The Mom Who Won’t Stop

In the movement of encouraging moms to realize that they are enough and they do enough I believe myself to be an advocate. I’m tired of all the competition and the pettiness among moms. Whether you stay at home or work you’re accomplishing something. Whether or not you decide to join the PTA doesn’t indicate who you are as mom or establish you as a “better” member of the community. But…

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explo (1)

 

 

….sometimes I feel like a hypocrite speaking out to moms about this because even though I try to believe I am enough I can never seem to stop. Stop signing up for things. Stop making plans. Stop finding projects. Stop thinking I always need to do more.

I’ve always been the person who signs up for everything. I like my hand to be in many pots at the same time.  A lot of the times I spread myself too thin. Even my past employee evaluations would note that at times I can “bite off more than she can chew.” Sometimes I  come across as the overachiever. While sometimes my overextension habits have lead me to a nervous breakdown or two they have also brought me out of really dark times. And I would be lying if I didn’t say that some of the the time I’m getting involved in too many things for not the right reasons- to please others, to be admired, to increase my self-worth because of the recognition and not because it just made me feel good. But I’ve also come to realize that I’m just that person who can’t stop because I like the pace of a thousand miles per hour. When motherhood came along I went to snail’s pace in life. I wasn’t working and wasn’t sure what to do with my energy. So I started looking for and creating as many opportunities as I could to exert my energy.  In the 2 years since my son was born I started my own parent’s meetup group, ran support groups for new moms, worked a part time job, started a blog, moved across the world, and started an  online mentoring program for moms. I join as many moms groups as I can. I reach out to other moms new to the city I live in now. I find as many programs that my son and I can attend together as I can.

Some might think it’s a problem to be this way. To not be able to slow down and just be present.  I get that and I know that’s something I need to work on. I try to work on the balance while also respecting what is just genuinely me.

But I can’t stop. I won’t stop.

I’ll probably be the mom in the PTA, a den mom in Boy Scouts, managing moms groups and playdates left and right. But please don’t peg me as “that mom.” Because I’m not
“that mom.” I don’t try to control, or judge, or look better than other moms. I just really like connecting to people, giving back, and most importantly, getting this nervous energy out of me. If you’ve got work/life balance down pat or prefer the quieter life I totally respect you. In fact, I’m a little jealous.

I think a lot. I say a lot. I do a lot. But here’s the thing. It’s not to show you up. It’s not to believe I’m better. It’s because I can’t stop. I won’t stop. See I have this belief that looms over me every single day and it says “You’ve only got so much time” So yea I think a lot, I say a lot, I do a lot. But it’s only because I’ve got this one life and I want to say I said a lot, I gave a lot, and I lived a lot.

So I tread on striving to believe that I am enough even if I stop. But I can’t stop. I won’t stop. Because I’ve got so much to do.

Self-Care Mondays #9: Enjoy the Sound of Silence

I’ve always been a person with a mind that races at a million miles a minute. It’s hard for me to stop the plethora of ideas and worries and to-do list items from popping into my mind that motivate me to take immediate action and do something. I put pressure on myself to do something all the time. The thoughts continue to race all the way up to me closing my eyes and I realize that I never get to experience the quiet mind.

 

Self-Care Mondays 9- Enjoy the Sound of Silence

 

And even if you’re not like me we live lives that are full of input. Requests from our children, noise from TV and cell phones, information from articles and Facebook groups, opinions of our families and friends, demands from our daily to-do lists and jobs. Everything’s coming in and if we never have time to sit and sort it out in the silence we can easily feel defeated and overwhelmed.

Silence is not something to always be filled but our society and culture seems to make us believe that. Many people I meet say they feel awkward when there is silence in a conversation. I utilized silence in my therapy sessions with clients often. If they became uncomfortable I encouraged them to take a deep breath and sit with their thoughts before continuing or before I would have my reply. It’s perfectly okay to say to anyone in your life, “Do you mind if it’s quiet for a second, I need some time to think.” This is a profound tool you can use with your children when it comes to discipline. Often if we feel pressure to make a decision and act in the moment we don’t have time to organize our thoughts and feelings and can act rashly or in ways we didn’t intend to.

Silence in itself can be a gift. It’s a gift that is full of time to sit with our thoughts, be with them, and sort through them without having to get up and do something. But we have to do to the work to first create the opportunity for it and then let it be.

So for this post I let myself sit in silence for 5 minutes. Initially I tried to work on mindfulness techniques which I will elaborate on in next week’s post but found myself just wanting to focus on being comfortable with the silence and stillness instead of focusing on my thoughts. You have to be comfortable with the silence and the stillness before you can work on how to really be mindful and meditate. I let myself organize my thoughts and sit with ideas. The one thing I wouldn’t allow myself to do it get up and take action. I had to wait and sit still until those 5 minutes were over. For people like me, this is really really hard. But I was able to form a better action plan for the day, take some time to be gentle with myself about previous judgments, and be inspired for the remainder of the day. I sorted with all that input and feel that things are filed away where they should and I can truly focus on the moment.

So try sitting in silence for 5 minutes each day. Take notice of your thoughts and instincts within those 5 minutes. What did you learn about yourself and your thoughts that you may have not if you were doing something else?

 

 

Self-Care Mondays #8: Hey Mama-What Do You Stand For?

I remember in college having a sign I hung in my room that said, “If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything.” I was a passionate girl in college and in many ways I still am. I was ready to fight for what I thought was right and attended various protests for issues I believe in throughout my 4 years there.

