mental health

Another headache 

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I just discovered this post in my draft. It’s almost three years old, and it is strange to read about my life back then as it’s so different now. So, this is flashback to when my life wasn’t completely what I wanted, but I got there in the end.

I have had a headache since I woke up this morning. Is it due to not sleeping too long ? I don’t think so, it wasn’t THAT late! Have I been sleeping with my head twisted in a uncomfortable position ? Might be! What it can’t be, however, is happiness. This Friday was the last work day before I’m having one week off. I am now in the car on my way home, to see my family again. I will ‘babysit’ my two small brothers together with my sister, and absolutely can’t wait. I haven’t seen them for some months, so it will be lovely. I will stay home until Monday, when I’ll drive to the city I’ve worked in for 5 years before I moved to Bergen, to see some of my former colleagues. I talked with one of them (a kind psychologist) today. He tried to call me yesterday, but since I was with a friend I did not talk properly with him before today. He told me a former patient of mine, wanted to inquire if it was still possible to get some therapy sessions even if I’ve moved away. That stabbed my heart a little. I miss seeing my patients so much. Especially since the last six months has been so far from the clinical work I did before that I almost have forgotten how it is to do therapy. Working with learning disabilities and school problems is important, but it’s not what I am good at or where I get the time to really get to know somebody. So might my headache stem from something different entirely? Might it be that I miss helping trauma patients? Miss feeling alive and engaged every second I’m at work? 

I will have one week off now, before I go back to work for another two weeks. After that I am having three weeks off, and I will use my free time wisely. I will engage myself in something I enjoy and that will provide me with much needed energy.


The sound of running water

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How old was I when water became a source of calm? Today I work at a clinic where mindfulness has a great focus. For a long time I thought this therapeutic approach was not for me. I have always been busy, often with several projects at once. Doing nothing has not been for me. Either I sit with a book, listen to music, watch a program on TV or do something useful.

This week I started on my maternity leave. When I woke up I felt anxious. This was reinforced as the morning continued. Just before the children go to school, there is chaos. So much that must be done in a hurry. I tried to not be too affected by it, making breakfast and sitting down with a cup of coffee. But I felt irritated, especially when my boyfriend let his stress show by scolding the girls for not being fast enough. I commented, even though I know this would not make the situation better, and he said something back that I did not like to hear, especially when it developed to a brief interchange about our different ways of parenting. I ended the discussion by saying that we should try to not let our different approaches to childrearing become clear in front of the kids, and then I also apologized for bringing this up right then. I sat down and tried to focus on breakfast. 20 minutes later, they drove away to school.

When they had gone, I found a crime novel I like. The problem was just that my attention wandered. I was at a critical moment in the plot, so I should be drawn into the story, but I had to reread sentences and take deep breaths. This made my irritation worse, and it was even more annoying that I had no reason to become stressed by this. I also tried to understand what was going on. When I think about the last few days, this has been typical. My concentration has been bad and I have also had problems with controlling unpleasant emotions. I have also felt restless. I know what I would try to ask my clients about: What can these symptoms be? They would wonder if they were depressed.

I managed to finish reading the book and realized I had to do something. The feeling I had was comparable to a form of claustrophobia, just that I needed to get away from myself and not a physical space. I decided to go for a walk without my cell phone. I wanted to notice the surroundings and be mindful. I understood that I needed to just be present, since trying to do something now would just make my mood worse.

When I came out, I began to breathe while studying the surroundings carefully. Mindfulness is about taking in what the senses capture, and just be aware. When I also focused on the steady influx of breath, the restlessness calmed a little and it was easier to get out of my head. I zoomed in on the trees, felt the wind and noticed the sensation of my scarf caressing my skin. After a short while I came to a river, and only then did my body really calm down. The sound of running water combined with the slow movements caught my attention and there was less space for discomfort. Instead memories from my past surfaces, and I remembered, among other things, how I used to stare at the water in a stream when I was young. I was fascinated by the movement of the water and loved how clear it was. I don’t know how many times I went to that stream and just studied the water, but I never got bored of it. One of the first stories I wrote as a teen was about a girl who fell into a river and ended up in a new world. Running water is like a balm on my soul, and I find it endlessly fascinating.

The walk really helped. Although I was unable to be completely present, I was certainly more present than just an hour ago. I tried to focus on details around me that I hadn’t seen before, and listened closely to sounds like birds chirping. Sometimes I was distracted by car sounds or by thoughts I didn’t want, but it is better to be aware of everything that goes on than to know that something is wrong without you knowing what it is.

Hopefully I can now have a relaxing day, where it is a bit easier to concentrate. I am happy I listened to my body, and will try to honor it further by being vigilant and observant.

By a waterfall two years ago

Where I grew up

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I believe in miracles

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Millions believe in miracles. And millions have experienced it too. Six weeks ago, I was the lucky one. My miracle appeared the 20th of April, when my son was born. It is still so strange to have a son. One week after he was born, his eye was infected and I had to get a remedy in the pharmacy. When she asked me if it was for myself or someone else, I proudly announced it was for my son. It hit me then. I am now a mother, with all that it entails. First and foremost, that means being there for him, making him secure. He has already got a little personality, and so far he has been a very kind and calm baby. These last days he has also become more social and engaged with the world. Every little development is a miracle, just him being here is. How lucky am I ?

Bipolar, Schizophrenia, and the Microbes Inside You

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This post is a reblog of a post by Candida Fink, MD.

I found it very interesting and hope you like it too! The post can be found on her blog: bipolar beat at psych central

Can the bacterial community that lives in your gut actually be related to psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder? Research on the human microbiome and its effects on health and illness has exploded into the worlds of medicine and research. It is increasingly clear that the microorganisms in the human intestinal tract, and the genes produced by all of these microscopic living things, play critical roles in an individual’s patterns of overall wellness — far beyond helping us digest food effectively.

