Mental Health Home School

Mental health is a lifelong journey for every human. It’s something that comes up a lot this time of year in particular as the holidays bring with them stresses, memories and not-so-welcome comments from family members you are generally able to avoid in the rest of life. As a family doctor, the number of visits on my schedule for anxiety, depression, grief, panic attacks and all manner of stresses dramatically increases leading up to Thanksgiving and doesn’t let up until well after New Year’s Day.

I have had a personal journey with mental health in adulthood that I appreciate in particular because I can truly empathize with others struggling. I’ve been in low, low places and I’ve been peacefully, truly, deeply happy. I’ve been on medication for depression, anxiety and post-partum mood changes. I’ve seen therapists. But, some of the most important work I’ve done to grow has been reading and self-reflection and I wanted to share the 5 key resources that have been the most helpful.

1. The Science of Happiness, by Stefan Klein

The first book that introduced me to the concept that you have some control over your own mental health was The Science of Happiness. I read this book at the end of undergrad as I was heading into medical school and it. changed. everything.

The Science of Happiness: How Our Brains Make Us Happy-and What We Can Do to Get Happier by [Klein, Stefan]At that point, I had started to recognize that not only did my mood influence my behavior, but my behaviors influenced my mood and experience of life (hello, frontal lobe, welcome to the rest of the mature brain!). This book gave me powerful insight into the why of that and got me working on “Happiness Habits”. As a lifelong cynic who questions everything, I would never have believed any book telling me to do something without understanding why that would make a difference. 

2) The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin

This book was my second mental health growth spurt and came much later. I had finished medical school and residency. Those 7 years were tough. We are confronted with very regular, literal life-and-death situations, sleep deprivation, lack of time for exercise or healthy hobbies, isolation from your loved ones and regularly feeling like you might be the dumbest person in the room – especially hard for those of us who used to be frequently the smartest person in a room (am I selling you on becoming a doctor yet??). I had been on and off medication and was ready to heal myself. I stumbled into this one at just the right moment.

The Happiness Project, Tenth Anniversary Edition: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by [Rubin, Gretchen]

Gretchen was in a similar place to me. We both were married to great people, had the family we planned, a nice home, a good job, but were still pretty miserable. I set out to do my own Happiness Project, setting out tasks, turning them into habits, and lo and behold!! I got happier! I was able to wean off medication in anticipation of getting pregnant again and wow, it really worked! I think I told everyone I know to go buy the book. You’re welcome, Gretchen!

3) The Universe Has Your Back, by Gabrielle Bernstein

Just when things had settled down a bit, life threw us another curve ball. My husband decided to go back to fellowship (extra medical training to specialize into a ‘niche’). Twice. This involved a 75% paycut, moving 4 times in 4 years, and, oh, we now had 2 babies and a puppy and I was also trying to be a good primary care doctor to brand new patients then having to ‘abandon’ them to move again over and over. It was rough. My rudimentary mental health skills weren’t really up to the task. The Universe quite literally barged in with The Universe Has Your Back and turned the tide.

I started it just as the girls were both sick at home, my husband was working 100 hours a week with a 3 hour commute, and I hated my own job at the time. We were massively in debt from the fellowships and had moved away from essentially all of our close support people. This book forced me to examine and change my own inner dialogue on a MUCH deeper level than I ever had before. The Universe began to quite literally speak to me, sparking several dramatic life changes that have turned into a happiness snowball effect. Can. Not. Recommend. Enough.

4) Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis

I probably don’t need to say a whole lot about this book since it’s blowing up the bestseller lists across the US and internationally. I might have fallen off the self-improvement wagon again as I had every other time had The Universe not led me to start working a side-gig that encouraged continuous personal development. We are expected to read 10 pages every. single. day. to improve your function in some way. They don’t specify what you read, just that you make it habit to work on yourself, a little bit, consistently. Even on the longest, most exhausted day, you can read 10 pages of something. Trust me. I picked this one next and found it inspiring, clarifying and full of real-life applicable advice.

Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by [Hollis, Rachel]

I would add, however, that the part of it that most changed me and how I was doing with mental health was following Rachel’s podcast and posts on social media and going to the Made For More documentary – can’t WAIT for the next book which delves more into the action side of improving your life!

5) You Are A Badass, Jen Sincero

At the end of Rachel’s book, I couldn’t help but feel that I needed more direction. Rachel made me believe I was “Made For More”, but I didn’t quite know how to find what my ‘more’ should be or how to get there. You see, I had accomplished a lot by many measures – getting into a top medical school, becoming a Family Physician, making a healthy marriage and raising two (so far) thriving kids. From the outside, it looks like I am fairly good at setting goals and accomplishing them. The problem was, those goals were all externally defined – someone else said what the end result was and all the basics of how to get there.  I felt gratitude for being ‘successful’ without ever stopping to think about where I might dream of being beyond that.