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I’m not sure that moms who don’t stand for something will fall for anything but I do think that if a mom loses touch with her values it’s very easy to fall for our negative thoughts and judgements we place on ourselves. Our personal values are what keep us grounded and focus. They are the platform that keeps us standing on our own two feet and when we lose touch with them things can get shaky.

Personal values come from many places: our upbringing, our environments, our culture, our relationships, past experiences, and our own unique personalities. They are our compasses to help direct our decisions and behaviors. Sometimes when we feel lost or having difficulties we can fall back on our values to guide us. When we feel disheartned about our direction in life our values can be the light at the end of the tunnel. When we feel discouraged by our choices or the way things are going we can again rely on our values to center and ground us.

Reflect on your values inside and outside of motherhood. If you need some examples here is a list:

Fun                             Wealth                     Achievement                  Education                  Faith

Creativity                 Fairness                  Compassion                     Generosity                Adventure

Family                       Community            Health                                Loyalty                     Love

Empathy                  Discipline                 Honesty                           Hard Work             Happiness

Freedom                 Practicality               Exploration                     Patriotism              Balance

Simplicity               Success                    Growth                               Security                 Leadership

Independence          Grace                      Intelligence                        Beauty                   Service

 

For  your self-care exercise this week write down your top 10 values and then circle your top 3. Ask yourself these questions:

How are you living by your values? In what ways is it difficult to stick to these values?

How do you show your children and close family and friends that these values are important to you?

Do you make decisions everyday based on these values? Do you allow values of less importance take over? Which ones?

Write down 2 things you can do this week to show your commitment to these values.

So mama, what do you stand for? What are you about as a person, woman, and mom? If a value is mportant to you then try to find ways this week to make it priority. Let this be your roadmap to your decisions inside and outside of motherhood. Stand on that platform of strength and proud of who you are and what you’re about. You’ll be a guiding light for yourself and your children.

What I Gained When Breastfeeding Didn’t Work Out

It has taken me a while to get to this place, the place where I can look back at the first major challenge I experienced as a mom and start to feel a sense of healing and gratitude. It wasn’t always like this. I want other moms to know that if they read this and it’s really hard for them to absorb it. I read many articles and blogs telling me it was “okay” and I didn’t feel it was “okay” until I was ready. You can’t rush the process of learning or healing.

What I Gained When Breastfeeding Didn't Work Out

 

I allowed my challenges with breastfeeding to hold a shadow over my first year as a mother. After my son didn’t gain any weight 30 days after birth I followed doctors orders and gave him his first bottle of formula at his pediatrician visit. I will never forget how quickly he gulped it down and I was horrified at the thought of how hungry he had spent his first month of life. But I was determined to keep trying and thought that maybe I would get back to exclusively breastfeeding.I spent a lot of time obsessively tracking ounces of breastmilk, taking upwards of 20 herbal supplements a day, spending the majority of my waking minutes pumping, and researching myself into confusion to try to make things work. At 6 months when I realized I spent so much time pumping and feeling stressed for my son to get maybe 2 ounces of breastmilk a day I finally let go. As difficult as it was emotionally for me to give up I know that I became a more present and less anxious mother that day.

Throughout my breastfeeding challenges  I allowed myself to feel that I had failed even though looking back now, I had really prevailed. On the other side of that darkness was a new light for me. I learned the valuable lesson that my goals as a parent aren’t always about me and my vision of parenting but what is best for my son. Sometimes those things are one in the same and sometimes they are different. Giving up breastfeeding was one of the first sacrifices I have made as a mother and now I am proud of it.

Parenting isn’t always about what I think is best for my child? That is a really tough pill to swallow. I have idealized versions of how I will raise my son and what kind of person he will become. But the truth is sometimes what I want won’t work out or won’t be what’s best for him.  And I can say now with humility because sometimes I don’t even always know what’s best for my son. My love for him is profound and our connection is deep but that doesn’t transcend being able to control everything that happens or always having the right answers.

When we become parents we are on the constant search for security that we are doing the right thing by our children. This starts with nourishing them the “right” way  and connecting with them the “right” way and morphs into reacting the “right” way to their behaviors or providing them with the “right” resources for their growth. But there are no guarantees that any way is truly the “right” way. So we get ideas and philosophies stuck in our head because that’s what we feel is best and then we get tunnel vision. ‘This is the way I have to parent. Anything else is failure. ‘

At some point during the many hours of pumping I spent and the tears I shed when those bottles contained so little I took a step back. I asked myself a question. Am I trying to force this to work because it is the right thing to do in this situation or because it will make me feel better? I realized my fight for breastfeeding was starting to become more about giving me a sense of security that I was a good mother rather than really being passionate about breastfeeding my son.

We have signed up for a lifetime of the discomfort of uncertainty as parents. For the vast majority of our decisions we cannot truly know if the result we want will be achieved. We are shooting darts blindfolded. We use our values or philosophies as a compass. That’s why we have them in the first place, to guide our decisions. But sometimes when we become so attached to those values or philosophies they can mislead us. We cling to them because they are giving us direction but sometimes you have to find a new path in the darkness because the compass isn’t working. This isn’t because our values are “wrong” but because due to the various circumstances of life they aren’t right for this particular situation.

I think about my own relationship with my parents and the ways I’ve strayed from what they wanted for me: a Ph.D, staying with the religion I was raised with, choosing a career that was more lucrative or respected. Sometimes I’m hurt that I perhaps disappointed them but then realize those choices were about me and couldn’t be about them. And I know that they understand that.

