There and back again….

Yeah, yeah. I am not a hobbit, nor I am elfin or dwarf…. but there are days I wish I were.

It has been some time since I wrote last, or had much to say for that matter. I am now, not only a mother to a precocious 3 year old but also to an almost 1 year old little boy who is equally just as active. There are days I wish I didn’t have to get out of bed. There are days where I would just like to do nothing. I am a mother…. so this never happens. Even on mother’s day.

My son really has a hard time letting me do much…. he wants to be held a lot. And if he is not held he screams. I can not stand the scream crying. It is too much for me. So, I am holding Smiley. A lot. Thus cooking is difficult and so is getting around to typing on my blog much. But, here I am. Trying to write while he is asleep on my lap.

I still struggle with depression and anxiety, but I have managed to do okay in most areas of my life. Patience, at times, is not one of those areas. There are days where I wish I could be a better, and more patient mother to my daughter. She is so much like me in so many ways that it is scary. I want so much more for my kids then to have to struggle with anxiety. My anxiety and lack of patience is higher with lack of sleep. I want to continue to use attachment parenting, but there are many areas in which I have just had to stop, or change tactics when trying to parent my highly passionate daughter. Have I mentioned that my daughter is a MASTER negotiator? She is even using the phrases “lets make a deal” or “lets compomize mama.” She wants something and she wants it 10 seconds ago, but she will use her impressive vocabulary to say why she wants something and try to negotiate how to get it.

You know that t-shirt that says ” I am a co-sleeping, breast feeding, cloth diapering, baby wearing, blah blah blah, attached mama”? I am still officially a breast feeding mama. My daughter quit 2 days before my son was born. I was all prepared to tandem nurse, but even after Smiley was born, Sunshine tried some pumped milk and just didn’t want it. I am still nursing my son and he just chows down a lot at night. Yes, we are still a co-sleeping family. My daughter finally moved into her own room, but she struggles with nightmares and anxiety. We would have her stay in our room but she actually sleeps worse when she is in there. Smiley still resides with us though. He is the better sleeper between the two. Otherwise, Sunshine sleeps from 7 p.m. to 7- 8 a.m.  I am still a “sometimes” baby wearing mother. Smiley prefers to be held, but he is outgrowing the ergo just a bit. Now, cloth diapering I save for swimming diapers. Regular cloth diapers just became too much. I am finding I need to really clean house. Get rid of a lot of clothes and items…. perhaps with kid #3 or #4 I will have time to launder such items… but babies make a lot of poop. And my kids especially. So, cloth diapers are out for now. I feel terrible about the earth and the ecosystem… but I can only do so much with the limited brain power and high stress levels I already struggle with.

I guess I am starting over. It is quite a journey; motherhood. I may not always be patient, but I am being more patient with myself. I am not perfect, but I love my family perfectly. So, I guess I will share what I know, what I don’t know, and what I am still learning; As a mother, as a woman, as a human being.

And another new beginning….

I apologize for being on hiatus for so long…. I found that I just needed to focus on my daughter and on myself. Now that I am writing again, (I still plan to focus on my daughter as she gets into EVERYTHING), but writing is for me.

I don’t care much what my blog looks like, as long as its accessible. I want anyone who needs to, be able to navigate without issues around the site.  So, thus I changed it around again. Plus, I like change. I don’t like things to become static because then I also become static. For some reason when there is not change, I begin to lose some of my creative edge and thought processes. Its like the longer you sit on the couch in one spot, the harder it is to get up cause you have permanently indented the cushion. No. That is not me. I like to move, I like to read new things, and be doing a new project. So, while I am mommy and still incredibly love to spend time with my daughter, I am also a person who loves to be needed and to use my knowledge and education that I have worked so hard to earn.

