Friday, November 5, 2010

Bad Judgement during the Mania part of Bipolar Disorder

The bad side of mania or hypomania is poor judgement and impulse control problems.

It is hard to write about these problems, because personal stories are often embarrassing.  It's hard to talk about the stuff you did when you weren't thinking right.

This is why for weekend reading I am suggesting that you read Darcie French's Dear Squidoo letter about the errors she made during a manic episode.

She describes her excessive happiness and hopefulness, her poor judgment, and her grandiose thoughts - all symptoms of mania.  What makes her story interesting is her insight into how she was thinking.  I really enjoyed reading her story and I hope that you do too!

So that's my weekend reading suggestion..... Have a happy weekend! :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Successfully Switched Brands of Lithium Orotate


When I first started buying lithium orotate, the only generic brand of Lithium Orotate I could find was the Advanced Research brand.  Now the iherb website offers two other brands: Doctor's Best and Ortho Molecular Products.

I've bought other supplements by Doctor's Best in the past, and I've been very happy with their quality.

However, it took me two tries to make the switch over to Doctor's Best from the Advanced Research brand.  I don't know why, but I felt that it took about two to three days for the new brand to work.  So the first time I gave up, thinking that it didn't work. But now finally I've made the switch and I've been taking the Doctor's Best Lithium Orotate for about a week and a half.  I'm taking 4 pills a day, which is higher than the 3.5 pills that I was recently taking.  Also the Doctor's Best brand has 5mg of elemental Lithium per pill, whereas the Advanced Research brand was only 4.8mg per pill. So I am getting a higher dose but I feel great!  My moods have been pretty smooth, my concentrate excellent, and my anxiety way less. The holidays are generally a stressful time of the year for me, so I plan to stay on this dosage for at least the next several months.

Unfortunately, I find the lithium orotate pills very hard to cut, and that's especially true with the Doctor's Best brand. My pill cutter tends to crush them instead of cutting them.

The Doctor's Best lithium orotate is in tablet form, just like the Advanced Research brand. However, the Doctor's Best tablets are harder and have a shiny coat to them.  My main problem with the Advanced Research brand is that the tablets are so soft that they easily break.  Often there are a handful of broken pills in the bottle. Also, in my last bottle, there were several pills that were the wrong shape (too thick) which made me really question the quality control!  I didn't take the wrong shaped pills, as there was no way for me to know if they were lithium or not.  This is kind of scary, and why I finally switched over to Doctor's Best brand.

If you are looking to buy lithium orotate, you can use a $5 off coupon on iherb if you are a first time customer.  Just enter the code LIN282 during checkout on the iherb website.

Click here for more information on Lithium Orotate.

Please note that I'm not a doctor and this is only about my personal experience. This is not medical advice.  I highly recommend that you consult with a doctor before starting on any supplement.

Monday, October 11, 2010

October 2010 Update

My moods have been swinging back and forth a bit lately... Going from a hypomanic, hopeful, productive and happy state to a depressed, less hopeful demeanor.  I've been staying sane though, in that my depression hasn't gotten as bad as it could be, and it's not yet effecting my relationship or work, because I'm having enough hypomania to make up for the down moments.

This means that I might be increasing my lithium, but I'm going to wait a bit because I enjoy the hypomania. It's the productive kind with lots of ideas.

I know that part of the cause for these sea-saw moods is because of some additional stress I've been under lately.  I don't really feel like going into the cause of the stress, but let's just say that I'm trying to make it be less stress!

I have been spending more time on Squidoo lately.  It's a great place to make a website (they call them lenses) and if you give it a try, follow this link because I'll get some referral credit.

I've made about $300 from Squidoo since I started and so part of it is about money - If I write pages that are popular, I make money - but also I love the community.  There are so many bright and interesting people on Squidoo. Oh sure, there are some people who are there just for the money, but many more who write about themselves and topics that they care about, and I'm proud to be part of such a great community!

I wrote a couple of pages about myself recently, that I thought you might be interested in -

About My Childhood Speech Problems

How I've Come to Love Music

Well I hope that everyone is well!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Practice Delayed Gratification

Bipolar Disorder sometimes causes impulse control issues.  You want to say something, and you just can't wait until the right moment to say it. You can't hold your tongue if it would be better left unsaid.  You can't think about it for awhile to decide the correct wording and context.  No, you blurt it right out.

This is something that a person with impulse issues might do.  It's just an example.

Sometimes how I know that my symptoms aren't being contained so well, is that I say something too fast without taking a moment to pause and think it through. My brain is just moving too fast and I'm having trouble controlling myself.

When that happens to me, I try to alter my behavior so it doesn't happen again. 

I know the importance of delayed gratification.  To function as a logical, considerate, mature human being, I work hard on pausing before I act or speak.

So many people don't.  And this is not limited to bipolar disorder. This is about the whole world of people, many of whom probably don't have any psychological diagnosis.



Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/moriza/126238642/



This is best observed in rush hour traffic.  People looking down at their cell phones while driving.  They can't delay the act of reading a text, or replying to one.  So they drive around almost running into the back of the other cars because they're not looking as they slide forward in bumper to bumper traffic.

And it's not limited to cell phones.  Sometimes it is food that needs to be eaten. Or a baby in the back seat. Or something intensely interesting in the seat next to them.

There is a whole world full of people who can not set aside their impulse to pay attention to something else other than what they should be paying attention to: the road in front of them.

They would rather answer the text message even if it means crashing into the back of another car.

So, try to practice delayed gratification.  You want to do something else.  But try not to. Put it off and do it later.  This is a skill that could save your life.

(Perhaps the drivers texting have another issue: They're grandiose.  They have an inflated view of their ability to successfully multitask.)

You decide:
Are Texting Drivers Grandiose or Suffering from Impulse Control Issues?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Eating too much food

In the last five years or so, I gained a lot of weight. I was blaming it on age (people get rounder as they get older), or on low blood sugar (I don't feel good when I don't eat). But I'm finished with those excuses.

For the last five years, I've been working from my home, with the kitchen nearby, and making enough money to keep food in my fridge.

The problem is that I think I've been trying to treat my bipolar disorder with food. When I don't feel good, I think, “Maybe I need to eat,” and then I eat, and I feel better.

I don't eat junk food or sweets, but rather lots of cheese, milk, bread, and other kinds of normal but high calorie foods.

Cheese, photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/livinginmonrovia/83604031/

And the truth is, I feel better after eating. Sometimes when I haven't eaten in awhile, I get symptoms: cold hands, shakiness, headache, anxiety, difficulty with concentration.... Not in that order, and not the same everytime.

But it turns out that it's not low blood sugar. I got a glucose meter and tested myself. I'm normal every time. So now I'm thinking maybe the anxiety and concentration stuff is the Bipolar, and the shakiness is from caffeiene. The cold hands and headache I can't explain, but I'm human and sometimes humans get those things :)

I've been taking chromium for the last year to help even out my blood sugar, and it is working.

So, in general, at least as long as I take the chromium, I don't have low blood sugar. It's all in my head.

I know that I have psychological hang ups with food. And food does make me feel better. I just never recognized that I was eating as treatment before...... I would hear about people eating for comfort, and it didn't exactly fit my situation. Because I'm not eating to make depression better, but rather to treat “that uncomfortable feeling” which is some hard to describe bipolar feeling. And I'm not eating sweets, but just normal food. So there's a lesson I've learned – it can still be comfort eating, even if it doesn't fit the stereotypes.

