MAY: Postpartum Depression Awareness Month

MAY Postpartum Depression Awareness Month

After having their baby, new moms may experience intense feelings of long-lasting sadness, or postpartum depression. Postpartum Depression isn’t synonymous with being a weak or bad mother. It is a medical condition and, like other medical conditions, can get better with treatment. Remember that many new moms experience a range of emotions from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety about bonding and bringing home a newborn.

Some signs that what you may be experiencing is more than the “baby blues” are feelings of intense and severe depression, thoughts of impending doom, withdrawing from family and friends, confusion, trouble bonding with your baby, fearful to be left alone with your baby, and contemplation about hurting yourself or your baby. We are still unsure as to what causes this, but the good news is that we can treat it!  Untreated postpartum depression can last for several months or years.  If you notice any of the signs above, tell someone and/or inform your doctor immediately.  He or she will be able to link you with counseling, support groups, and medication.

With a whole month dedicated to awareness around postpartum depression I hope this will encourage more mothers to speak up and get the help, care and support they deserve.

Depression: It’s Not Just Crying in a Dark Room

Megan Smiling Full Size

Depression has a stigma, I have to admit it. Especially in the African American and other minority communities. I can remember even saying myself, “I don’t have time to be depressed, I have a kid to raise and work to do.” Then I went through it. It took me a while to realize that it didn’t look like what I thought it would.

The signs for me were more subtle.

It all started with a slow progression in weight gain. In 2005 I was a tight size 8. I loved the way that I looked and enjoyed shopping, I felt like I looked good in my clothes. Then someone told me that I was too skinny and didn’t have enough hips. At the time in my head, I was thinking, “Go to hell. I look good to me.” BUT, unbeknownst to me, I heard it and I internalized it. So began the weight gain. Somehow it became my mission to look like someone else wanted me to look. At my heaviest I was 182 pounds, a size 18 and at 5’2” tall that was way too much. I began to hate how I looked.

Next was the comfort eating. Now mind you I did not have the awareness that this was going on at the time. I’ve always been a foodie who enjoyed eating and cooking. But my consumption of sweets and my favorite things that “I” cooked increased. When I felt down at night and could not sleep, I would eat some chocolate chip cookies. If I felt down during the day, I would go to my favorite restaurant because alone I didn’t have to hear about how much I was spending. Or worry about how much I was spending. Went I felt alone in between, I snacked on unhealthy things that made feel better for a short time. I stopped going to workout. I used to go a minimum of 3 times a week.

Sleep eluded me. I wasn’t sleeping. On an average night I slept about 5 hours a night. I would toss and turn, wake in the middle of the night or just not sleep at all. This had been going on for several years and was starting to have an effect on the way that I looked and my effectiveness. Many times while driving during the day I would nod off…in broad daylight! Praise GOD I am still here and I didn’t hurt anyone else doing that mess.

Lack of Confidence was consuming me. Now those who know me and see me, think I have it all together. In many ways I did but I was losing my ability to manage things as well as I used to. I had all sorts of ideas, expansion plans and other ways to help people through my business, my ministry. I just couldn’t get them off of the ground. I let fear overtake me, even though the Holy Spirit had been constantly prompting me to start a group to help other women. I was stressed out, felt like crying all the time and just could not finish anything. I believed that because I did not have my life together and was living in a façade that I had nothing to offer anyone else.

None of these events separately looked like depression to me. It seemed to me I was just having a bad day, or a bad week or a bad couple of months. Then, what I knew as specific symptoms of depression started to hit me.

I did not leave my room or and would barely get out of bed. Now do not get it twisted I was “functioning” during this time. I got up and went to work, went to church, networked, went to Bible study…you name it. BUT when I was at home and did not have any outside responsibilities, I did nothing. I stayed in my room, in my bed all day and all night. I mean I might have come out to eat but that was it. I would take a shower and get right back in the bed. I didn’t clean anything I didn’t organize anything, I did nothing else but binge watch Netflix and Hulu. Everything was on an as needed basis. I only washed when I absolutely needed clothes. I washed dishes when I needed dishes. I never cleaned the bedroom, I hardly cleaned anything. If I didn’t live with my family I shudder to think what everything would look like.

When I recognized it, I fought back. I began to change the way that I was living my life.

Faith returned to me. I got back in God’s word. I had been participating in Bible study every week, going to church every week and had all kinds of Bible studies on my nightstand. But I was not taking it to heart.  At my moment of realization I learned that I could not move forward in my life with things the way they were. I cried out to God to comfort me and looked to him for my strength. I started absorbing the word, I started believing it again. I made some changes in my life, I made some changes in my eating, I removed the idol I had placed in my life.  Idols don’t love you back, God does.  At the beginning of the year, doing the Daniel Fast with my church changed my life. This year I did it unto God. Not for something I wanted, not to change someone else, but just to show my commitment to God. I internalized the sermons I was hearing, I stopped just listening because I was supposed to. I valued the healthy changes the fast was making in my body.

