STONINGTON — In 1993, when Gracelyn Guyol received a diagnosis of bipolar II disorder, she started taking an antidepressant and immediately developed rapid-growth breast cysts and tumors.
At first, Guyol, a Stonington resident, didn’t see a connection between the medication and the benign tumors, but after having two surgeries in 12 months to remove the growths, and receiving no answers from doctors about the cause, she decided to take an alternative, homeopathic approach to her health.
“My husband, Jack, and I had been having marital problems and I was having a lot of mood swings,” she recalled. “I had dealt with depression all my life but had figured it was a part of life. After I started taking an antidepressant, life got a little easier until the tumors started.”
After asking her gynecologist to help her find the cause of the growths and getting no response, she made an appointment with Deirdre O’Connor, a naturopathic doctor in Mystic. Through their discussions and her research, Guyol discovered that the drug was the likely cause of the tumors and cysts. She stopped taking the medication and started an anti-inflammatory diet that included therapeutic amounts of vitamins and minerals. She said that within two months of tapering off the antidepressant, the last tumors disappeared. And nine years after the initial diagnosis and a few years after she changed her diet and began taking supplements such as fish oil to improve cellular functioning, her manic highs and depressive lows also disappeared.
Guyol said her transformation was so life-changing that she decided recently to make it her mission to start a nonprofit called Mind Energy Innovations. She aims to raise awareness of all-natural holistic mental health therapies, including those that halted her bipolar symptoms in 2002.
“When the depression lifted, I felt like I was a different person. Life was so much easier. I want others to feel the transformation I’ve felt and give them the gift that I’ve been given,” she said. “Holistic medicine treats the cause, whereas the drugs just treat the symptoms. I’m 69 and I don’t take any prescription medicines.”
The new nonprofit plans to increase consumer awareness of evidence-based, holistic treatments through a series of educational programs, starting with the release this fall of Guyol’s third book about mental health, “Cool Options to Restore Kids’ Mental Health.” She said the book would introduce a dozen affordable, drug-free therapies. Next year, she hopes to offer accredited seminars for medical practitioners, taught by holistic mental health leaders, to increase patient awareness and access to physicians.
After raising awareness and creating a medical advisory board, her long-term goal for Mind Energy Innovations is to open a holistic mental health clinic.
After the Newtown school shooting, she served on the Connecticut Mental Health Task Force and was the only person representing holistic medicine among a group of doctors. She spent six months researching natural mental health treatments for children and wrote a 30-page summary of her findings to the task force that was, she said, generally ignored.
“It was like it fell into a black hole,” she said. “I knew I needed to raise awareness to holistic treatments for mental illness and start a nonprofit to do that so my efforts would be more successful.”
Looking back on her life, Guyol said it feels that everything, including her experience dealing with mental health issues, has prepared her for this moment. Early in her career she ran a public relations company in California, and in 2007, she starting a local nonprofit called Clean Up Sounds and Harbors.
“I’ll be using everything I learned from all of the most formative experiences of my career in this nonprofit,” she said.
The public is invited to the launch of Mind Energy Innovations at the La Grua Center in Stonington Borough Thursday at 6 p.m. The meeting will begin with a brief talk by Guyol and questions from the audience, and will conclude with refreshments.