A Mother’s support is key during mental illness


According to an article over at Scientific Daily, what Mom thinks of her child’s mental illness matters when it comes to that child’s self-esteem. The study, carried out by a sociologist at Northern Illinois University, found that more than any other family member, what a Mother felt and communicated in regard to her child’s mental illness (in this study it was specifically schizophrenia), carried the most weight with said child, especially when these views were negative.

What researchers also found was that the greater exhibited levels of initial symptoms and therefore lower self-esteem in relation to symptoms, the more likely the mother was to reinforce popular yet stigmatizing beliefs about the child in relation to his/her mental illness.

Despite the small size of the study (only 129 mothers of adult schizophrenics were followed over an 18-month period), I find this study interesting from a Postpartum Mood Disorder perspective. All too often, I hear about women struggling with a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder who have chosen not to share their diagnosis with their mothers specifically. Or have shared their diagnosis with their mothers only to be told to “snap out of it” or that “it will pass.”

Family is often our first line of support and defense when it comes to any illness. But when it comes to mental illness, for many, family is the last line of defense because we fear stigmatization and exile from those we love the most. This study also reminds me of another study which concluded after fMRI’s of both depressed and non-depressed women that  a Mother’s criticism caused distinct neural reaction in formerly depressed women.

Is all of this related to the intricate female to female  relationship? Do we really care so much about what another woman, especially our own mother, thinks about us that we are willing to allow it to so definitively shape our own self-view? I realize we grow up wishing to please our parents but why is it what our Mother thinks of us that tends to matter most?

As women, should we not always strive to be the best for ourselves, not caring what any other woman thinks of us, not even our own Mother? How do we break out of that mold? How do we grow past attacking each other, past the guilt of having let another woman down? How do we learn to live for ourselves in a society which preaches competition and rewards those who achieve so much on a daily basis?

When the Mom wars begin to affect how the mentally ill view themselves, it’s gone too far. When the Mom wars delay other mothers from healing and finding the support they so desperately need, it’s gone too far.

A mother is where you go when you need a hug. A mother is where you go when your soul needs to be soothed. A mother is peace. A mother is love. A mother is not harmful. A mother is not hateful. A mother is not a source of shame about oneself. A mother is home.

When a mother ceases to be love, solace, compassion, and peace, we have made a wrong turn. Even mothers who are struggling with Postpartum Mood & Anxiety disorders are all of these things—they are simply unable to elicit the reaction within themselves without a bit of help and healing.

When a Mother, who, for no other reason, sees her child as stigmatizing and reinforces low self-esteem in her child simply because of that child’s mental illness? We as a society should be ashamed.

If you’ve struggled with a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder, I would love for you to leave a comment about whether or not you shared your diagnosis with your mother—if you did or did not, why? What was the reaction?

Let’s get to Just Talking.

Just Talkin’ Tuesday: Boundaries & Burnout


The above video is of flight attendants on a flight from the Philippines. They have a very creative approach to help their passengers pay attention to the safety measures one needs to know while flying. At 1:38, you hear the voice making the safety announcements begin to say, “If you are traveling with a child, first put on your own mask and then your child’s mask.” All too often we find ourselves, as mothers and women, caring for everyone around us except the one person who matters the most – ourselves.

For quite awhile, my three year old had an infatuation with The Velveteen Rabbit Story. He wanted us to read it to him at nap time and bedtime. So we did. In reading this story to him, there was one section of the tale which truly epitomizes the lengths to which we go as mothers to please our children and those around us. Rain suddenly started falling and the little boy in the story had to rush inside after playing out in the yard. In his hurry, he forgot the Velveteen Rabbit. The little boy goes on with his afternoon and does not realize the Velveteen Rabbit is missing until it is time to go to bed. As his mother tucks him in, the little boy asks for the Velveteen Rabbit. In our version, the mother gets a flashlight and goes outside to fetch the lost rabbit. After searching in the rain, she returns with the drenched Velveteen Rabbit, handing him to her son. The boy is happy as he clutches the soaked toy close to him and quickly drifts off to sleep. The official version of the story reads like this:

And once, when the Boy was called away suddenly to go out to tea, the Rabbit was left out on the lawn until long after dusk, and Nana had to come and look for him with the candle because the Boy couldn’t go to sleep unless he was there.

He was wet through with the dew and quite earthy from diving into the burrows the Boy had made for him in the flower bed, and Nana grumbled as she rubbed him off with a corner of her apron.

I admit, I will search down a toy for my child. But to go out into the rain with a flashlight or a candle? Not in this house. There is a line I refuse to cross.

Yes, it is our job to care for our children. It’s our responsibility to ensure they have the basic necessities of life and feel comforted. It is also our responsibility to ensure that the care we give them is of the highest quality. If we consistently drain ourselves day in and day out, we have nothing to give to ourselves those around us. Our children deserve more than fumes. Our husband deserve more than fumes. And our friends deserve more than fumes. Above all else, WE deserve more than fumes.