Maybe part of it is that once upon a time, I didn't have enough money to buy much food, and perhaps that is buried in my psyche somewhere. I remember putting food back at the grocery store because I couldn't pay for it.

I also remember getting really sick feeling when I needed to eat, but ever since I've been taking the chromium, I don't get really sick. But I do get a headache if I go long stretches of time.

So here's my plan of action, most of which I've been trying to do for the last week:

  • Eat fruit or vegetables for snacks instead of higher calorie food.

  • Go longer between eating meals. Hunger is an OK feeling. I can be hungry, and it won't be the end of the world.

  • If I really feel like I have low blood sugar, check my blood sugar with my glucose meter to see if I have low blood sugar. This is to determine if it's just in my head or not.

  • Don't eat sweets.

  • Eat smaller meals.

  • Continue to exercise every day (I try to walk 1 mile.)

Will it work? I don't know but I'm going to give it a try. I've worked on changing my thinking before, and I do seem to have success with it so I'll see if I can work on it in this area of my life too. I've just realized that a lot of the food stuff is IN MY HEAD!

If I stay busy or distracted by doing lots of things, I tend to forget about being hungry, at least for awhile.

I also noticed that when I feel cold, if I get up and do some exercises or even just move around, I stop feeling cold. So that's an alternative to eating.

I know I must not be the only one who has bipolar disorder and food issues.. I hope this helps someone!  

The biggest moment of realization for me though has been using the glucose meter.  It proves to me whether I'm having a physical or mental issue.  I bought a ReliOn glucose meter with 50 test strips from Walmart. Its the best deal I could find. 

I might be crazy, but I'm not hypoglycemic!


Friday, September 17, 2010

A Bipolar Day

Today I had one of those days which make me realize that I still have Bipolar disorder.

A passing comment and thought triggered what felt like was going to be a meltdown. For some reason my emotions went haywire and I felt anxious and not cohesive.

I told me husband and he helped me decide to take some medicine (phenibut- half dose, and B-12) and it succesfully brought me back to normality.

Or, at least mostly normal.

The important part is that I was able to recover from what seemed like a meltdown and continue my day as I wanted.

That is something that I did not know how to do in the past. And although medicine is not always the answer, sometimes it is just the right thing.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Letting Go of Who You Are 'Supposed' to Be


... and finding who you want to be.

Picture taken by me... interesting wing pattern.


Because the 'supposed' to people just aren't right.  God is right.

I am supposed to be ______.  At one point, it was a doctor.  At another point, a psychologist. 

Many times it was unsaid.  The actual career decision wasn't specified, but I was supposed to be someone.

Someone with a college degree and a high paying and well respected job.

I got the college degree.  I don't have the high paying and respected job.  Something happened while in college and I almost didn't even get the degree. That something is Bipolar Disorder.

As long as I try to guide myself by someone else's concept of success, I will fail.

But if I look at my situation in life and see it as something God gave to me, then there must be a reason for everything, even the Bipolar disorder.  And I can succeed. 

Some of the reasons I don't have the career actually aren't solely the fault of the disorder.  It's also my independent nature.  I'm driven to work for myself.  My symptoms have subsided enough now that I could probably get on the right track to that high paying and well respected job... I could go into work every day and work for someone else.  It's just that I don't want to. 

However, I don't know if I could be a doctor, because I don't think I could get through medical school and residency without falling apart.  My concentration is only good sometimes and my mood problems spike under stress. So perhaps I am not meant to be a doctor. I think I can find something else to do with my brain.

God gave me a brainy brain but also an emotional one. It's an intriguing mix that I am trying to work with.  From what I've read, it's not an uncommon mix, and I think there must be a purpose for this combo.

While muddling through the bipolar mess, I had the opportunity to take a look inside of myself.  I found that part of what had been driving me mad was environmental - other people's expectations, external pressures, an unclear sense of self, etc.

So in a way bipolar is a blessing because I wouldn't have discovered all that I have if the bipolar hadn't come my way. I might have been still doing something because I was supposed to be doing it....

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The beliefs that we believe to be true

Breakthroughs can come when we realize what our beliefs are and then question them.

Which can be scary.

I'm listening to Jennifer Warnes sing "Famous Blue Raincoat" and reading the lyrics, and it is this line that made me think about the beliefs that hold us back -

"I thought it was there for good so I never tried."

I also read part of the book Toxic Parents recently, which talks about family beliefs.  That was an insight for me, because I've been working on changing my thoughts for a long time, but never thought about changing my beliefs.

Beliefs are the things that hide under our thoughts.

We don't have to have the same beliefs as our parents.

I wrote about believing in God in my last post.  This is a belief that differs from my parents and this struggle to accept my belief has been a tough one for me.  The things that I was told as a child are deeply ingrained in me, and it is an emotional fight against them.  Note, that the fight is emotional. The logical part of it is easy.  I know what is right and wrong.  I know the direction that I want my life to go in.  But my emotions still put up a fight.

I am winning.  Little steps.

Monday, September 6, 2010

How I came to believe in God

The parkway looked a lot like this.
Picture is courtesy of Kerosene Photography


Near where I grew up, there was a parkway.  I had to cross it every day to get to and from school.

This parkway was a very busy 4 lane highway.  Accidents happened at the crossing regularly.

When I was 17, I sometimes drove to school.  I could avoid crossing the parkway by driving an extra distance to another crossing that had an overpass.  I often did drive this extra distance, but one day, I forgot.

Rather than turning around, and driving the extra five or ten minutes, I decided that I could wait for an opening in the traffic.  It was near dusk and it was rush hour.

There was a lot of traffic.  I thought I had an opening to cross, but realized when I was halfway across that I had made a mistake.  A car was fast approaching me. So I put on my brakes hard.  I stopped in the middle of the 4 lane road.

I didn't get hit.  I didn't see the car swerve. I didn't hear any horns or screeching tires.

The next thing I remember is that the car was way past me.  It was safe to continue crossing.

It was surreal and unexplainable.  I don't think there is any way to speed up really fast to cross and then to stop in the middle of the parkway and for nothing to happen. There wasn't even any space in the middle.

I remember thinking that I was going to be really hurt or dead.  And yet nothing happened.

It doesn't make sense. I attribute it to God.  Of course, there are other possible explanations. Maybe I was hullucinating and there was no car.  Maybe the event didn't happen how I remember it.  Maybe physics can someday explain such an event where there is a loss of space and time.

I've come to believe in God.  There are also other things, that you might call coincidences, but I think that God plays a roll.  I can't proove it.  But it is just a feeling.

This is of special importance to me because I grew up in a non-religous household. My Dad is an atheist and my Mom undecided.  I never thought that I would believe in God.

My belief in God has been helpful in coping with my moods. I can pray to God and it seems to help. I've also come to realize that I'm here on this earth, doing what I am doing, for a reason.  I guess that's all I'll say for now.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Taking Care of Mom

** In this post, the Mom I refer to is my Mother-in-Law.

My Mom was in the hospital this week for back problems and untreated diabetes.

Its been a week of turmoil.  Mom's biggest problem is that she hasn't been able to walk.  And that she is obese.  Although we all love her so much, none of us can lift her.

It all started a couple of weeks ago.  She started complaining that her back hurt.  Her progression from having a hurt back to being unable to walk is hazy in my mind, but basically one day she just was in pain, and then the next day she had fallen on the floor and couldn't get up.

