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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Children’s Library

Over the years, long before Sunshine was even a glimpse in our expectant eyes, the DOH and I started our childrens book collection. We both value and enjoy reading. It was something we loved to do as children, and still continue to do. Although, I am the one who reads books more, now.

While pregnant we read in “Brain Rules for Baby” that if you read a simple childrens book that rhymed (like the Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss) twice a day for the last six weeks of your pregnancy that your baby would recognize that rhythm after birth and it would be soothing and calm your infant. We chose “Oh The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss and read it together from week 30-40 of the pregnancy.

We have continued to read it (okay, really? Recite it by heart now) every night to Sunshine. If she is fussy, this at least calms her down. Well, sometimes.  During her afternoon naps, sometimes this works and she will fall asleep. It is great. We read to her this book, and one other and usually a chapter or two from a big kids book.

“Big kids?,” you ask. We have a host of books we loved when we were kids and thoroughly enjoyed reading. So, we have chosen to read her these books as she grows. Someday she will have these books for her own, but until she stops chewing the covers and moves to reading a few words, we will stick with the board books that she can “handle” for now.

Below is a list of some of the books we loved as kids and look forward to enjoying with Sunshine. The grade levels are listed by some home school programs, and Scholastic. We also, took some liberties in adjusting many of the reading levels, as the DOH and I read them much earlier than what was listed and enjoyed them because of the subject matter at that age. For instance, you most likely wouldn’t read Ramona Quimby books in junior high, but at the age of 3-4th grades. Thus we adjusted some of the listed grade levels. Let me know what you think, if some of these books are ones you enjoyed, or if you would add some. We definitely didn’t get all the books we loved, and could use more suggestions!:

Pre-K (whatever you want to read before they can read a whole lot):

Most of the Dr. Seuss books (but not all)

Boxcar Children (never read it but my husband enjoyed them) K

PING- K

Charlotte’s Web- E.B.White- Grade 1

The Wind and the Willows- Kenneth Grahame- Grade 1-2

Amelia Bedelia- Peggy Parish-Grade 1-2

The Littles- John Laurence Peterson- Grade 1

Mr. Poppers Penguins- Richard and Florence Atwater- Grade 1

Nate the Great- Marjorie Weinman Sharmat Grade 1-2

Ralph S. Mouse- Beverly Cleary- Grade 2

Sarah Plain and Tall- Patricia MacLaughlin- Grade 3

Indian in the Cupboard (series)- Lynne Reid Banks- grades 3-5

Ramona Quimby (series)- Beverly Cleary- grades 3-5

Socks- Beverly Cleary- grades 3-5

The Great Brain (series)- John Fitzgerald grades 3-4

The House at Pooh Corner- grade 3-4

The Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh- grades 3-4

The Trumpet of the Swan- grade 3-5

Black Beauty- Anna Sewell grades 3-7

Stuart Little- E.B. White- grades 3-5

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory- Roald Dahl grades 3-5

The BFG- Roald Dahl- grades 3-5

Danny Champion of the World- Roald Dahl- grades 3-5

James and the Giant Peach- Roald Dahl- grades 3-5

Little House in the Big Woods (series)- Laura Ingalls Wilder grade 4

Hatchet- Gary Paulsen -Grade 4

Secret Garden (though the little girl annoys me so much! Ugh!)-Frances Hodgson Burnett- grades 4-6

Island of the Blue Dolphins- Scott O’Dell- Grade 4

Sing Down the Moon- Scott O’Dell- Grade 4

Where the Red Fern Grows- Wilson Rawls- grade 4-6

So You Want to be a Wizard (series)- Diane Duane grades 4-6

The Black Stallion (series)- Walter Farley- grades 4-6

Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry- Mildred D. Taylor- Grade 4

Little Princess- Frances Hodgson Burnett- grades 4-6

The Hobbit (The DOH won’t let me read this to her yet, but I plan to soon!)- J.R.R. Tolkien- Grade 5

Chronicles of Narnia (series)- C.S. Lewis- Grade 5

Around the World in 80 Days- Jules Verne- grade 5

A Wrinkle in Time (series)- Madeleine L’Engle- grades 5-7

Watership Down- Richard Adams- grades 5-7

Harry Potter (Series)- J.K. Rowling – grades 4-8

Treasure Island- Robert Louis Stevenson, grade 6-8

Lord of the Rings (trilogy)- J.R.R. Tolkien- grades 6-8

Little Women- Louisa May Alcott- grades 6-8

Anne of Green Gables (series) Lucy Maud Montgomery-grades 6-8

The Curse of the Moonraker- Eth Clifford- grades 6-8