Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Having a Bipolar Child

I was recently reading an article from BP Hope magazine about Bipolar Parents concerned that they could have bipolar children. The article was titled "Parents and the Waiting Game"

It really kind of disturbed me to think that a mom would be
"angst-ridden that her child ... will inherit her illness." I just wonder how that would affect a child if you were always watching for the signs of bipolar. A mom in the story said "Because I was looking for something, I thought there was something." She went on to say that she took her child to a psychiatrist at 7 and now that he's 16 there is still no sign of a mood disorder.

At what point would a mom's watchful eye turn into something that would cause anxiety in the child?

Years ago I used to facilitate several DBSA support groups. It was amazing the number of women who said they would never have children because they wouldn't want to pass along the disease. I even had a woman tell me that I was selfish for ever considering having children. It always made me wonder if they really felt that the world or their parents would have been better off not having them. I found it sad to think that these woman truly must feel that you can't have a good life because you are bipolar.

For years I discussed with my therapist coming to "acceptance" with having bipolar disorder. I finally came to understand that true acceptance is when you can get to the point where you no longer wish it was different. I now realize that the sum of who you are is molded by your experiences. If I wasn't bipolar I don't think I'd be as emotionally as strong a person. I don't think I'd strive as hard to succeed at everything I do. Finding out how far your mind can go into insanity changes your outlook on life. And I don't think I would have as much compassion for other people.

I also used to struggle with having to take medicine for the rest of my life. I just wanted a cure - I finally came to realize that I just need to be thankful that modern medicine has come up with a solution that works for me. If I pop my little pills I will be healthy and happy. And what more could you ask for than that?

As my baby gets older I really hope that I don't become one of those parents who are always "waiting" for a sign that my child has a mood disorder. I take comfort in knowing that the statistical chances of my daughter becoming bipolar are actually quite small.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Exercise during Pregnancy to Stabilize Moods

During my pregnancy I maintained an active exercise regimen - I did weights 3 times a week and did cardio at least 3 times a week - in fact I was at the gym doing weights 12 hours before I went into labor - I think the squats made my baby want to come out. I am a big beleiver that exercise helps maintain mood stability. For me exercise helps keep depression at bay.

And research suggests that exercise can be more effective than medicine.

A 1999 Duke University study headed up by James Blumenthal PhD divided 150 participants with depression age 50 or more into three groups. One was put on an exercise regimen, another administered Zoloft, and a third given a combination of the two. Those in the exercise group worked out on a treadmill or stationary bicycle at 70 to 85 percent of their maximum heart rate for 30 minutes, three times a week.

At the end of four months, all three groups showed significantly lower rates of depression.

The big surprise came from a follow-up conducted six months later when it was discovered that those in the exercise group experienced significantly less relapse than those in the Zoloft or combination groups. Only eight percent of the exercise group had their depression return compared to 38 percent of the Zoloft group and 31 percent of the combination group.

I think that speaks volumes ... only 8 percent had a relapse compared to 38 percent who were on Zoloft!

During my first trimester there was a couple weeks where I was too sick to exercise because of both the hyperemesis (extreme nausea and vommitting) and beause I had gotten a very bad cold.

Those few weeks were really the only times during my pregnancy that I felt unstable -- I was both a little hypomanic and slightly depressed during those weeks. And I strongly suspect that not being able to exercise contributed. Of course being off of all psych meds probably also contributed as did not being able to sleep because I would wake up coughing and/or needing to throw up.

My psychiatrist once told me that he felt that my committment to exercise and healthy eating was one of the key factors that had kept me without relapse. When I first started seeing my current psychiatrist I had just gotten out of the psychiatriac hospital after a severe manic episode that lead me into psychosis (I expericed hallucinations, was paranoid and had lots of gradiose ideas). It was when I was finally diagnosed as bipolar. At that time I asked him what the prognosis was - would I have a manic episode like that again and how long would it be. And he said it wasn't "if" it was when. And most likely becuase I was bipolar 1 with psychoic features I would relapse within two years and should stay on an antipsychotic like Zyprexa long term. A few appointments later I mentioned that at some point I wanted to have children - and he suggested that it would be wise for me to reconsider.

I say this to show that things change and I beleive that we do have the power to successfully manage bipolar disorder. My pschiatrist always told me that in order to stay well -- I needed to make a lifestyle change. At that point I had been seeing psychiatrists for 10 years (since I was 14) and none of them ever suggested that diet and exercise was just as important as taking my medicine.

So back to the exercise - whenever I stop my exercise routine I start to feel bad. After I had my daughter my OB/GYN told me I shouldn't do any exercise for 6 weeks - I injured my knee during deliver (don't ask how) and I couldn't exercise for a few weeks longer. I wonder if that contributed to the mild depression post baby.

One website I really liked to visit while pregnant was Babyfit.com and Fitpregnancy.com

Here are a couple sites/articles about exercising for mood stability:

Exercise and Bipolar Disorder at McMan Web

ABC News Video: How Can Exercise Or Lifestyle Help Bipolar Disorder?

Exercise to help mania