We came over, and through a long process of using a board that she could get onto and then slide up onto a chair, we got her off of the ground.

Then the next day, she fell again. She didn't tell anyone and was on the floor for hours. Thats when we decided that someone had to stay with her all of the time.

Her back, and then leg, continued to hurt. It was increasingly difficult for her to get up off of the couch.

Her daughter decided to take her to the emergency room in the middle of the night.  At the emergency room, they found out that she had high blood sugar, but didn't do anything to treat it.  Mom said that she didn't need any pain medicine, and after an x-ray, she went home.

So the emergency room didn't accomplish anything, but she did get an appointment with her doctor in a few days.

In the meantime, I took turns staying with her.  I stayed two out of three nights with her.

It would take her over an hour to get up to go to the bathroom.  And then she would sit in her walker and I would push her to the bathroom.  We didn't have a wheelchair.  The second night, we got a portable commode set up for her next to the couch, but she still had extreme difficulty getting up to use it.

I didn't get much sleep either of those nights (2 hours one night), but I managed to get through it without a huge mood problem!  Yay!  I did cry a bunch and feel emotional, but I was able to deal with it.  It was very stressful for me to sit there and watch her try to get up to use the bathroom.  All I could do was offer food, words of encouragment, and pray with her.  I tried to keep the situation as positive as possible, even though inside of me I was scared.

Finally it was the day for her doctor's appointment.  Her doctor admitted her to the hospital. She stayed in the hospital three nights.  After the first night, she finally agreed to take pain medication (vicodin) which made a would of difference.  They also gave her medicine for diabetes.

Now, she is at her son's house.  She has a wheelchair and hospital style bed.  She is taking her medicine and on a diabetic diet.  She is going to have physical therapy twice a week.  I'm confidant that she will regain her mobility.  Already she is able to move around easier, and can use the portable toilet on her own.

All of this has been hard on me.  I've come to love her very much, and I want to help all that I can.  It is a pull between wanting to do everything and being careful to let others do the work so that I don't hurt my health.  

I'm sensitive to changes.  For example, her house is right down the street from mine, and I like to walk to her house about every other day and visit.  When I wasn't doing well, she often provided me with emotional support. Now I can still visit her, but I have to drive about 15 minutes.  It's not bad, but not the same.  Other people are there too, so it's not the same as having one on one time with her.  So that's just one change in my routine and support system that I have to deal with.

The hardest part is that I tend to take on other people's emotions.  Perhaps a better way to say it is that I have a lot of empathy.  When she was scared about being in the hospital, I felt anxious for her.  I worried about her.  I worried that without her mobility, she might have to be in a nursing home, and it might not be a good one.

Fortunately, her son and his family are able to take care of her in their house.  So now I feel a lot of relief.  But I still wonder if she is going to recover well enough to be at home by herself.  Everything seems to indicate that she will be able to, but the future in unknown.

Taking care of her has changed me.  It was a lot of responsibility and stress, and it makes me wonder how much I can take on and still continue to manage my bipolar OK.  I think I was successful because I continued to take my medicine on time, I got sleep whenever I could, and other family members helped me.  I cried and got hugs and it was all OK.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Torture scenes in public

Our society has lost its moral direction. This can be seen in many different ways. But here's one small thing that happened to me recently, that made me think about moral direction, right and wrong, and society as a whole.

I went into an electronics store the other day.  I won't name the store's name, but it was a chain store. They sell cell phones, radios, and TVs.  They had their TVs playing a movie.  I was looking around, and so, of course, I look at the TV.  The movie is in the middle of a torture scene, involving someone's private parts....

I look away, go somewhere else in the store, and don't look back.  I don't watch movies with scenes like that at home, and I certainly don't want to there.

What if a kid was in that store?

I can handle it, but I shouldn't have to.  Sure, I'm more sensitive than most... But it's just so disappointing that they thought it would be OK to play that movie.

It's not OK.

Maybe this example isn't about morality. Maybe it is just about insensitivity, thoughtlessness, immaturity...

But looking back over the past 50 years, and talking to people older than myself, it's clear that times were different. It wasn't always this way.  I'm not suggesting we should go back to when the word "pregnant" wasn't supposed to be said, or when two people couldn't be in the same bed on TV.... but torture scenes playing on TVs in public stores?  It seems that we need some boundaries.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Toxic Mom

I don't get along with my Mother.  She is a controlling, judgmental, narcissistic person. 

I don't know that I even love her. Yet, for some reason, I've been still wanting her approval.  I've been working on the relationship, wanting it to get better. 

Well, no more of wanting approval from her. I'm trying to get over that.

She changed our relationship yet again last week.

She doesn't like my husband, and wants me to break up with him.  I already knew this, but last week she brought up the topic in an email. Her email was manipulative, and while trying to pull on my heart-strings, she says lies about my husband.

I long ago stopped mentioning my husband's name to her at all, which of course means not telling her lots of stuff, but that's fine.  I can live with a superficial relationship.

However, I can't live with opening up emails that put me into an emotional turmoil and cause my day to be filled with anxiety. 

I don't know why her words have such a strong effect on me. They are untrue, but yet it causes my bipolar to flare. My ability to be stable me, to have good concentration, and smooth emotions, goes downhill.  My whole body gets riddled with stress.

Well, I just can't be riddled with stress all of the time.  So now I am filtering her emails, which means that I don't read them.  Do I delete them? I probably should - I deleted the last one without reading it - but I'm a bit of a wimp. 

There is a long history here. In the past she has not liked other things about me and also written me long horrific emails.  I didn't talk to her for a long time, and stupidly I promised her that I wouldn't not talk to her again. Because of course it hurt her so much, and it is supposedly my fault for everything.

I might have to reneg on my promise.. She breaks her promises all of the time. Of course that doesn't mean that I want to also break mine. But I need my sanity. 


P.S.  If I referred to my Mom in a positive light before this, it might have been in reference to my Mother-in-law. I have adopted her as my Mom because she is one of the nicest people in the world.  She says all of the kind words to me that my biological Mom doesn't say. I am thankful for her.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sundown..... Symptoms increase around sunset...


I (almost) always feel strange between 4pm-8pm.....

Right now it is 6:30 and the strangeness has set in.  It's not too bad today.

Mostly this strangeness is an increase in my symptoms.  Often it is a depressed feeling, but today it seems to be a glowiness.  Sometimes it presents itself as anxiety.  It's not always the same feeling, but it's always a wrong feeling.  Many of the days, recently, I have a sadness during this time period, that's not here during the rest of the day/night.

Once the sun has set, I usually go back to feeling fine.. I haven't figured out what the reason is behind this.  I thought it might be the change in light, but even on overcast days I seem to have a peak in symptoms during this time.  I thought it might be blood sugar changes, but even when I eat early, I still get the symptoms.

So mostly I just write this incase this experience is more common that I've found online (my searching hasn't found anything much).

Mostly I treat this evening mood disturbance how I try to treat any other mood change.  If I can, I keep doing what I normally do, and just tell myself that I'm experiencing bipolar symptoms.  If I need to, I do one of the things that tends to calm me - take a nap, listen to music, take a walk, etc.   If I can sleep, that's just about the best solution, but I'm not always tired - just symptomatic!

