Manic Monday: Mental Illness Healed?

So, this may be oddly titled, but here is the weird thing…. Can pregnancy reverse, or perhaps, repair some of those missing or defunct synapses in the brain that was causing mental illness in the first place? I would like to know. I have looked and looked for studies that may explain how a person who had mental illness could be doing so well on minimal medications after pregnancy?!

You see, I would have loved to see what my brain looked like before I was pregnant. There have been studies that individuals with mental illness, or more specifically Bipolar disorder, have enlarged or smaller areas of the brain than those without a mental illness. No articles, however on before or after pregnancy. What is the significance of these enlarged or smaller areas of the brain? Some areas that are smaller are tied to creating memories. Positive memories create larger areas of the brain. Neutral memories or experiences cause for smaller areas of the brain, and lack of need to create new memories. For individuals with major depression, those areas are really small.

The enlarged areas of the brain that have been found with those that have bipolar disorder, may effect different functions of memory, cognitive function, as well as stimulating creative thinking and artistry. I am curious if my brain structures have changed with having been pregnant compared to where I was at before. This research is really interesting to me.

I am by no means, healed. But I am, however, doing really well. I feel good, but not manic. I still have some hypomanic episodes and still fluctuate throughout the day, but the highs and lows are minimal… they aren’t as high or low. I feel tired and a little depressed at times, but this is minimal compared to where I have been.  So, why is this? How can this be? I have no clue other than I am content with just being me and not so anxious that I am going to screw up at work, or be faced with some huge life altering decision. Just happy with myself as I am.

So, while I wanted to share information on pregnancy possibly curing mental illness, all I could find was more information on bipolar disorder and brain structure. I was also hoping to find the PBS special that spoke specifically about the brain and bipolar disorder. The film discussed the enlarged portions of the brain and how that could contribute to the expanded creativity, artistry of individuals with bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, I didn’t find that one either. If any of you do, please let me know. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy!!

Structural and Functional Brain Changes in Patients with Bipolar Disorder

History of the Scientific View on Bipolar Disorder as a Disease: This article is more focused on the new findings that individuals with certain mental illnesses (bipolar disorder, schizophrenia) have brains that show or exhibit similar functioning or issues as those who have had traumatic brain injuries. – I thought this was funny, but was wondering if he was referring to the same PBS flick that I did… but nope. Still out of luck. Wanted to share anyways.

Mommy Support Groups many of you mommies have attended Mom and Me support groups in your area? What do you do for resources when you have reached you wits end?  How do you get out of the rut you might be in and reach out to other moms?

In our area there are a lot of different support groups. This is great, but I am finding I have to shop around a bit to find the right place for Sunshine and I. Why?  Cause isn’t a support group, like a support group, like a support group?  I am finding that this is not so.  I thought most groups were a lot alike, but I am wrong. (Damn. I hate admitting that…heh).

I was hoping, after giving birth, that I could create and attend a support group for moms with mental illnesses.  (These are mental illnesses prior to having a baby, not that pregnancy always induces mental illness but I expect many moms feel more eccentric after having a kid. I know I do.) I found that the agency for mental health support groups that I used to attend, does not allow kids.  Well that screws me over. I have to take her with me.  So, what support groups are there for moms with mental illnesses where you can take your babies? Surprise. There are none.

I have attended public Library reading groups. I have really enjoyed these groups. Mostly because I have connected with some local moms. One, a super nice gal who is much younger than me but with a cute little boy two months younger than Sunshine. You’d think most library’s would be the same.  One library is not like the others… similar programs, similar ideas. Some sing songs, some play with toys, and only a few actually get books out and have you practice reading to your kids.  (Surprising, I know!). In my pursuit to do as many activities that get us out every day of the week and are free, this would be a top place to go.

MOPS groups logo

I have attended two MOPS meetings , (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers). I realized soon after the first time, that MOPS is religiously based.  Now, I don’t mind praying before and after the meetings. I don’t mind the messages and the speakers having religious ideas and Bible verses throughout.  I have really enjoyed the speakers.  The ladies in the groups, though.  Yeah. Not so much.

They are nice but I feel like 1) They were trying to get me to join their church 2)Once they found out I have my own church I was ostracized and not really spoken to for the rest of the time because I don’t have that in common with them. All these ladies have done is talk about their Bible studies and what they learn… and thus I am not included.  I thought this was supposed to be a support group for MOMS??!!! Obviously, it is for only those moms that attend the same church. I am thinking about trying a different MOPS in the area to see if the mothers attending are different, or if it is a running theme for MOPS.

