Some things about your Brain

The four posts that comprise The Dark Days of May (Parts I, II, III, and IV) were written partly so I could release all that negativity and sadness but also so I could share it and, hopefully, help others suffering with depression, PPD, PMDD, or other ‘silent’ pain to know that they are not alone.

I read somewhere that the immense pain of depression is due to the fact that it is a silent disease. The suffering of so many is born in silence and shame.

I promised at the end of those posts that I would share some of the valuble things I learned. I learned a lot of ‘life’ lessons, plus I learned a lot of useful facts about the human brain, chemistry, physiology, and luckily, self care.

One of the first things I did when I was diagnosed with and accepted the fact that I was suffering from depression, was try to learn about it. I found very little in the way of resources in the library plus, I was in a situation with two very young babies and my only resource for childcare was my husband, who just couldn’t be available all the time. This made it hard to ‘get out’ for help and support.

The first useful group I found was on line of course.

This link is to the Online PPD Support Group . Through this group, I found a lot of reading resources, plus there were chat groups and message boards. They have an extensive list of reading material now but 4 years ago. The main book they recommended was by Deborah Sichel, M.D. and Jeanne Watson Driscoll, M.S., R.N., C.S. ‘Women’s Moods; What every woman must know about hormones, the brain, and emotional health’

There is a lot of very useful info in this book and I’d recommend it to all women to read. The book describes, in detail, the effects of our hormones on our bodies and brains, in all the reproductive stages of life. And don’t kid yourself, teenagers can have serious issues with this stuff too. If you have a teenaged daughter or a young adult, it would be smart to get educated. The book goes abit too heavily into mental illnesses (IMO) and drug treatments and should only be part of what is read on the subject.

Sichel and Driscoll’s book has detailed chapters on the structure of the brain, the chemical pathways of the brain, and a program for care of the brain. They contend that the brain is one of the most illused structures in our bodies. When any other part of you is distressed, ill, or injured, you typically get symptoms of pain, fever, and discomfort that you don’t ignore. You go see the doctor. When your brain is giving you symptoms of sleepnessness, anxiety, nausea, exhaustion, and general malaise, you typically ignore it. A biochemically disturbed and challenged brain does not get a chance to correct itself. Sleep is a critical feature in the healthy cycle of the brain’s day. Sleep is one of the most often abused features in brain care. Along with alcohol, drugs, poor nutrition and any number of other stressors.

Your brain stem is the primitive part of the brain, respsonsible for automatic functions such as breathing, heartbeat and digestion. The limbic brain, surrounding the brain stem, is responsible for the primitive drives for survival; appetite, thirst, sleep-wake cycle, sex drive, aggressive impulses, temperature control and control of the menstrual cycle. The cortical brain surrounds the limbic brain and is responsible for higher functions, such as judgement, abstract thought and intellect. When the limbic brain becomes out of balance, it can have a profound impact on the functioning of the whole brain.
The process of pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period floods the brain with a complex cocktail of hormones and neurotransmitters. Combine that with the interaction with the adrenals and the sea of anxiety/fight/flight chemicals washing around in the brain and the lack of sleep to allow healing and rebalancing, and it became clear to me why I ended up on a state of dyregulation in my brain. Every person’s situation is different of course. I had the added anxiety of my Dad’s illness, a premature and colicky baby, and my thyroid going for a wander.

A very useful program described in the above book is called the ‘NURSE” program for caring for your brain.

That stands for nutrition, understanding, rest, spirituality, and exercise. A potent combination that I have used to help myself feel a lot better.

What else have I learned?
I know I have difficulties asking for help. I’m used to being ‘the strong one’. As I was struggling through this difficult time I clearly remember berating myself; ‘everyone else handles this! what is wrong with me that I’m not handling it?’ and ‘Come on Laura, you just have to try harder!’ I tend to pull in to myself when troubled, instead of reaching out. That is something I still work on.
People don’t really talk much about these types of struggles. Especially since you’re expected to be constantly awash with joy in the new and blessed state of parenthood.


This is part of why I do chose to talk about these things.

I had every intention of doing quite a bit more chemistry stuff in this post, since its a favorite subject but decided not to. If you’re interested, please read up on it. The book I referenced here is a great starting point, as is the website for PPD.

One more book I want to recommend, and this is for anyone who is a female or lives with a female. Its called, The Change before the Change, by Dr. Laura Corio.

So many people are unaware that menopause can actually be a long process. The woman’s hormonal pathways can be changing for as much as ten years before menopause. So, women in their forties, can expect to see some changes. For many of us who are having our babies later, we can see the blurring of the post partum and peri-menopausal stages of life.