Looking back I realize the fight I fought for breastfeeding was more about how attached I was what breastfeeding said about me as a mom than believing it was the “right” way to feed my son. I’m not trying to diminish the importance of breastfeeding here. Rather, I am trying to point out that sometimes we get so passionate about parenting decisions that we fight through struggles that sometimes we don’t always need to fight.  In the beginning of my struggles I refused to adapt. My thinking was guided by “this has to work out or it obviously means the alternative was failure.” How very wrong I was and how very judgmental I was towards myself. Today it’s much easier for me to believe that formula feeding is a great option and doesn’t reflect poorly on me or any other mother. The only regret I have is the happiness and pride I refused to allow myself to experience in the act of giving up those philosophies to do what was best for my son. I remember feeling disappointment and sadness when I gave him his first bottle of formula at the doctor. But I am proud of that today.

So I move on in my parenting journey finding more philosophies and values that speak to me but always remembering that important lesson. Sometimes the direction these values take me won’t be the right path for my son. Sometimes I’ll need to find a different path than what I intended. Love and understanding what is best for him is now my main compass. It takes immense strength to truly put our children above our own values, to realize that what we want for them doesn’t always equal what’s best for them. But love is full of beautiful sacrifices.

Recovery and Resilience

For the last installment of my Maternal Mental Health series I’m discussing the recovery and resiliency factors of maternal mental health.

Recovery and Resiliency and Maternal Mental Health

Recovery

Healing is a process and therefore recovery from maternal mental health issues is a process as well. Unlike some medical illnesses its not as if mental health issues are simply cured and never return. For some of us symptoms will return here and there. The challenge is recognizing what we can handle on our own after treatment and when its time to ask for help again.

It’s normal to experience some initial relief in treatment from the serious symptoms you were experiencing. Once you seek help it can feel as if a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. Many people attend one or two therapy sessions and already feel “a lot better” so they stop attending. However, it is very normal for there to be slumps after you intially feel better so its important to stick with whatever treatment that is working for you to maintain your recovery for at least several months depending on your presentation of symptoms and struggles.

As a therapist one indicator I often relied on to show me if someone was maintaining recovery was being able to show resilience in the face of challenges and stressors. Sometimes when a stressor ends or is removed from our lives we feel better and thus think that all is well.  But when a new stressor comes up or the old stressor returns our symptoms and struggles can return as well. What we are seeking during recovery is our ability to bounce back from challenges without falling apart because of the new perspectives we’ve gained, skills we’ve learned, or stabilization we’ve achieved from medication.

After you’ve gone through some bumps in the road to your recovery and have managed them in more a healthy way you are starting to then work towards recovering your confidence in yourself as a mom and in life. You may start to take on more responsibilities and get yourself out more. Just remember to prioritize self-care and take things slow. Sometimes we can get ahead of ourselves and take on too much when we feel great and then start to get overwhelmed.

Another part of the recovery process is grieving. You may grieve time you have felt you lost with your child due to your mental health struggles. This is very normal. Many moms say this is one of the most difficult parts of recovery because it is accepting the past and learning to let go of it. It is okay to feel and experience this grief and talk about it. Try to write or talk with someone about it as you work through it while also remembering how far you’ve come and how you are different now.

A powerful tool during your recovery process can be sharing your story with others. It takes careful deliberation to figure out when and how to share it and if you are emotionally ready for that process. If you’ve been following my blog you may have noticed that last week I did not have a story from a real mom with maternal mental health struggles as planned. That is because the person who I had asked to write her story contacted me saying she had thought about it further and decided that she wasn’t ready as she was still struggling with some things. This was such a brave thing for this mom to do and I praised her for it because it takes a lot of self-awareness and strength to realize when you’re not in a place that you thought you were and need some more time. Take some time to think before you decide when you’re ready to tell your story. You can share your story a variety of ways during your recovery. I would advise to first share with those closest to you that have earned your trust and respect enough to hear your story. After you felt you have shared and processed with those closest to you, you can then begin to share in other ways like submitting to a blog or online support group. Your personal experiences are special and should be guarded carefully.

Resiliency

Other than the standard definition of resiliency which is the ability to recover from adversity Dictionary.com refers to resiliency as-

“the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched”

I absolutely love this definition because it’s a great metaphor for maternal mental health struggles. We are resilient and powerful when we are able to come back from being bent or sometimes even broken. Maternal mental health can bend and break us in signficant ways. We can be compressed and flattened to a shred of ourselves by feelings of depression, anxiety, shame, and anger. Motherhood sometimes stretches us to beyond what we feel capable of. Only I would challenge one part of the definition in terms of the resiliency I am referring to –“to the original form.” You won’t be your “original” self but you will be re-defined in a powerful way. Whether or not you had maternal mental health struggles motherhood can not return you to your original form. You have been changed by this experience and in some ways for the absolute better.

