Tag Archives: talk therapy

Let it go…

You guys. This is, in my opinion, the BEST version of ‘Let It Go’ EVER. I mean, seriously. Just watch it.

OK, maybe I’m a bit biased, but whatever. To me, hearing my just-turned-two year old son “sing” is one of the brightest moments of my day!

I’m sure I’m not the only one whose house has been flooded with “Frozen” references. (Right?! Please, tell me I’m not alone here…) Even if you live in Antarctca and don’t have kids, you’ve probably heard the song “Let It Go.” Although, now that I think of it, Antarctica would be, of all places, the most appropriate to watch “Frozen”, yes?

Anyway, in my home, the Oscar-winning song has become well-quoted. It comes in handy, for instance, when Tori is trying to take a toy from Anders and starts singing, “Let It Go…” Or when I get annoyed because the kids just knocked over a pile of FOURTEEN folded shirts and my husband starts singing, “Let It Go…”

It has become ingrained into our American life whether we like it or not. And I promise you, when my daughter is 15 and is sulking about not getting her own way, I WILL be that mom who starts singing “Let It Go” in front of her friends.

But think about it. There’s a reason the song is so well-received. It’s a mantra we’ve all heard and said before, correct? But, and I may be going out on a limb here, it’s a concept that is SO FRIGGING HARD TO DO. And we hate hearing someone say it to us.

When Elsa sings about letting it go, she is talking about releasing pent-up emotions, fears and hidden secrets, and allowing herself to be her own unique person, flaws and all.

But often when someone tells us to “let it go”, they’re implying that we are over-reacting or misinterpreting a situation. Or it can mean that we have to take the high road and JUST IGNORE someone else’s ignorance/hurtfulness/flaws/irrationality. Because, you know, it’s so easy to just ignore things that WE KNOW are wrong, right? All of us have these kinds of people in our lives. People who bring you down, who seem to be clueless about the fact that they are saying hurtful things, or who are so irrational and illogical that you start wondering if THEY are normal and YOU are crazy.

But, as the song implies, there is freedom to be found when you are no longer bound to those things or people that bring you down. I know for me personally, it is easy to let other people affect the way I am feeling. I can very quickly go from being content to feeling self-conscious, stupid (“why did I say that??”), ugly, unwanted, or inadequate. I now realize that half of the time I am over-analyzing things and creating scenarios in my mind. But for the other, real moments, I have finally been able to understand that most often, I just need to LET. IT. GO. This is not, and never has been, easy for me.

Being able to let it go assumes several things. It assumes that you are mentally objective enough to look at a situation and analyze it truthfully. It assumes that you recognize and accept that NO ONE IS PERFECT, including yourself. When you have a very high/unrealistic standard for yourself, naturally, albeit wrongly, that standard gets placed onto other people. This is where I struggle the most. My most current prayer is that God helps me to show people grace and understanding, the same way he shows it to me.

And letting it go assumes that you have the ability to forgive. You truly cannot let it go until you have forgiven. And boy, is that hard. True forgiveness does not come easy to us (me). We want justice. We want revenge. We want to be recognized as RIGHT. And if none of that happens, forgiveness is the last thing we want to do. But again, we cannot truly let it go until we have forgiven.

The challenge I’ve given myself right now is that every time I hear the song “Let It Go” (which, at least in the last 3 days, has been about 2,137 times), I ask myself : Is there something in my life that I need to let go? Is there a person I’m holding a grudge against? Is there something I did a lonnnnggg time ago that I can’t forgive myself for? Is there just something that is part of my life that will never change, that I have to just accept “as is” and just let it go??

I know, perhaps I’ve been waaaay to analytical with a Disney song… Sorry. It’s just how my mind works :) Anyway, the next time you sing or hear the song, “Let It Go,” I’d like to challenge you think for a moment about something that maybe you need to LET GO. And then, let it go!

PS: You’ll now be singing this song for the next hour. You’re welcome.

My Battle Plan: 7 ways I’m fighting depression

My last two posts describe my journey of acknowledging that I suffer from depression. In this post, I’d like to share with you some of the ways I’m fighting that depression. I consider these things to be part of my battle plan; they are, literally, very intentional steps and tools I use to slay the monster that constantly threatens to rise. They are best effective when being done simultaneously; to pick and choose is not an option for me – that would be the same as putting on a chestplate but ignoring the helmet. It’s truly a holistic approach.

So, without further ado, here are 7 ways I’m fighting my depression!

1. I am on an anti-depressant. Please. Don’t stop reading! I reached an all-time low when Anders was about 10 weeks old. At that point, my mind was so overcome with a dark, all-consuming and sometimes frantic cloud that I literally had trouble forming coherent sentences. (You can read more about my symptoms in my earlier post.) When I finally went to my doctor, she recommended a low-dose of sertraline, a “selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitor” (SSRI). I had mixed feelings about starting a prescription medication; didn’t that mean that I was “quitting” my fight? That I wasn’t praying enough? That I was now certifiably “crazy”?