Thinking back on my life, I've had changes associated with this time of day for a long time.  Perhaps many people do experience a change during the early evening time, and all that I'm experiencing is an exaggeration of the change that everyone else gets. Of course, being tired in the early evening is normal.  Coffee with dinner is popular.  Energy drinks are just about made for this time of day.  (Not for me, though. I can't tolerate too much caffeine.)

P.S.  I am familiar with the term sundowning. It refers to symptoms in people with Alzheimer's disease or dementia.  They often have an increase in confusion and other Alzheimer's symptoms. I haven't heard of it associated with any other form of mental illness.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Virus HERV-W could be the cause of Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, and MS...

I just finished reading an article entitled The Insanity Virus by Douglas Fox (Discover Magazine, June 2010) about the connection between a virus and mental illness.  The virus HERV-W is a retrovirus that could trigger diseases like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and MS.  The virus lives in a person's DNA and the proposal is that if a person has a weakened immune system shortly after birth, this virus isn't contained well.  Subsequent infections later in life cause the HERV-W to unleash itself and do damage....

Apparently, it is thought that infection by toxoplasmosis or influenza, can wake up the HERV-W virus.  Moreso, basically anything that causes inflammation - like an infection, cigarette smoke, pollutants in drinking water - can cause retroviruses to be awakened...

Beyond the science of the article (which is quite intriguing!), I'm interested in the practical implications of what this could mean, and one statement from this article about schizophrenia says: "It explains why the disease waxes and wanes like a chronic infection.  And it could explain why some schizophrenics suffer their first psychosis after a mysterious, monolike illness."

Current reasoning for the waxing and waning of mental illness has to do with things like: changes in levels of stress, changes in medication, ability to cope, lifelong progression of the illness, etc.  What if it also has to do with the immune system?

I, personally, often feel that my mood is effected by physical sickness. I started taking zinc to treat a cold and then found that it helps my depression.

If a person is under more stress, they are more likely to get physically sick, as well as have increased psychiatric symptoms.

Should treating our immune system be part of treating bipolar disorder?  The article has this solution:  Faith Dickerson at Sheppard Pratt Health System, "is running a clinical trial to examine whether adding an anti-infective agent called artemisinin to the drugs that patients are already taking can lessen the symptoms of schizophrenia. The drug would hit HERV-W indirectly by tamping down the infections that awaken it."

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lithium Flatness (loss of creativity, not liking lithium)

A lot of people seem to not like being on lithium (or some other mood stabilizer).  They say that it ruins their creativity, makes them feel flat or emotionless.


I don't have this problem.  And I propose that there are two reasons for this, which need to work together -

1. Take the lowest dose of lithium or other mood stabilizer that is effective.

2. Make lifestyle changes.

If you think of mania or hypomania as being similar to alcoholism, except that the addiction is to "excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences," whether it be sex or shopping or drugs or whatever your activity of choice is - then you can see how taking a mood stabilizer alone isn't the whole solution.

You have to change your lifestyle.  That is, your activities. If you are an alcoholic and love going to the bar but then start taking a medicine that makes you not able to drink, then you're not going to like that medicine because when you go to the bar you won't experience the same enjoyment as you used to.  The key of course, is to stop going to the bar.

I propose that you can have creativity and lots of emotions and be taking a mood stabilizer, IF you refocus your life on activities that aren't excessive and that don't have painful consequences.

If you can successfully change your lifestyle, then you may even be able to reduce the mood stabilizer.  Ideally, you want to be taking the mood stabilizer at the lowest amount so that you can still feel a wide dynamic of emotions.

Changing your lifestyle is not easy, and could involve major changes like changing a romantic relationship, changing your friends, changing where you live, changing careers, etc.  This is all stressful stuff that by itself could cause your moods to become worse, which is why you might need to see a therapist and a psychiatrist regularly so you can keep your meds adjusted as you go through these changes.

Also, some of your experiences might be rooted in not just brain chemicals gone awry, but they might be the result of environmental problems like trauma, lack of self confidence, difficult relationships, etc. Things that need to be worked through over time, perhaps in therapy.

So the mood stabilizer is just one part of the equation.  It's a big part, but if you aren't committed to making changes, then the mood stabilizer alone might not work.  The good news is that usually a mood stabilizer changes your thoughts enough that it makes it easier for you to slow down and do some self-examining to see what you want your life to look like.  You just have to embrace the opportunity to ask yourself big questions.

I'll leave it to you to come up with the questions that need to be asked.

--

Footnotes:

1. I'm not a doctor, but from personal experience, I would suggest that you might need a higher dose of lithium or mood stabilizer at first, but that after you have made lifestyle changes and/or sought other treatment like therapy, then the mood stabilizer might be adjusted downward.  However, you have to always be watchful of a dangerous hypomania/mania episode coming on... Best to catch these episodes by watching your THOUGHTS and catching them before your actions take a turn for the worse.

2. Omitted from above, is this:

Going to the bar doesn't have painful consequences for everyone, but it does for alcoholics.
Similarly, whatever activity you became addicted to while hypomanic, you should try to avoid.
This statement might be a bit radical, but avoiding something at first might be a good idea. For example, don't go to the mall if you have trouble with spending too much money.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hypomania and Jumping

My Dad built a deck onto my house, and for awhile, he had the steps all done, but not the railing.  One afternoon, after coming home from high school, I decided that a fun activity would be to see how far I could jump. I started on a lower step and worked my way to almost the very top of the deck.  I jumped until I got a little bit scared....

I was probably manic or hypomanic, as I suspect I was a lot during my teenage years. Looking back on it, mania explains a lot of my decisions...  Check out the following criteria for hypomania. I would say this jumping activity falls straight into #7.

Criteria for Hypomanic Episode  (from the DSM-IV TR)

A. A distinct period of persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, lasting throughout at least 4 days, that is clearly different from the usual nondepressed mood.

B. During the period of mood disturbance, three (or more) of the following symptoms have persisted (four if the mood is only irritable) and have been present to a significant degree:

   1. inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
   2. decreased need for sleep (e.g., feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep)
   3. more talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking
   4. flight of ideas, or subjective experience that thoughts are racing
   5. distractibility (i.e., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli)
   6. increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation
   7. excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)

C. The episode is associated with an unequivocal change in functioning that is uncharacteristic of the person when not symptomatic.

D. The disturbance in mood and the change in functioning are observable by others.

E. The episode is not severe enough to cause marked impairment in social or occupational functioning, or to necessitate hospitalization, and there are no psychotic features.

F. The symptoms are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication, or other treatment) or a general medical condition (e.g., hyperthyroidism).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Giving up too easily?

Most often, the difference between success and no success, seems to be persistence.  Sure, chance plays a part, as does a slew of other things that you don't have much control over, but persistence is something you actually do have control over.

While playing chess a couple of weeks ago, I realized that I often give up too early in the game.  When I do play the game out, a disadvantageous situation often turns around, and some of the time I still win.  But, when the going gets tough, I was giving up too easily.  The most often excuse I gave myself is that I felt tired. But was I really tired of playing, or, was I just doubting myself?  Why do I quit when the going gets tough?

Translating chess psychology and strategy into real life is something I like to do, and so I thought about what I've given up on in the past, and the reason why.

About twelve years ago, back in high school, I gave up programming. Before I gave it up, I really liked it. I had a book that I was following, and I just got to one point and I got stuck. I couldn't go further.  So instead of seeking out a solution, I quit.  Today I can think of many solutions. Get a different book. Find a teacher or mentor. Try a different programming language. It could have just been a mistake in the book, or a gap in my knowledge. 

