Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Missing Mania?

There is a really interesting article at BP Hope Magazine called "Missing My Mania." Read it here

I was really stricken by these two paragrapghs:
I feel unpopular...
Mania makes you feel like the “it” girl or boy. But in remission, you’re just another pudgy neighbor on a quiet cul-de-sac.

I can no longer crank out three magazine articles a day.
Mania brings energy! I can’t stay up all night. I’m so sluggish when I’m in remission. It’s the sluggishness of the average man and/or woman. I’m Average.

They are really such true statements. I felt like I was so much of a more interesting person when I was hypomanic. Not so much when I was manic. The last time I was manic I was completely delusional with lovely hallucinations. Apparently I used to think I was speaking to "Indians on the Plains" clearly I didn't realize what decade we were in. I also was paranoid that people were out to get me ... so clearly not feeling very popular then.

One particulary interesting thing was during my last bad mania five years ago I had these ideas that I would publish a magazine for bipolar people. I even met with some magazine publishers that I know. No one I talked to thought it was a viable business. So it is really funny that a couple years later BP Hope came out -- a magazine for bipolar people!

I do sometimes wish that I could have a "little" hypomania so that I could get more done during the day - so that I could feel more confident about myself.

And then I remember that hypomania can escalate to psychosis. And I don't ever want to find myself crawling on the floor of the psych ward because I am too doped up to walk. I'm grateful that I don't remember much of being in that state. The brief flashbacks I get are enough. How much do I really want to remember about being treated like a non-person in a hospital, being so overmedicated that I could barely walk out without my husband physically supporting me.

Now that I am responsible for a precious little baby I know I will always take my illness more seriously. I can't let myself get seduced into the upside of hypomania. I can't image having a childhood memory of my daughter's be visiting mommy in the hospital. I know the reality is that I will most likely at some point in the next few years have an episode ... I just hope that I'm able to catch it before it gets too bad.

Do any of you ever long for a little mania? Feel free to email me at bipolarpregnancy @ gmail . com

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Staying Healthy & Sane with Minimal Meds

I've gotten several emails recently where people asked how easy or hard it's been to reduce my bipolar meds. So I wanted to share what I think has made the difference for me.

There was a period after my last manic/psychotic episode that I was on a whole slew of drugs: zyprexa, depakote, paxil, ambien, klonopin and lamictal. And honestly with all the meds I felt like a zombie. For a while that was OK because at least I was sane and stable. But the mental stability for me came at a price. When I went on Depakote & Zyprexa I gained 55 pounds in 3 months going from a size 4 to a 14. I had no energy and would actually sleep 12 hours a day. I would have to take 2 naps a day just to function. The final straw for me was when my hair started falling out (every morning I'd find clumps of hair on my pillow and in the shower). So I may have been stable but I was overweight, tired and felt like I'd be bald soon. (The hair loss was a side effect of Depakote - but it didn't get bad until I was on it for about a year but I was at a high dose - 3500mg a day (I was on Lamictal so the dosage for depakote has to increase because of the interaction between the two).

Because I didn't want to remain on so much medication I talked with my doctor about slowly reducing. First to go was the zyprexa then the paxil (which I had severe with drawl from and it took me 6 months to get down from 80mg to nothing) next the depakote. And then the ambien was switched to Sonata as needed and the klonopin was changed to as needed. And my Lamictal was increased to 400 a day.

In the meantime I focused on the other things I could do to help maintain stability.

1. Omega3 - I religiously take these at the suggestion of my psychiatrist. Studies have shown that Omega3 are beneficial for treatment of bipolar. Not to mention that there are also studies that show it is beneficial when pregnant!

2. Exercise - Exercise is key for me. Whenever I stop my regular exercise routine my mood shifts and I start to feel like I could slide into depression. I've had a lot of stressful things happen in the last two weeks and I haven't been to the gym. Today my husband said he's drag me there if I didn't get back because he could already tell a difference in me -- I'm getting irritable and more moody.

3. Healthy Eating. I really believe that what you put into your body affects you. The documentary Supersize Me showed that eating junk can make you depressed, fat and hurt your liver. So I avoid fast food - I maybe eat it twice a month. I'm a vegetarian so I really focus on getting the right mix of nutrients and being a vegetarian means I don't typically like to eat out because of limited food choices.

4. Supplements - In addition to the Omega3's I religiously take a multi-vitamin (prenatal a few months before getting pregnant) prior to that Centrum. I also take extra Vitamin D (a deficiency has been shown to contribute to depression), extra Calcium, B-Complex (labeled for stress) and additional folic acid. When I was pregnant I was taking about 2-3 mg (they recommend u to 5 mg for women taking AED during pregnancy. Regular pregnant women take less than 1mg typical prenatals have around 800mcg.) Since I'm breastfeeding now I also take extra Iron, grapefruit seed extract and caprylic acid (good if you'd had issues with thrush). Altogether it is a big handful of pills. But I think that the supplements really help especially the Omega.

5. Sunshine - I try to get at least 15 minutes outdoors a day. Sunlight helps your Vitamin D levels which helps you feel well more Sunny. :-) That's why light is recommended for people suffering from Seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Does anyone else have non-medicine strategies for staying healthy? If you don't want to post a comment - email me at bipolarpregnancy @ gmail.com

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Breastfeeding Resources

I've been getting a number of emails from pregnant women with bipolar who are contemplating breastfeeding. I wanted to mention that breastfeeding can be difficult -- it takes patience. I told myself that I would stick with it for 6 weeks and then if it still hurt to much I'd reconsider. Then I said 3 months, now I say 6 months. Each time I hit the goal I challenge myself to stick with it a little longer.

So I wanted to share some of my favorite breastfeeding resources.

Kelly Mom - Site features lots of articles on breastfeeding and good advice on what to do if you have problems - i.e. treating sore, cracked nipples, thrush, etc.

Dr. Jack Newman Articles on Breastfeeding Online - Helpful articles and videos from Jack Newman who is a doctor who specializes in lactation.

Breastfeeding & Peppermint Water Article - This is a scientific study about using peppermint water to reduce nipple soreness and cracking. Peppermint water is traditionally used in Iran.

If you aren't sure that you are going to breastfed beware that these books are a little dogmatic about the benefits of breastfeeding. So if you might be considering formula beware that they could induce guilt ...

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding - This book by the La Leche League is very infomative.

The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers : The Most Comprehensive Problem-Solution Guide to Breastfeeding from the Foremost Expert in North America -- This book is by Dr. Jack Newman. I haven't read this book yet - I just ordered it. But I really like his articles and advice that I've found online.