You Are a Badass®: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by [Sincero, Jen]

Enter, You are a Badass. Jen Sincero’s book blasted open my eyes to the concept that you can simultaneously be grateful for what you have and where you are in life ANNNND have huge dreams about where you are going ANNNNNND ANNND AND make that life happen, whatever it is. I can’t begin to explain how big of a revelation this was for me.

Image result for there are people less qualified

Jen breaks it down into how to get there in real terms, in cursy and hilarious fashion. With the help of this book, I have reached next-level happy. I discovered how to dream and made the first one of those dreams come true. I dreamed that even though we are on an incredibly strict budget, my husband and I could still go on a tropical vacation. I’ve never won or earned the “bonus” on any challenge in my life, but one came up in my side business with Nerium. Through goal setting, planning and consistent action, I earned a free, all-inclusive vacation to the Bahamas for us at a 5 star resort this June. BOOMSHAKALAKA!

Where are you now?

This journey has been my own. I readily acknowledge that everyone is starting or continuing on their own journey in different places. You may be light-years ahead of me, or struggling at the very beginning. I hope that one or more of these books might help some of you on the way. As always, this is my personal experience and not your own personal medical advice – talk your medical person if you need help.

PN1A8460

Dr. Annie is a family physician and mom of 3 in California.

The Spotlight on Fascia

Pssst. Insider tip.

I want to share with you a little trade secret that I’ve learned over the years. When I work on a client who experiences chronic pain, such as a neck spasm or a bad lower back, I don’t attack that pain with deep tissue work. Most folks come in and point to an area that is aching, and deeply embedded are a series of trigger points. They then ask me to “dig it out”.  While that is one way to go about it, I have found through experience that it is not the whole answer to ridding them of that pain permanently.

That’s because the secret lies in the fascial system of the body.

What is fascia? How does one go about even pronouncing that word? Fascia, or FAAAAAAH-SHAH (totally formal phonetic spelling, right?) is a thin sheet of fibrous tissue that surrounds and encloses a muscle or other organ. What that description does not tell you is that, it is continuous. It has no beginning and no end. It encloses EVERY organ, muscle, nerve, IN YOUR ENTIRE BODY! My meat-eaters (holla), if you ever have split apart chicken breast, it is the thin spiderweb looking material between the breasts.

Much like a sweater, if there is a bunching in the material somewhere in the body, it effects the whole unit, twisting and morphing it into imbalance.

snag.jpeg
Exhibit A: middle knot effects the material around it

Imagine for a minute, you’ve had surgery.  When we cut into that delicate fascia, it turns

1_7
Exhibit B: injuries pulling at right shoulder and left knee

from a flowy version of itself, to its evil step-fascia that is thick, sticky, and twisty……….scar tissue. That scar tissue is now adhering to the surrounding tissue, pulling it towards it like a black hole. If we walk around like that without finding that restriction within the fascia, eventually the body compensates with postural misalignments. This creates systemic muscular tension in random parts of the body, AKA, Myofascial Pain.

That is where we begin the journey to healing the body of chronic Myofascial Pain. To heal it, we must first understand what Myofascial Pain Syndrome truly is.

Myofascial Pain Syndrome is a tricky one to diagnose because we cannot test for with normal medical testing.  It is, for lack of formality and brevity sake, a person with a boatload of Trigger Points.

THIS GUY BELOW

myofascial_pain_syndrome_trigger_points_99450800_ML_cropped.jpg
Photo Credit Spine Universe

Those yellow dots represent areas within the muscle system that are in chronic contraction, aka Trigger Points. Those contracted areas actually decrease blood flow to the muscle itself, so waste materials cannot flow out, and healthy blood cells cannot come in. The buildup of toxins, such as lactic acid, lead to muscular pain. Lack of formal scientific testing makes this syndrome subjective, which is where I come in. I love me some subjectivity!

Since each person is an individual, working with the fascial system isn’t limited by protocol. In the place of deep tissue work and Trigger Point Therapy, I use a method developed by a now pretty famous Physical Therapist named John Barnes called Myofascial Release.

In his description, John States that “Trauma, inflammatory responses, and/or surgical procedures create Myofascial restrictions that can produce tensile pressures of approximately 2,000 pounds per square inch on pain sensitive structures that do not show up in many of the standard tests (x-rays, myelograms, CAT scans, electromyography, etc.)”

That is a super sciency way to validate them when my clients say I’m in “a ton of pain.” I can now say, “Dude, you totally ARE!” Badump…ching!

But seriously, when the fascia buckles down on a structure because it is under so much tension from being pulled in the direction of scar tissue, it is my job to then go and find that restriction and release it. Through gently applied sustained pressure, the fascial system is able to stretch out and those restrictions release, restoring mobility and function to the area.

image
Photo Credit to Bliss Myofascial Release

Using a series of postural assessments and palpations, I can begin the search and release journey. However, no two people are alike. Much like their personal life, everyone’s fascia tells a different story. With injuries, different surgeries, different traumas, your body can tell the tall tale of the years you’ve put on it thus far.  This is why this type of pain is hard to treat with prescriptions, further surgeries, or even your typical Massage Therapy. It also means that this fascial work can bring along with it the emotional components of all of those years.