Microbiota and Microbiome Defined

Microbiota is the ecological community of microorganisms (mostly bacteria, but also fungi, viruses, and so on) that live in a particular location, such as your gut. Microbiomerefers collectively to the genes harbored in these microorganisms. Researchers must understand the patterns of both the organisms and the genes to help clarify the roles these microscopic creatures play in the body’s health and function. So, if you read something about the microbiome that’s about only the bacteria and not the genes, you know it is an incomplete discussion. Also, while most of the discussions are about the gut microbiota and microbiome, humans actually have colonies of microorganisms living in other areas in and on their bodies, including their skin, reproductive tract, and the mouth and throat (which are technically part of the gut but sometimes are not thought of in that way).

A study in the journal Brain, Behavior, Immunology (May 2017), entitled “The microbiome, immunity, and schizophrenia and bipolar disorder,” summarizes some of the current research looking at the microbiome as it relates to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The article reports that many studies in animal models have shown that the gut microbiome could affect thinking and behavior through effects on the immune system. Some human studies have shown that people with psychiatric conditions took antibiotics more frequently than people without these disorders. Humans take antibiotics to kill off unwanted bacterial infections, but these medications also kill off some of the microbiota, changing the person’s microbiome. The question that comes up then is whether these microbiome changes were related to the development of the psychiatric conditions. This article also points to studies that found different microbiota in the mouths and throats (oro-pharyngeal microbiota) of people with schizophrenia compared to those without.

Babies are born with “sterile” guts; they don’t have any gut microbiota. But in the birth process, microorganisms colonize the baby’s mouth and intestine, starting off their process of building a microbiome that eventually looks like an adult’s. Many researchers are exploring how the developing microbiome might affect the developing brain and nervous system. While it seems clear that there are effects, the exact processes mediating the effects and what exactly gets changed or affected remains very unclear. While the immune system is thought to be one pathway, other mechanisms are also being investigated.

Many other areas of research show promising results when looking at the microbiota, microbiome, and illness. Autism researchers are looking at the “gut-microbiome-brain” connection, and there are strong indicators that the microbiota and microbiome have some relationship to autism. Obesity — not a mental illness but of concern to so many people living with mental illness — has been shown to have some very interesting connections to the microbiota in mouse studies. Changing the patterns of bacteria in mouse guts can transform the mouse from lean to obese and vice versa without changing diets. A study from China last month in the World Journal of Gastroenterologyreports a case of a 20-year-old with Crohn’s disease and seizures. They treated her with fecal microbiota transplantation — giving her the gut microbiota of a healthy person — and her gastrointestinal symptoms and seizures improved significantly.

The potential benefits to understanding how the microbiota and microbiome interact with the brain and central nervous system could be enormous. Understanding microorganism mechanisms that increase the likelihood of mental illness such as bipolar disorder or neurodevelopmental condition like autism would make room to build new interventions that target those mechanisms. The research in these areas is still in early stages, and there is much more to do, but this is an intriguing and promising story in the quest to understand and treat disorders of the brain.

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Protected: The sound of running water

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Three nights with little sleep is hard. This is the third night I`ve woken up early, trying in vain to catch more hours of blissful nothingness. Luckily my boss is very understanding, so I can call work in some hours and tell them I must be home. The main reason for my unstable sleep, is probably my pregnancy. My baby is now 7 months, and he is growing faster and faster. My stomach is finally getting bigger, but still you don`t always see there is a baby in there if I wear baggy clothes.

I have still not told many of my clients about my pregnancy, but must do so the following weeks. Maternity leave will start the first week of march, so there is really not much time. Luckily the next weeks won`t be too busy, since my client list has shrunk the last couple of months. I also work with a different group of clients now, where it isn`t so much therapeutic conversations we offer, but more practical and social help. I work more together with nurses and other health professionals, so we are more helpers, which means that my role is more relaxing, sometimes being a coordinator rather than a therapist.

I have to start planning my return to work soon. I am not completely sure if I should go back to my former position or if I should ask if I can go back to working with trauma. I will be back in February, and know it will be challenging to start working again, since the baby is only 8 months old and still will need breast-feeding during the night. That would mean that going back to work in the team I`m in now, could make the transition back to work, more manageable. Starting to work with weekly clients again, having a long list of people I have to see, will probably be harder. I will discuss this with my current boss soon, and that will probably help me figure out what to do.

But that is not what I´m thinking about the most at the moment. In two months time, a little baby will be in my life. He will probably drive me insane, and it will be hard. But I can`t wait anyway. I know that when you love somebody, the good moments means so much that the bad is forgotten after a while. I look forward to being there for someone all the time, to know someone inside out.

I will try to go back for maybe one more hour of sleep. Fingers crossed!

Different parts

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This week has been calm at work. I haven’t had many client conversations, but one of them has been very much on my mind. Usually I don’t think too much about my clients between sessions, but when I get worried about a client it’s hard not to. The client has dissociative identify disorder, and one of the parts is suicidal. The part is young and doesn’t trust other humans, understandably so. Life has been unsafe and unpredictable, so the part has done what everyone would do in a similar situation: keeping its guard up. I asked this part if he is familiar with the people in my clients life today, and my client told me he knows about them, but he doesn’t connect with them emotionally. My client has been in therapy for many years, and even if things are somewhat better, my client still suffers every day. Nightmares, lack of sleep, daily dissociative episodes, and at the moment, a feeling of hopelessness.

I wonder, how can I help this part to recognize that his circumstances are different now? That he has people in his life who care and would be shattered if he disappeared for good? How can we work together on ways to regulate the intense pain he lives with everyday, when he has no experience with coping when things gets too much?