So now I am back, programming.  A little bit. I find it enjoyable once again.  I'd love to make a million dollars from something I program some day, but for now, I'm just picking up the path where I left it... Except for now I have twelve more years of maturity, wisdom, and confidence under my belt. It might just make the difference.  Plus, perhaps even more important: my moods are controlled. I'm no longer living in a prolonged stretch of irrational hypomania in a stressed out environment.

What have you quit, and why?  Is it time to revisit?

Seagull Takeoff Near Cannon Beach, Oregon
Picture taken by me :)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

My Experience with Face Recognition Disorder (Prosopagnosia or Face Blindness)

I have difficulty recognizing faces.  It's not something I realized I had difficulty with when I was a child, but looking back on my experiences, it seems that I've had this difficulty all of my life.

When I was a child, I thought I just had trouble remembering names.  This is something that many people say that they have trouble with.  I had never heard of prosopagnosia, so the closest description I could find to what I was experiencing was a problem with remembering names.

But, for me, it was not the names, but the faces.

Since I have trouble recognizing faces, I rely on other clues, like hair color/style and voice.

If people appear similar in other aspects, then it is hard for me to tell them apart.

One of my earliest memories regarding this problem is that in school sometimes teachers would have students pass back graded papers.  I dreaded doing this task, because I had trouble telling some of the students apart.

I tried working in a bagel shop, but that only lasted a couple of days.  I was so busy trying to fulfill the orders, that I forgot to look at the people to remember who ordered what.  This caused some frustrated customers (as well as a frustrated me!)  I'm sure I appeared dumb, but really I was just coping with a difficulty that I wasn't aware I had.

About 4 years ago, I came across information on prosopagnosia (thanks to the marvelous internet) and realized that described my condition accurately!  Since then I have been actively practicing to increase my ability to recognize people and faces.... I am getting better, although I'm not sure whether my ability to recognize faces is actually improving, or whether I'm just getting better at picking up other clues to remember people!

I watch TV shows and movies and try to recognize actors. This used to be an impossible task, but now I am able to do it some of the time.  I think I rely on the sound of their voice as much or more than their face. It's just easier for me.

I still sometimes get lost when watching a movie that has multiple people who look similar, and this can make the plot impossible to follow... A very frustrating thing!

I have been taking piracetam to try to improve some of my cognitive skills. It's an interesting drug (sold as a supplement in the USA).  It works on the brain by somehow increasing or improving neural pathways, or at least that's what it seems to be doing.  It's not a stimulant, but rather a nootropic (a smart drug).  Since it changes neural pathways, it can have some effects on mood (both positive and negative), but that's not the purpose I take it for.

It seems to help me with recognizing people, language skills, and word retrieval.  I had speech and hearing problems as a kid and so I still have some difficulty in that area, and it seems to me that piracetam helps.  If I take it before watching Jeopardy, I can usually get more answers right because it seems that I can think of the answers faster. That all too common "it's on the tip of my tongue" experience goes away.

For more details on face recognition disorder, check out Cecilia's description.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mistaking Mania for Personality....

One of my high school teachers described me as "taking awhile to warm up."

That's because I started off being quiet and they came across as being outgoing later in the year.  Or so my teacher thought.

Looking back on it, I wonder, perhaps she had observed me in a depressed mood and then in a manic mood?

Mania isn't easily recognized.  I talked to someone who was manic once (her speech was rapid and she quickly switched from one thought to the next and it didn't make much sense), but there are other shades of mania that seem to present themselves as personality (hyper, outgoing) perhaps accompanied with risky behavior.  Since society often equates adolescence with risky behavior, people don't see it as mania.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Anti-Medication or Pro-Medication?

A number of years ago, I went to a mental illness support group meeting.  I enjoyed the meeting.  However, a group of people there were passionately anti-medication.  At the time, I was taking Seroquel and it was helping me immensely.  That was a strange situation to be in.

The impression I got from most of the anti-medication people is that they were against medication because of their personal negative experience with it. The reasons and experiences varied from forced medication to negative side effects.  Actually, forced medication during hospital stays is what I remember being discussed the most.

It's not that I think all medications are great.  They can be dangerous.  I've had some negative experiences.  Topamax triggered a small seizure in me.  Geodon made me feel physically ill.  Celexa made my moods worse.  That last one isn't a surprise, because an antidepressant alone can be really de-stabalizing for someone with bipolar disorder.  That's more the fault of my really stupid psychiatrist than the medication.

Seroquel may have caused some lasting problems with me.  I have hypoglycemia.  I may have had it before the Seroquel.  It may have made it worse, or perhaps that's just something that would have happened anyway. Who knows.

The difference, I think, between me and those who are anti-medication, is that I found a medication that helps, and every day I decide that I want to take it. I don't have to take it, but if I do, my life is better.  (Currently, that medication is lithium orotate.)

I don't think there should be two groups of people, those who are pro-med and those who are anti-med. It's just not black and white.  What's good for me probably isn't good for you, although it might be.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

One of them has to be stopped.

Stress causes symptoms.
Symptoms cause stress.
One of them has to be stopped to end the vicious cycle.
Medication might reduce the symptoms.
Therapy might help you to reduce the stress.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why caffeine can make you feel sooo good and sooo bad


My hypothesis is that caffeine's effect depends on what your mood was before the caffeine intake.



Monday, May 10, 2010

What I know about Lithium Orotate

NOTE:
I am not a doctor or medical professional, and I am not recommending lithium orotate use.
--

Lithium orotate is not well known and not popular among doctors. This is because there are very few scientific studies and most evidence that it works is just anecdotal.

Lithium orotate is a supplement and available without prescription in the United States. There have only been a handful of studies that have been done on it. One study done on rats in 1979 concluded that lithium orotate can cause kidney fuction problems, but the rat was given the same dose of lithium carbonate as lithium orotate. Some people believe that this study is misleading because lithium orotate is effective at lower doses than lithium carbonate.

However, lithium orotate is puzzling because the doses that it is effective at don’t cause the person to reach the therapeutic range for their blood lithium level. When doctors prescribe lithium carbonate, they check the patient’s lithium level, and generally try to maintain a therapeutic blood level of 0.6 – 1.2 mmol/L. However, with lithium orotate, the effective dose often does not cause the person’s blood level to reach that range; in fact, the lithium blood level is so low that it may not be measurable. This is theorized because the lithium goes into the cells rather than stays in the blood. I’m not sure if I understand this, but it seems to cause the lithium to be effective at a lower dose, which also seems to cause less side effects. Lithium can be toxic at blood levels above 1.5 mmol/L, which is also why blood level tests are usually done with lithium carbonate.

In any case, I take 4 pills of Lithium Orotate every day. Each pill is 150mg which contains 4.8 mg of elemental lithium. Some people have found effectiveness with just 1 pill a day. For awhile I was taking 3 a day. I take the Advanced Research brand and it really helps keep my moods stable.  11/12/2011 Update: I take Doctor's Best Lithium Orotate and it continues to work well.
3/20/2015 Update: Doctor's Best brand was discontinued, so I switched to Vitamin Research Brand of Lithium Orotate.

There is one scientific study (Lithium toxicity from an internet dietary supplement) published about a person overdosing on lithium orotate. They took 18 pills and it caused them to have nausea and vomiting but their blood lithium level was only 0.4.

