Saturday, February 16, 2013
Pregnancy and Mental Illness
This issue is close to heart. Mental illness/Bipolar vs. pregnancy. To conceive or not conceive? The odds of having a child also with a mental illness? What are the medication risks? Because of so many facts that go into these issues, and I could write for days, I have limited this more to the mental and basic decision-making aspects, and have limited the detail of pharmaceutical aspects. Going through psychotropic uses during pregnancy (Psychiatric medications are psychoactive drugs prescribed for the management of mental and emotional disorders), would be much too daunting to write about in one article.
Pregnancy is such a wonderful experience and exciting time for parents to be. All parents want their kids healthy. While the capability of testing for some genetic markers is possible, mental illness at this time is not one of those.
In 2007, my husband and I were at the point in our lives of deciding whether to conceive, I decided to look for a book on this topic to help my decision. What I discovered amazed me, finding a book on this topic was difficult. In 2007, one book was in the process of release. The book was entitled “Bipolar and Pregnant” by Kristin K. Finn. ONE BOOK. There were plenty of articles on this topic, but I was just flabbergasted there were not published books. The books I did find only dealt with raising a child with bipolar or mental illness, or dealing with a spouse or significant other with a mental disorder.
Another factor I felt needed to be considered is both my husband and I are Bipolar so that added more complexity to our decision. The odds (according to many sources), of having one parent that is bipolar, passing on the disease is approximately 15-30%**. The statistics can jump to 55%**. when two bipolar parents have these genes. I struggled with this tremendously. What would happen to my child if they were diagnosed with bipolar? Would they be angry knowing that I conceived them knowing that the odds were against them? If I was in their position knowing that I would be bipolar, would I be angry with my parents? These questions were just many of the numerous ones that went through my head.
While struggling with the above issues, I needed to look at the physical issues as well. Pregnancy can irritate symptoms. The additional hormones and the decision to manage symptoms with or without medication is an enormous issue to tackle.
Planning a pregnancy, in itself consists of many factors, stopping smoking, caffeine use, and prescription and over the counter medication use. It also involves taking care of one’s general health and eating healthy. Dealing with pregnancy while having any mental illness, comes with many trials and tribulations. For those specifically with bipolar disorder or a mental illness additional questions may arise:
· What psychotropic medications can I take
· Will m y child inherit a mental illness?
· Will pregnancy hormones work for or against me?
· Will there be an increased risk for the severity of postpartum depression?
· Should I breastfeed or not?
· Will medications that I am presently on be transferred through the breast milk?
· Will my disability destabilize me, and influence my ability to care for my newborn?
· Sleep? Will lack of sleep be destabilizing? (Personally, for me, sleep throws me off when I do not get enough, and throws me into either a manic or a depressive episode.)
I wish I had a magic ball that helped me to answer these questions. Bipolar typically emerges during early adulthood, presiding throughout the lifespan, usually coinciding with a woman’s childbearing years. I think many women, like me, grow up thinking I want to be a mommy one day. So trying to deal with this issue and this roadblock was very hard. There are still so many: “Why’s,” Why me? What did I do to deserve this? All I wanted was to grow up and be a mommy!”
Unfortunately, there has not been a lot of sizable and comprehensive research on this topic. While some psychotropic medications have been shown not to “have a significant” impact on the fetus…what does “significant” really mean? There really is no definitive information that answers this question. The answer usually comes down to risk vs. harm, and do you manage the illness or simply consider the baby. Stopping medication is very risky and can contribute to a relapse, which jeopardizes the health and ability of care of the newborn.
What do you do when an infant is depending on you for his or hers’ needs.
So what do you do when you are not able to stop, prescription medications? The bottom line really comes down to a personal decision to make by the parents. Many folks believe that conceiving a childhood, is worth the risk for both themselves and the child.
Carefully planning before conception will help ease and aid in managing symptoms that may arise. I am still struggling with these questions, as I have been for 6 years. I am still undecided, still trying to stabilize myself. It is a difficult decision, and I think taken for granted sometimes, by those who do not have the same questions we with mental illnesses have. My husband and I still do not have an answer of yes or no…..if only I had that magic ball.