With that, I am putting ideas and thought into motion. I am now applying for some part-time positions. (I could not do full-time as that would totally take away from the fun I have with Sunshine and I so love to see her grow). I also acknowledge that when working full-time I become ill. My anxiety worsens and then proceeds to make my other mental illness just as worse. I find working part-time is wonderful and I get the best of both worlds and remain healthier, emotionally and mentally. There are not, however, that many part-time positions in my field right now. Just full-time. I fully acknowledge that a full-time job is NOT worth it to me. I don’t even need the bene’s. I would just like the opportunity to NOT have to pay back my RSA scholarship that paid for my Masters and stipulates that as long as I work for a nonprofit or government agency for the next 5 years, I won’t have to pay for my Masters.

So, as I said, there are not many part-time positions out there for me at this time. What am I doing in the mean while?  I am starting a foundation. Just getting my feet started on the steps of at least starting the support groups.  What I plan to do is form a Resource and Peer Support program for Mothers that have Mental Illness. I am not excluding those who have Postpartum depression, but I am focusing on the women who had diagnosis prior to pregnancy and there mental illness is not related to said pregnancy after.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some mental health issues that come along with just having a kid that some people do fall into…. this can be directly correlated to lack of sleep, inappropriate diet or lack thereof of healthy food, and no real self-care. This is an area that I, myself, am trying to alleviate.  (Will post more on that later).  The real issues are that many women who have a significant mental illness (like Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective disorder, Dissociative disorders) become pregnant and don’t have the resources to really be the best mom that we can be. That is what we all ultimately want, right??!! To be the best parent we can be. Our mental wellness, or lack thereof can get in the way of this. On top of this, because we have children, the previous resources or avenues to seek peer support or help are closed to us because children are not welcome at such places.  Thus, the need for a place that women can go with their kids to receive assistance and peer support.

So while I am not working, I am working on something. It can be difficult for me to get my head wrapped about this, and I do have my daughter going with me in everything I do. That is the point…. She is my reason for being a better mom, and for trying to support and help other moms in this same quest.

For now, I must sign off, as my kid is currently pulling out all the dog bones out of the drawer again, and I need to protect her from the dog.  But let me know what you guys think and which direction I should move on this now (Aside from developing a pamphlet, contacting a local church to set up a first meeting, and contacting all the mental health agencies and hospitals in the area to let them know we will be up and running soon….)

Blessings to all and don’t forget to giggle!!

Learning to love the self

I believe, as we grow older, that we also grow more wiser in regards to learning to love ourselves.

Picture from canberratimes.com.au

It is amazing how society has done a number on us, especially women. We are taught to question our beauty, or talents, and pin them against the likeness of others instead of teaching us to improve ourselves for ourselves. Instead of being content as a stay-at-home mom, we have to one up others as well as our husbands and do something “more” with our lives.  I have to admit, that for a long time I believed I was going to be a career mom. I grew up with a mom, who for awhile was a single parent, and very busy trying to find work to keep our little family going. She did get a position that she was very successful in, and became a workaholic. She had the chance to retire, but did not enjoy not working. She took a part time job, and then was offered a pretty lucrative executive director position she couldn’t turn down. The thing is, my mom grew up believing, or perhaps from her experiences learned, that true enjoyment in life and love of oneself is derived from what you do as a professional woman.  It wasn’t that being a mom wasn’t important to her, it just wasn’t where she derived her self worth from.

Now, don’t get me wrong… I don’t believe your self worth should come from just a job, or even from being just a mom.  I believe a person’s self-worth comes from just being. Surviving this world and all the good and bad experiences that occur.  I believe that a person’s self worth doesn’t come from someone patting you on the back and telling you that you did a great job on such and such project. Self worth should come from inside, and that the good deeds we do as human beings should be of utmost importance. That we treat others in life with kindness and humility, and we don’t judge others for their choices or decisions because we do not live in their shoes, nor have the background to base such choices on. That a higher power, be it God, Allah, Buddah, whomever, has called us to be better people and accepting of differences in each other because we were all created to be unique individuals.

