Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Since We're on a Roll with the Daddies . . .

I thought I'd mention this:

I came across this blurb from the BBC, Antidepressants "may harm sperm", and I couldn't resist commenting. One because it is informative (sort of) and two, well, I don't know, it was just too interesting to pass up! (I trust that we're all grown up enough to use the word "sperm" without giggling . . . well, that's all right. If you laugh no one will know. You can pretend you were mature about this in the comments.)

Basically the article talks about a study that found that men who were on antidepressants had a higher rate of defective sperm. The sperm in question weren't lower in quantity, just quality. That is, men who take antidepressants have a higher percentage of sperm with damaged DNA.

Now, reel in your disaster-scenario-seeking brains (my brain isn't the only one that does that, right?), because that actually means very little. The study was so small that it in no way supports conclusions like "men who take antidepressants have lower fertility" or even "ALL men who take antidepressants have harmed sperm". I repeat: those conclusions cannot be drawn!

Here are few facts worth keeping in mind:

*The study only looked at Paxil and other antidepressants in that family. It didn't look at any other type of mood disorder meds.

*The study didn't examine if the damaged sperm actually had an effect on fertility.

*The study didn't look if the effects were reversed when the medication was stopped.

So what to take away from all this? I think the one thing this new information points to is that antidepressants do a lot of things scientists and doctors don't understand. We need more research behind the meds and more research into treatments for mood disorders and into mood disorders themselves.

Also, keep in mind that past studies have shown that people with high stress levels (like depressed people) do have lowered fertility rates. If you are worried about fertility talk to your doctor (obviously!), but an antidepressant probably isn't a big factor.

Other things to remember: When it comes to serious illnesses like depression, OCD, anxiety, or any mix thereof, it is probably safer to side with taking the medicine if you need it. Since the Surgeon General required the "black box" warning to be put on antidepressants prescribed to teens, teen prescriptions rates have gone down and teen suicide rates have gone up. Nobody wants a crazy dad. Or a dead dad. And that's just the facts.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dads feel it too!

I got home tonight from a temple recommend interview and pulled out my brand new U.S. News and World Report. As I flipped through the headlines I came across one that said, Postpartum Depression Strikes New Dads as Well as Moms.

Well, color me surprised!

Here's the lowdown: About 14% of new moms suffer from postpartum depression. Symptoms include, but are not limited to,(doesn't that make me sound professional!) sadness, irritability, changes in weight or sleep patterns and an inability to bond with child. Postpartum depression in women has far reaching effects beyond just the mother's happiness (which is important in and of itself). Children of depressed mothers have more health problems and learning problems, and are at a greater risk for developing a mood disorder.

This is what we knew before, what is new is how men fit the profile: Approximately 10% of new fathers will suffer from PPD (well, not exactly PPD because they weren't pregnant but depression that occurs as a result of a new baby). Their symptoms are almost identical to women except that the increased sadness and irritability lead to destructive behaviors--like drug abuse, reckless driving, and promiscuity--that depressed women don't usually engage in. Depression in fathers also effects children in major ways. Children of depressed fathers get read to less often and have slower language development. Also, the children are more likely to act out destructively.

The causes for men are not as easy to pin down as they are for women. With us chicks it's supposed to be the hormones, but with men it may be that the prospect of caring for a child puts them over the edge or they struggle with the changes in their marriage.

No matter what the cause, the good news is that PPD is highly treatable. As we all have accepted by now (you have, right?) a little therapy never hurt anyone--at least not in the long run :)

For more on this issue read here and be sure to check out this awesome website

What do you all think? I was dubious at first but the more I thought about it the more sense it made. Have you or anyone you know struggled with this?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Shout out for Profiles!

Hi readers!

I've had a few newbies stop by (or at least comment for the first time) and I wanted to let you all know about my "Depression Profile" posts. From time to time I like to post other people's stories about how they have dealt with depression. I know that my personal life is endlessly fascinating to you all *wink*, but I also find it encouraging to hear how people have worked/are working through their struggles. Here are examples of past profiles:

Profile of Miss S: It is Okay!

Profile of Doc

Profile of Jer--an awesome SAHM

Profile of Charlotte of the Great Fitness Experiment

Profiles are as anonymous as you want them to be. And they are easy! Just email me at lolapalooza AT hotmail DOT com and I'll write you back with some questions. Please be sure to put "depression profile" in the subject line so I know you are not a spammer :) We all benefit by hearing others talk about this stuff; knowing we are not alone makes it easier for all of us.

Oh, and thanks for reading. I appreciate all the support I get from you guys.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Scripture Power?

Last Sunday we had an excellent talk on the scriptures. . . at least I think that's what it was on. Between my twitchy *almost* three year old and my five year old's bloody nose I didn't hear much. However, the few sentences I heard hit me hard.