Releasing a specific restriction, especially one that has been plaguing a client with pain for months or years, can also release the emotional memory of that trauma. This is where this work goes above and beyond when it comes to helping heal the body.

One client of mine had chronic tension headaches that triggered recurrent migraines. Typically, to target this, we work in the muscles of the neck, shoulders, head, face, and back with regular bodywork.  Maybe we’ll release all the points, or maybe we will need 5-6 sessions. The problem is, it starts small, but then you drive home, tense your shoulders, make dinner, work at your computer, you continue with life recreating your recurring problem over and over.  Even with perfect posture, your fascia is still restricting your structure as you sit.

Through gentle fascial stretching of the head, my client began to have a sudden emotional release. As the tears poured out, she was awash with memories of her dog, who had been her first “baby”.  Her chronic headaches were a direct physical response to her sadness, anxiety, and stress over the tough decision months before to put her beloved dog down. She hadn’t been able to process that and grieve because she was in a stressful, overly busy time in life and had to suppress her own reaction to “be strong” for her family. By releasing the associated emotion, the fascial restrictions around her skull muscles released almost immediately, and her chronic headaches dramatically changed.

images (3).jpeg

Headaches are not the only thing that Myofascial Release can help. Check out the HUGE list here:———>whoa, that’s a huge list.

The magic of this modality is that we create a safe space for you to release your pain. Since feedback is encouraged, this type of work can help increase your own personal body awareness.

Finding a Myofascial Release Specialist is as easy as clicking this link. Simply search for your area, and it’ll give you a list of who is certified in this modality. After all, what in the heck is there to lose…other than your chronic pain?

004-1-of-1Kristy is a mother of two, Massage Therapist, and proponent of total body healing in Virginia.

This Christmas, Invest in Yourself

This post contains affiliate links to make it easier for you to get to the tools that were helpful for us. We may get compensation from the links, but the point of the post is to share a personal journey, not to be an ad.

As parents, we all know that our children are our priority.  So much so, that we often sacrifice taking care of ourselves (usually without even realizing it).  I am certainly no exception, and I’d like to share a personal journey of mine here today in the spirit of the holidays.

As a financial advisor, I’m here to give you permission to not only spend some of your hard-earned money on yourself, but to also call it an investment.  Because it is!  It is the BEST kind of investment, in fact.  Investing in yourself pays dividends in ways you can’t even imagine, and benefits ALL of the people around you, including the little ones in your life who deserve to have a HAPPY, HEALTHY mother.  Repeat this ladies:

My children and family will benefit when I am happy and healthy.

Image result for Children deserve happy moms

It was this time last year that I realized that I wasn’t in ideal shape. Having kids changed my body and changed my metabolism. I stepped on a scale for my annual physical and was shocked!! Somehow, while all of my friends lost weight while breastfeeding, I managed to gain it and keep it on. Ugh!

You may be thinking: “Margo, how could you have not realized this without going to the doctor?”  Well, for starters, I have a wonderful husband who loves me 100% of the time no matter what I weigh, and would never EVER call something like this to my attention.  Secondly, before kids, I was mostly a slim person who didn’t really have to exercise to maintain a certain weight (annoying, I know, but stay with me), so I was not used to paying attention to these sorts of things.  I didn’t even own a scale.  Alas…  Here I was:

IMG_5695

I decided I wanted to get back to my best, healthiest self. But how? I started slowly but didn’t really see results – Now I know why. I didn’t know what I was doing! I know about finance, but I didn’t know about nutrition or exercise. There were 3 key things that turned it all around for me and I wanted to share with you all what worked in case it can help any of you struggling the way I was.

Step 1: Nutrition

So, in April, I decided to get serious and call in an expert. I started with Amanda Kettering and did The Arbonne 30 Challenge. Little did I realize it would be an entire lifestyle changer!! I started to learn how to eat healthier without sacrificing my happiness or sanity. The results were immediate thanks to the program and to Amanda’s coaching. In the first month, I lost 15 lbs. In the next 3 months or so of continuing the program 80% of the time, I lost 10 more lbs. That’s 25 lbs total ONLY with changing the way I eat.

This was without any exercise. If I, as someone who is horrendous at cooking with an insanely busy schedule can make this work, anyone can.  If you are committed to following the plan, you will succeed.  Yes, even if you don’t cook.  Yes, even if you are busy.  And yes, even if you’ve failed at other “diets” in the past. Want to access it?  Click here.  Have questions?  Send us a message, and I’ll tell you the honest truth about all of the good, bad and challenging.

Step 2: Exercise

After 4-5 months of this, I decided to tackle exercising. I made a huge leap and joined True Core CrossFit in Annapolis thanks to urging from my friend Andrea. She convinced me I could do it. I had heard about this place from my friend Patrick, but wasn’t convinced I was cut out for CrossFit. This was the girl who avoided any kind of weight lifting, other than her own children… Really? CrossFit? Little did I realize what enormous, amazing community I was joining. I not only got incredible education and hands-on personal help during every class, but I made a ton of wonderful friends who celebrate every success of mine as if it is their own.