The reason I started taking the lithium orotate was actually my desire to treat myself. It is a risk I take, and not one I advise. But it turned out to a be an affordable solution for me, and an added benefit is no side effect of hand tremor. I took lithium carbonate for awhile, and after about a year, I developed a tremor from it.

I really do like how lithium makes me feel (the mood effects were similar for both lithium carbonate and lithium orotate) because it’s like it just makes me feel normal. When I’m not having to deal with the huge changes in my emotions, then I have more energy to just be myself. I know lithium doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s so good for me that I wish I had found it sooner.

If you want to read anecdotal stories of the lithium orotate, you can read reviews here.

You can read all of the studies availabe (all 7 of them!) at PubMed.gov.


9/7/2012 Update: Results from my lithium blood test.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Thank God for Lithium and Zinc (Medication Update)

I've been taking zinc for about 6 weeks and it has greatly reduced my depression.  I'd say it's been eliminated.  I wrote about zinc for treating depression here.  Let's hope that the zinc keeps working.

I am also taking lithium orotate, which I've been taking for so many years that I've lost track (I'd estimate 4 years).

I still have occasional anxiety and moodiness. I recently lowered my lithium dosage by 1/2 pill (from 4 pills to 3.5) and I do have more symptoms with the lower dosage, but so far it is manageable.  My mood changes are faster and stronger with the lowered dosage, but the trade off is a more dynamic range of feelings.  I think.  It's too early to tell for sure if I'll stick at the lowered dosage or not.  If my stress increases, I may go back up to the 4 pills.

Mood-wise, life is good. Yay!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Getting Ready for the Food Drive

Yesterday, we went to the grocery store to get some food for the Letter Carriers Food Drive.

I know the general idea is to just give some food away that has been in your cupboard, but when we can, we try to actually go to the store and purchase some food for the food drive.

It feels good to be buying food for someone else who needs it. We try to buy food that kids will like.

I think food banks get lots of beans and tuna, but who wants to eat that all of the time?  (I've heard that waxed beans are the most popular donation.)
 
So we buy food that we would be happy to give anyone.

Here's a picture of some of what we are donating.  It feels good to be helping others.  We got some good deals on the food too. We went to Grocery Outlet, which is a West coast discount store, and those juice boxes were just 89 cents and the concentrate is from the USA.

(Some Apple juice is from concentrate made in CHINA!  I just discovered this recently when looking at a store brand apple juice container.  It's printed directly on the plastic container where the apple juice comes from.  After seeing it on the juice I drank, I did a search and found this article.  Apparently, even some brand names are buying from China.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How fast is your thinking?

Recently I was looking through the book, Orthomolecular Psychiatry: Treatment of Schizophrenia (by David Hawkins & Linus Pauling), where I came across a chapter entitled "Dyschronia: Disorders of Time Perception in Schizophrenia."  The author of the study asked people to set the metronome to how fast their thoughts were.  They also asked them how they felt about the metronome when it was set at different rates.

The reaction to the metronome varied significantly from person to person. People who felt that time was going by slowly set the metronome to a low rate.   Some people became anxious when the metronome was set too fast.  Other people were comforted by the metronome.

I thought this was interesting, so I looked online for a metronome and found this one: http://webmetronome.com/

I tried to set it at the rate of my thoughts, but I found this difficult to do. I finally settled on around 100 beats per minute.  I think I will try this when I feel decidedly depressed or on the manic side and see if my setting changes. (I feel weird today but I can't pinpoint on which side of normal I am today.)  It may be a good way to measure just exactly how fast or how slow my thoughts are going, which would give an actual number to that feeling that my thoughts are going crazy fast.  What is the rate of your thoughts?

The web metronome doesn't go as fast as the one they used in the study, although it does have a visual change that accompanies the beat.  The metronome the authors used had a light that also went on and off at the same time as the beat and it went to at least 300 beats per minute.

This made me think about why sometimes I like music with a fast beat and sometimes I don't.

The passage of time certainly changes for me.  Basically, if I'm having a difficult time, time seems to slow down. I tend to look at the clock more and try to keep myself busy.  If I am really focused and involved in something, time speeds up. Of course, this change in the perception of time is common with most (all?) people.  It doesn't have anything to do with mental illness.

However, the symptoms of mania include rapid speech, impulsiveness, distractibility, and racing thoughts which all seem to have to do with the speed of one's thoughts.  Perhaps people with bipolar disorder have more extremes in how they experience time, from really slow to really fast.

Sometimes you can tell that a person is a bit off (feeling strange) because they don't respond to you at the right tempo as you would expect. Some people have this incorrect rhytym all of the time... It's not wrong, but just different, which sometimes means that it takes them longer to respond to you, and sometimes this makes for an awkward conversation.  Every time you say something, you pause for a response, and then when they don't respond right away, you continue speaking, and then they will start speaking at the same time, and the conversation is a series of starts and stops.

If your thoughts are going fast, then you risk always interrupting the slower person, or talking from one topic to the next without pausing long enough for a response.  I used to always talk too fast and I have taught myself to slow down, although I still sometimes speak too fast. I still have trouble organizing my thoughts when I am speaking, especially on the telephone, because I don't have any visual clues.  I want to be as fluent verbally as I am in the written word... I think it takes practice.

I guess that is the end of this long post. Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Vitamin B12 (as Methylcobalamin) for depression?

I have to admit that I like trying new supplements.  I think this is because I've found some really helpful supplements (as well as some loosers).

My newest experimental supplement is B-12, in the form of Methylcobalamin.  This one I didn't buy for myself initially.  I bought it for my mother-in-law.  She is about 70 years old and says that it makes a significant difference in giving her more energy.  I bought her the 1000 mcg dosage because I figured that a lower dose is safer.  (They have a 5000 mcg dose available too.)  She sometimes takes it twice a day, which is fine according to the instructions.

Her positive experience made my husband interested in it, for himself, as we as for another relative who complains of feeling tired all of the time.  Some of the reviews indicate that it is really helpful if you feel tired all of the time.  We haven't had the chance yet to give it to this other relative for her opinion, but my husband and I have both taken it when we weren't feeling well. I think it does make him feel better, and I know that it has a very noticeable effect on me.  However, I'm only 26, and I think the effect and dosage required for the effect might differ a lot depending on age.   Or maybe I'm just sensitive to it.  But I wouldn't want to take a higher dose, whereas for other people, a higher dose might be what they need.

I've taken it about 3 times now. Each time I took it I was started to feel a little bit down.  One time it was sort of an irritable down feeling, another time it was sort of a flat tired feeling. Each time I felt better within minutes.  It is a chewable tablet so it is absorbed really fast.  It make my mood feel normal and slightly energized.  When I was feeling tired and flat (and unmotivated), shortly after taking it, I suddenly was motivated and had a couple of different ideas of things to do.  The energy feeling that I felt with the B-12 was just an initial burst of energy, and then after that I felt normal.

Since it might make you feel more energized, I think it would be unwise to take if you are on the "up" side (hypomanic or manic) and definitely something to discuss with your doctor.  All supplements do have risks associated with them.  One of the biggest risks with most supplements that help treat depression is that they can cause you to become manic or increase the rapid cycling of bipolar disorder.

