Monday, March 30, 2009

Mirthful Monday: More FHE Helps--Honesty

Like those in any good LDS family, my children lie. Sometimes a lot. I'm thinking it's time for a solid FHE lessons on Honesty and telling the truth--and, wowie!, have I got the best visual aid ever:

And then there's this classic. I can even sing along!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Something to Consider

Hi guys,

Thanks to a snow day yesterday and some other writing projects that have required my attention, I don't have an official post for today! I figure that's all right, though, since my numbers have been dropping pretty consistently for a couple months now. Anyone who is still reading must really love me! *wink*

Katie posted a beautiful post today, Thoughts on Doubt and Love. The idea that Christ is there for the weak and unsure is the thing that keeps me going some days. We all have challenges in our lives and Christ expects us to struggle with them. That's why He gave His life for us. I think as LDS, in all our somewhat-faulty striving for perfection, we forget this. Thanks for the reminder Katie!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

You Deserve Some Cognitive Consolidation Time

One of my favorite things: big words--especially when they mean specific things. Which is probably why I like medical jargon so much. Words like staphylococcal just look so pretty when you type them . . .


So my new love is actually three words: Cognitive Consolidation Time. Want to know what it means? Well, actually you can scrunch those three lovely (partially alliterated!) words into three little letters: nap.

I learned the phrase (say it with me now) "cognitive consolidation time" from Mary Sheedy Kurcinka's book, Sleepless in America: Is Your Child Misbehaving...or Missing Sleep? and while I'm still wondering how many of our parenting issues are sleep related, one thing I know for certain: I deserve a nap.

That's right, you heard me. I used DESERVE and NAP in the same sentence. According to Kurcinka, and some science, in order for your brain to process (or consolidate) all the stuff it's received it needs to shut down. How does the brain do this? Through sleep!

According to wikipedia, when we sleep all sorts of important things happen. When we don't sleep our bodies don't heal and our immune system slows down--some scientists even believe that people who don't get enough sleep actually end up shorter.

Of course the big news on sleep is how it affects the brain. Brain development, like the synapses and stuff, occurs when we are asleep. Memory functions and related cognitive functions like decision making and reasoning processes are also negatively affected when we lose sleep. This is what Kurcinka was talking about with cognitive consolidation time. According to Kurcinka's research, when we sleep our brains sort through all the decisions and reasons and, well, stuff of our days. When we don't sleep our brains can't sort and end up feeling jumbled. We get moody and anxious. Even depressed. (There is an established link between bipolar disorder and sleep.)

So, what's a person to do?

It's ironic, really. As I've been writing this my toddler, who has obstructive sleep apnea, has been waking up every twenty-ish minutes. It's taken me two hours to get these few paragraphs slammed out because I have to keep calming him down and putting him back to sleep. A lot of nights are like this for him. My two girls have nightmares and I usually end up sleeping on the couch with one or more little people tucked in next to me. I haven't gotten a solid night's rest in six years. Which is exactly why I'm writing this; to remind myself that I DESERVE a nap. The body has a natural dip in the early afternoon and I take advantage of it as often as I can. When the toddler goes down for his nap I turn on a movie for my girls and check out. You should too.

So, sleep more. Whether that means going to bed earlier or taking an afternoon nap (what would my husband's boss say if he found my husband power-napping in his cubical, I wonder), sleep more. Defend your sleep time. Don't feel bad when you lay down in the middle of the afternoon (or, if you've just had a baby or surgery, the middle of the morning and the middle of the afternoon). Even if it's Sunday and you have that quotation from President Benson about sleeping on the Sabbath running through your head, try to rest. Just tell people you are doing some important brain exercises. If they looked confused, just smile and say, "I'm taking some cognitive consolidation time." Hopefully, by the time they figure out what you mean, you'll be off to dreamland.

*This guy knows how to sneak in some zzzz's*

Monday, March 23, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

ASL Poetry Rocks! (an off topic post)

Since Wednesday's post was pretty, ahem, depressing and my other recent posts have been a little dry I decided to go off topic today. So what kind of randomness awaits you? ASL Poetry.