This week’s #PPDChat was about Putting on your oxygen mask before putting on someone else’s. While helping others through their pain is helpful and allows a great distraction, it can also be draining. You may be more on edge, more likely to over-react if there is a crisis, and more likely to put that person before your own needs. There are fine lines which need to be respected, lines which need to stay firmly planted between you and others as you heal. It is important to be able to step back from the issue at hand and soothe yourself. Recognizing when you need to do this is hard to do if you are running on fumes.

According to help.org, you may be on the road to burnout if:

  • Every day is a bad day.
  • Caring about your work or home life seems like a total waste of energy.
  • You’re exhausted all the time.
  • The majority of your day is spent on tasks you find either mind-numbingly dull or overwhelming.
  • You feel like nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciated.

They recommend using the “Three R” method to cope with burnout:

  • Recognize – Watch for the warning signs of burnout
  • Reverse – Undo the damage by managing stress and seeking support
  • Resilience – Build your resilience to stress by taking care of your physical and emotional health

Down the page, they also examine stress v. burnout. Definitely worth checking out.

I impose boundaries on myself. Some of them should probably be stricter and I am working on that. In order to preserve my own mental health these are the things I currently do:

  • Take a mandatory nap on Sundays (Although I skipped this past Sunday’s nap – first one in ages)
  • Go to sleep early if I’ve had a rough day
  • Listen to music
  • Eat Chocolate
  • Turn off my computer when my kids get home from school until they go to bed
  • Don’t watch newscasts
  • Say NO if it’s going to overload my plate
  • Watch a lot of comedy
  • Laugh
  • Love

I have even been known to put myself in time out with my kids in the room if I am getting too on edge with them. I have started asking myself if I am upset with them because they’ve been doing things I’ve asked them not to or because I’m being selfish and doing something I want to do and instead, ignoring them when they legitimately deserve my attention. I’ve been amazed and shamed at how often it’s because I’m selfishly taking time to myself when they genuinely need me to help them with something. As I’ve been closing my laptop and leaving Social Media behind when the kids are home and awake, these times have decreased and our relationships have been soaring. I’m glad to be plugging back into what really matters – my family.

Do you have boundaries you refuse to cross? Things you do to recharge your batteries? What are they? Let’s get to just talking.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Just Talkin’ Tuesday 01.25.11: Buried under Mama Guilt


 

Original Graphic by Lauren Hale, Author, MPV

Mama Guilt.

What does this mean to you?

In your life, right now, what invokes this emotion within you?

Is it when you work? Is it because you don’t work outside the home?

When you do something just for YOU?

When something goes wrong? When you lose control? Fail at perfection? Compare yourself to another mom who is perfectly wrapped and coiffed?

Yelling at your kids instead of gently guiding them toward the desired behavior?

Sleeping when you should be up at the crack of dawn because it’s just not motherhood unless you throw yourself under the bus every second of every day?

Wondering if your child is missing milestones because of something you did or didn’t do?

Are you enrolling them in enough extracurricular activities? Engaging them?

Or are you sitting on your computer chatting on Twitter, reading blogs, commenting at blogs? Judging other moms?

Chiding your husband? Wishing you could stay home with the kids instead of going to work?

Doing ANYTHING without your kids?

Loving bedtime?

Loving naptime?

Mama Guilt.

Dangerous ground, this emotion.

This week’s Just Talking Tuesday isn’t really a conversation starter. Perhaps it is – but I want to issue a challenge along with it.

This week? Pick ONE thing which causes you the most Mama Guilt. Write it down on a piece of paper. BURN THE PIECE OF PAPER. TEAR IT UP. DESTROY IT. LET.IT.GO.

Then Post here. Tell us what you destroyed, how you destroyed it, and why. Let us know how we can help you keep moving away from your guilt. Alone, we are powerless. But together? Unstoppable.

Let’s do this.

Just Talking Tuesday: What is your solace?


I often wake up to the sounds of screaming children. Not just children playing, children screaming. And actually, it is more than often. I would say 90% of the time we wake up to screaming and arguing children. Given that I am not a morning person, having to dive right into mediating World War III does not usually go well. One of the first things I do after things are settled is make coffee. The scent of freshly ground beans mixing with boiling water soothes my soul. It takes me back to my grandparents.

I also love to cook. This morning I made myself an egg white omelet with baby portabella mushrooms and swiss cheese. Not only was it delish, but it was very soothing to make.

Music soothes my soul too. I listen to quite a range of music these days – a lot of things I’m willing to bet most people would never picture me listening to, even if they follow me on Twitter and are privy to my random music tweets. I love upbeat pop music, hip hop, latin, alternative, rock, classical and flamenco guitar, you name it, I’m there. Except for the Rolling Stones. And the Beatles. Although, today, for the first time ever, I heard a Beatles song that did not annoy the ever loving tar out of me. There’s hope yet for those young lads from Liverpool in my life.

Making loose leaf tea is also soothing for me.

I also like to drive on the open road, windows down, music blasting, nowhere to go, nowhere to be…. just me, the road, and some awesome tunes.