Dr. Corio’s book covers a huge range of topics and has a lot of really useful info on the process of aging, herbal treatments, nutrition, and more. My friend Dianne borrowed this book and she said her husband started reading it and really got a lot out of it. I don’t know what kind of testimonial that is but take it for what its worth 🙂

This entry was posted in Continuing Education, Dark Days of May, Depression. Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Some things about your Brain

  1. funny thing says:

    My brain is far too complex to be described in a book.
    And I never get moody.

    So there.

  2. maidink says:

    I suffer from depression. It was worse when I was younger. My parents thought I was just “moody”. My parents not being the most open-minded creatures on Earth didn’t help matters. My dad worked too much and my mom was emotionally distant. And I was naturally depressed. Of course, I thought I was just “moody”.

    I was in and out of therapy and anger management for 9 years. In my mid 20’s, along came Paxil. That helped A LOT! Therapy and Paxil helped me out of my “moodiness”.

    Reder’s Digest version of next 4 years.

    I got married at 30, widowed at 33, preggers by some guy I JUST met (Geo) three months later, and had my house burn two months after that. NOW I was a case for Paxil.

    Raging pregnancy hormones blocked most of the depression. Go figure.

    Dinker born. Deep depression for two weeks. Literally snapped out of it in 6 weeks. Thank goodness for my parents and them helping me while Geo was on the road driving a truck. Doctor prescribed Paxil. Took it for two days. Made me too tired. That pissed me off because it meant I wasn’t there for Dinker. I threw the Paxil away.

    And that was the last time I ever took it.

    I still have anger issues and some depression. But nothing in comparison to my youth.

    Now, I really am just “moody”.

  3. As you know my background is in medicine. It’s was both very brave and kind for you to reachout with this post. Depression is a huge problem that frequently misunderstood. Kudos – nice job! 🙂

  4. shayna says:

    To share your experience and issues… is a brave thing. By this post, you may have helped someone with the same suffering…

  5. shiftclick says:

    Thank you, Laura. I have stolen ” ‘NURSE” program for caring for your brain. That stands for nutrition, understanding, rest, spirituality, and exercise.” I love acronyms and especially incredibly useful ones such as this. I’m making myself a little reminder and sticking it to my monitor ere we speak. Since you are obviously into writing, another book that I would recommend is Writing the Mind Alive, The Proprioceptive Method for Finding Your Authentic Voice by Linda Trichter Metcalf, Ph.D. and Tobin Simon, Ph.D. The title sounds dry, but trust me, it’s not. As someone rating the book wrote (on the inside cover), “Proprioceptive Writing is shockingly, uncannily liberating. An enthralling, surprising journey into the self.”

  6. cube says:

    You are brave to share your experience with your blog buddies. We can all use a bit of education on the subject. Thanks.

  7. Fred says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Laura.

    I’m the same way when it comes to having problems…I keep it all in and will handle it myself. I also need to learn to talk more.

    Wonderful post; I hope things continue to progress in a positive way.

  8. Cowgirl says:

    Merci de l’information.

    Depression sucks, I know. I am also one of those people that just internalizes things…but getting better.

  9. neva says:

    wonderful post. and great information! peri-menopause sneaks in like a thief… and robs you of what little reason you have left. toss in a hefty dose of “depression”, and it’s no wonder some of us go a little “mental”! yikes!

    can’t wait for more discussion on this important topic, Laura. once again, i salute your honesty AND bravery!! : D

  10. garfer says:

    I’ve never had the self discpline to stay depressed for long.

    I put down to being a forceps birth. I’ve never been the same since.

  11. kyahgirl says:

    funny thing-I agree, your brain could never in a million, squillion years be described in a book. Its part of your charm.

    maidink-thanks for sharing your story. I knew you were widowed fairly young but not the rest of it. (((hugs)))

    Mike-thank you, its nice to see you here again.

    Shayna-I hope so.

    Shiftclick-thanks for the book recommendation. I check into it. 🙂

    Cube-if it helps someone its worth it eh?

    Fred-yes, a lot of us are like that. You’re not alone!

    Cowgirl-hopefully you will go into your thirties and forties with a lot more info than the previous generation (not that I consider myself like your mother or anything – Yikes!!)

    neva-I too look forward to more discussions with you, and more puppy play too of course 🙂

    garfer-you always make me chuckle, thanks 🙂

  12. IDV says:

    My brain is running nineteen to the dozen practically all the time – I guess it has something to do with the fact there are four of us stuck in it – so I imagine that’s why bouts of depression hit hard sometimes. Thank goodness, I don’t have the menopause to contend with as well. Being a woman again is something I certainly don’t mind waiting very patiently for!

