ;) . That said I have only had one episode of mania. Whether it should have been "acute polymorphic psychotic disorder" I have no idea, quite possibly. About a year after doing the course I did have a short period of "elevation" shall we say. It absolutely wasn't mania, but, I definitely had racing thoughts, wasn't sleeping so well. I took sleeping pills for a few days and haven't had anything like that since (that's about 12 years ago now I guess).

I can't really help with the correct labels. I (in New Zealand) have still been able to get life insurance, get a mortgage etc even while disclosing my mental health history. I guess that'll be different from country to country. On the plus side, it has definitely opened my eyes to what people can go through etc.

Anyway, feel free to send a mail, and I hope your recovery continues and progresses well.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Nobody said...

Listening to your podcast in 2020. I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder after a full-blown manic episode in December 2017. Later had another manic episode in June 2018. Became neutral(zombie state) after that. I am suddenly feeling elevation in the mood for the past few days. I am wondering if it is time for the third round. I came across this blog because before and during these manic episodes a part of me does feel like nothing is left in this world and to just leave everything and go meditate. So I was just searching for vipassana and bipolar disorder and came across this blog. It has been 10 years for you now. Does it ever get better?

2:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@nobody - the short answer (for me) is that yes, it gets better. I've been off meds for 10 years (it was 13 years ago I did the course) and life is basically normal. I was pretty lucky, there was no history of bipolar in my family and I had good care afterwards. I also _really didn't want_ to get bipolar again. As fun and all as it was being manic / elevated, the downside for me was just too great. I can't function with those highs and lows. For me, if I ever get elevated (hasn't happened in maybe 11 years) then I take sleeping pills for a few days just to make sure I get the sleep I need to stop anything getting out of control.

I dunno, if you can afford it, go talk to someone about it. I think you probably need to decide for yourself what do you really want. Are the elevated periods really worth it? Assuming you get depression afterwards is _that_ worth it? Can you hold down a job and function with regular ups and downs? Is that worth it?

Good luck - but again, for me, back to "normal" and very happily so.

2:13 AM  

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