For me, learning to love myself and be content with who I am today, has been an extremely difficult thing to do. Being a professional working mom was supposed to be what I strove for. You have probably read other posts where I have beaten the proverbial horse dead on this matter, but it is still something I am working on daily. Something I am faced with every time I get an email about a job (which I get about 20 emails a day regarding this) or information on disability related issues.  I have this part of me that so desperately WANTS to be out there doing more for the disability community. Volunteering, participating in legislative issues, working within the community of others with disabilities. But this all requires me to leave home and Sunshine is not permitted to join me.  If she were, this wouldn’t be an issue and I would probably be neck deep in volunteering with Sunshine strapped to my back.

So, here I am. Struggling with wanting to participate in the Governor’s Commission again, but also wanting so desperately to be a good mother. A lot of moms would have made a decision already. I actually have made a decision, by not making a decision. It has to be perfect. The job or volunteer opportunity has to be a sign from God that this is the right move to make.  I have been praying and praying and until that sign appears, I am content with being at home with Sunshine. Technically, we are rarely at home and my husband has been complaining lately that we use more gas than he does.  We have been going out a lot lately, but it is more for my sanity that anything else.  Staying active and involved is a huge part of why I believe I am doing as well as I am without medications.

I know this post is rather random, like much of what I write. But I wanted to remind myself, by writing it down, that learning to love myself is a neverending quest…. that I first need to like myself at bit more and that by striving to be a better person, to myself, to my husband and daughter, to others who I do not know and just meet on the street, a store, or a park…. that being a better person is first and foremost what will help me get closer to that goal of loving who I am.

Manic Monday: Hypomania

While contrary to popular belief, I have not fallen off the edge of the earth. In fact, I believe I may have temporarily left said planet for crazier times… cause who can’t get enough crazy in her life already?  This girl, right here.

I have been slightly hypomanic.  That is to say mania type symptoms but definitely not manic (as in I am not thinking I am Mother Theresa or that I am on some quest sent from God to pure the world of all evil.  Wouldn’t that be cool though?! I would have to say I would start off with getting rid of most of our government that refuse to get along and thus never gets anything accomplished,  as well as the self-righteous idiots running for president.  Dude!  Get out of the dark ages people!  We are a diverse country with lots of likes/dislikes and beliefs! We are entitled to those beliefs and no! Those beliefs do not have to coincide with yours and you have no say over what we, as women, do with our bodies!)

Okay, off my random rant now.  So, on to my lack of posting. My sincere apologies.  Here is the scoop. When I am hypomanic, I tend to try to do everything. And everything has to be done, RIGHT NOW.  Kinda makes my anxiety go even more through the roof.  Thing is, I can’t seem to complete half of what I try, or it takes a whole week of writing down my goals and continuing to go back to said list to figure out what it was I should have been doing, but was misdirected from.  I have been trying to prepare for a JBF (Just Between Friends) sale in which I am selling some of the clothes Sunshine has grown out of, so as to make room for what she will need in the new future. (One being a kid potty, and no, I do not store the potty with the clothes she will be growing into).  I have been trying to get the ever-loving mountain of laundry that accumulates everyday, done. However, it seems the biggest hurdle is folding said mountain and placing the boulders of clothes back in the damn drawers they came from. Not only am I thwarted by my 11 month old who unfolds everything I fold, but my husband and I can’t seem to get to putting the stuff away. Thus, the piles of clothes in our bedroom. Sigh.

What have I learned from this?  Yes, its important to try to maintain some semblance of cleanliness in our house, but it’s not the priority right now.  Keeping my daughter from climbing the book-case, stuffing power cords in her mouth, and playing with the outlet covers IS.  So, while I don’t have the time to write so much right now, nor the time to do much around the house other than chase after my kid…. know that I very much wish to post and will do my best to write when I can. It may not be much, but it will be something… and that is the best I can do for now.  I am satisfied with that for now.

So, all my best, dear readers…. and watch for that next post! You never know when it will be coming, and neither will I!  hehe….

