About rainbows and clouds

I've lived with a mood disorder all my life, as has my mom, my maternal grandmother, and most likely my maternal great-grandmother. It sucks.

Now, it appears, my children are going through the same issues. You know what? It sucks worse watching your children go through the depths of depression and reach the nadir than it does to go through it yourself.

One of the best ways I know of to cope with something is to learn all I can about it. So, this blog is about my family's journey and about things I read related to mood disorders.

Feel free to comment and engage in conversation. Feel free to ask questions. I may or may not answer you.

My mood disorder's never been a closely held secret, but I haven't advertised it either. With the confluence of many events, it seems like it might be time to be more open about the issue.

My girl's in the hospital again

Depression sucks. It sucks worse when it's your kids that are suffering. Kids should be happy and playing and learning; they shouldn't spend the bulk of their days crying, wishing they didn't exist, or feeling like failures before their lives have even really started.

Read more: My girl's in the hospital again

Anna and Cheetah

Cheetah is eight years old. She'll be nine in March. Cheetah was born on February 5, 2006 at the Guide Dogs for the blind breeding center. Her name was Conchita. She was raised by Cathy and Carolanne and graduated as a working guide. She worked for about six years when she retired.

Cheetah came home to live with Cathy and Carolanne, but there was a little problem. Cathy and Carolanne had 5 other dogs when Cheetah came home. Besides there being lots of dogs, Cheetah and Logan, another retired guide, didn't get along.

I had let my puppy raising club know that I was on the lookout for a dog for Anna, to turn into a Psychiatric Service Dog. Heidi suggested that (Con)Cheetah try out Anna, my daughter, to both Cathy and I. We both thought it was a good idea.

Read more: Anna and Cheetah

Pain can be good

My daughter has been a mess for about a year now. Her meds stopped working. She's had hallucinations. She's been depressed, and she's been hospitalized thrice in the last six months.

But she seems to be getting better. The new med cocktail seems to be working. I have proof now. Yesterday, while building a chinchilla cubby, she slipped and hammered her finger.

She didn't cry. She didn't curl into a fetal ball and become unresponsive. She didn't walk around all day crying and saying she's useless and wants to die. Instead:

Read more: Pain can be good

Brain scans for bipolar people

I wanted to say "brain scans for bipolar people are different than normal people," but that isn't as accurate. It's more catchy though. Okay, this isn't a surprising concept, and we've known for a long time that bipolar brains are different than "normal" brains. However, up to this point, scientists have studied the frontal lobe. That makes sense, because the frontal lobe is in charge of impulse control and stuff like that. Impulse control is severely lacking when manic. The frontal lobe is also where most of the dopamine receptors are. So studying the frontal lobe in bipolar people makes sense.

Read more: Brain scans for bipolar people

Should they go to the hospital?

When do you take your kid to the hospital?

My kids have depression issues and the last nine months has been, well, hell . They've both had the depression issue for years, but their meds stopped working at the same time last summer. It sucks to have depressed kids.

For the past nine months, I've been taking each kid to see the psychiatrist every three weeks. She and the kid (and I) make a plan for medication tweaks all in the hopes that this time the drugs will click in and work. Then we come home and wait. And cross our fingers. And I observe the kids.

Read more: Should they go to the hospital?

Define: bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder was called manic depression when I was a kid. Basically, you have manic episodes (highs) where you think bizarrely, don't sleep much, spend too much money, and do stupid things. And then you have depressive episodes (lows) where you can't get out of bed and don't care if you live or die.

Read more: Define: bipolar disorder

The downward spiral of doom

I'm not sure what other people call it, but my family calls it the downard spiral of doom. It's a faulty thought process that you can't break out of on your own. When in the downard spiral of doom, you can't just "think yourself better." It doesn't work that way. Your stuck in the spiral and very few things can get you out of it. Sometimes sleep will break the spiral; sometimes it won't.  It has many variations, but here's one example.

Downard Spiral of Doom
I'm lonely. That's because I don't have any friends. I don't have any friends because I'm ugly and mean and people don't like me. I try to be nice to other people, but they still don't like me. Everyone hates me. I hate me. Why do I bother? Why am I here? I don't deserve to be alive. I don't deserve to have people that care for me. I really should try harder. But I can't. I just don't have the energy. Maybe, maybe I should just kill myself.

Don't the meds change you?

Do the meds change your personality? Do they change who you are? Do they make you high? Those are some of the most frequent questions I get when people ask about me taking psychiatric medications.

My usual answer goes something like this.

Of course the meds change who I am. The meds alter the chemicals in my brain. Since the seat of consciousness if contained in our brain chemistry and connections, how could changing brain chemistry not change who I am?

But that's okay with me. I like the changes. The changes make me able to function. Let me give you an example. 

Without meds I might wake up in the morning and walk to the bathroom. If I stub my toe on the way, I'm likely to cry. And cry. And cry. In fact, a little toe stubbing, without meds, is generally enough to send me back to bed crying for the rest of the day. Seeing as how I'm kind of clutzy, you can see how toe stubbing and lack of meds would make it difficult to hold a job and raise kids.

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The hunt for Anna's service dog

I want my daughter to have a service dog. She wants a service dog. Leon's okay with it and Quinn says he wouldn't be jealous and it's okay. So, I started the research a while back on how to get Anna hooked up with a service dog.

For a person to have a service dog, they need a disability and the dog needs to be trained to do some tasks that help that person. I didn't think so six months ago, but I now think she can easily qualify under the law as "having a disability." The years of meds and shrinks should have been enough, but the recent hospital stays kind of clear up any doubts.

Read more: The hunt for Anna's service dog

Mousy brains

Scientists took “bipolar mice” and studied their poor mousy brains under a super microscope that can see at the molecular, nano level. (An infographic on the nano scale to help you visualize) They found something kind of neat, little structures between the neurons, in the synapses. Surrounding the structures were high levels of a protein called Ankyrin-G.  ANK3 has a correlation with bipolar disorder, but no one new why or how. Now, they saw, with the super microscope, that the ANK3 forms in those little nanostructures, and it affects how the neurons communicate. 

So, if you think about it, scientists can see, with the super microscope, how potential drugs do things. They could also make nifty diagnostic tests for dead mice.

Read more: Mousy brains

Uh oh

Gestational exposure to type of antidepressants associated with adolescent offspring depression

My first thought was "of course kids of mothers taking SSRIs during pregnancy have a higher rate of depression." But, the first paragraph of the article refers to how this meta study compared kids with mothers with mental illness who did and did not take pills.

I'm not sure I would have made it through pregnancy without my drugs.

At least I wasn't on Lithium, I guess.

My dad's letter about Secrets

I got a padded envelope with a six-page letter and a CD in the mail from my dad. The letter is about my mom and her demons and the CD was Mary Lambert's Secrets. (Dad's long letters are notorious in my family. This letter in the form of cartoon heads of old men with long thought bubbles. It's cute.)

Read more: My dad's letter about Secrets