I've been struggling lately in my scripture study. I don't know why. I mean, I read all the time. Why is it a struggle to read one more thing? I've had times in my life when I felt the Lord's spirit every time I opened my scriptures but not so much now. Some nights when I study the stories (think Alma and Amulek watching the believers get burned or the war chapters) make me feel, well, depressed! Some of the scriptures are just so sad and I just can't take any more sad. Far too often scripture study feels like a burden instead of a gift and I'm not sure how to change that. I know I need to and I suppose prayer is the place to start. . .

What about you all? Do you ever have Church duties that are supposed to make you feel good but end up making you feel worse? What do you do to change your attitude/perspective?

Oh and check out this link to It's got an inspirational poem and some handy links.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Book a Week update

I feel like haven't mentioned any books here in quite awhile but I am still plugging away at my book a week challenge. Here's the update:

Books read: 44
Pages read: 14,054
Recent favorites:

Maus by Art Spiegelman. Read my review at LDS Readers.

This is What I Did; by Ann Dee Ellis. Read my review and an interview with the author at A Motley Vision because I am now an official blogger there. (It's the coolest LDS arts and culture site out there. Definitely worth checking out!)

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan (because everyone should read some tween lit every now and again!)

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall. (More delightful tween lit.) Read my review at LDS Readers here.

I've started more research for my book on Deaf Holocaust survivors and so my reading has taken a rather grim turn. I'm trying to alternate sad books with light books. I'll let you know if I come across any other good ones.

What books have you all read lately? Anything you'd recommend? Be sure to tell me in the comments!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

It's not what you say but how you say it

Depressed people unite! We have our own geological formation!

Since I decided to be more open about my depression I've found it easier than expected to talk about. Some people give me funny looks or stay silent a little too long, but most people are surprised and supportive--for which I'm grateful.

The only problem I've really had is accepting a certain term in relation to myself: mental illness. It's the thing that is hardest for me to say out loud. "I am mentally ill" just doesn't roll off the tongue. I think I have a hard time because of the associations I have with the phrase. Let's play a little game. When I type "mentally ill" what pops into your head? Jack Nicholson and Nurse Rachett? A Beautiful Mind? A shaved head and drool?

Well, I have good news for all of you. Turns out I don't have to struggle with "mental illness" because I am not necessarily mentally ill. The new terminology, for those of you who don't know, is "mood disorder". If you check out "mental illness" on Webmd it will still list depression, but really doesn't "mood disorder" sound so much better? I'm sure the term has been kicking around for a long time and I just didn't realize it until now, but, hey, if it makes it just a little bit easier for me to ask for help and talk about things I'll take it!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Heavy on my mind

So I've had suicide on the brain lately. Not because I want to kill myself--if I did I wouldn't post it on my blog--but because, well, suicide is sort of always around.

See, when I was really little my grandmother tried to kill herself. She was depressed after the death of my grandfather and she decided a big ol' bottle of pills was the best course of action to take. One of her sons had a premonition to check up on her. He called her house and she didn't answer so he went over. He found her passed out on the floor. He took her to the hospital and had her stomach pumped. After that she spent some time in a sanitarium and it came out that she had struggled with depression and bulimia/anorexia for most of her life. It was sad and she was sad. At the end of her life (she was killed a few years later in a car accident) she was almost always sad. Her suicide attempt left a strange legacy in my young mind. Like maybe suicide was an option.

Then when I was thirteen my best friend tried to kill herself. She too took a bottle of pills--but this time I was the one on the phone. I listened as she told me all about how her parents hated her, about how she had been sexually assaulted at a party, about how she couldn't deal with anything anymore--the pills rattling in the background as she dumped them out of the bottle and then put them back in, not sure how many to take. I listened as she cried and swallowed the pills. It never occurred to me to tell my parents. I just prayed over and over, "Please, God, don't let her die. Please God, don't let her die. God, don't let her die!" I started to cry and made her promise that she'd show up for school the next day. She didn't make it to school and I started freaking out. That evening I got a phone call. Her parents had found her in the bathroom piles of pills still clutched in her fists. She was calling me from the psychiatric unit of the hospital. She kept saying, "I just want you to know it's your fault I'm alive. You made me promise I'd come to school and I couldn't break a promise to you. This is the most horrible place. I just want to get out. But it's your fault I'm alive. It was your promise." I mourned her life and I mourned my promise.

In high school seven of my friends tried to kill themselves--none of them were successful, thank heavens, although my ex boyfriend did come close when he threw himself off a (small) cliff and took up driving with his eyes closed. It was strange, listening to all my friends' goodbyes and hearing their tales after the attempts. Sometimes I was sad. A lot of the time I was scared. Eventually, I got angry.

After awhile I began to draw cut marks on my wrists and have dreams about watching myself bleed out. It made me anxious because I didn't really want to die but, maybe, I did. Things were so overwhelming--AP classes, theater rehearsals, Young Women's responsibilities, I was Seminary class president--sometimes I just couldn't figure out any way to make it all slow down. Death seemed so still and quiet and sounded so peaceful. However, because I knew the plan of salvation, I knew that there would just be more questions to answer and more work to do on the other side. When I got my patriarchal blessing it said I had a long life to live and I took it as a sign. The suicidal thoughts were pretty much gone then.