Here are some resiliency factors you can hone in on to continue to be resilient when it comes to maternal mental health struggles and even just the daily struggles of motherhood:

  1. Flexibility and Letting Go of Perfectionism – Life is grey and not black and white no matter how much we want it to be. When we let go of imperfections and learn to accept uncertainty we truly liberate ourselves from a losing battle of “never good enough.” So instead of focusing on being “better” or giving more all the time learn when to say “good enough” and “I’m worthy just as I am.” When it comes to flexibility I think this post from late great Dr. Wayne Dyer sums it up perfectly. He talks of the ability of trees to be flexible with the wind because if they didn’t -they would break.
  2. Support System– I discussed this last week in ways to build your village but I can’t stress enough the importance of making sure your support network is strong and diverse. Make sure there are people to go to in various situations that are physically and emotionally available to you. Strengthen those relationships by keeping in contact and lending your support to them as well. These people are your lifeline.
  3. Enjoy the Moment- The most beautiful moments of motherhood for me are when I am fully present for my son. When I am not thinking of the mistake I made earlier this morning or the stress I feel about what I have to do later. Take a deep breath. Look around you and just enjoy this moment. Try not to let those negative thoughts rob you of more time than they have already. And if you feel you can’t ignore or refute them then think about asking for help.
  4. Speak Your Truth- Remember how hard it was to admit you needed help and asked for it? How did that work out? How amazing are you for doing that? Remember that great life lesson from speaking your truth and asking for what you need. If it helped you the first time doing that over and over again will not only get you more comfortable with asking but also get you the support and encouragement you need and deserve to lift you up in times of need.

 

Stay strong Mamas, you got this and we got you.

I hope you found this series on Maternal Mental Health informative and helpful. I’d love to hear your feedback at fullmotherhood@gmail.com.

Self-Care Mondays #7: Making Authentic Connections

I’m a true believer that connecting with one another is a central part of our purpose. Being able to relate to others and show support can build a strong and inspirational web to help keep each other confident and empowered .

Self Care Mondays #7- Making Authentic Connections

 

 

 

Making an authentic connection means we are reaching out to another person by presenting our genuine self through sharing thoughts, feelings, or opinions or making attempts to relate to them and open up ourselves for engagement.

How many times are we responding to others or our children without looking them in the eye? How many times do we say, “Good job!” or “That’s nice!” without truly stopping what we are doing to really look at our child in the eye and look at what they want to show us.  It is hard for us to slow down and truly take in those moments when we have our minds on something else. But its not just about showing our children respect and considering, we can also find healing in those truly authentic moments if we slow down enough to take advantage of them. This is not me saying, “Slow down moms and pay attention to your kids!” as much as what I am truly trying to say which is, “Look mom! Here’s an opportunity to show care and consideration for yourself and your child at the same time! Slow down and be present because your child will feel good and you will too.”

We can be in relationship with one another but not necessarily feel connected. Even as a mom I have felt disconnected from my son when I let my insecurities take over and rob me of my self-confidence. But I have found the moments I cherish the most about motherhood aren’t when I am necessarily doing something for my son but just listening to him and being present with him.

Take some time to slow down today and just be fully present with someone. Instead of focusing on what you can do for them or how they may be perceiving you just be fully present by listening to them and being authentic in your responses. Eye contact and touch can go a long way. Asking simple questions like “How are you feeling?” or “What are you thinking about?” open up the conversation. Silence can even be healing too. Sometimes we make beautiful connections without saying anything at all. Be present, be you, and be healed by the power of connection.

5 Ways to Build a Village: Support Networks and Maternal Mental Health

As a therapist I would say one of the best tools for recovery from any difficult life transitions or mental health issues is a strong support system. One of our basic human needs is the need to feel connected to others. And during times of stress, depression, or anxiety we need to feel supported and held by those that matter in our lives.

Building Your Village- Getting Support With Maternal Mental Health (1)

 

 

One of first things to consider when building and utilizing your support network are the traits and attitudes you will need to develop in order to actually utilize your support network.

Being vulnerable and opening up to others. Unfortunately our culture sometimes values people that are closed off and act as if nothing bothers them. But being a new mom is particularly vulnerable place. It may not be comfortable but it helps you becoming stronger and more courageous when you put it all out there. To those that you trust you do not need to put on a mask of happiness or having it all under control. Remember that those who love you unconditionally love you no matter what issues you lay at their door. So start simple by practicing sharing something vulernable with a member of your support network and when applicable asking for what you need. For instance saying to your partner, “I’m very tired today. I need some time to sleep” or saying to one of your mom friends, “I’m having a hard time being a mom today.” These are simple steps that tighten your web of support and lift some of that emotional weight off your shoulders.

-Asking for practical help. Independence is something that is heavily valued in our society but if you think about it, it is really not the way we are meant to function. We can not continue the human race without each other, we can not build pyramids or strength communities without each other either. We need each other. So remember when your pride holds you back from asking for help that you are going against the very nature of human existence–connecting with others and depending on others. Again with doing this over and over again you will get more comfortable. It may be helpful to set a small goal this week of asking someone for help such as “I’ll ask my mom to come over and watch the baby once this week so I can take a nap,” or “I’ll take up my cousin on that offer to bring dinner over.” And remember, if you wouldn’t judge someone in your shoes asking for help then your own support network is not judging you either.

-Being open to building new relationships. As we enter a new stage of motherhood we may look around and see that we don’t have many people in our existing support network that we can relate to in going through the same thing in the here and now with us. So that means we have to open ourselves to add some new relationships into our lives. For some people it can be hard to meet new people and let relationships grows. This can be especially hard for people that have trust issues due to their past. It is simply a fact of life that we have to put some blind faith into trusting others. We let trust grow with time and experience in our relationship with another person but there will always be an element of uncertainty in how things will turn out. Protecting ourselves from being hurt by someone by not opening up or meeting new people can hold us back from some amazing experiences. Sometimes we need to close our eyes, jump in, and let ourselves trust in connection.

-Make sure you have different types of support covered. Support from our network can come in many different forms. You need a person just to listen and provide emotional support and encouragement (a partner, friends, family, a support group). You need a person that can provide information when you need it (a doctor, professional, trusted community that specializes in what you need information for). You need a person that can provide concrete resources that you need (time, babysitting, assistance with daily living tasks, money when times are tough). Take a moment to reflect on your support network and ensure that you have various people in your life that can offer you each of these types of support.

