How to save a life?

I’m feeling quite sad this evening. I learned something that has upset me more than perhaps it should. This is a completely true story, one of many devastating experiences my illness presented me with.

When I was a boy I had a friend called Richard. His father and mine were both biology teachers and explorers and Richard and I went to school together, and continued to do so for many years. One year, when I was perhaps 7 years of age, our families took a holiday together in a tumbledown cottage in the Welsh mountains. This was my first ‘adventure’ with my father and is a very special memory. I have many memories of watching my father leave for exotic jungles and far away mountains with his rucksack and camera so to be brought along on this trip was very special; even if it was only to a cottage a few hours’ drive away. There was no electricity, no running water, an outside toilet, everything had to be cooked over a fire and we slept in sleeping bags on the floor. It was magical. Richard and I would play in the stream outside and collect firewood for the fire. One afternoon we climbed to a nearby waterfall and Richard fell in the stream and got water in his boot. It is a treasured memory of one of the happiest times in my life.

About 6 or 7 years ago my mother called me to tell me that Richard had taken his own life. He had major depressive disorder, and was possibly bipolar. It was just a few weeks before he was to get married. Although I hadn’t seen him in years I knew my parents and his were incredibly close and the news was devastating to all of us.

A few months after his death I was hit by my own psychiatric problems in the form of autoimmune encephalitis which presented as bipolar with psychosis. Over the next few years, as many of you know, I became incredibly unwell, and there was more than one occasion where I'm sad to say I attempted suicide. However, on one of those occasions, when I was at the very lowest point and ready to say goodbye, the image of the boy in the stream flashed across my eyes. I don’t know where the memory surfaced from, but Richard was there in his thick glasses, with water in his boot and a smile on his face, and I knew I couldn’t go through with it. I’d seen the loss his parents felt, and I could not put those who loved me through that pain. His memory saved my life that day.

I never found out why Richard chose to die. I often wondered if he had an autoimmune brain illness, as at least 9% of all severe mental illness is due to antibodies.

As you may know, I am writing a book about my experience and recovery, and I called my father this evening to ask him to share his memories of that holiday. He recounted the affection I had for my friend and how much fun we had. He then went on to tell me that his mother has celiac disease, something of which I was not aware. Of course, while I can never know for sure, I do know that celiac is hereditary and is often passed from parent to child. I also know that you are 10x more likely to have schizophrenia if you have celiac, and 50-100 times more likely than the general population to have celiac if you are schizophrenic, and of course the toxic burden celiac places on the body if it goes undiagnosed can lead to multiple other autoimmune diseases, even without detectable gut enteropathy. It is exactly what happened to me.

So now I am sat here thinking of my friend, the family and fiancé he left behind, and wondering if he could have been saved by something so simple as a healthy diet. It saved my life, why not his?

Tonight, I just want to scream from the rooftops that if you have a psychotic illness then change your lifestyle before resorting to psychiatry. If you have depression, bipolar, OCD, schizophrenia, anxiety, paranoia, autism or ADHD look at addressing the toxic burden on your body first. It might just save your life.

About 1% of the world’s population will suffer from a psychotic illness and it appears that at least 9% of them have it due to autoimmunity. If the results of the AIP clinical study are correct, and 75% of autoimmune illnesses can be healed with AIP, then that’s 5.13 million people who could heal from their mental illness on AIP; not to mention all those who have depression related dysbiosis or other gut mediated mental illnesses who would benefit.

Perhaps my story will save a life. I may never know, but I will write it all the same.