Beyond The Label – 10 Steps to Improve Your Mental Health with Naturopathic Medicine
Dr. Christina Bjornal, ND
2018. Natural Terrain, Inc. 397 pages. ISBN 0994802005
Beyond The Label is at once a deeply intimate offering of personal struggle and growth, and a rousing “how-to” instructional guide for cultivating one’s own internal peace. Cutting-edge research and resources abound in this book to galvanize those with mental illness, and their loved ones.
The ambitious book begins with stories of the author’s early life struggles, but with a unique and deeply honest narration of the universal voice of the inner critic. This self-critical attitude she traces back to her childhood and adoption. Despite being loved and supported by her adoptive parents, she, like so many of us, nevertheless shouldered the burden of destructive and false beliefs about her own self-worth. Her attempts to control these unbearable thoughts ranged from over-achievement and perfectionism to bulimia, over-exercise, and, finally, an attempt to take her own life. At the bottom, she came to a profound moment of reckoning, and miraculously survived.
The topic of suicide is close to the bone for Dr. Bjorndal, one that she teaches on widely. After her own journey to the edge and back, she learned something worth sharing in Beyond The Label. After the attempt, she learned how to meet devastation with acceptance and commit to life and health. Under the care of Dr. Abram Hoffer in 1999, she not only rebuilt her mental health with naturopathic modalities, but she also made a career change and became a Naturopathic Doctor with the goal of helping others who struggle in a similar way.
She owes much of her recovery to the skill of Dr. Abram Hoffer and the field of orthomolecular medicine, which is the practice of using optimal doses of natural nutrients and vitamins for health. Since her initial treatment almost 30 years ago, the science of orthomolecular medicine has blossomed to develop effective treatments for a vast number of chronic and acute conditions. This wealth of scientific orthomolecular and naturopathic knowledge is a strong framework for Beyond The Label.
The second half of the book reads as a manual to the life-saving lessons she learned through years of self-work and her rigorous medical education. Beyond the Label transitions into a revelatory handbook for mental wellness, working from the wider perspective down to the individual level. Dr. Bjorndal’s approach illustrates the necessity of a truly integrative approach for all levels: the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Instructions for targeted nutritional interventions, sleep hygiene, exercise prioritization, and stress minimization form a strong scaffolding of health, upon which the emotional work builds. From there, she dives into the deeper tasks of confronting faulty core beliefs, developmental trauma, attachment disorders, and other psychological limitations.
Like the pinnacle at the top of Maslow’s pyramid, spiritual exploration has a place of honour and necessity in Dr. Bjorndal’s naturopathic approach to mental wellness. Guidance comes from Eckhart Tolle, Tara Brach, Byron Katie, Louise Hay, Nancy Levin, Deepak Chopra, and other enlightening experts to awaken the desire for wellness in you.
For years, Dr. Christina Bjorndal struggled with the difficulties of bipolar depression and manic episodes, anxiety, addiction, an eating disorder, and suicidal ideation. Her honest recount of these lifelong trials illuminates the two-fold struggle of mental illness in our modern culture: the difficulties of trying to live a life constantly derailed by paralytic depressive phases and life-altering manic episodes, and the isolating rejection by society on those with mental illness. Beyond The Label is part wisdom, part compassion, but there’s no mistake about it; it is also part battle cry to stomp out stigma and build cultural empathy for those with mental health issues. Dr Jonathan Prousky, ND praises Beyond The Label, “This book should be on the shelves of every person struggling with their moods”.
– Review by Lachlan Crawford
Dr. Bjorndal has also created “The Essential Diet: Eating for Mental Health”, a helpful clinical tool that clinicians use with their patients. It answers the question “How should I eat?” – that patients often have when they need to make diet changes to support their health. It is primarily free of gluten, dairy, and sugar, and emphasizes the essential nutrients that are required to support neurotransmitter and hormone function, as well as the detoxification pathways of the body. It provides a two-week meal plan, grocery shopping lists, recipes, and a nutritional analysis.