I have attended a support group for moms through a local hospital. They have the group for 0-6 month babies, and then a group for the 6-12 month babies.  I enjoyed the group and made some connections with the ladies there.  I finally have a person who can teach me how to knit hats!! We are all going to lunch after the meeting next week. It is a nice group of ladies.  However, the leader of this group, a matronly woman who works for the hospital, has some very clear ideas about what us moms should do for behavior modifications, sleeping, and so on.  In fact, because I co-sleep with our daughter, because we don’t like to use the word “No” but explain why we don’t do certain things (i.e. cause that hurts, cause its dangerous, cause your friends won’t like being smacked) the leader for this group suggested I would be more “at-home” with the moms groups in the big city nearby because they might do some of those things (Attachment Parent, that is).

I have heard about some of the Attachment Parenting groups in the

Parent Magazine

Parent Magazine Survey

area, and one I can’t go to due to a evening conflict, the other I was warned about.  Supposedly, this other attachment parenting group happen to be extremists. Some moms have felt they HAVE to do everything the AP way, whereas most AP groups talk about doing what you can. So, I have a bad back due to accidents and a jump off a 40 foot cliff, so I can’t carry Sunshine in a sling 24/7. Some AP groups would say do what you can, this one, I guess says if you really want to do it the right way you have to carry them in a sling 24/7. I took this survey from Parenting Magazine and found I was a 7/8 average. So, where does a mom like me go?

Where is the common courtesy for people with differences??? Its like you are either one or the other, black or white, no gray in the middle.   No acceptance, no support. I admit I have met some moms and made connections with those I have things in common with, or just plain nice people. I am super happy with this. So I don’t feel a big need to listen to unsolicited advice, or even solicited. I will make my own damn decisions based on what works for my kid.

Have any of you moms out there had similar experiences?  What have you done and is it easier to just take everything with a grain of salt? Just go to a group to meet other moms that you may have things in common with?  Would love to hear your thoughts and if I am not alone in the support group finding dilemma.

Challenge: To Find Not-so-Irritating Children’s Music

If you have children, then you most likely have been bombarded with music and songs.  Even at a young age, we go to library time and music where we see sing fun (maybe NOT so fun) songs about discovery. Whether it’s about discovering boiling teapots, hokey pokey, or annoying purple dinosaurs that love you, these songs get stuck in your head and you can’t seem to get them out. I have this overwhelming fear that I will be stuck in traffic along I-5 or I-405 with my kids in the back screaming for more purple dinosaur and I will lose my mind from singing the damn songs for the rest of the day.

It was my goal, after Sunshine arrived, to find music that didn’t make me want to pull my hair out.  As the journalist Martha Brockenbrough for MSN stated,

“Just because we’ve given birth to children doesn’t mean we’re ready for the musical equivalent of mom jeans. We still want the rock, pop and other music we’ve grown to love since we put aside our Raffi. Just as we can read a book like “Harry Potter” with our kids and love it, or watch a movie like “WALL-E” with our kids and love it, we should be able to listen to music with our kids without wanting to hurl. This is why the Seattle kids’ music scene is so interesting these days. Today’s parents, who grew up listening toNirvanaPearl Jam, Soundgarden, the Presidents of the United States of America and other local wonders, might just be the unwitting witnesses to another Seattle music renaissance, this one in children’s music.”

From this article, and going to all of these library groups, I have learned a bit about what is out there. This is what I found, and they are mostly local so that’s an added bonus!!

Check out Casper Babypants. Chris Ballew used to be in the group Presidents of the United States of America and started the group Casper Babypants in 2009.  Awesome group of guys who put a great twist on some old school nursery rhymes and some new songs.  Visit them at Casper Babypants site. So far, our favorite song is Mister Rabbit, Mister Rabbit, Dog Gone Gone Dog Gone, or the old favorite, Itsy Bitsy Spider.

The next group is Recess Monkey Town, or more commonly known as The Recess Monkeys.  They are another Seattle-based group with great songs that are catchy, and fun to watch.  Love this group.  So far, our favorite song is “Marshmallow Farm” or “Haven’t Got a Pet, Yet.”