True Core also gave me individualized nutrition training, followed with constant encouragement and feedback. It should surprise no one that the nutrition support closely aligned with all I had learned in Arbonne, with some modifications to support the health of someone aggressively lifting weights and working out in the CrossFit program. I also started doing intermittent fasting during this time (safely, according to the program and with the help of Kristy and Brandon). If you want to know more about intermittent fasting, see Kristy and Brandon’s post here: The Skinny on Intermittent Fasting.

The owner of True Core, Shannon, and every single one of her coaches helped me lose another 20 lbs in three months. And would you believe I am enjoying it???? Coming from someone who hates to run and usually wanders aimlessly around a gym, it should mean a lot to you all that I actually LOOK FORWARD to going to True Core 3 or 4 times a week. (Thanks to my mom Cece and my wonderful hubby for making it possible for me to make time for this!!)  Live in the Annapolis, MD area and want to check out True Core?  Click here and schedule a free intro session with one of the amazing coaches.  I’ll be there to cheer you on!

IMG_5642

This is me: 45 lbs less than I was a year prior.

Step 3: Skincare

There was one more problem for me… I had consulted a plastic surgeon at the beginning of all of this who said if I was able to lose my goal weight in a year, going under the knife was the only way to tighten that saggy belly skin I’d be left with. But I had a secret weapon, Dr. Annie and Kristy convinced me to try Nerium Firming Body Contour Cream. If Annie says something works, I’ve learned to believe her. And just LOOK! It’s absolutely amazing!!! Dare I say my stomach looks quite close to how it looked during my college years (after a few beers…lol)? Sure, I have a few pregnancy stretch marks but I kinda love them. The Firming Lotion lightened them significantly. Even though I love what they represent, I also love that they are lightening! This company sells only clinically proven products for wellness and anti-aging developed with a Princeton-affiliated biotech company, Signum Biosciences. Click here to get Nerium Firming AD Contour Cream for yourself.  I’m a believer!img_5613.jpg

I am here to tell you that you can BOTH love your body and be proud of what it did in pregnancy and postpartum, and also want your skin and stretch marks to look better.  I look at that before picture and feel that love and admiration for my body, AND I look at the after picture and feel love and admiration for the hard work it takes to help heal this body that grew two tiny humans that I love more than anything in this world.

I feel such enormous gratitude and admiration to these experts and friends that I feel compelled to tell you all and shine some light on their awesomeness. As you are considering Christmas gifts, don’t forget to invest in yourself. Don’t forget to call in the experts. Don’t forget that the value of these all FAR outweigh the costs. Plus, you’ll save your partner or family members the trouble of coming up with gift ideas – tell them you want this, make it easy on them, haha!

IMG_5705

I’ve still got work to do – more goals to hit and more milestones to celebrate, but at this point I am in the long game, and can’t wait to enjoy every minute of the adventure.

Don’t underestimate the power of consistency and desire

Your imperfect friend,

Margo

 

The Skinny on Intermittent Fasting

This post is not meant to replace the advice of your personal health care provider, but to give information and personal experiences. Always consult your health care provider if you’re not sure about a health decision being right for you.

Kristy here at Real As A M*ther! We like to give you straight-talkin info on #RealLife. A lot of people are talking about different diet options – especially this time of year – and Intermittent Fasting is one that is currently buzzing. However, turns out many people have no idea what it means. We are here to give an overview!

Okay, so there isn’t a huge surprise here. We’re talking about a lifestyle that changes you. We’re not saying it’s a “miracle diet” or even saying that it works for everyone, but my husband and I (and Margo) are just really excited to share with you what type of eating lifestyle has helped us reach our ideal mind-body goals: It’s called Intermittent Fasting and here is why we think it’s frickin’ amazing.

clock-on-a-plate.jpg

What is it?

Intermittent Fasting is a pattern of eating,  where you eat within a specific period of time through your day, and fast for the rest. Essentially, you have a feeding window, when you’ll get your calories in, and a fasting window, when you don’t eat anything. Pretty self explanatory, right? The most common eating/fasting ratio is 8 hours of eating and a 16 hours of fasting. There are also those who go a whole 24 hours on/24 off, sometimes longer.

images (1).jpeg

But…. why?