So now let’s talk about how to actually build that support system.

5 Ways to Build a Support System

Join a local mothers group. For some new moms it can be intimidating to walk into a new sea of faces of mothers whom you are not sure will accept you, support you, or judge you. In therapy we know that anxiety decreases the more you expose yourself to the very thing that makes you anxious. Going out over and over again to meet new moms will become more comfortable as time goes on and you will find through your interactions those that you feel can be a part of your tribe. Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) is an international network of mothers groups that welcomes moms of younger children, usually 0-6. Usually there is a small fee for membership but at times you can attend a couple of meetups before you are required to pay. Meetup.com is also an excellent place to meet new people. This is where I found my own tribe and then started my own meetup group for Parents of 0-5 year olds. Meetup.com is free to sign up for an account and can link you with groups of any interest near you. Some groups on meetup.com may ask for yearly due (my own group is 5 dollars to help manage the monthly subscription to meetup.com). Another option is to see if there is an early childhood PTA in your community. This is helpful to meet other moms and some of them are very active. Also you can begin to befriend mothers that live in the same town as you and may send their children to the same school once they reach the age.

Join an online group.  Although not at personal as face to face interaction the world wide web can provide you with the support and connection you need when getting out of the house seems insurmountable or you are having difficulties opening up to those closest to you. Facebook has an immense amount of groups based on your area of interest. Simply typing it in the search bar can help you find one. You may want to find smaller online communities that fit with a particular point of view rather than just general moms groups. General moms groups may be very active but can also be a hotbed of judgement and drama. Groups that focus on maternal mental health or postpartum mood disorders like postpartum depression are anxiety may be an extremely helpful resource. You can search “Postpartum Support Group” or “Postpartum Depression Support Group.” Also websites like thebump.com and babycenter.com also offer online communities and forums. You can also find Facebook moms groups that may be local to your city and state and may have their own meetups as well.

However, when it comes to sharing your emotional struggles and issues surrounding maternal mental health the best online groups are associated with nonprofits and community organizations that specialize in this. One of the most powerful first steps you can take towards recovery is learning that you are not alone and that comes from meeting other moms that are struggling in similar ways and are on their path to recovery too.

Postpartum Progress provides an online  forum of support for PMADs

– Postpartum Support International offers weekly online support meetings and a closed Facebook group.

-Find a local support groups. Usually local hospitals or churches offer free support groups or playgroups. I went to a new mom support group and a breastfeeding support group. Support groups are an excellent way to not feel alone and also be connected to someone who can provide you with local resources that you may need if you decide to seek treatment. Postpartum Progress offers a list of U.S. and Canada support groups here.

-Strengthen your current support system. Make sure you are keeping regular contact and connection with those that have already been a support system. Sometimes when we become moms we are so focused on finding moms that are going through the same things at the same time we forgot the people that have been standing beside us this whole time (friends, our moms, family, partners, etc.) Make sure you are calling them, talking to them, and opening up to them- most likely they are the ones to provide you with the most unconditional support.

Connect with others the “old fashioned” way. It may seem awkward to strike up a conversation with another mom while in line at Target but I have found random connections to be very healing and a form of support. When I took my son on his first flight and he got a little fussy an older women told me about talking her son on his first flight and how he cried the whole time. In that moment my anxiety decreased knowing I was not the first mom to deal with this situation and I certainly won’t be the last. We all survive somehow and get through it. When you offer a mom a kind glance when she’s struggling to get groceries in the car with a tantruming toddler or asking how old a mom’s newborn baby is you never know how you’re impacting them. And you never know where the conversation will lead. Whether or not you see them ever again it is a reminder that we aren’t alone, that we are all out there trying our best, and no matter how well we know each other, we’re all in this together.

When it comes to overcoming our fears of showing our pain to others and asking for support I think this excerpt from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams helps us think differently.

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

 

 

Self-Care Mondays #6: Self Gratitude

I’ve recently started a ritual for myself at night time. In order to avoid getting stuck in my thought “ruts” of thinking about everything I need to get done tomorrow or beating myself up for the mistakes I made today I take 2 minutes to write down something I was grateful for in the day just before I fall asleep. I write 3 sentences tops. It’s a great way to journal and record your history without the pressure of going in depth but also a great way to end your day on a positive note. But what I also make sure is that I include a sentence about something about just me for which I am grateful.

Self Care Mondays Self-Gratitude

 

So how is being grateful self-care?

Gratitude is the act of appreciating what we have and actually finding it to be enough. We may not have much compared to others but gratitude says, this is enough for me.

Brene Brown’s work tells us that we live in a culture that believes in scarcity. Scarcity means that a lack of resources exist or there is simply not enough for our wellbeing. When we apply that to the overall attitude of our lives we start to feel that nothing is ever enough and thus feel constantly dissatisfied. But because nothing is ever enough we back ourselves into a corner when we keep searching for more. It becomes an pointless effort when we search for more to fulfill our happiness, satisfaction, or self-esteem. In her book, Daring Greatly, Brown states, “For me the opposite of scarcity is not abundance. It’s enough. I’m enough. My kids are enough.” As mothers we may choose to ignore the our nurturing strengths like affection or providing emotional support that we provide our children and focus only on the fact that we couldn’t supply enough breastmilk, time, money, attention, etc. When we feel we have enough and are enough we start to feel satisfied, happy, and confident in ourselves.