***Statistics are estimates and from various sources, they should not be considered as exactly accurate.
Friday, January 18, 2013
Hello all, I feel so privileged to be sharing this blog with others through the International Bipolar Foundation, as well as being able to direct you to my personal blog.
Where to start? I thought writing a bio would be easier, but my manic mind right now is thinking…what do I share, what not, what relevant information do folks want to know, and lastly I don’t want to bore folks!
My name is Ashley, 39 years old, and I live right outside of Washington DC in Northern Virginia. I have never been one for change so I plan to be here the rest of my good ole life. I am married to a wonderful man, who also has Bipolar and ADD. No kids but 4 wonderful kitties.
Right from the start, the ADHD was apparent…my mom jokes I jumped out of her womb and took off running down the hall. From the start, I was not the “typical” girl. My hyperrness was out of control. This was during the 1970’s so ADD/ADHD was just beginning to surface. In 1st grade, my parents took me to a psychologist, and the psychologist diagnosed me with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Which means, I’m purposely trying to ignore authority and I’m on the path to perhaps become an arsonist in the future? I have many childhood scars from this. I think I spent at least ½ my elementary school life with my desk in the hall.
Skip ahead 26 years until now. Unfortunately, 15 years ago I received the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which happened to be the type of bipolar which is the most difficult to treat. In 1998, three years after initial symptoms developed, the complete diagnosis of bipolar I, mixed state, ultra rapid cycling, with psychotic features was made. Also at this time, I developed an eating disorder, anorexia, and bulimia. I also have OCD, thankfully it not severe and just on the “it’s driving me crazy,” level!
My bipolar is not a euphoric mania but a dysphoric mania; I become highly paranoid, agitated, and aggressive. In the past, I have experienced psychotic episodes, and when my mania is severe I have a heightening of senses, I see colors brightly, almost in 3-D, noises are very loud, and there is increased creativity. I had 4 suicide attempts.
I have been hospitalized in psychiatric units at least 18 times, two of which were in eating disorder clinics. I once tried to estimate how much of my life was spent in hospitals, and it added up to approximately 3 years!
I’m currently on 9 psych meds. My new psychiatrist would like me to go to the John Hopkins’s Mood Disorder Ward and be “detoxed” from meds. Especially since, I’m on 2 anti-depressants which is a no-no for those with bipolar. I’m so scared, knowing that for the first 2 weeks he stated I would be in an extreme amount of discomfort. I’ll keep you posted as to my decisions.
Again, I look forward to bonding with individuals with mental illnesses, and exchanging information that will help me grow and understand that bipolar is not a life sentence just some speed bumps and potholes in the road!
Check out my new blog!!!
Helping with mood swings, depression, decrease in OCD behaviors, etc. are great goals, and are achievable in different ways. Thinking positively will help achieve stability, as well as taking medication religiously and correctly. Severe symptoms of our mental illness are really out of our control. Nevertheless, here are some suggestions that can help achieve more stability, and aid with this. These suggestions are in our control and attainable.
Suggestion 1- Start by setting realistic and achievable goals. It is possible, other than medications, to aid in mood stability. In conjunction with taking your medication(s), psychotherapy, self-management techniques, and avoiding outside triggers, help with alleviating symptoms. Fortunately coping in society is 100% possible.
Suggestions 2- Consistently monitor mood and physical changes. The quicker these issues are addressed the quicker you can tackle the issue (s). For example, monitoring my sleep is important; I need to make sure every night I go to bed on time. When I notice that I am having difficulty sleeping, it could indicate I am becoming Hypomanic. This also includes sleeping to much; this could be a sign of depression. When these situations do occur, it is our control to call our psychiatrist as well as your therapist right away. Do not ever be scared of seeking any type of help, the quicker these “red” flags are identified that quicker your will alleviate symptoms.
Suggestion 3- Another factor for contributing to relapse is stress, this can be a huge trigger. Reducing stress as much as possible really helps. This could include exercising, relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga, and eating healthy. There, are ups and there are downs in life, and the road has many potholes, however, I do not feel doomed, and shackled for the rest of my life!