Why does the timing matter? How does your body do different things as a result of not eating for an extended period of time? Well, we don’t claim to be registered nutritionists, (But folks like Thomas DeLauer do, and he shows in this video that he knows his crap.) but it’s like this: when you eat, your body throws everything it’s got at breaking down food, taking the contents of what you ate, all the nutrients and calories and carbs, and doing what it needs to with them. And after that, what it’s SUPPOSED to be doing (if you fast) is to spend some time cleaning house, recycling cells, building tissue, eliminating bacteria… Seem too simple to be true? Keep reading…

The Deets (getting sciency here, so skip if you want)

To understand the physiology component of the lifestyle, we must first understand a term called autophagy. This, according to Japan’s Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi (who won a Nobel Prize in 2016 for studying this stuff), is when the body goes into self-cleaning mode. When we allow ourselves to go into a state of “starvation” (aka fasting), damaged cells, proteins and toxins are recycled and removed. All of this burns calories and your metabolism also picks up! It starts burning fat into the glucose your brain and muscles need while you’re not taking any in (aka gluconeogenesis). This results in – yep, you guessed it – body fat loss.

But this can only happen when you allow your body to do it. By not forcing it to constantly process meals and spend all of it’s energy in the digestion process, it can start taking care of itself and mending and repairing. Eating constantly is a little like trying to clean your house while also hosting a play-date with 6 kids under 6… Not efficient to say the least.

The level of “clean up” your body can accomplish with constant calorie intake…

What’s it like?

So what should you expect if you decide to try it? Well, for starters, you’ll probably be hungry. But only for a little while, until your body gets used to the lowered insulin levels. The first 8 hours of your fast is after dinner/sleep, so that’s a freebie! If you’re done eating at 8pm, you’ll be fasting till noon.

white ceramic mug filled with brown liquid on heart shaped coffee beans
Photo by Jessica Lewis on Pexels.com

I personally was never a big breakfast eater, because of 6am workouts and early work days. So I kinda skipped the hunger phase adjustment. But yeah, you’ll probably be hungry. Does that mean you take in nothing?? No, you can have black coffee (has to be black. NO calories. NO creamers). Or, you can drink some unflavored seltzer water to make your gut feel full. And always drink lots of water during your fast. Your daily aim is to take 1/2 your weight in pounds and drink that many ounces daily. You should have half of that by noon.

Water intake: If you weight 140 lbs, aim to drink at least 70 ounces water daily, 35 ounces by lunch.

You’ll be trying to make it till noon, or 1. Or 2! Then, eat. And eat well. Aim for lots of protein, fibrous veggies, and plenty of healthy fat! You’ll have 8 hours – noon to 8pm (if you’re doing the typical 16/8 I.F. method) to get in your calories for the day in this “feeding window”. You should not try to ‘cut calories’ during this time, you won’t have enough fuel for fasting time. You’ll notice once you’re used to it that during your fasting window, you’re sharp as a tack, and awake, and alert, and focused. If you remain hungry in your fast, it means you’re not eating enough fat, protein and fiber during your feed and this will. not. work.

Is this just another fad?

Admittedly, it’s certainly got the looks of one, considering that it’s the new hot thing to do. But think about the religious significance around fasting that dates back millennia. And then consider that, in the wild, animals fast. All of them do. Watch National Geographic and tell me when the lion takes a break from it’s day to eat easily prepared meal #3. Animals often go days without eating.

And I’m not saying that this is a cure for cancer (although during autophagy, induced by fasting, cancer cells can be found and eliminated according to this Oxford Academic Article), but we don’t see many animals in the wild with tumors. True, we don’t see many animals in the wild eating GMOs and processed food, but consider the connection between the natural process of autophagy and animals being in the wild.

images (2).jpeg

I’d argue that the “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” thing was a fad at one point. One based on not a whole lot of science. “Three square meals a day” is a Western cultural construction. It’s an old one, yes. But at one time, humans ate when they found food, when they got their kill, or maybe when they found a fruit bearing tree. Feeding the body lots of times through the day, including forcing yourself to eat in the morning even when you don’t want to, is a brand new fad when you look at the grand timeline of our existence. Pssst…… so are most of the diseases we deal with that relate directly to obesity, which is a direct result of calorie mismanagement.  

So let’s sum up the potential benefits:

  1. Weight Loss, usually quite efficiently, combined with an increase in lean muscle mass integrity
  2. Anti-Aging properties due to the autophagy process.
  3. Potential disease prevention, currently being investigated for cancers, Alzheimer’s Disease, and diabetes
  4. Increase in and stabilization of energy for the day
  5. Improved mental sharpness – losing that afternoon sugar-craving-sleepy-slump
  6. Decrease insulin spikes from calorie intake, which increases insulin sensitivity

Fasting-Socrates.jpg

I’ve seen the results in myself and my friends to prove it can be wonderful. What questions do you have? We would love to help!

550_10151999837184297_1041726321_n.jpg

Brandon Wright assisted as guest co-writer. He is a passionate advocate for food as fuel, woodworker, and husband of Kristy in Virginia.

PostPartum Rage Is A Real Thing.