Thankfully, I have wise people in my life to dispel those lies for me. A serotonin imbalance is just that: it’s a physical, chemical imbalance. My husband and I prayed a lot about this. I realized that my perception of God was that if I took this medicine, I’d be turning my back on him. I came to understand, through wise counsel of friends and family, that God does not view us this way! He knows that our physical bodies are FLAWED. We get sick. We get cancer. We get injured. And God has given us the ability to create medicine to help us heal. (Here’s a great article on Christians and anti-depressants.)

Sertraline is not a “happy pill.” That’s just not the way an SSRI works. But what it did do was pull the dark cloud back just enough for me to see my situation in a more objective way. I wasn’t all of a sudden “Happy! Yay! Isn’t life grand!” But I stopped feeling overwhelmed with anger. I stopped sobbing for hours. I started noticing when my daughter laughed and my son smiled.

I started to see clearly for the first time in months, and I could finally breathe.

2. I started exercising regularly. Once my medicine allowed me to come up for air, I knew it was only beginning of my journey. I started researching depression, and one of the most common ways to help fight it is to have a very regular exercise plan. Exercise has been proven to release serotonin into your brain! So we joined the local YMCA and thankfully my kids love the childcare there. :-) I try to go 4-5 times a week. This is a lot, I know, but I NEED to do it. If I go more than a few days without exercising, I notice a distinct change in my mood (yes, even while on the SSRI – again, it’s not a “happy pill”!)

The big thing for me is making the choice to JUST SHOW UP. I never regret going once I’m there!

image3. I started memorizing scripture and being more intentional with my prayers. Why? I know some of you don’t believe in God or prayers, but I do, and I hope you can read this knowing that I’m just sharing my own experience. :-) Now that I know my brain has a tendency to become depressed, I need to arm myself with the peace that comes from the Word of God. Some of you might call it “positive thoughts”, but I truly believe there is power when scripture is spoken. A sweet friend wrote out a few verses for me and I have placed them around my house in spots where I spend a lot of time (my bathroom, my kitchen counter, the laundry room, etc.). This forces me to turn my thoughts to God instead of focusing on the stress of a “To Do” list. Scripture and prayer help me feel more centered and stable, and I swear it makes my blood pressure drop :-)

For a list of my favorite verses that help encourage and empower me, visit my resources page!

4. I surround myself with supportive friends. I have talked about my great circle of friends from my church: strong, loving, non-judgmental and honest women who have been a huge part in my recovery. If you don’t have a group of friends like this (and I’m not talking about friends who just say, “oh, I’m sorry” but friends who call you specifically to say “How are you today? What can I pray for?”), then I’d sincerely encourage finding a counselor or therapist you can talk to. TALKING about your feelings sounds so cliché, but it is SO FREEING!!! I have forced my husband to feel comfortable using the word “depression.” Because, after all, if I’m living with depression, and AJ lives with me, then AJ is living with depression, too.

5. I try to get enough sleep. “Enough” of course, can vary for each individual. Right now, I have two small children. My 3 year old daughter still likes to get “help” using the potty in the middle of the night (beats having an accident!) and my son still suffers from reflux/upset tummy off-and-on. I never know if I’ll have a solid nights’ sleep or, like last night, be awake three times from 12:00-3:00am.

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If I go too long with poor sleep, I REALLY notice my mood gets terrible. This happens to anyone! And it can be especially dangerous for someone battling depression. Therefore, I do two main things to help ensure I am sleep-savvy: 1) I take naps when I feel I need one. Simple. No questions. Laundry and dishes come second to sleep. 2.) I communicate with my husband about it!! If I’m drained, I’ll ask him to be the one to get up in the night, and I’ll put in earplugs. Thankfully he falls back to sleep very quickly and is willing to help in this area.

6. I try to maintain general good health. This means eating well, which, for me means minimal carbs and wheat and focusing more on proteins and produce. (Did you know chronic depression can be a symptom of a gluten sensitivity?!) It means taking the proper vitamin supplements to ensure my body can fight diseases. It means being outside, in the sun (vitamin D can help fight depression!), and being active.image

7. I take breaks. My husband and I try to be intentional about planning regular dates, and this meant working babysitting costs into our budget. I also try to take a break from the kids and house at least once or twice a month, to go shopping or get coffee or go out with some girlfriends. This is so important because it allows you to think about things besides your “duties”! it can be so freeing to get away, even if just for a few hours.