Ever since I first dabbled in Sign Language (which was, holy cow, over three years ago) I have been keenly interested in ASL Poetry. In my first Sign Language group they didn't have a lot of information for me. This is probably because that group used a lot of Sign Exact English (SEE), which isn't actually a language. SEE is transliterated English--which is different from ASL because ASL has its own grammar, style, dialects, and other distinct linguistic features.

Back to ASL poetry. ASL poetry intrigues me because I love the visuals of ASL. To me, hearing girl that I am, ASL seems a little more nuanced while still being explicitly expressive. Because of the way ASL incorporates the body expression and feeling are very powerful--especially in the hands of a poet.

Since I am back in ASL classes, with a real ASL teacher this time (any friends want to come? You can still join and the price is super-reasonable.), she recommended I look up some stuff on Youtube. I loved what I found so much I just had to share some with you!

The first one is an ASL version of the Beyonce song, "If I Were a Boy"--cause you all know how much I inexplicably love that song. It is set to music which is really helpful for us hearing folks, but the woman is still using ASL. Not SEE. You'll notice there are no signs for to, the, and other little English words that don't exist in ASL. She also has a lot of attitude--which is awesome.

This next one is an actual ASL poem, called "ASL Bully", written by Jon Savage. Just to give you an interpretational hint, the guy in the white shirt is using SEE and the guy in the black shirt is using ASL. Enjoy! (Oh, by the way, my ASL is still pretty limited so if any of you know more ASL than me--which isn't hard to do--I apologize if there are cuss words in this.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

From the Ensign: "Suicide: Some Things We Know, and Some We Do Not"

Since it's Wednesday I thought I'd get back on my on Ensign articles addressing depression and mental health issues. For the first post, click here, and for the second, click here.

When I was in high school one of my good friends had a dead dad. It wasn't just that his dad had died, rather, he had a Dead Dad. See, a lot of people thought his dad had committed suicide and when people kill themselves the grief process is made even crazier. There are too many complications, questions. It's hard to put it to rest.

By the time this kid and I were friends his dad had been dead for a few years and I don't remember much about what actually happened--I think his death made the local papers--but I do remember the gossip and that's because it was still going on. Years later, people were still talking about what did or did not happen, what that man had or had not done. What the spiritual consequences were for his actions. Lots of people were talking but nobody really knew what they were talking about. It was hard enough for my friend to deal with his father's death, but it was even more difficult with people speculating and whispering and insinuating.

Elder M. Russel Ballard addressed the issue of suicide in his talk, "Suicide:Some Things We Know, and Some We Do Not". The title alone says volumes.

Suicide is on the rise in the United States--especially among the middle aged--which perhaps makes it a more pertinent issue than most of us think. It's a hard topic to broach but Elder Ballard's talk strikes the perfect tone:

I feel that judgment for sin is not always as cut-and-dried as some of us seem to think. The Lord said, “Thou shalt not kill.” Does that mean that every person who kills will be condemned, no matter the circumstances? I feel the Lord recognized differences in intent and circumstances: Was the person who took his life mentally ill? Was he or she so deeply depressed as to be unbalanced or otherwise emotionally disturbed? Was the suicide a tragic, pitiful call for help that went unheeded too long or progressed faster than the victim intended? Did he or she somehow not understand the seriousness of the act? Was he or she suffering from a chemical imbalance in their system that led to despair and a loss of self-control? Obviously, we do not know the full circumstances surrounding every suicide. Only the Lord knows all the details, and he it is who will judge our actions here on earth.

He also quoted several apostles and President Kimball (along with scripture) to establish what doctrine exists. An especially pertinent one came from Elder Bruce R. McKonkie,
Suicide consists in the voluntary and intentional taking of one’s own life, particularly where the person involved is accountable and has a sound mind. … Persons subject to great stresses may lose control of themselves and become mentally clouded to the point that they are no longer accountable for their acts. Such are not to be condemned for taking their own lives. It should also be remembered that judgment is the Lord’s; he knows the thoughts, intents, and abilities of men; and he in his infinite wisdom will make all things right in due course.