A couple of weeks ago, an article came across my newsfeed that stopped me dead in my tracks. We have discussed postpartum depression and anxiety here on the blog to help normalize the conversations about those two particular, and VERY prevalent, states of motherhood. But, what about those of us who have had both of those things manifest differently? What about those of us that cannot pinpoint what it is that we are feeling, leaving us confused, feeling isolated, and abnormal? What if our symptoms are not only sadness, stress, or anxiety? (as if that isn’t enough…sheesh)

Postpartum-Depression-Treatment-Philadelphia
Photo Credit to Actify Neurotherapies

Commonly known symptoms of PPD and PPA are mentioned above, but with one caveat. The Anger/Rage category that is seemingly brushed over for the other symptoms listed here. My own postpartum manic anxiety turned into something I had never even knew existed until a couple of weeks ago…….it was FULL. BLOWN. RAGE.

Have you ever just been having a normal conversation, and something triggers you and you have this overwhelming anger that makes your ears turn bright red, your blood boil, and before you know it, your whole family is crying because you’ve screamed for the last five minutes without knowing what you’ve said or even why?

Have you found yourself trying like hell to not throw something across the room when the toilet seat is peed on and you forget to check before you sit, and end up throwing said object anyway?

I have.

Hi, my name is Kristy, and I am just realizing that I have suffered from PostPartum Rage for 7 years.

People don’t often talk about this ugly symptom of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, because it describes a state of mind that is downright hard to talk about. To watch someone from the outside go through such uncontrollable anger must just look wrong. We have images within us that create this patient, loving, and kind image of a person that we hope to be as mothers.  I know that was my intention upon having children.  However, the “inner monster” that would come out of me during moments where I could not control my environmental triggers had other plans. It would create a panic that would lead to confusion, then frustration. Then, the trigger event happens and then boom….pop goes the mommy.

gettyimages-4879608591-800x533.jpg
Photo Credit New Scientist

I try to think back on all the times that I could feel my friends and family’s eyes on me, as I was triggered by the kids, dog, losing my keys or cell phone, or whatever. It was almost as if, in an instant, I would watch myself from outside my body. Normalcy would give way to rage, rage ended always in guilt, and all throughout this cycle, my inner voice is begging me,

200“Stop it this ISN’T a big deal! Breathe. Just please Breath.”

 

After my episode was over, I would go immediately into the depression cycle over the way I had “behaved” because I should have control over it. I would be so embarrassed for my family, that I’d regularly cry by myself or with my husband for significant periods of time over the next day or so. I’d then chalk it up to a bad day, pick myself up, and tell myself I’d never let it happen again.

But it always did.

The things is, I could not control it. It had its raging claws stuck in my brain, puppeteering me through episodes that could last seemingly for hours.

Thanks to Carolyn Wagner and her post on Motherly on a particularly bad day, I read what seem like a perfect description for what my postpartum symptoms were. I could never solidly say I was depressed or anxious all the time, but one thing I could always rely on, was having an anger button with a hair trigger.

When broken down though, Wagner explains it most perfectly by saying,

“In overwhelmed,  guilt 

I mean, Ding friggin’ ding. In one paragraph, I was given the gift I had always needed…… to feel UNDERSTOOD.

eureka.png

She goes on to say that it “  

But how can this be? I am a strong woman. I have a support system. I have a great life, with GREAT kids. BUT, none of my friends or family had ever mentioned this type of symptom before. I hadn’t really even seen it as a doula!  I allowed that feeling of abnormality assist in isolating my rage, as I saw myself separate from my peers.  This is what created room for false perception to take over within me. AKA, self- judgement.

giphy

After I peeled myself off the floor in a fit of tears, I immediately shared it on social media with Carolyn’s words still echoing in my head. The feedback was almost instant.

I really am not alone.

This symptom doesn’t go unnoticed, but it does seemingly get brushed under the rug in conversation. I believe it is more taboo because it is ugly, uncomfortable, and well……..angry.  Until now, I had felt that I had part monster inside of me. I even called it “Monster Mommy” while

01-postpartum-depression.jpg
Photo from Readers Digest

apologizing to my family after calming down from an episode. Since I have been gifted a jumping off point towards being more informed about Postpartum Rage, I can now start creating awareness of its episodes within myself and with my support system. With this mindful awareness, I can understand what sets me off at it’s core, and avoid getting myself into those situations.

 

In cases where triggers are unavoidable, I have enlisted the help of my husband. As per the article, I would track when and what would set me off. We came up with a code phrase, “you are spinning” to alert my brain to what is about to happen. And, I dare say, it has been a powerful helper. We worked together to find one that wouldn’t cause the trigger to go off more immediately such as “calm down” or “you’re getting upset”   <shutter….jaw clench……okay just breath>

No matter what it is you do, there are a few things I want you to know:

  1. It’s okay. And it is okay to talk about it.  Please know that others need to know that this is a SYMPTOM, which means it can be treated.  You can ask your care provider to help you through this time. But please, have a true discussion about it.
  2. There is help. If you are a partner, friend, or family member of someone and you read this, please know that your partner doesn’t want to have this symptom anymore than you or your kids want her to. So don’t be afraid to ask whoever you can for help with it.
  3. You are loved. Self care is extremely important as parents. So, I am letting you know that  shifting into a self-care routine is vital to managing this. Your loved ones will thank your newfound self-care awareness when you learn how to tell when you need a break before you explode.
  4. A recurring theme of mine is that you’re never alone. Ever. And this is no exception.

