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

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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.