I hope you all will take the time to read Elder Ballard's article. It's a hard topic, but hope is always available through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Maybe next time the topic comes up we can offer insight, instead of insensitivity. This was one article I was glad was in the Ensign.

p.s It's the first day of spring on Friday. Hooray!

Monday, March 16, 2009

"Mirthful Monday": I bet you'll like these "jokes"

My awesome sister-in-law Heather sent me this one! So "funny"!

Get it? For more, check out The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

But Not Unhappy Science Friday: Mormons Make the Happiest People!

Well, all right. That's not what the science actually says, but hey if the other studies about antidepressant prescriptions "prove" that being Mormon depresses people then this new survey, known as the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index and conducted by Gallup and Healthways, "proves" that being Mormon makes people happy.

As reported by the Associated Press, Utah came out as the happiest place to live based on mental, physical, and economic health. Over 350,000 people were asked questions such as, "Did you smile and laugh a lot yesterday?" and "Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your job or the work you do?" and "Do you feel safe walking alone at night in the city or area where you live?" Each answer was assigned a point value with maximum of 100 points possible. Utah scored 69.2. (The lowest ranking state, West Virginia, scored 61.2.)

So, as Becca said, "How's that as a counter to the 'Mormons are the most depressed people' urban legend? Hey, now that you mention it...Hawaii and Wyoming have sizable Mormon populations, too."

In other But Not Unhappy Science news, happiness can spread outward through three degrees of separation. So maybe think of smiling a little extra today--you'll be reaching out to people you've never even met.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Legislation to for Postpartum Depression (YOU can help make a difference!)

A piece of legislation that has been making the rounds for seven years is up again. The Melanie Blocker Stokes Research and Care act is all about helping women with postpartum depression and psychosis. For details on the bill itself click here. Now, a lot of my readers are probably good Republicans who don't want government managing more of their lives and spending more money. Neither do I. What this legislation does is require that some of the research money that goes to the National Institute for Mental Health and the National Institute of Health be spent on studying postpartum depression and postpartum and psychosis.

So what does all this have to do with you? Well, this bill has never been turned into actual legislation because it hasn't been supported. Your representatives don't know that this matters because their constituents haven't told them so. Here's your chance to make a difference. Click on this link to send an email to your representatives letting them know you care about women with postpartum depression. This is something that could potentially save lives. Please consider it.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mirthful Monday: If my life came with road signs . . .

This would have to be the first one:

And the second one (because I sometimes mistake my children for warthogs):

Or maybe I could just sum it all up with this one:

Happy Monday everyone! Hope it's treating you right :)

Friday, March 6, 2009

But Not Unhappy Science Friday: Gender stereotypes and Mental Illness

Well, I have to say, I don't think this bodes well for us depressed people: a recent study conducted by researchers from Purdue and Northwestern University found that if you have stereotypical depression symptoms people are less likely to believe you.

Here's a quick rundown of the study:

"The psychologists decided to explore this provocative idea with a national survey. They had a group of volunteers from around the country, varying widely in age, education, and socioeconomic status, read a case history of a person with mental illness. Some read about Brian, who was a stereotypical alcoholic, while others read about Karen, who showed all the classical symptoms of major depression. Still others read switched-around versions of these cases, so that Karen was the one abusing alcohol and Brian was depressed. The idea was to see if the typicality of Brian and Karen's symptoms (or lack of it) shaped the volunteers' reactions and judgments.

And it did, without question. As reported in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, the volunteers expressed more anger and disgust - and less sympathy - toward Brian the alcoholic than toward Karen the alcoholic, and vice versa for depression. They were also more willing to help Brian and Karen when they suffered from an atypical disorder. Most striking of all, the volunteers were much more likely to view Brian's depression (and Karen's alcoholism) as genuine biological disorders - rather than character defects or matters of personal irresponsibility."