They call B12 the happy pill, and I think I know why.  The Methylcobalamin is supposed to be one of the better forms of it.  As with most of my supplements, I bought it at iherb.com.  If you haven't shopped there before I think you will be impressed by their quick shipping time and low prices, and you can also take advantage of $5 off your first purchase - just enter LIN282 at checkout.

(Disclosure: If you use that code to make a purchase, I will make a little bit of money off of your sale.)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Taking Time to Adjust

If I am planning on doing one thing, but if for some reason my plans have to change, it takes me a little while for me to adjust.

Once I take the time to adjust (mentally and emotionally), then I'm usually fine.  But I have to allow myself a little while to get used to the new idea.

Having to change my plans used to put me in a bad mood.  Sometimes this bad mood would make me not want to participate in the new plans.

Now, I just try to recognize that I'm the type of person who needs a little extra time to think about the change in plans.  If I start feeling negative, I try to realize that this is just a feeling that is a reaction to the change, rather than a feeling that should influence whether I participate in the new activity.

It's not that I don't like change.  I just don't like fast, unexpected change. It takes energy to deal with.  But sometimes fast, unexpected change is for the better. And I have a great time doing something unexpected.

I'm not talking about the really big things in life that should require extensive thought - like moving, or which college to go to, or whether to get married.  I'm talking about the small every day things that interrupt my routine, unexpectantly.  It might be because the weather has changed, or because I receive a phone call, or because of some other pretty minor thing.

I know that I'm not alone with this character trait.  People with autism have a similar reaction to the unexpected:

"People with autism prefer routines and any unexpected change in this routine can be upsetting. Young children may impose their own routines, such as insisting on always walking the same route to school. At school, they may get upset by sudden changes, such as an alteration to the timetable. People with autism need structure to their day. Anything untoward or unexpected happening may well cause their levels of anxiety to rise significantly, and possibly cause them to react unpredictably." (National Autistic Society)

Although I don't have autism, this description describes me.  Is it a symptom common with others who have Bipolar Disorder?  I don't know, but I thought I would throw it out there.

Maybe it's just all about avoiding anxiety, because increased levels of anxiety cause more mood symptoms.

(Picture is courtesy of mikebaird)

I know that if I am planning on doing sometime, I usually take some time beforehand to prepare for it.  I'll think about possible situations that might occur and how to react. It is like a dress rehearsal in my mind.  If I feel anxious, I'll try to coach myself.  I might even take a medication if I need something to relax.  I try to remember to bring things with me that might help. I usually like to have a bottle of water and a few snacks.  I usually bring with a sweater or jacket.  I don't like to feel cold or hungry. It's enough just keeping my mood going well :)  And I can stay in a much better mood if I feel well physically.  

But some of life's best adventures can happen with little notice.  Go on a drive with a friend, take a shopping trip, or a trip to the beach.  It's all fun and in many cases doesn't require extensive planning.  But for me, I need about 15 minutes to really think about it.  If I can get my rational mind to examine the new activity and decide whether it is a good plan or not, then usually I can get my emotional self to listen to my rational self, and be my normally cheerful and happy self, and all is well.

Afterall.... "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." - Seneca

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Living with Bipolar Disorder: 3 Tips for Easier Meal Planning

Do you try to plan meals? I do.  Before going grocery shopping, I think about what meals I'd like to have, what ingredients I already have, and which I need to buy.

However, because of my bipolar disorder, I can't usually stick to a weekly meal plan.  I have rapid cycling bipolar disorder and often my moods last just 1-4 days.  This often means that for part of the week my mood isn't feeling normal.  If I'm depressed, it's hard for me to get the motivation to cook a meal.

Here are my 3 tips:

1. Buy Heat and Eat meals to keep in your freezer. Even if you feel motivated to cook 7 meals a week, keep a couple of them in your freezer, just incase.

2. Use a recipe box to keep track of the meals you've cooked.  Write notes to yourself about the recipe. This will make it easier for you to tackle it when you aren't feeling as well.

3. Try using a crock pot. Also called a slow cooker, this lets you prepare the meal in the morning or the night before. You can prepare the meal when you feel well; not when you are hungry!


Heat and Eat Meals
No matter how motivated, happy, and energetic I feel while I'm grocery shopping, I try to buy some meals that are all ready to go.  The one predictable thing about bipolar disorder is that it's not predictable.  Heat and Eat meals are ones that I just put in the oven or microwave and then they are all done.  The downside is that these are not usually as healthful as the ones I make myself.  Often they have more salt or fat in them than I'd like.  There are a lot of things you can get of the heat and eat kind.  For example, frozen lasagna, frozen breaded fish and fries, corn dogs, frozen chicken nuggets, frozen pizza, etc.  I realize that I could also make my own home made meals ahead of time and freeze them, but I haven't gotten around to doing that.

A lot of the time it feels like when my mood feels normal, I use that time to do everything that I didn't get around to doing when I didn't have the energy, and well, cooking for many nights in advance is just not one of the things I end up doing.

Using a Recipe Box to Keep Track of Easy Meals
I also try to plan out a lot of easy meals.  These are ones that I actually make myself, but I don't find them hard to do.  I keep a recipe box and makes notes about recipes I've made so that making them a second or third time is even easier.  After making the recipe several times, it becomes MY recipe, and I know exactly what to do.  It makes it less intimidating and I might even attempt it on a less than perfect mood day.

Crockpot Meals
I have a crockpot that I like to use, and the minimal preparation required for making a pot roast in my crockpot is something that I can get done in the morning, and then it will be all ready to eat in the evening. This also holds true for many other crockpot meals.

My best time of day is usually in the morning.  I usually have the most energy and positive mood then.  My worst time is late afternoon/early evening.  Therefore, if I wait until my worst time of day, I am less likely to be up to making a complete meal.  So, the crockpot helps in the time shifting :)

Strangely enough, it seems like I'm always hungry for dinner right around 7pm.  I've tried moving around dinner time and having it earlier so that I could prepare it during a better time of the day for me, but so far, that doesn't seem to work well... I still get hungry later.

Dirty Dishes?
I read somewhere that one of the most common reasons for eating out was that all of the dishes were dirty. This makes some sense, as if you have to clean the dishes and cook food, that's a double big chore.  I try to avoid this problem by at least doing some of the dishes in the evening or morning so that they are ready for dinner time.  I also have accepted the fact that I can cook dinner even if the dishes are dirty. I just clean what I need.


All this said, sometimes we eat out.  Last night we had take-out chinese food, and it was just the perfect way to enjoy the evening.  No work needed, and lots of great food.

P.S. The Angus Burgers pictured at the right are sold at Costco and they are super yummy. They take 2 minutes to heat up in the microwave and come out just perfect (not rubbery at all!).  I don't know how they do it, but it is the perfectly addictive heat 'n eat meal.

Do you have any tips for meal planning?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Monday, March 22, 2010

Work Hard at Play

I recently watched Daniel Kahneman talk about memory and the difference between the experiencing self and the remembering self.

It's made me want to take seriously what I enjoy, and get the most possible enjoyment out of life.

I also read about half of The Happiness Project book which got me thinking about having fun too. One point that book makes is that what is fun for one person is not fun for another. So I've been thinking about what I consider to be fun, and accepting that it may not be the same as what other people find fun.

Then there is Meg's comment that "Keep in mind that the input you give your mind greatly effects the output of your feelings..." She always has good insight.

So on that note, I've been focusing on making sure I have enough fun in my life.