Lots of times when we think of what we are grateful for it is the external world, our family and friends, our resources, something that happened to us, or something we received.. There seems to be a notion in gratitude thinking at times that relays that we were bestowed with something happening to us which can, at times, take away from the fact that we deserve it or earned it. I believe that we should also show gratitude for the internal world that is ourselves and that both concepts can truly co-exist. You can be grateful for work ethic and sense of dedication that resulted in a reward and also grateful that you were given the opportunity. I’d like to challenge you to write down things you are grateful about that are results of what is within you. And I’d like you to remind yourself that because of your gratitude, you are enough.

So sure, write down the things you were grateful for that happened today or the thing that your child did that amazed you. But leave one sentence in there just for you.

“I’m grateful that I have the patience to let my son explore things even when I feel the need to control.” ”

“I’m grateful that I have a caring spirit and reached out to a friend in need today.”

“I’m grateful that I have a good work ethic and provide an example to my children about hard work and achieving your goals.”

What you are saying in those sentences is “I am grateful for me.”

That is self-love. That is self-care.

Courtney’s Story

When Courtney sent me her story she told me I could feel free to edit it down as she was concerned it was too long. Although it may be long I promise you that you won’t regret reading it all the way through. As I read through I became so captivated and emotionally involved in her piece that I couldn’t even consider taking anything out.

Courtney’s story is about perinatal anxiety and also discusses how our previous mental health issues can be exacerbated during pregnancy and after birth. It is raw, it reads as a real story, and I hope you are as moved as I was.

Courtney's Story

My story actually begins long before my beautiful boy was born. At the age of 12, I was diagnosed with panic disorder after suffering from severe daily panic attacks. I went through months of therapy before it was finally decided that I also needed to add anti-anxiety medication to the mix. So, with a combination of therapy and Paxil, I became a much more relaxed and happy young adolescent. Things were not perfect, nor will they ever be, but I felt so much better and like a completely different person. I continue to take medication today, although I have switched to Zoloft. I have attempted a few times throughout my life to wean off, but I have never been able to completely. And despite what many critics may say, I’m okay with it for now.

When I found out I was pregnant in November 2014, I discussed being on medication throughout my pregnancy with my OB. We decided it was best that I continue on it due to my history. I knew that I would be at a higher risk for postpartum anxiety and depression, and I kept this in mind throughout.

Almost immediately after getting that positive pregnancy test, I felt my anxiety creeping back and getting worse. The medicine was continuing to help control my panic attacks, but I was having terrible thoughts that something was wrong with the baby. Was he not moving enough? Was he moving too much? What if something is wrong with him? Anything and everything concerned me and consumed me. I had a very hard time relaxing. Going to the doctor for my checkups was terrifying and a relief all at the same time. I would get all worked up until I heard the heartbeat and then feel complete relief for the rest of the day. It was short-lived relief though. I knew that I needed to reach out and get some help. I even asked my OB for a recommendation, but I never scheduled an appointment. It’s silly to me now thinking about it because I had gone through therapy off and on for years. I don’t know what was holding me back, and I don’t know that I ever will.

I continued through my pregnancy trying to tough out my constant anxiety. I refused to open up and wash all the clothes and new things. I only opened up the essentials. I feared the worst…that I would be coming home from the hospital without my son.

I ended up with high blood pressure toward the end of my pregnancy, which ultimately lead to my early induction at 38 weeks 6 days. I was induced around 8:00 p.m. and delivered my healthy, precious Camden at 11:45 a.m. the next day- July 16, 2015.

I felt a mix of emotions when he was born- relief, joy, love, but I also felt completely overwhelmed, anxious, fearful, and exhausted. It got worse when he wouldn’t latch when I tried to breastfeed. I tried and tried and the nurses also tried as well. It was difficult, and I felt helpless that I couldn’t give my baby the one thing he needed to survive. I was getting zero sleep because I had to hand express and start pumping to try to get my milk to come in. I was constantly trying to get whatever I could out to spoon feed/dropper feed him. Every little drop of colostrum I got was gold in my mind. But I had never been so tired in my life. I got him to latch twice throughout my 3 days at the hospital. I was feeding him from the dropper constantly, and I just knew we wasn’t getting enough. However, because I did get him to latch prior to being discharged, I was released and sent home with my new little bundle.

I can remember being wheeled down to go home with Camden in his carrier in my lap, and I was shaking uncontrollably. I was weepy and so nervous. I started feeling a panic attack setting in. I tried to control my breathing, but it was harder than I remember.  It had a been a long time since I had a panic attack. We got him in the car and set off for home. I sat in the back and just looked at him with a million different thoughts running through my head. How am I going to care for this little guy? What if I can’t do it? When am I going to sleep? What if I can’t get him to latch? I was absolutely terrified of SIDS. Some of it is a blur now,  but I don’t forget the sheer terror and panic I felt.

When I got home, all I wanted to do was sleep. I was so tired. I hadn’t gotten more than maybe 6 hours of sleep in 4 days. Sleeping at the hospital was impossible. I also began to have no appetite. My uncontrollable shaking was getting worse. I tried to lay down when I got home, and it was pointless. I cried and cried in bed and my thoughts consumed me. Is he still breathing? What if he spits up and chokes? Why is he sleeping so much? Why won’t he latch? Is he dehydrated? Is he getting enough to eat? You name it, I thought about it. I was so sleep deprived, and I couldn’t eat a thing.