Don’t forget to giggle.

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 http://www.pendulum.org/treat/structure.htm

History of the Scientific View on Bipolar Disorder as a Disease: http://www.pendulum.org/disease.htm 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.

http://womensneuroscience.stanford.edu/wellness_clinic/Pregnancy.html

http://www.infobarrel.com/My_Brain_Needs_Drugs – 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.

http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/topic/bipolar/what-bipolar-disorder

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

About.com- Bipolar and Sleep Disorders

Sleep Medicine Reviews

General Psychiatry Archives

Manic Monday: Support

I cannot stress how important Support is for a person with a mental illness, let alone any type of disability. The two sayings “It takes a village” and “Friends are your chosen family” are phrases that stress the importance of support.

Now, I do not wish to discount family. Family is important. So often, however, for people with mental illness, family is not able to understand what a person is going through, and often family is who receives the brunt of some of our really unstable times, the meanness that can come out, and the stupid choices and actions that we make. I know. My family has not disowned me, but I know I did things in the past that many other families would not have tolerated. The point of family is that they don’t get a choice. They will always be your family. Sometimes, due to past actions or issues, your family is not able to step back and disengage from what is occurring, not take it personally, and be able to continue to provide support. Whether the bridges have been burned with your family, and whether they are still supportive is what matters in being able to have family in your support group.

When it comes to developing your support group, or network, you have to choose people who are healthy for you. How do you know who you can trust, how do you choose those people to allow in your close circle of support? I cannot stress enough that people who exacerbate your illness, or make you feel bad for not always being well, are the people you should NOT be around. Don’t get me wrong. I have friends who do not understand my mental illness, who will never have a clue and would not want to understand what I have been through. But it isn’t all or nothing. I have friends that I would not go to when I need to pour out my heart, because I know they would not be able to listen without being judgmental, or without peering down their noses and looking down on me. However, those people are still friends. If push came to shove, those friends would be there for me. I may not spend a whole lot of time with them, as I don’t want to feel bad for being me, but we value our friendships.

There are those friends who I can speak to about stress and pour my heart out to, but I may not be able to count on when things got really serious and scary. There are many circles to my support network. The people I know that I can screw up with, that I can be honest with, that I can struggle and ask for help with, that I can be my eccentric self with and not feel ostracized for it… These are the people in that inner circle.

Each person is different, each person comes with their own imperfections, their own abilities and experiences. So, to try and narrow that support to one person is unrealistic. One person cannot be all encompassing (though my husband would like to think he comes close). My husband is an excellent support person, but he has not been in my shoes. He has never had a severe mental illness, been hospitalized for it, or had the life changing experiences that I have had. He doesn’t have to, to be a support person. He just has to accept me for who I am. He is extremely good at being supportive when I struggle. If he is not able to be, then I find other friends who can be there for me.

There is also a great wealth of comfort and support being with people who also have a mental illness. They know what it is like to be anxious, struggle with keeping thoughts together, and question their sanity. However, I found that for me I felt more ill, more unstable, more sick when I spend a lot of time around others who are not managing their mental health well. I pride myself on the positive choices I have made so that I can become a healthier me. I enjoy being able to help others that are struggling with mental illness as well. I am not, however, willing to compromise my mental health while finding that support. I choose, and will continue to choose, to be around others who may, or may not have mental illnesses, but are truly healthy and making choices to be healthy. An example: I was accepted and participated in the Governor’s Commission on Disability Issues and Employment for our state. With that I spent time with people who have many different kinds of disabilities and all are successful and well in their own ways. They are wonderful examples, and I try to be a wonderful example of mental health wellness. I count many of those I met in the GCDE as people I could count on for resources and assistance if I needed it.

So, the people that are in your support group are those you can trust to love you for who you are. They will accept you and not make you feel bad for being odd, eccentric, unique. If you screw up majorly, you can apologize and they will forgive you. They will love you for you. That is what matters. That is what is important.