Suggestion 4- Check in daily with how you are feeling. Some questions I constantly ask to myself: Is my mood stable right now, have I noticed any hypomanic, manic or depression symptoms? Have there been triggers lately that may be destabilizing and need to stay away from? How can I make sure I can diminish my chances for destabilization? For me personally I self manage by tracking my moods daily, by using a mood chart. My husband also does a mood chart with his observations; it is nice to get an outside perspective. This also proves beneficial when meeting with my psychiatrist so that he can see how stable or unstable I have been. Which in turn also helps with adjusts, if needed, with medication.
One point listed above I would like to stress as one of the most important aspects of being to obtain mood related resolutions. TRACK YOUR MOODS. For example, do you remember how you were feeling yesterday, last week? Personally, this is so important since I have mixed mania, rapid cycling bipolar assessing my behavior and moods has become second nature to me.
Suggestion 5- Developing a positive support network is so important in many different ways. It is great to get out and chat with friends, family, etc. It is a way to relax and escape in a positive way. On the other side of the support network, those diagnosed with a mental illness as well provides many beneficial aspects. Personally, the first couple of years after diagnosis were very difficult, feeling lost at sea, with no lifeboat. Folks were there but they did not “get it.” I too was just learning about bipolar.
Someone times it is harder for me to observe my mood and my actions, thus, making it important for those close to you to monitor your mood and actions as well. Now I do not have to ask my friends about my behavior they will tell me if I am acting manic, or seem depressed! I attend a weekly support group for those with Bipolar and Depression as well. This helps me vent and listen to suggestions from folks who understand fully what I am going through.
These are just a few suggestions for aiding with your mental health and the New Year. This list by no means is inclusive, but provides suggestions to assist you with obtaining and succeeding in resolutions you have already set in place. The ultimate goal for those with mental illnesses will always be the same, finding ways to cope, be stabile, and live our lives to the fullest!
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
For those who follow this blog, I would like to take this opportunity to share a link. The International Bipolar Foundation has picked me up to blog monthly for their organization. Please check out my bio, blog, and all the additional information this organization has to offer! As well as any feedback.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
In light of the events that have taken place over the past few weeks, as well as in the past, I’ve decided to blog regarding the discussion as to “the supposed correlation” as to guns and mental illness. Just because you have a mental illness, does this mean you are going to go on a shooting rampage, and denied a gun permit? Although not a gun owner, nor do I ever plan to be, nevertheless, why is the connection to having a “mental illness” and “going on a killing rampage” have to be used in the same sentence?
I agree there is a big gap between treatment needs for those with a mental illness, and the lack of available resources.
Pete Earley, in USA Today, says he worries that those with mental illness will be lumped together with the small group of people who have committed heinous acts of violence, who have also had their share of mental health issues.
Read it on Global News: Global News | The debate between guns and mental illness
Another assumption the news jumps to when a shooting occurs is the individual who just committed this horrible act of violence has a mental illness and I feel jumping to this conclusion is not fair.
Is treatment of an individual with a mental illness with medication, going to eliminate all these shootings? I really do not think so. I realize in certain circumstances this may be true, but I guarantee shootings still will occur from those individuals considered “mental illness free.”
Another thing I don’t understand, in many states that require people with a history of violently mental illness (from 72 hour or 96 hour holds) to be placed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check system.
I understand in some certain circumstances this may prevent violence….but it has been my understanding that those individuals on this (72/96 hour hold list) were not individuals involved in these recent and passed shootings!
In general though…is sending individuals who commit crimes, to jail appropriate. Many times those individuals sent to prison or jail has an increase in symptoms because the environment exacerbates symptoms. It is my opinion; the United States jumps right away to locking up individuals with mental illnesses not provide medication management, therapy, or an understanding of the diagnosed or specially undiagnosed mental disorder. The law should consider putting those mental ill into the state facilities specially designed for this.
According to Human Rights Watch, the number of mentally ill inmates in U.S. prisons quadrupled from 2000 to 2006, and it continues to rise -- in fact, the rate of inmate mental illness is five times greater (56 percent) than in the non-incarcerated population.
I would love to hear feedback on this topic, please provide comments, so that we can all figure out the best solution for preventing and understanding these folks.
Thanks everyone for reading!