My parents and in-laws came over shortly after we got home to help with him and to try to let me rest. It was no use. My anxiety was out of control. I felt helpless. I couldn’t stop crying and shaking. My mom tried to calm me down, but it wasn’t helping. I couldn’t get Camden to latch, and my milk wasn’t still fully in. I was pumping nonstop and feeding him everything I pumped, but I just knew it wasn’t enough. I became obsessed with the pumping and breastfeeding. By 9pm that  first evening, my anxiety was getting the best of me. I decided I needed to call my OB’s office to see if there was anything they could do for me. The doctor on call was very nice, I will say, but she didn’t help me whatsoever. She told me to lean on other people and rest as much as I could. Easier said than done.

At that point, I hadn’t eaten for 14 hours and still hadn’t gotten any sleep. It was time for everyone to go to sleep, which was absolutely terrifying for me. Luckily, my parents were spending the night. My husband was so supportive and tried to do everything he could to help me, but he was just as nervous and clueless about taking care of this new little man. We laid down in bed, and my thoughts raced. I knew I wasn’t going to sleep at all. Every little noise he made, I panicked. I was constantly checking to make sure he was breathing. This, combined, with trying to get Cam to latch, followed by pumping and feeding him what I pumped, left no time for sleep. I continued to cry and shake. Around 3 am, Cam woke up coughing and sounded congested to me, which put me over the edge. I was losing control. I called the nurse on call convinced that something was wrong with Cam. He’s congested and just coughed. She reassured me that this was probably all normal behavior, but that she could get me in to see a pediatrician the next day (Sunday) if I wanted. I immediately accepted the offer and counted down the minutes until he would be back in the care of a doctor. By Sunday morning, I hadn’t eaten for 24 hours. I couldn’t get anything down. I hadn’t slept at all for a few days, so I was completely sleep deprived. I was a mess and still crying nonstop. I was down 35 pounds in just a few days. I felt like I was losing it.

I was grateful to see the pediatrician. Cam had lost more weight and the doctor confirmed what I had thought. He was definitely not getting enough to eat. His plan was for me to try to get him to latch, pump after, and then supplement with formula EVERY two hours. By the time I would be done doing all that, it would be time to start over. But I was adamant that I could try to make it work. It was after this that I became obsessed with tracking how much he was eating and monitoring the amount of times he peed and pooped. I had daily logs that I tracked all of this on and panicked when something was different from normal. I kept up with these logs for months!

After meeting with the pediatrician, we stopped and got formula on the way home. We immediately started feeding him it, and I was thankful he was getting more to eat, although I felt tremendous guilt that it wasn’t coming from me. I felt ashamed that I couldn’t breastfeed, but I wasn’t ready to give up. By the time we got home, I still had barely eaten anything. I was so tired I could barely function, and I wanted to give up. I once again tried to get some sleep, but I couldn’t relax, and by the time I would get close to sleep, it was time to try breastfeeding again

Later that day is when things took a turn for the worse. I was so sleep deprived and weak. I couldn’t stop crying and my mind started getting irrational. I started having dark thoughts about myself. I felt that I couldn’t continue any longer like this. I was terrified and had never felt so scared in my life. It’s hard to explain, but I was scared that I was going to start having suicidal thoughts. I wasn’t actually thinking about hurting myself, but I was scared that those thoughts were going to come. I was having awful scary thoughts about harm coming to Camden. I had these images of me holding him and falling down the stairs. I had images of waking up to see him no longer breathing. I never had thoughts of hurting him or anyone else, but I couldn’t get these scary thoughts and images out of my head. I came downstairs to my husband and mom after trying to sleep and told them I needed help. I was in a pure state of panic. I told them I was starting to have dark thoughts and I couldn’t take it any longer. My mom told me to call my OB right away. I got the nurse on call who suggested I go to the ER since it was a Sunday.

My husband and I got in the car, left Camden with my mom, and headed back to the hospital just 36 hours after we had come home. I was triaged and immediately taken back to a room. I felt so badly and embarrassed that all this was going on, but I knew I needed help. My husband once again was so supportive. He listened and comforted me as best as her could even though he didn’t understand why I was being so irrational. They ran a bunch of tests to rule out anything else. I spoke to several different people who asked me the same questions again and again? Do you have thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby? Do you hear voices or see things that aren’t there? Do you have an appetite? The list goes on. Of course, the questions began to trigger my anxiety even more. I now began to worry that I was going to start having these thoughts or things that they were asking me about. After their evaluation and being informed that they had a “full house” for psych patients I was given an option. I could stay overnight in the ER by myself away from my husband and baby and get transferred to a hospital in the morning, or I could go home with some additional anti-anxiety medication and instructions to follow up with my OB and a therapist immediately. Luckily they pulled my husband out in the hall to discuss this with him, and he decided going home would be best. He knew he had to monitor my symptoms and bring me back immediately if anything worsened.  I was relieved that I was able to go home and anxious to get some relief from the medication. The one caveat was that I could not breastfeed while on the new medication, Ativan, which was heartbreaking to me. So, being stubborn, I decided to “pump and dump” to keep my supply up. I only had enough of the medication to last me for a few days anyways.

The next day, I called multiple places trying to find a psychiatrist and therapist that could see me right away. Every place I called it was like a 2-3 week wait for an appointment. I was feeling defeated until I found a place that heard my desperation and said they would fit me in somehow. I was able to meet with a therapist within a few days. I met with the therapist and cried A LOT while in my first session. I let loose on her about everything I was feeling, my fears, my complete sense of panic, my inability to sleep or eat. Afterward, I was still crippled with anxiety, but I knew I was taking a step in the right direction. I had a plan in place and an appointment set up to meet with a psychiatrist about adjusting my medications.

