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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Holiday Blues and such

Hello from the Other Side (as Adele says in her latest hit "Hello") ,

The"other side" meaning the other side of the commercial hoopla of hyped up, sugar crazed, "happy" faces...the reality is there are many of us who feel down right "unhappy."  This time of year can trigger anxiety, panic attacks, depression, manic episodes, agitation...just to name a few.  Large crowds of family/friends, loud noises, busy bodies, rushed traffic - ring a bell anyone?  Here are a few helpful tips from yours truly:

1)  Be kind to yourself 
     Yes, episodes of extreme emotions can and do happen.  They are part of having a mood disorder.  It is so terribly important that I try to remind myself I am a good person even in the midst of some mood shift.  If I am gentle towards myself, it seems like I can manage the symptoms a bit better.  Also, I find I am better at communicating with my loved ones.  Words of affirmation are a great way to speak kindly to yourself.  For example, "I am a kind and loving person", "I am doing the best I can at this particular moment in this particular situation", etc.  Once I have regained some sort of peacefulness in my heart and head, I can better assess my mood, environment, thoughts, and needs.   Being kind to yourself will also help with feelings of guilt or shame.  So, let's play nice ok?  :)

2) Be Gentle with your loved ones too
     Many people, with or without mental illnesses, often struggle this time of year.  Everyone has a heightened sense of stress.  For those of us with mental illnesses it may seem like our loved ones don't have time to listen/respond to our needs.  And yes, sometimes this is true.  Sometimes they are not able to take on our illnesses.  But, it doesn't mean they don't love us or care for or about us.   It simply means they are at a place where they need a mental break for their own health.  If we can give our loved ones the space and recovery they need, everyone will benefit.  Our loved ones require just as much support, relaxation, and love as we do...so, let's try to give them patience and kindness during this hectic season.
**If you are suicidal, PLEASE TELL someone.  Many of us do suffer from suicidal thoughts, especially during the holiday season.  This is not the time to be silent...Please tell someone, call the E.R., or call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255...Your life matters.  Call and get help.**

3) Try to come up with a Holiday Battle Plan
     If you have a battle plan, even a small one, you have a necessary tool to utilize.  If loud noises bother you or set off agitation, then discuss with your loved one where you can find a quiet place to go.  Or bring your headphones and listen to music that calms you...even if that is Metallica!   If certain people are triggers, try to arrange yourself so you have the least amount of contact with them. These are just a couple of ideas I can think of...but,  having a Battle Plan can sometimes be the difference between enjoying the season and running on empty. 

I hope this little list finds you in a stable place during the Holiday Season.  My deepest desire is for you to know you are loved and have a purpose in this lifetime despite having a mental illness. 

With Much love and blessings
~A.W.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Happy Veterans Day!

Today is a very good day to tell our story and work to erase stigma. This day, Veterans Day, I call on my fellow veterans to Speak Up - please know, you are not alone!

After leaving the service, I was stricken by chronic depression. I sought out the healthcare providers and the support network I needed to get better. Today, I live a happy and fulfilled life. You, my brothers and sisters in uniform, can too! Please share some of your story in your comments to this post. There is no shame! In DBSA we are family.

Happy Veterans Day!

Special thanks to Demi Lavato!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Vanderbilt study reveals how inflammation contributes to depression

Study further links immune response, serotonin signaling

by  | Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015, 8:43 AM

Vanderbilt University scientists are a step closer to understanding how inflammation in the body can affect mood and behavior.

Their latest discovery, reported this week in the journal Translational Psychiatry, provides further evidence that a signaling pathway involved in the body's immune response to infection and other stressors can regulate the brain's control of the neurotransmitter serotonin.

Randy Blakely, Ph.D.

"The inflammatory pathway that we have identified is likely one by which serotonin signaling is regulated in general," said Randy Blakely, Ph.D., who led the research team. "By targeting this pathway, we might come up with better medications to treat disorders where manipulation of serotonin signaling has proved beneficial, as in depression."

For the better part of a decade, Blakely and his colleagues have investigated the p38alpha MAPK signaling pathway. MAPKs, or mitogen-activated protein kinases, are enzymes that regulate the body's response to infection and other stress stimuli, among other roles.

The latest findings add to an increasing body of evidence that the p38alpha MAPK pathway links the body's immune response to regulation of the brain serotonin transporter. The transporter, which eliminates serotonin from the synapse, or gap between nerve cells, is the target for a major class of anti-depressants.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs like Prozac increase the brain's supply of serotonin by blocking the transporter. But it can take weeks to achieve a therapeutic effect, and not everyone responds to them.

Using genetic mouse models they developed, Blakely and his colleagues showed that the MAPK pathway acts in serotonin neurons to communicate signs of infection in the periphery. That leads to an elevation in serotonin transporter activity and multiple serotonin-linked behaviors.

"The net consequence of p38alpha MAPK activation is … we get elevated transporter activity that can drain away the serotonin," said Blakely, the Allan D. Bass Professor of Pharmacology and Psychiatry.

The impact on behavior was profound. When an inflammatory response was produced by peripheral injection of a piece of bacteria in mice, their serotonin neurons showed rapid activation of the p38alpha MAPK pathway. The animals also exhibited depressive-like behaviors, including signs of heightened anxiety and despair.

But when, in the current study, the p38alpha MAPK pathway was genetically "knocked out," specifically in serotonin neurons, these behaviors were extinguished. The inflammatory agent had no effect. The animals were, as Blakely described them, "resilient."

This "is a response to an acute inflammatory agent," Blakely cautioned. It says nothing about what may occur in chronic inflammatory states. "That's something we're eager to pursue with the same kind of genetic approach," he said.

At the same time, "I doubt that (this MAPK pathway) has evolved only to respond to inflammation," he said.

Since the p38alpha MAPK pathway has the ability to turn up and turn down the activity of the serotonin transporter, "maybe if we targeted the way (it) regulates the transporter as opposed to blocking the transporter itself, we might have a better antidepressant," Blakely said.

Blakely is director of the Vanderbilt/NIMH Silvio O. Conte Center for Neuroscience Research, which is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). First author of the study was Nicole Baganz, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Blakely lab.

The research was supported in part by NIH grants NS007491, MH094527 and MH096972, the Brain and Behavioral Research Foundation and the Institute for Psychiatric Neuroscience.

Media Inquiries: 
Bill Snyder, (615) 322-4747  
william.snyder@Vanderbilt.Edu



Thursday, October 22, 2015

. . . to love life . . .

"To love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you've held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again."
― Ellen Bass