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.

Manic Mondays: The Diagnosis

For my second installment of Manic Mondays I am going to cover the diagnosis of a disability. In my case, mental illness.

While some people discuss the ins and outs of being diagnosed, I am talking about the positives and negatives of having a diagnosis. More along the lines of mental/emotional health after being diagnosed.

The bottom line is that its just a diagnosis. I view it as a tool only. It is the means in which you figure out whats going on, get the resources you need to deal with it, and then MOVE. ON. WITH. YOUR. LIFE. It is a diagnosis only. It does not define you. It does not tell you who to love, who to hold close to your heart, what you like to do, what your passions are. Those people who choose to stand by you throughout it all are your “support people.” Your diagnosis may help you figure out who those people are, because many people will cut and run when they find things are too tough for them. Those who stick close, are the ones you count on. Your diagnosis may influence some of your future decisions, to identify what would be good for you in the long run, or challenges that would exacerbate your disability. Ultimately, you are you. You have these experiences to build on that have created you as a person. The diagnosis is just a tool. This is where you say, perhaps years later, “Okay. This sucks, but its just a diagnosis. Now what do I do about it?”

Don’t get me wrong. If you had asked me about this 10 years ago you would have gotten a different response. It has taken me 15 years (holy crap! Has it been that long??!!) to figure some of this out.

I know that there are always nay-sayers who read a blog and disagree vehemently with what a person says. You have that right. However, people have the right to write and express their opinions in a blog. And that is just what this is. My opinion. This is just my view of having a disability, and as a professional who has helped many students and adults identify their disabilities, and how to go about continuing on with their lives afterwards.

What I have learned is that there is a fine line to my mental illness and how it has challenged me, caused me to rethink some of my decisions, and influenced me to make some really poor choices. My mental illness has created in me a creative spirit that I think is intuitive to seeing and experiencing life passionately and deeply whereas others may float along in life never truly exploring life’s adventure. That fine line is so difficult to discern where my disability ends and where the “me” truly resides. Whatever and wherever that line leads me, I like who I am. I may not like some of the things I do or say (as my mouth tends to spit things out that are random and stupid), but I ultimately like WHO I am. This may take years for others to figure out. It is a journey that each person takes. A person with a disability takes a whole different path, one of struggle, one of finding your “support people,” and one of ultimate redemption and happiness in knowing and liking who you are.

A diagnosis is a tool. Whether the tool leads you to taking medications, avoiding large crowds, getting a new piece of software to do your job, modified school or work schedules, accommodations and what not…. it is just a tool to help you get what you need so you can be successful. You are who you are based off of your experiences. Having a disability or diagnosis is just one of those experiences. That disability may color the hues of your final life’s painting, but it is just one aspect in the whole of your life’s masterpiece. You get to choose whether to let the diagnosis make you, or for you to remake it into something beautiful in your life. To me, it is all about perspective.

Wednesday Worries

So being the person with Anxiety disorder that I am, I tend to worry a heck of a lot. Combine this with Bipolar disorder and my worries take on a stream of conscious type feel to them… worrying about a spot on the carpet somehow leads to Armageddon. Yeah, a bit of a stretch, but it does happen. If I let my worries carry me away then I worry about things WAY out of my control and then I go into panic attacks and things happen to me that I imagine are heart attack symptom related, though it’s not a heart attack.

So why Wednesday Worry day? I decided to dedicate a day to just getting the worries out there…. and then to let them go. Everyone has worries, but sometimes just sharing what those are give you a life, a sense of peace… or maybe a short plan on how to approach this worries or solve some problems. Some of my worries are lame inane things that really are stupid to worry about, and some are really viable issues that I think most anyone would worry about.

The list for today, the 25th day of January 2012, is as follows (in no particular order):

  • My daughter is cruising. As in walking using the support of furniture. This is scary since she practically didn’t start crawling until last week … and her crawling efforts are minimal since she wants to pull herself up and walk. Not ready for this yet.
  • I am worried about our financial situation. I need to help us out somehow, but is would cost more for childcare these days and I am not willing to work full-time just yet. Somehow I need to get my brain out of baby mode long enough to come up with some working ideas.
  • I am getting pretty down. Not my really low seasonal depression stuff, but definitely not too happy. I am afraid this has a lot to do with not getting enough recuperative sleep.
  • I am worried about my relationship with my hubby. I am currently super resentful of my husband. I am angry at the choices he is making. This does not make me want to be warm and fuzzy. I don’t really want to snuggle. Then again, when are we in the same room together for very long in order to do this? Not so much, and when we do, Sunshine is usually between us. Although the choices he has been making are mostly to deal with his own emotional stress, or the bit of down time he has,  his choices have repercussions on me. For instance: not going to bed until 4:00am in the morning because he is stressed out. He chooses to play video games or computer games. Thus he doesn’t get up until late. Thus he works from home. Thus he works way more hours than he normally would to compensate for slower internet workings here and interruptions from Sunshine. Thus I get no time to myself except the 7 minutes it takes for him to get her dried off after bath time and put her in a new diaper, whilst I sit in the bath a bit longer.Perhaps I am resentful because all those hours he is spending playing games, I am not getting to do something for myself. I KNOW that I need to sleep, so any spare chance I get I nap. No reading, no playing games, no fun time for myself.  Now, don’t get me wrong… Sunshine is fun. My hubby loves to point this out when I say I want to do something for myself… “But she is so much fun! Don’t you love her?”  Duh!  I love her, but if you spent 24/7 with her you would want a reprieve as well! If I hand her off to him, its seems an inconvenience for him, or it doesn’t last long because he says “She needs the boob.” Is this the lameass excuse all men whose wives breastfeed use to get out of caring for their kids? I found out that this is common and I am not alone. (Damn. Will have to rethink this whole breast-feeding thing next time around).
  •  In the same theme… I am worried about my hubby. His health. Mental health mostly, and possibly physical health. I give him all sorts of information to look at, as he is one of those guys who has to have quantitative (not qualitative) peer-reviewed research presented to him that supports whatever conclusion he wishes to derive from such things. I am not sure he really even looks at the information I send him any longer. He is a logical thinker.  Why can’t he see that he is not his normal self and that all this stress and worries is effecting his life, his physical health, his reactions to me and his daughter, and his energy levels?

Sigh. I believe those are the brunt of my worries today. Perhaps I am overtired so also over sensitive? Perhaps I just need to let go, or call in a favor from a friend and take myself to a movie? Perhaps I just need to get people together and go the Zoo?  Oooh!  I think I will take Sunshine to the zoo tomorrow.  Get us out and do something fun.  Yep. Year long passes rock!  Woot.  Well, until next Wednesday I will let my worries go for now. 

Have a great day and don’t forget to giggle!