I really love taking pictures, so I got a photo album to put my pictures in.  This way I can spend time enjoying all of the pictures I have taken (and remembering all of those happy moments!).  I don't tend to keep my pictures organized on the computer, and there is something I prefer about having printed photos.

I really enjoy music, but sometimes I hesitate to try new music. Well you can't find new music without trying!  There is no way to know beforehand if you're going to love it. So I'm going to try to start my day out with listening to music more often, and also I'm going to make a serious effort to find new albums, new artists, and new types of music to enjoy.

Serious fun!

Pictures I took at an airshow....

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Got to Love Those Pecans

While watching an episode of House last night, this line caught my attention: "Nuts are high in copper."

I just wrote a post about zinc and had read that if you take zinc then you should be taking copper. There is something important about the zinc/copper ratio.

I've been eating pecans for a snack.  Often my low point for mood is in the late afternoon, and I think this may be linked to blood sugar levels (although it might also be changes in daylight), and so I've found that if I eat nuts for a snack, I feel better. I thought this was because they are high in protein and fiber, but now I'm wondering if it could be...

The copper?  Or maybe even the Choline?  Or some other good ingredient that they have....

Here's some info about what's in 1 cup of pecans....

Copper 1.3 mg
Magnesium 132mg
Choline 44 mg
Manganese 4.9 mg
Omega 3 Fatty Acids 1075 mg
Omega 6 fatty acids 22487 mg

More nutritional info here.

I guess I will have to keep researching.  And eating those pecans. I actually ran out of pecans last week and made a special trip to the store for them.  It was driving me nuts.  They are kind of expensive, but Costco seems to have the best price.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Zinc for Bipolar Disorder Depression?

When I was in college and having a lot of trouble with Bipolar disorder, I saw several different psychiatrists.

One of the stranger psychiatrists that I saw believed in a holistic approach, and in addition to medications, recommended that I take a zinc supplement.  I believe it also had copper in it, but my memory is a bit hazy.

I took the supplement for awhile, but didn't really believe in it, and my symptoms were pretty strong at the time, so my focus was on taking some pretty strong medication. Whether the zinc did anything for me then, I couldn't tell.

Well, fast forward to today.  I've been taking zinc for the last week because I have a cold.  Without a doubt, zinc helps sore throats, and since I've been having a little bit of a sore throat and eustachian tube soreness, I've been trying to take zinc to help fight it off. I am also taking garlic and vitamin A.  This regimen comes from past experience and is relatively cheap.

So my cold is staying on the mild side, and I'm hoping that it doesn't progress into a big infection.  At the same time, while I've been taking this zinc, my mood has been staying really smooth.  Is there a connection?  I don't know, but maybe I'll keep taking it even after the cold passes.  Maybe my strange psychiatrist knew what he was prescribing :)

One thing to be aware of, is that taking too much zinc can be bad for you.  Here's some basic information on what you need to know about taking zinc.  I see that website says that the upper dose for zinc should only be 40mg for people my age. Oddly, that contradicts the guidelines on my bottle of Zinc Lozenges (it says no more than 138mg in 24 hours). Other places I've read no more than 100mg or 125mg, or that it depends on your body weight.  It seems that taking the lowest amount that works would be a good idea.  I've noticed that 25mg and 50mg are the doses that are commonly sold as supplements.

There is actually quite a bit of information on the connection between zinc deficiency and depression and other mood problems.

Here are a few links:
The role of zinc in neurodegenerative inflammatory pathways in depression
Zinc Enhances Antidepressant Therapy
An animal study showing zinc works as an antidepressant

That's just a sampling. If you search Google for Zinc Antidepressant, you will find a wealth of information.  However, "zinc" and "mania" and "zinc" and "mood stabilizer" don't bring up any useful results, so perhaps zinc only helps the down side of bipolar symptoms.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Relative Stability, and Car Buying

I've been doing well for the last week or so.  Not perfect, but well.  I did fight off a depression at least one day this week.  Not that depression can always be fought off, but this one did stay away.  I told my husband about how I was beginning to feel, and while I was taking a walk, he drew me two large notes.. One of them said “I love you!  My beautiful wife!!!” and it had a big heart on it.  He taped it to my monitor and now (since I had to use my monitor) it is taped to my light pole right near me.  I think that really is helpful!  Every time I look at it, it makes me smile.  The other one he taped to the bathroom mirror.  He asked me, “Have you been to the bathroom since you got back from walking?”  and I said, “No, is something wrong...?” and then I went in there and found the note!!  It was a great surprise!

Now, if I was going to be really depressed, love notes alone probably couldn't keep me from being depressed, but they sure do help!

We bought a new car.  A much needed new(er) car.  When your car doesn't go into reverse right away and doesn't always shift up to a higher gear on the highway, it just isn't such a good thing.  Buying a new car was an experience that had me in nervous tears sometimes, and also had me quite happy other times.  In the end, it made me quite happy.

Having a newer car means that we can go on road trips, which is something I've been wanting to do for  months!!  I love taking pictures and haven't been doing it much lately.  I'm not sure if not doing it was making me depressed or if I didn't do it because I was depressed, but I will have to try to do things I like to do... who knows, maybe it will keep the depression away longer!

Why did the car buying process have me in tears at one point? Well, I don't know, except that it seems that any stressful situation can have me crying when my mood is off.  I never bought a car before.  I never even went on to a car lot before.  My parents bought me my last car.  So this was a first.  My husband, who is much older than me and has much more life expereience, says that life gets easier with experience.  What great news!

What did I learn about car buying? Be sure to check out the VIN numbers!  Before we had a service to check them out (we later signed up to autocheck.com) we checked out some really bad cars.  Some car salespeople really will lie to you about the cars!  Checking out the VIN number told us that the cars had been in accidents and/or not passed the state emissions testing.

We also checked out the MSN car reliability and safety ratings, and the consumer reports ratings. My parents seemed to always buy cars that need repair, but I want to buy a car that doesn't need much repair.  So it's too early to tell if looking at reliability ratings is going to insure that we got a car that won't need fixing, but it sure seems like a good idea.  My husband says that he's had cars that he didn't have to do work on, so it's not true that all cars need repair work.  You can get a car that just runs, and runs... and runs...

Also, you just can never know until you look at a car in real life, and test drive it!  We looked at cars that seemed like great deals online, but there were problems. One dealership didn't have the car, but just used it as a way to get us to come to the lot to look at another car (bait and switch).  You can advertise a car you don't have at a really low price, but if you don't have it, it doesn't mean anything.  Another car had a broken off door handle.  Really low miles, though. Also when we found the car we bought, in addition to everything checking out right with the VIN number and such, we just had a really good feeling about the car.  They say to pay attention to your gut instinct.

I also learned that car buying isn't something to really stress out about.  When I took action about it, I felt better.  I started participating in the process (rather than just letting my husband do all of the research and work), and not only did it help make me feel better, we actually ended up finding a car because I decided to do a search!  A car that we had looked at before, but had just been reduced by $1000!

But all of this success came about because my mood stayed relatively stable, and I felt confident about making a big life decision like buying a car!  When I felt depressed, anxious, sad, nervous, it was hard to make a decision... And that's OK.  I won't always feel well, but when I do feel well and have successes, I think those times help me feel better and more successful in the future.

This picture is of a robin I saw one morning this week.  It was the first thing I saw when I looked outside in the morning. What a nice surprise!