Sitting on the front porch while staring at the birds, rabbits, the cows and goats across the street at the farm, the zillionth cars getting lost in our neighborhood, breathing the fresh country air – I love all of these things.

Reading. Watching movies.

Going to church. Reading my bible (which I need to do more!)

These are healthy solace practices for me.

I lean toward the unhealthy when I clean. Or brush my hair. Or clean. Mostly clean. I don’t clean a LOT because I get afraid I will go overboard and cross that inappropriate line. And no, it’s not an excuse to keep a messy house. I have to go slow when I clean because if I don’t, I won’t sleep, I won’t eat, I’ll just clean. Which is great for the house, not so great for me.

What about you?

What are your healthy solace practices?

Your not so healthy practices?

Let’s get to just talking!

Just Talking Tuesday: How did Postpartum change your view of Mental Illness?


To be honest, before Postpartum crashed into my life, I had no clue what a real person with mental illness was like.

I watched Girl, Interrupted in college. I took a Psych 101 course to meet requirements for my undergrad degree. I knew the terminology. I had seen movies.

To my knowledge, I had never known someone while they were depressed. No one had ever talked to me about the possibility of mental illness in the family.

I went through a lot of grief as I grew up. I knew pain. I knew heartache. But I had not equated myself with someone who was depressed at any time. I had no idea what depression looked like on me because no one had ever talked about the possibility of it happening to me.

And then I got pregnant. I had a daughter. I became trapped in hell. Furious thoughts darted through my head. I couldn’t keep anxiety out of my life. I closed all the shades in our home. I refused to leave the house unless I had to do so. I felt our neighbors judging me. I felt the people in the grocery store judging me. But no, I wasn’t crazy. Not me. Crazy was for everyone else. Not me.

But maybe.

The maybe is what got me to the doctor’s office. The doctor who told me I didn’t have Postpartum but agreed to set me up with the in-house therapist anyway. The therapist who kept rescheduling. Then I cancelled.

Then we moved. I relied on myself. On the internet. I thought I healed. We got pregnant. Had another daughter. She was born with a cleft palate and needed to go to the NICU immediately. I totally lost myself that day. I continued to slip further until Day 56 when I was hospitalized for a nearly psychotic reaction to medication. It was in the hospital that I realized Mental Illness is NOTHING like what the movies showed us. Nothing like what mainstream media shows us. Nothing.

People with mental illness? Are PEOPLE, people. Humans. Like you and me.

What scares us about mental illness, I think, is that it shows us that any one of us is vulnerable. Our mind, the one thing over which you think you have control, is compromised in mental illness. But therein lies the issue. Those who have struggled with mental illness – whether themselves or alongside loved ones, know there is no snapping out of it. Those who have not are convinced that those who have mental illness are just acting. That we can turn it off at our every whim. Thing is? Most of us would love nothing more than to do that very thing. But we can’t. It takes time to heal. Even then, there are mental illnesses which persist a lifetime. Mental illnesses which are severe and debilitating. Mental health treatment and therapy has made some progress. But in the same vein, the stigma existing within American culture is deeply ingrained despite an increase in education efforts by mental health advocates.

What has to happen before we accept the mentally ill as part of our society? Before we jump to conclusions and rush to stigmatize the experience and diagnosis of others?

Just today, I read a story over at Strollerderby about the tragedy in Arizona. Do you want to know what they used as a picture? A straight jacket. Yes. A straight jacket. I tweeted the following in response to their tweet about the story: “Shame on @strollerderby for their story about Jared Lee Loughner. SHAME. A straight jacket as the photo? Really? #STIGMA” I never received a response. In going to get the link for the story, I noticed the photo has since been changed. The tweet was never retweeted. No other tweets were directed at them about the story under a search for @strollerderby. I’m grateful they have changed the photo.Thank you.

One of the biggest reasons I speak up about my experience with Postpartum Depression and OCD (and honestly, probably PTSD after my daughter’s NICU stay) is because when I was at the hospital, a Psych Nurse told me I did not have to tell anyone where I had been that weekend. Even then, in darkest of places, I knew it was not right to hide my experience. Even then, as a struggling new mom with a special needs child, I knew I had to find support. Staying silent would get me nowhere fast.

I raised my voice. I was open. Honest. Brutal. Raw. Insistent. Firm. Empowered.

Almost five years after my second daughter’s birth finds me here today. Blogging. Hosting #PPDChat. Freely supporting other mothers who have also chosen to speak up about their experiences. Encouraging new mothers to speak up about their experiences as well.

Mental illness changed my life.

It changed the lives of those around me as my advocacy empowered me to educate them about my experience and the experience of others.

Mental illness may well have saved my marriage as my own struggles with mental illness enabled me to better cope with my own husband’s depression and subsequent admission to addiction.

For me, mental illness was not a negative experience.

When I gave birth to my daughters, I also gave birth to a mental health advocate. It just took me some time to find her.

How did Postpartum change your perception of mental illness? Did it change the lives of those around you? Have you changed the lives of others as a result of your Postpartum? Let’s get to Just Talking.

Enhanced by Zemanta