Things were good for a number of years, but then I got hit with postpartum depression and felt crazier than I ever knew I could. I really wanted to kill myself because I deserved it. I was such a horrible mother and such a failure and a latter-day saint it just wasn't worth it. I figured I could pay the hell on the other side. The suicidal visions returned but with much more detail and color. They were scary. Anger seemed the best way to fight off the fright--until I started therapy and antidepressants.

These days the images come and go but I mostly ignore them. The medicine helps them disappear.

I guess the reason I've been thinking about this lately was the legacy all those attempts left me. I was sad and scared and angry for a long time--especially at my grandma and my best friend. They had introduced so much anguish into my life and for what? Even though I imagined I knew how they had felt I still didn't understand it. And I really didn't understand what part I had to play in all of it. I prayed a lot (and wrote a lot of bad poetry) about it. But, still, my feelings roiled around inside me.

Given some time, though, the sting lost its venom. The ache began to heal. I still don't understand all of it. I still have a lot of questions, but the anger is gone. I think what I struggled with was my own responsibility in relation to all of it. I began approaching peace came when I began trying to give it up to God. He was the one who was responsible for it. This life, is after all, a part of His plan. And, I came to understand, He was planning on being responsible for it. He planned for His son to come to earth and suffer, bleed, and die. God was in control.

I also began to feel better when I realized that my grandma, my friend, and I might all have had the suicidal thoughts simply because it is part of an illness--not because of what my grandma did or because I hung out with the wrong crowd or some other nebulous sin. It was an illness and illnesses are covered by the grace of Christ through His atonement and resurrection.

I still need the therapy and the drugs, but my testimony helps with the healing too. These days I admire my grandma. Her struggle and her faith are inspirational to me. She survived and I can too. I pray for my long-ago best friend. I don't have contact with her any more, but I know she is in God's hands. I pray for me, too. And I'm working on forgiving myself for my own weaknesses and self hate. And I'm working on accepting myself--craziness and all--for what I am now and for what God can help me learn to be.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Six weeks of Cymbalta

Well, it's been about six weeks since I started my Cymbalta and I figure it's time for another update. Six weeks is a sort of landmark in antidepressant therapy. At six weeks you should know how/if the drug is going to work for you and how bad the side effects will be. Sometimes you have to wait until eight weeks to really know, but by six weeks you should have a pretty good idea.

For me, things have gotten better. Since my last update my three big side effects (nausea, sleepiness, and sweatiness) have all lessened in intensity. The nausea is gone. Taking my pill in the morning with breakfast, instead of at bedtime, fixed that right up--thanks for the tip Elizabeth-w. The sleepiness is getting better. Most days I still want that afternoon nap but, if by some miracle, all of my children have slept through the night I don't need it. Since I usually get woken up at least once by all three kids (my five year old says she comes down for hugs in the middle of the night because her "love bucket just empties out too fast") I'm guessing that is the cause of my continued sleepiness. I haven't fallen asleep unintentionally in weeks, which is probably for best. After all, while being a narcoleptic makes for entertaining stories it was a little nerve wracking. As for the extra sweat, well, I've just started carrying around tissues so I can mop it up and I'm learning to live with it. Thank goodness it's almost fall, though!

My mood is still improving too--even though I'm having PMS (aren't you glad I share?). This last week I cleaned out all our closets and our garage. I even organized a garage sale (with the help of my friend Sarah!). I only made $65 but that was enough to pay for the chest freezer I wanted so I was happy. A few months ago I could barely navigate my dishes so cleaning out the garage felt like a gigantic accomplishment. Also, I've been more relaxed with my kids. My five year old (who has social anxiety issues and real-life phobias) started kindergarten and it's been a bit of a roller coaster, but I've been able to ride that ride without going nuts and for me that's pretty good.

The Cymbalta, unfortunately, has still not made me perfect (just ask any of the women who were at Enrichment tonight! Someday I'll figure out how to control my kids and leave a Church function without them having a tantrum, but I'm not making any promises at to when). I know it's silly but I do keep hoping that somehow the right chemical will make all my problems disappear. But no pill can tell me how best to deal with my anxious five-year-old or my volatile two-year-old. It also can't teach me how to manage my time better or increase my temple attendance. Those are things I have to do. But what my antidepressant can do for me is give me the mental space to work on those things instead of spinning my wheels over craziness* and that is good enough--not perfect--but good enough.

*Speaking of crazy, I had a mildly intrusive thought the other day where I kept shaving my head and tearing out all my hair--how Brittany Spears of me!--but I was able to laugh it off. In fact, I'm still laughing now. Our brains are so weird!