The Board of Education.  I don’t know much about this group, yet. But I know my husband will appreciate the group just because they have a song about “The Many Uses, and Dangers, of Commas.” I personally enjoy “The Lonely Tomato” song.

The Not-its.  We totally love “Puppy Dog” as we have a dog and this fits our enthusiasm for the animal at our house currently.  We also like “First Kid in Outer Space.” This group is hip and reminds me a bit of the Cranberries meets Garbage… Indie Funk.

School House Rocks. As I grew up, School House Rocks was the fun Saturday morning show that you watched and learned at the same time. The songs get pretty stuck in your head.  When the 20th Anniversary popped up, new age rock groups stepped forward to redo some of the songs with a current upbeat bent.  What arose?  Some pretty nifty music.  I totally will listen to this with the kids.  The song that gets stuck in my head that I enjoy? “Three is the Magic Number” performed by Blind Melon.  Good times people!!

Are there groups in your area that you could recommend?  I would love to know more to share with Sunshine!!

What I’ve Learned

… thus far.

I know this list could go on and on and on…. but I don’t have enough brain power in my sleepless-induced, zombie-like brain to remember to write them down as I go. So, I will tell you what I can pull from this worm hole, warp zoned mind… what I have learned in the almost 10 months since we have had our little girl. I have picked up,  realized, or stumbled upon these musings from my daughter, our pets, my husband, and momma friends. The learning curve is quick, and its amazing what I have actually learned during these short months.

I’m sure when she has reached a year, this list will be tripled.

  • There is no perfect way to parent. Each kid is unique. While I find Attachment Parenting and Conscious parenting tacks helpful, one way of parenting most likely won’t work with Sunshine. She needs all the options on the table!!
  • If she can find it, it will go in her mouth. (Hide EVERYTHING!!!)
  • If you hide EVERYTHING, she thinks it’s a game and will go find it.
  • Sleep. There is no sleep. Only Zoul, er Sunshine. And unless you are the key master, you are royally screwed!!! Mother puss bucket!!!!
  • What to dress her in for the day? Her birthday suit. Cause unless you want loads of laundry to do after each time she eats, and fight the stains that develop from what she wears on her clothes, rather than eats…. then the birthday suit is your best bet.
  • Second option. Just let the stains set, and you have a new fashion statement!
  • The dog and cat serve as just another distraction at meal times. If you are really smart, you will have the animals come sit with you, just out of arms reach of Sunshine, and then you at least have her facing the right direction to feed her. Otherwise, you will see what she is wearing from option #5.
  • I have never spoken to so many random people who I don’t know, about parenting techniques. Much advice is unsolicited and never considered. Once in a while, I get some good ideas.
  • I have never counted on other momma friends like I do now. They are who I can call and just vent to try to get ideas of what to do next. When in sleepless-induced zombie-like states, I need to do this more often. If I don’t get enough sleep, then I am not able to logically work through problems or issues to figure out solutions. Momma Friends rock!!!
  • Dog and cat. Again. They are learning to run and hide when Sunshine enters the room. Or at least go to their safe places. Perhaps I should try this some time so that my husband can actually take care of Sunshine for a bit and I can get some alone time to catch up on reading, actually writing my blog, or heaven forbid…. Sleep!
  • Yes, my kid loves books. Yes, she has learned to turn the pages from right to left, looking at the pages in the correct order. No, my kid can’t read (duh, a little early folks). Yes, all books seem to taste good to her and she has developed a taste for my husbands Stephen King books. It’s awesome that we are already developing a kid who loves books, but I have to constantly keep her from tearing them apart!!!
  • The mornings are my favorite time of day. She wakes up and pounces on us… with a huge grin on her face. So excited to start the day!!
  • Evenings, after getting her down for the night are becoming a fast second. I can be quiet, lay next to her and read my own book. These books tend to not have pictures, use more than one word syllables, and are longer than 10 pages. While I like Sunshine’s books, then can get pretty tedious.
  • My kid is speaking in tongues. No really. She isn’t possessed, but just licks and slobbers and googles and giggles and makes these funny noises with her tongue. Hilarious! Who knew life could be this silly? Laughing has become highlights of the day.
  • If she doesn’t want it in her mouth, you won’t get it in there. Period. This goes for medications, food, and fingers. If you want to try to get something in there, say for instance … teething gel? Have a family member hang her upside down. As she giggles you have perfect access to said toofers and gums and can get that damn stuff in there. This technique, however, doesn’t work with medicine or food. If you figure out a way to get those in, let me know.
  • I have become a human teething ring. I have the bruises to show it. (Damn! Ouch! That hurts!)
  • If my daughter learns to be more independent later by my sitting with her and allowing her to cling to me now, I am all for it! I already see her letting go more often and trying things on her own without my help, although she still has to have me nearby. I can already see that progress! Awesome!!
  • The most important: There are no perfect parents, only perfect intentions.

