Friday, December 15, 2006

Wearing on me Eragon

I took Conor, Chloe and a couple of their friends to see Eragon tonight. Conor has been waiting for this movie for a long time. Eragon was the first really long book that he read and it made a big impression on him at the time. So we had to go on opening night. I was looking forward to it too. I didn't read the book and I like to be able to share references with my kids.

But this was, well totally derivative. If you've seen the three Lord of the Rings movies I don't know what more you'll get out of this. The Urgals look and act like Orcs, the King's castle is akin to Mordor and the battle scenes, yes you've seen them before. The only thing that kept me interested was Jeremy Irons, who has aged quite a bit since Dead Ringers, but is still breathtaking. I just kept staring at his face wondering at what point I had lost interest in the young leads and became drawn to the old guys. I think it's his eyes. John Malkovich, as the king, sounded like he was reading his lines off a prompter--just deadening.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Good Mood Guide

If you told me four years ago that I would be writing a book on alternative therapies for mood disorders, I would have found the idea highly amusing. As the senior vice president of medical affairs for an Internet marketing agency, I was not only writing copy for antidepressant web sites, but I was taking two antidepressants everyday. The pharmaceutical industry was my means of support as well as my savior from insanity. Deadline pressures, business travel, and the stress of managing a busy team of writers, editors, and proofreaders made it seem impossible to me that I would ever be able to stop taking those pills.

As is increasingly the case these days, one of the two pills I was taking had come under investigation by the FDA. My psychiatrist told me that the drug caused an increased risk of liver failure and that I would have to have blood tests done every month, to ensure that my liver enzymes were not elevated. The artificial defense that I had constructed for myself was starting to crumble, and I would need to make life-changing decisions as a result. Now, I look back at that discovery as a catalyst for all the positive, renewing changes I’ve made in my life, but at the time, I was terrified.

What do you do, when you have to stop taking the antidepressant medications that you’ve come to rely on? Many people turn to alternative medicine as a solution for their specific problems. In study after study, these therapies are proving to be as effective as medications, without the side effects. Doctors may even recommend that their patients with mood disorders consider alternative therapies during pregnancy or lactation, an important matter for the many bipolar women who choose not to have children at all, rather than risk going off their medications. For women who are having mood issues during menopause, now that estrogen replacement therapy is no longer recommended, alternative therapies are also an attractive option.

I'm going to offer suggestions in this space for lifestyle changes that can help to ensure a stable good mood throughout your lifetime. I will discuss the most effective therapies based on their proven effectiveness in clinical trials including:

  • Talk therapy--cognitive-behavioral
  • Biological therapies--e.g., omega-3 fatty acids, SAM-e and 5HTP
  • Lifestyle changes--good sleep hygiene, nutrition, and social networks
  • Mind-body therapies--exercise, yoga, and meditation
The best way to begin being accountable for your mood is to make one small change at a time and to record your moods on a calendar or in a journal over the course of a month. If you're still menstruating, know first how that affects your moods. I've drawn simple up or down arrows on the calendar in my kitchen. Predictably, my mood is worse a week before I get my period. That's a law of physics. Nothing I do has changed that. But the rest of the month is malleable and amenable to some of the above therapies.

I haven't found one simple thing that's improved my mood. I look at the supplements, social support, exercise and many other changes that I've made in my life as a finely woven net that holds me up. Each strand adds strength to the structure, but if one breaks, I'll still be OK. Each of us has to construct her own net. I'll share what I know from my personal experience and the research that I've been doing on this subject over the past ten years.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Projects and Thoughts

It's time for me to switch gears and recover this blog from its dalliance in adventure and travel chronology. It's dark and cold here and that means it's time to focus inward and get back to some serious writing.

As it says in my profile, I'm working on a memoir about my search for my birth parents. That's the project I was working on in the Prague Summer Program, and the one I plan to continue and finish the next couple years while I'm in graduate school.

The other big project I'm working on is a book on alternative therapies for women with mood disorders. This book is the natural output of my career as a pharmacologist, medical writer, and instructor of biopsychology. My research, pharmaceutical contract work, and teaching led me to find solutions for my own mental well-being and I hope to be able to share that knowledge with others.

I think I'm going to use this space to help me develop the concepts of the second project. It seems to be the one that would benefit the most from public exposure and I can begin to sketch out chapters in this format. I'll start with my personal journey and struggles with mood disorders and since the theme of this blog is writing and mothering I don't think there's too much of a discrepancy there. Writers and mothers are notorious for being moody.

Please consider sharing your own concerns, questions or knowledge about mood problems or alternative therapies. Women do have more than their fair share of this burden and our cycles, both monthly and over our lifetimes add difficulties to successful treatment.