My approach to fighting my depression is, I believe, a holistic one. I’m trying to prepare myself so that if I ever need or want to stop taking my medication, then I am fully able to do so without it being a catastrophe. And in order to do that I need to objectively and deliberately look at ALL areas of my life and adjust them accordingly.

My “battle plan” is unique to me. If you are suffering depression (any kind of depression, not just post-partum!), you need to evaluate your OWN circumstances and create a battle plan that is right for you! But I hope that I have at least given you a place to start, and have sparked some thoughts of change and hope in your life. You can overcome this! And until it is completely overcome, you CAN manage it, and you can live a life in full bloom.  :-)

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Disclaimer:

I am not a medical professional, nor do I play one on TV. The comments and opinions expressed in these articles are merely comments and opinions. Please seek professional medical advice before making any changes to the diet, exercise, or medication of yourself or your children.

How I knew it was more than “just hormones” – PART TWO

In my previous post, I talked about the reason why it is so dangerously easy for women suffering from post-partum (or prenatal) depression to think, “Oh, it’s just the hormones.” Because, after all, we’ve been saying and hearing that our entire lives.

I want to preface this post by saying this: HINDSIGHT IS 20/20. And that really sucks, huh?!? No fair! If only we had clarity and common sense and objectiveness DURING our trials instead of AFTER! But alas, it is what it is, and I’m grateful that now I’m looking at things in hindsight and not in the depths of it.

imageWhen I was 7 months pregnant with my second baby (my adorably charming son, Anders, now 21 months old), my husband and I went on a much-needed date. While we were waiting for our food to arrive, my husband looked me in the eye, and said, “How ARE you?” And to thank him for such a kind question, I started sobbing. You guys, I don’t mean like, oh, sniff, a tear! But, GUSH, swollen nose, red eyes, snot and drool. NOT pretty. Poor AJ. He was flabbergasted.

I told him, “I’m just so hormonal…” And then the moment came. I knew I needed to TALK to him, to tell him that, maybe, just maybe? it was MORE than “just hormones” and that, maybe? I was actually depressed. I told him we’d talk when we got home, that P.F. Chang’s other customers didn’t deserve to see or hear what I had to say. :-) And when we got home, I talked. And cried.

This was a pivotal moment for me; it was the first time I’d said the word “depressed” to my husband. I told him how I’d been feeling that everything was pointless and that I just couldn’t get excited about things anymore. I told him I felt like I was walking around outside of myself, watching me interact but not truly being present. I knew he didn’t fully understand; how could he? But he listened and was supportive. And life continued.

I gave birth to Anders on April 5, 2012. He was 8lb 10oz (2 oz shy of his big sister!) and we were so excited. My healthy, strong baby boy was delivered after 3 pushes and being in the hospital for 2 hours. Talk about easy!

But then I tried to breastfeed. And all of my horrible memories of trying to feed my daughter came flooding back. Even our lactation consultant was the same one we had with her!! And Anders had the same exact issue as his sister: he literally could not open his mouth wide enough to feed properly. So we went home.

To read a little more on my struggle with breastfeeding, I wrote a brief post on it during Breastfeeding Awareness Week.

Anders was a perfect little champ (except in the feeding area) for the next 4 weeks. He was a very typical baby, waking every 3 hrs or so, and otherwise just sleeping all day. To be honest, I don’t really remember too much of those first 5 weeks. This is, in hindsight, the first big symptom of my post-partum depression: I was not fully present in my surroundings. It was a complete fog. I was going through the motions.

imageBut I do remember when we first started noticing his acid reflux (how can one forget your child SHRIEKING in pain?!?) and the many, many doctor visits and the trial and error tests of formulas and prescription medicines and refusal to eat and his loss of weight and general discomfort ALL DAY AND NIGHT LONG. His doctor asked me, “How are you doing?” and I said, “It’s been a long month” and I distinctly remember thinking, “Don’t cry, don’t cry, you’re just tired. It’s just the hormones.” He was about 6 weeks old at this point.

I had my 6 week check-up with my OB. I was still sore (I had 3rd degree perineal tearing) but was healing fine. She said, “Any symptoms of depression?” and I said, “Oh, you know, the usual hormonal stuff…”

What I didn’t tell these doctors (kind, caring, professional women who have known me for years, by the way) was that every time I tried to get Anders to fall asleep and he didn’t (which was quite often) I would be so overcome with ANGER and RAGE that I would literally leave him, crying, in his swing, while I fell to the floor shaking and sobbing.

What I didn’t tell them was that when I attended any sort of social function, I felt that my speech was stuttered. That I literally couldn’t form a complete sentence and say it properly.

What I didn’t tell them was that during the night, during those precious few hours when my son was actually asleep, I was wide awake, my mind restless and unrelenting.