I am sure this list could go on and on…. however, I lack the brain power to produce much more. I imagine when she is a year old, I will produce a more thorough list. Otherwise, have an awesome Thursday and don’t forget to giggle! And watch the Big Bang Theory. Totally cracks me up. Bazinga!!!

Upcoming Concert…Difficult Music

So our next concert is coming up, and man…. for being a soprano who usually sings pretty easy music that is most often the melody or lyrical harmony… This is some tough music.  The Faure Requiem is easy and I have done it several times. It is always beautiful.

Erik Eisenvald’s piece The Passion and Resurrection is hauntingly beautiful but incredibly hard to sing. Mostly because the notes are incredibly high and there is only 4 of us singing the really high notes as this point.  I am attaching a link to a group who did this piece, and it is a snippet of what we will be doing.

Note: This is music sung from the view point of Jesus or Mary Magdalen…. it is, at times, difficult to listen to because of the profound depth of the notes tied with the words and the subject of the death of Christ.  Hope you gain some understanding from this and perhaps appreciate the music.

Manic Monday: Power of Sleep

This Monday I dedicate this post to myself. For almost 10 months I have had severe sleep deprivation, but have hung on, clung to, and gripped for dear life to my sanity so that I may be a better mother to my daughter, and continue to nurse her. Almost 10 months! I didn’t know if I would be able to be a good  parent for a few days or few months while on medications, let alone off of them in order to nurse. I am doing pretty well. While I am not able to dedicate as much time to blogging as I would like, I can at least focus on some good things every once in awhile.

My Life Today

Over the years I have learned more about the restorative powers of sleep. What is more important is how bad sleep, or lack of sleep, would cause me to cycle more.

This is different for everyone, with or without a mental illness. Being an ultradian cycler (swinging back and forth from happy to sad several times a day) lack of sleep would either send me into depression or my hypermania would become worse and my cycling would speed up to swinging several times an hour. An exhausting way to live. Often my medications compacted or made side effects worse.

What is important to note is that hypermania often induced insomnia. Can we call it a vicious circle? So sleep medications were given regularly. Usually an antipsychotic. My anxiety shoots sky high if I didn’t get good sleep. I believe this is still true… if I don’t get sleep than I tend to worry. Sometimes worrying about the fact I didn’t get good sleep. (Stupid, I know. But I had to perseverate on something, right?) In the past, I would be unable to get out of bed let alone the house. It was scary and detrimental to my ability to work.
So, to say sleep is important is really too simple. There are many studies sighting the effects of lack of sleep on mental illness, or mental illness effecting lack of sleep.  Either way, it is important to note that my lack of sleep has reduced me to blethering idiot and crying fits at times.  Compound this with bordering on post partum psychosis. In fact, lack of sleep might be the root cause of post partum psychosis. I thought I would provide some information regarding this issue, in case anyone would be interested in learning more.

Sleep Loss and PostPartum Psychosis “It is argued that sleep loss resulting from the interaction of various putative causal factors may be the final common pathway in the development of psychosis in susceptible women. Clinical significance of these findings, including strategies to prevent postpartum psychosis, are discussed and suggestions are made for future research directions.” Sharma, V. and Mazmanian, D. (2003), Sleep loss and postpartum psychosis. Bipolar Disorders, 5: 98–105. doi: 10.1034/j.1399-5618.2003.00015.x

Canadian Medical Association Journal “The only possible exception is puerperal psychosis, which emerges much more often in women with a personal or family history of a bipolar affective disorder than in women without, a finding that probably explains the reluctance of some researchers to recognize puerperal psychotic episodes as distinct from psychotic episodes at other times.” G E Robinson, D E Stewart, CMAJ. 1986 January 1; 134(1): 31–37.

Healthy Sleep Bipolar and Sleep Disorders

Sleep Medicine Reviews

General Psychiatry Archives