Resurrection. God brought ME back, the real me. I remembered that God loved me no matter how I looked, no matter how I felt I failed, no matter how much I doubted myself. I began to care about how I looked and what I ate. Sometimes I just smile to myself, because I am feeling happy. I started yet another business that has a direct connection to the confidence in myself that was coming back to me. (I have 3!) I made the Bible a true part of my life again. My focus was back on God.

I STARTED COUNSELING. Yes I know, I’m a counselor why wasn’t I already going? Because I avoided counseling for some of the same reasons you do. I didn’t want to face the truth about myself, my life and the idol I had created in it. I went and it changed my life. I experienced the feeling that others get when they come to me. That experience lead me to praising God even more for this gift he has given me to help and encourage others.  There is no shame in counseling. Get some help, you are not alone and the things that are happening, are not just happening to you.  I am a living witness. I am here to help.

Depression can rear its ugly head in various ways. It is not of God and can be dealt with. As you can see from my story above it can show up in more than one way.  Here are some signs of depression. But this list is not all inclusive. And some people who have a more chemical depression versus a situational depression may need medication on a temporary or long-term basis.

According to the Mayo Clinic the symptoms of depression are:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
  • Changes in appetite — often reduced appetite and weight loss, but increased cravings for food and weight gain in some people
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself for things that aren’t your responsibility
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

You can make it through this. I did. Get some help. I’m here. Family First Counseling is here.

Be Blessed,

Megan

Self-Care Wheel

Self-Care-Wheel-English

A colleague shared this self-care wheel tool with me, and I couldn’t pass up sharing with you all. Be sure to click on it to get a larger version!

The tool was made specifically for trauma professionals but I think it can be useful for all of us working in the helping profession (nurses, teachers, doctors, lawyers, firefighters, police officers, social workers, pastors, etc). The tool was designed to help with secondary trauma prevention and living your fullest life.

This self-care wheel not only covers your whole health but it even gives a new way at looking at these ares of your life. I love it – it is so comprehensive and amazing! If you feel stuck figuring out where to start, you can go to www.olgaphoenix.com  and sign up for the FREE starter kit. It will guide you through sixteen questions to help you design and map out a more fulfilling life.

Self-care is an intentional act of loving, healing, and breathing life into your soul. With the year winding down, you can use this tool to evaluate how well  you really took care of yourself in 2015. Looking at this self-care wheel, I realized I have a lot of work to do! Figure out the areas you need to improve to prioritize self-care in 2016.

Remember, “the world will not end if you take ten minutes for yourself.” Cheers to self-care in the new year!!

Sad, Maybe Mad, But not Bad!

Depression is often confused with being only sadness, worthlessness, hopelessness, tearfulness, and emptiness. However, with children and teens depression has many faces. Children and adolescents who cause problems at home or school are often defiant to the rules, argumentative with parents and teachers, hostile towards siblings and peers, skipping classes, running away from home, engaging in risky behavior, and making poor decisions. As adults we tend to concentrate on fixing the “bad” behavior and end up making many negative statements and judgments, and giving ultimatums. But if we take the time to listen, often times we will find that there may be simply anger and sadness underneath all the “bad” behavior. We need to resist the urge to lecture or criticize. It’s easy to tell them to just stop it, but when we do they feel like we just don’t get it, and then we discredit ourselves. Depression can be very dangerous if untreated. So if you see these warning signs, now you can focus on taking positive steps to help them. Contact us so we can help you help them.

Six Natural Ways to Combat Depression and Anxiety

five ways

Depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental discomfort can be alleviated by every-day self care. Many clinical studies show that the following activities are good for the brain. Use these by themselves or in conjunction with counseling.

If you have severe depression or anxiety, the suggestions below may seem impossible. You may rely on junk food to feel good or dread socializing. If this is the case, you should consider counseling and/or see a doctor about an anti-depressant. Don’t beat yourself up for not exercising or not being able to control your eating. See a counselor and take baby steps. When you get to the point that you are feeling a bit better, add in one good habit at a time, at a pace that you are comfortable with. Focus on what you are doing well, not on what you aren’t doing perfectly.

1. Exercise: Regular exercise has been proven at least as effective as medication.

2. Good sleep: Going to bed and waking at regular times can stave off anxiety and depression.

3. Eating healthy: You are what you eat. Getting enough vitamins and minerals and limiting junk is good for your brain. Also, some people find that sugar, white flour, artificial sweeteners or other foods cause them to feel bad. Experiment with your diet to see what works best for you.

4. Limiting caffeine and alcohol: Caffeine is a stimulant and alcohol is a depressant. They are literally as strong as some prescription medications. Taking these can exacerbate or create symptoms of anxiety or depression.

5. Socializing with people you care about: Spending time with loved ones gives your brain a healthy boost.

6. Religious practice: Studies show that prayer, meditation, scripture reading and other spiritual practice can help foster healthy brain function.

7. Positive physical touch: Cuddling with a loved one or even a pet will boost oxytocin and other brain chemicals. Sex is also good for your mood–of course as long as its in a responsible, healthy relationship!