  13. Jamie Dawn says:

    Thanks for sharing.

  14. Barngoddess says:

    excellent post. depression has many different faces,and it is often misunderstood. medication for depression has come a long way….

  15. kyahgirl says:

    IDV-you are so precious. Maybe someday you will get to experience being a woman and we can chat? 🙂

    JD-my pleasure.


  16. Miz BoheMia says:

    Great post my friend… I have lived through quite a few bouts with depression, glad to say it is now beat and that I recognize the symptoms but yes, the hardest thing to do and accept, especially if you are a strong person, is that help is needed and you seem to have come out of it all all the more enriched, wise and strong!

    As for the treatment of such ailments and the care of our oh-so-fragile-and-oft-overlooked brain I would highly recommend holistic therapy, acupuncture, homeopathy, osteopathy and the like. The emotional state plays a huge, HUGE part in pinpointing what needs to be treated and how treatment is to take place… it ain’t called “Holistic” for nothin’! My husband, luckily, is the one who fixes me up and I can honestly say that were it not for holistic therapies my healing, emotional and physical, would not have been as amazing and speedy as it was!

    Hope you are having a great weekend sweet Laura!

  17. SID says:

    Great post and nice to see someone is breaking their “silence”.

    When I nursed in the psychiatric wards the one thing that scared me the most was the impact of religion on so many with mental health issues.
    Guilt being the foremost feeling.

    A couple of my family members suffer depression and require respite in hospital regularly.

    Horrible illness. Horrible stigma.

    ECT is quite fun to watch though.

  18. Cherry says:

    Thanks, Laura
    seems like none of us is as alone as we think we are!

  19. karma says:

    sorry to hear about the depression, honey. i had no idea – no doubt you will conquer all – because you are a brave, wonderful and strong woman!

    i’m there for you

  20. actonbell says:

    Wow, you really have done your homework–I’m impressed. It’s astounding to consider the wide variance in how people react to depression, or problems in general. You are destined to cope with just about anything! You ARE strong. Thank you for the recommendations:)

  21. kyahgirl says:

    Goodness gracious! look at all the visitors who have been dropping by 🙂

    Miz B-thanks for the recommendation. I like the holistic approach too,that’s why the NURSE program is so appealing too. I’m glad your sweet husband helps you. You are a treasure.

    SID-glad you stopped by. I’m sorry to hear that others in your family suffer so. Interesting point about the ECT. 🙂

    Cherry-Welcome. No, we aren’t alone. As I’ve surfed around the blogosphere that has become very clear.

    Karma- thank you sweet pea !

    Actonbell-yeah homework, now that is something I’m well versed in 🙂 Thanks for your kind words.

  22. patry says:

    I wish I’d known more about this after my youngest son was born. Add gestational diabetes to the mix, and the
    chemical reaction was even more severe.

    You’re doing something wonderful and important here.

  23. frankengirl says:

    Dear Kyahgirl,

    I really appreciate your incredible courage in discussing a topic so many fear. You are a brave and generous soul for sharing your “dark days” with us. THANK YOU.


  24. Sar says:

    More great info, Laura. Now if we could get you a private audience of Tom Cruise. What an ignorant dope.

  25. Kyahgirl says:

    Patry-welcome and thanks for the encouragement. Yeah, diabetes would be a real zinger on top of everything else!

    frankengirl-:-) thanks, you’re a good role model too in the sharing department!

    Sar-agreed, but I’d only last about 2 minutes before I strangled him!

  26. mig bardsley says:

    You’re so right about having to reach out for help. So many people have depression and keep it quiet, but if you talk about it they all come out from under the woodpile and you realise you’re not all alone after all. though there are people who don’t understand and others who are scared to share their experiences there are more who are grateful to be able to share and like you, have useful knowledge to hand on.
    Well done Kyah and thanks too for telling us about it.

  27. g says:

    Somethings about my brain are that I will need to read this in the am because I cannot find my reading glasses and thus will blind myself continuing on. But from what I can see, I know it is of interest and importance to me. They didn’t give you that beanie for nothing.

  28. Arabella says:

    I realise I’m late but wanted to thank you for sharing your experience and information. Pre-menopause sounds so much nicer than early onset of senility!

  29. weirsdo says:

    That sounds like interesting information. Menopause affects other mental illnesses too. Although many schizophrenics show obvious symptoms at puberty, my mother did not develop psychosis until menopause.

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