I didn’t tell them that in general, I just didn’t care. Don’t get me wrong; I loved my children desperately, and, thank the Lord, I never once felt that I was going to harm anyone, even myself. But, when I wasn’t overcome with anger, I had an extreme apathy for everything. My daughter’s laugh on the swing didn’t make me smile. Her interactions with her baby brother made me feel, if anything, a desperate hopelessness that I would never be the mother they really needed.

I didn’t tell anyone that all day, every day, I felt like a failure.

One of my darkest moments came when Anders was about 8 weeks old. As usual, I was trying to get him to sleep ANYWHERE BUT IN MY ARMS and was failing. My entire being filled with an inexplicable anger. I put him in the swing and sank to the floor, sobbing tears that were desperately uncontrollable. My mind was completely blank yet so out of control that literally the only thing I could think of to pray was the name of Jesus. I said it out loud: “Jesus”, over and over and over again until I finally calmed down. And then I prayed, “Please, please, please, don’t let my children be affected by this. Protect them from this, from me.”

It was that prayer that made me realize that maybe I needed help. The fact that that one day, my children might say, “yeah, my mom was depressed a lot” scared the daylights out of me. I needed to get help, even if just to protect my children from the effects of living with someone with unmanaged depression.

imageMy best friend visited from New Hampshire the next week. She is like a sister to me, and I’ve always been able to be completely honest with her. Talking about how I was feeling was such a relief. I told her what I was experiencing, and she saw it firsthand. She did not judge me, nor did she say, “oh, it’s probably just the hormones.” She was able to look at my situation objectively and simply said, “You need to get help. You need to call your doctor.” What a wise, beautiful woman she is.

I finally saw my doctor about 4 weeks later. 4 WEEKS!! It truly is amazing that, in the midst of feeling so out of control, the last thing I wanted to do was to talk to my doctor about it. As I’ve mentioned before, admitting you struggle with depression is the hardest step.

In my next post, I’m going to talk more about how I decided to fight my depression. I’ll go into detail about what I call my “battle plan” and the steps I’ve taken.

Please, if you have been wondering, “Is it more than ‘just’ hormones?” either about yourself or about a loved one, TALK about it. Share my story. Share my symptoms. Visit the links on my resource page. Use me as an excuse to bring the subject up. That’s why I’m writing this; I truly, firmly believe that all of us need the chance to live our lives in full bloom. :-)

Oh yes, it’s ladies night!

…oh what a night!

OK, so we really didn’t go crazy. At all. We are all moms with young kids and were asleep by 10:45 on the second night of our girls’ weekend, thinking to ourselves, “OH MY GOSH IT IS SO FRIGGING LATE.” Haha :)

Following in a recently established annual tradition, last weekend I was privileged to spend two nights at a local resort (thank you, corporate discount!) with some of the most beautiful, loving, encouraging and funny ladies I know. AND we were lucky enough to hear national author Margaret Feinberg speak at our church’s women’s retreat (more on that later!). Doesn’t get much better!

The LadiesThe 6 of us attend the same church and are part of a group that basically does life together.  Our kids play together, we bring meals to each other when we have a newborn or are sick, we text pictures of our kids’ Major Poop Incidents to each other. (That is assuming we aren’t present for said Major Poop Incidents; I have literally wiped my friends’ [newborn] daughter’s poop off the floor at Dunkin Donuts while she whisked her out to the car for a hose down… [TMI??]) Enter song: “That’s What Friends Are For…”

But this weekend marked a BIG milestone for me. Because one year ago was the first time I actually TALKED in depth about my depression to anyone besides my husband. And these women were there for me then, and still are. They saw me weep, laugh, and weep some more. I said things to them I had said only in my mind. I told them things that probably didn’t make any sense and, in hindsight, might have scared them. I have never in my life been so vulnerable with anyone. (Read: it was A REALLY BIG DEAL.)

I think of it as my “coming out”, in a way. For some reason, struggling with depression is considered socially “taboo” in many circles. If you are truly struggling with it, you certainly aren’t talking about it. And because no one talks about it, you think you’re the only one who is struggling with it. It is, pardon my language, bull shit.

Every psychiatrist will tell you that admitting and accepting that you have depression is a very important step in the healing process. Taking the HUGE step of openly talking with my friends about my struggle with depression is one of the biggest elements of my treatment plan toward my recovery and victory. I am so, so grateful that these women are in my life, and are so honest, raw, loving and accepting. I truly don’t think I could’ve come as far as I have without them and their support.

Needless to say, this past weekend was great. We got a much needed break from the daily grind, and some time to reflect on the past year and to catch up on each other’s lives. (Isn’t it amazing how we can see each other so often yet not actually talk about anything important?? Too much “Mommy??? Mommy?? Mommy!!!”)

I got 9 hours of UNINTERRUPTED sleep, AND not a single Major Poop Incident occurred. Yep. I’m feeling good! :)