                              ….It takes a village.

 

DSC01901

Kristy is a doula, self-care advocate, struggle-bus rider, and mom of 2 in Virginia

 

Public Places, Crowded Spaces

I used to be really, really laid back.  I was so laid back, in fact, that many of my friends would comment about how much they loved having me around in large groups because I was so “go with the flow.”  When we were making plans, and everyone was trying to make a decision, I would often say, “I’m cool with whatever!”  And I meant it.  This wasn’t one of those, “I’m cool with whatever but then will be miserable with the decision.”  I legit would be happy anywhere with anyone and without complaint.

Image result for Go with the flow gif

Then, I had children.  Many people warned me about the ways we change after we make some miniature versions of ourselves.  For the most part, however, for me at least, they were all false.  I’m mostly the same person I was before kids.  Sure, I am a little feistier than my previous self (mess with my kids and you’ll get to see that lovely side of me).  I am still totally fine with going with the flow when it comes to me and plans with my friends.  However, despite all of the ways in which I didn’t change, I managed to change in the one way no one warned me about when it comes to my kids: Anxiety in Crowded Spaces.

I legit worry about people stealing my children.  All.  Of.  The.  Time.  Before I head into the grocery store?  I look for the various exits to make sure I know where they are in case I need to make a run for it.  In Target?  I eye all of the well-meaning strangers and tell my kids to stay in the cart at all times.  Before heading to a theme park like Disney?  Oh, you don’t even want to know.

Image result for anxiety children gif

This all came to a peak the day after Thanksgiving this year.  My dear friend had this great idea.  “Let’s go to the Children’s Museum!”  I thought this was awesome.  My kids were excited!  This was a place where you could touch and play with everything.  What could be better?  Right?  Right?!?!?

Y’all.  Everyone and their mothers were there.  I am not exaggerating.  There were so many people there that you could barely move without touching another person.  It was the first time I truly realized that new Mommy-Margo no longer is easy-going and go-with-the-flow in public, crowded places with my children.

Image result for crowded spaces gif

I could feel it happening.  I was getting hot.  I was tense and stressed any time I couldn’t see both of my children in the same spot while one was ducking under an exhibit or running around the corner to go up stairs to a slide.

I managed to hold it all in and not verbally fret over my children, save for the occasional, “Hey, Levi, please stay close to your sister!”  Just because I have turned into the worst-case-scenario lady doesn’t mean my children should suffer, right?

Image result for worst case scenario gif

So, since I am a solution-oriented person, I called my OBGYN.  I was like, “Is it possible for me to have post-partum anxiety STILL?!  Two years later?!?”  She then asked me a bunch of questions, including the most important one, which was, “Does this feeling keep you from doing activities like going to the store or going to the museum or the park with your kids?  Does this feeling keep you from sleeping or eating?”  The answer was a no.  “So,” she said, “what you are feeling is the normal fear we all parents have.  It’s due to the news, and the world, and life.  Having children means worrying about them, too.  If you feel like it’s impairing your ability to do normal things, though, you need to schedule a time to come in and see me.”

So sure, I might be that person who, in preparation for a trip to Disney will write my phone number in sharpie on my children’s arms, put a tracker on their body and dress them in bright colors down to their shoes.  But apparently, it’s ok and I’m not alone.

Image result for disney sharpie on arm gif

(This is not my phone number, but… you get the idea!)

Is this all over the top?  Maybe.  Am I resourceful and prepared?  Hell yea.  I am a planner after all.

If you are having these feelings, remember to be honest with yourself.  If it’s causing problems in your life, there are lots of ways out there to deal with it, and lots of professionals ready, willing and able to help you.  The Postpartum Support International website has lots of great resources – and NO, there is no time-limit on when you are considered “postpartum”.

Capture postpartum support

And, most of all, remember – you aren’t alone.

 

Pathways picture #3Margo is a financial adviser and mom of 2 little ones in Maryland.

Supporting a Friend During Infertility

Infertility is a topic that will impact nearly all women in some way. Either yourself or someone you know will likely struggle with this – it affects 1 in every 10 women. For some women, it can feel unbearable to wait 6 months to get pregnant – others will wait years and spend thousands of dollars, undergoing invasive treatments to conceive. As more women wait until they’re a bit older to start trying to conceive, more struggle with this every day. As a physician, I am very well practiced at discussing the “medical” side of this when patients come into the office…. but as a friend? I still struggle to come up with the right things to say and do.

I reached out to one of my #WCW’s, Natalie Bushman, fellow mommy-blogger at Nat your average girl, for some help and am so happy to share her wisdom here. On her blog, she has shared her journey through new motherhood, then through secondary infertility (difficulty conceiving after a successful natural pregnancy), the twin pregnancy that resulted from treatments and being a mom of 3 along with fabulous personal style and home decor posts.