So men reach for the Kleenex box and start refusing to get out of bed. Ladies, if you want help, it's time to get a little tipsy!


p.s. Thanks Charlotte for the tip! And thanks Jezebel for bringing this one to light.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What me and what's my medicine?

The most frustrating thing about having depression is that you can never get a straight answer to any question. Even the simple questions like, "Am I actually depressed?" or "How long have you been depressed?" can take entire therapy sessions to answer. The hard questions, ones like, "What are we going to do to treat this illness" take years.

This dearth of straight answers regarding mood disorders and mental illness exists for several reasons: psychology and psychiatry are sort-of soft sciences and therefore are constantly evolving, thanks to new technology our understanding of the brain is increasing and changing methodology, people are being more honest and that changes things too. The biggest reason, though, in my mind, is a hard truth: the answers are never straightforward because, well, there are no answers.

When it comes to the hard questions--the one that has been plaguing me most recently is "how am I supposed to deal with this for the rest of my life?"--there are no answers. At least not any that anyone knows. Not your therapist, not your doctor, not even you.

Case in point: this last weekend.

I took the last pill in my cymbalta bottle early Saturday morning. I was on my way to the temple--we always try to go in the morning so that we can get into a session without having to wait--and had to drop my kids off at the sitter so I didn't even notice it was my last. The next day was Sunday and it was then that I realized I needed a refill. I figured I was doing well enough that missing one day wouldn't hurt. Then came Monday morning with all its usual busy-ness and some lovely warm weather. I was completely energized by the sunshine and set about deep cleaning my kitchen. I cleaned all morning, skipped my nap and got some work done, and played with the kids the rest of the afternoon. I didn't realize I'd missed another pill until after Family Night. Tuesday morning (yesterday morning) I called the pharmacy first thing and picked up my refill as I left for storytime with my kids. I swallowed the cymbalta as I drove and prided myself on managing my life so well.

That good feeling disappeared about thirty minutes after I took my pill. As I loaded my kiddos back into the car after storytime I found myself swooning. While driving I felt like my eyes were disconnected from my hands and I wondered if it was actually me controlling the car. The disconnected feeling deepened as I picked up my oldest from school and got us all home. I tried to feed the kids lunch but I couldn't focus. My mind felt like a scratched DVD, skipping from scene to scene. I was sweating furiously and nauseous. I ate a third of a container of ice cream and felt a little better. I could focus enough to get everyone fed and settled down for quiet time. Then I crashed.

My oldest woke me up when her movie was done. My brain felt more stable and smooth but my limbs felt too heavy to lift. There was a lot of housework to be done but all I could manage was sitting outside while my kids played. After an hour or so I got up and made a little dinner. Then I mustered my energy and headed off to Enrichment.

After Enrichment I crashed again, but this time it wasn't my body it was my mood. I was so depressed. I felt awful. Every time my husband tried to talk to me it took a lot of effort to avoid crying or yelling. Finally I just went to bed cursing the medicine and cursing the mood disorder that makes the medicine necessary.

This morning I took my pill and my body feels fine but my mood is still struggling. It's like PMS except I'm not on that part of my cycle. My house is a wreck because I just don't feel up to tackling it.The little work I've done on the dishes and taking out the trash pretty much wiped me out. It's not that my body can't handle it. It's my heart and my mind. It's too much to wrap my brain around.

I was blaming the medicine until I realized that the last week has been textbook cyclothymic disorder. What if it isn't the medicine? What if it's me? What if I hadn't missed those two days of pills, would I have been more even-keeled these last few days? Or what if this is like my lexapro last summer and my body is suddenly interacting wrong with the cymbalta? What is really going on with me?

Unfortunately, those are the hard questions--the ones I'll probably never get answers to.

Monday, March 2, 2009


I know that this is supposed to be mirthful Monday and I'm supposed to have something funny up, BUT I appreciated this video and I hope you will too. And even though it isn't funny it's still a good beginning of the week pick-me-up.