Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sun Exposure and Exercise as Treatment Options

The past 7 weeks has been very challenging for me. When I look back I realize that almost all Nov/Dec for the past 6 or 7 years has been a major challenge. This year I threw into the mix stopping meds right before Thanksgiving. It may not have been the best timing, but I don't regret that decision.

This year I suffered from varying levels of depression for most of December and had some mild hypomania for the second half of Nov. Throw into the mix all the family obligations, holiday hoopla and you have a recipe for disaster.

My psychiatrist's solution was to suggest going on Geodon or Lithium or Seroquel. All of which I have decided not to do. Why? Even though I have had big problems for the past few weeks, I'm not willing at this point to put more medicine in the mix. Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-medicine. I'm still on Lamictal daily Ativan and Sonota as needed, however I have been trying to keep those at a minimum.

My doctor's latest thought is that I might have problems with Seasonal Affective Disorder. So his recommendation is that I sit in the sun for 30 minutes a day, every day, regardless of the weather. Another option is to get a light box. The problem with the light box, seen here, is that they have been known to switch people who have bipolar into mania. So instead I'm sitting in the sun, well this weekend I wasn't because it was way to cold - so I need to find a sunny window somewhere for times like these. Luckily I live in South Florida which is normally warm and really sunny.

The other thing my doctor has "prescribed" is more regular exercise. I've written about exercise many times on this blog. I'm a big believer that exercise can be a better treatment than drugs ... and the research shows that to be true. Here's an excellent article about bipolar disorder and exercise from McMan Web. In that article they talk about a study which showed that study participants who were put on a exercise regimen had lower relapse rates than people taking Zoloft for depression.

Anyone who knows me knows that before having my daughter I used to exercise 1-2 hours a day 6 days a week. And since I had my daughter I certainly haven't maintained that level of disciple. Back then I was stable for 5 years only on Lamictal. Now I wonder if it was really the exercise that kept me sane.

So my New Year's Resolution, 30 minutes of sun and 45-60 minutes of exercise every day. And to keep on track I've got a chart that lists the week and a column for exercise and for sun. And everyday I get a star when I do them. The chart hangs right above my daughter's potty training chart.

This year I have vowed to staying mentally healthy my top priority. I really would love to have a second child, however I know that I can't do that if I keep up my current cycle of depression and hypomania.

So here's to a new year, with new goals.


Amberly said...

I have a light therapy box & I love it. I'm not on any meds. I also walk my dog every day at noon. The sun is at it's highest & that is supposed to be the perfect time to soak in the vitamin D. Another thing you could do is switch out all your old school light bulbs for the "natural light" light bulbs. I live in a very wintery area & winters used to be the time when I would be depressed. This year I was able to function during the holidays! It was the first time in 9 years that I actually enjoyed Christmas. Enjoyed the crisp air & snow.

Unknown said...

Hi Amberly,
Out of curiosity, what's the brand of the light box that you have?

Amberly said...

It is Sun Touch Plus... by Sky Effect Technology.

postpartummom said...

Such a good reminder! It's common sense and I know from experience how I feel when I take my kids to the park. Could be equally important as meds.

I know exercise is vital for moods, but having trouble finding the time with three little ones, even w/ treadmill in my basement.
Thanks for reminders. I may do that chart!