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 1.15.46 PM
Total blogger crush on this cute fam!

She recently discovered they’ll be bringing baby #4 into the family (congrats!!!) and I asked her to give us some insight into being there for friends who are going through an infertility journey since she’s personally experienced this from multiple angles.

Thinking back to when you first got pregnant with Blair, did you have friends who were already dealing with infertility issues? How did you approach them with news of your pregnancy then?

I was one of the first people to get pregnant in my friend group and didn’t know anyone at the time experiencing infertility. Looking back though, I was so naive and it never even crossed my mind that I could have a hard time getting pregnant (even though my Mom struggled for years). I just assumed that since I was healthy with a regular cycle that it would be a cinch… and lucky for me it was the first time! I didn’t think twice about miscarriage or not seeing a heartbeat at the first appointment. Ignorance was bliss but oh how the tables have turned!
IMG_8066.JPG
Baby Blair, their 1st

I’m sure people had all kinds of responses when you were struggling to get pregnant the second time around. You’ve blogged about the things people should NOT say to couples. Did any friends or family members say things that were helpful and supportive?

Yes, my close friends were amazing. Honestly one of the best things to say is simply,
I’m sorry. That’s so hard. Is there anything I can do for you to help?
Totally basic but shows that you care even if you haven’t experienced infertility yourself. The other things that helped were when my friends would check in on me after they knew I had a big appointment. Or they would say, “Call me after your appointment. I want to hear what the doctor said.” Things like that. Things that you would say to anyone going through a hard time or health scare. It’s just about showing you care. Hearing that someone is praying for a specific need of mine also made me feel better. To know that I wasn’t forgotten.

How can people approach this with friends who they aren’t sure if they’re having fertility problems – do you think that’s different than how you approach friends who have told you outright they’re in fertility treatment?

Ok, so I actually had a friend who told me she was struggling but she hadn’t told anyone else. At that point, she had an adopted child but had made it clear that he wasn’t adopted because of fertility reasons. She had even previously made it known to our friend group that she didn’t have a desire to have biological kids. However, over the course of time, things changed and her desire to have bio kids grew.  In group settings, it would be wildly uncomfortable because I knew to be sensitive but others didn’t. Other moms would share their birth/breastfeeding stories and I would try to direct the conversation elsewhere.
However, if people don’t know you are struggling then you really can’t expect them to be sensitive…especially if you have previously made it clear you aren’t interested in being pregnant. I guess it’s a balance. It kind of depends on your relationship with the person. I steer clear of asking strangers any type of kid-related questions. But if you’re my good friend and you’ve decided to be tight-lipped, then that is harder to help. Overall, I guess it’s just always best to be sensitive. But if people aren’t honest with their situation then it becomes harder to be sensitive.

Did you want people who knew what you were going through to check in on you regularly? Or did you feel like you just wanted to update them and not be bothered?

I kind of referred to this a little bit in question three. For me, I liked having people check in on me. There was only one instance in which I protected myself from this and that was right after IVF. I knew that I would get the phone call on December 28th that would tell me if I was pregnant or not (it was through a blood test result) and I purposely told my friends I wouldn’t know till December 30th. I wanted to be able to process the news (if it was bad) with just Matt. I wanted to have time to wrap my mind around it and be sad for a little while. I didn’t want to have to field a bunch of texts and phone calls. When we did find out I was pregnant I told them that day…it was too good to hold in!
IMG_5221.JPG
Evie and Cal

Did you worry about announcing this recent pregnancy since you didn’t have trouble conceiving this time?

Oh, totally. I was sweating over it. I know that a lot of my followers are dealing with infertility and I wanted to be SO sensitive to that. It was this weird mix of emotions because I was so thrilled/surprised by our pregnancy but so distraught over how others still struggling would react. I prayed that they would be encouraged and filled with hope that this could happen for them too, instead of feeling bitter or angry. This may sound ridiculous but when I was having a hard time getting pregnant, and I knew someone who just “looked at their husband” and got pregnant, I would be mad. But if someone who had struggled like me got pregnant, I would be so happy for them. Was that fair of me? No. But if I’m being honest I did have those feelings initially. Part of me hoped that since I had struggled in the past that I wouldn’t be that “annoying pregnant girl.”
For some reason, we seem to be happier for people who have “overcome” to get where they are. It sure makes for an incredible story. But, I regret being spiteful to those who didn’t have the same struggle as me. So what if they can get pregnant easily? You never know what else they could be dealing with behind closed doors… an abusive partner, ongoing sickness, the death of a parent, unemployment, depression… the list goes on and on. There’s so much sadness in our world.
I think if we all had a little more grace we’d all be better off!
ACS_0471.JPG
I can’t think of any better parting advice than that! Thank you Natalie! And friends, if you don’t already, go follow this awesome mama on instagram @natyouraveragegirl and check out her blog!
DSC_4458BW
Dr. Annie is a family doctor and mom in the Sacramento, CA area.