At the point in time that I had met with the therapist, I had stopped taking the Ativan (only took a few doses), so that I could continue to pump and try to breastfeed. I had convinced myself that I HAD to breastfeed. I felt tremendous pressure from everything I had read and heard that it was not an option to fail.  In turn, it was causing me so much additional anxiety. I told myself that Cam wasn’t  going to be as healthy or was going to suffer from SIDS if I stopped. Camden still wouldn’t latch, and I wasn’t getting enough rest pumping every 2-3 hours . The time in between pumping sessions was not enough time for me to try to fall asleep. I was lucky to fall asleep at all with my anxiety and usually by the time I did, it was time for me to pump again. I was driving myself crazy and realized I needed to do what was best for me, so that I could be my best self for my son. After talking at length with the therapist that day and discussing it with my husband and family, I decided to stop trying to breastfeed. I felt horribly guilty and ashamed, but I had a lot of support from family and friends. I knew it was what I needed to do. I began to feel the weight on my shoulders begin to lift slowly. I was able to sleep for longer stretches of time now that I had my husband and mom to help with feedings. My mind started to clear a little bit with more sleep. To this day, I still feel some guilt and sadness that I wasn’t able to experience breastfeeding to its fullest, but Camden doesn’t know either way. He is a happy, healthy boy.

I was starting to see that maybe things were going to be okay. I still had horrible thoughts of something bad happening to Cam and had a lot of trouble sleeping. And I had a new fear to conquer….being alone with him. I was TERRIFIED. The first day my husband was at work and my mom wasn’t there (she had stayed for a week) I cried most of the day. I was scared to be alone with him. I was scared I wouldn’t be able to handle taking care of him alone. I was terrified that something bad would happen.  I would fall while carrying him or drop him accidentally. He would stop breathing while he was sleeping. Then, I started getting sad all the time. I was confused. I loved this little guy so much, and I was terrified of harm coming to him, but at the same time, I longed for the simplicity of my life prior to him. I missed being able to do what I wanted when I wanted, to get a full night of sleep, to not have someone so dependent on me. Once again, I felt terrible about myself for even thinking these thoughts. I was tired of the monotony of my day and the constant anxiety.

I decided that I needed to start getting out of the house. I felt better when I was out and about. I started going anywhere and everywhere. Babies R  Us was my first adventure because it had a room that I could easily feed and change Cam in.  Next, I went to Target and eventually the grocery store. It seems silly but these moments out of the house really began to help. I also reached out to a neighbor who was a stay-at-home mom. She knew I was struggling and offered for me to come over whenever. I walked down with Camden a few times and just sat and talked with her.  That made me feel a lot better.

I finally met with a psychiatrist after a few weeks, and she worked with me on adjusting my medications. After I tweaked my medication dosages, I started to feel like a new person. Combined with the therapy, I was seeing huge progress. I developed a daily routine with the little guy and started to enjoy my days and my time with him. My anxiety greatly decreased, and I felt like me again.

Each day got better. I began to venture out on my own while others watched Cam. I treated myself to a monthly massage and went shopping alone. I also joined a weight loss program, which helped me feel even more in control of myself. I began to lose weight and felt good! Eating the right things for my body was a huge help. Therapy was helping me tremendously too. Every day, I used a wonderful app, called Pacifica, that my therapist recommended. It helped me to relax, focus on my breathing, and journal about my thoughts.

Obviously, I wasn’t “cured” and I still am not today. I don’t think my anxiety is something that will ever go away completely. I am thankful I have learned so many strategies for coping now though. I am still working on myself, and I still go to therapy 10 months later. I can proudly say now that I am the happiest I have ever been and my anxiety is under control. I love my son more than anything in the world. I can’t wait to see him when I get home from work or when I wake up in the morning. He is the light of my life. I love him more and more each day. I never knew that I could ever feel this kind of love. My husband and I have a wonderful, loving relationship as well. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive partner. He was there for me through the worst of it. He didn’t always understand it, and would get frustrated with my irrationality at times, but he never gave up on me. He was patient and understanding and still supports me every day. When I have a rough day, he immediately takes on the duties of caring for Cam or getting things around the house done. He has been my rock through it all. I feel so incredibly blessed to have him and our beautiful baby boy. I couldn’t be happier.

My advice to anyone struggling, is to reach out for help! The sooner you can get some professional help, the better. I should have gone during my pregnancy when my anxiety started getting worse. If I had, I may have avoided some of what happened after. I would also suggest to go out as often as you can. Force yourself to go for a walk, go to the store, find a support group, anything you can to keep yourself from being cooped up in your house with your racing mind. My other piece of advice, which is something I still struggle with daily is to stay off the internet. I developed a bad habit of Googling anything and everything. Even before I became pregnant, I would look up stuff about my health and convince myself I had some disease. During my pregnancy it got worse. I was looking stuff up on the Internet daily. I was reading worst-case scenario stories and convincing myself that something was wrong. I continued to surf the Internet after Camden was born and get myself all worked up. This is something I am still working on today. There is a lot of information out there…some good and definitely some bad. My best advice is to discuss health concerns with a doctor instead of looking it up on the Internet. Finally and foremost, tell yourself that you are not alone. You will get through this. There is hope for  you and you are already an AMAZING momma.

 

Courtney is a Cleveland, Ohio native where she lives with her husband and son. She has been a teacher for 6 years and currently teaches kindergarten. She enjoys traveling, spending time with family and friends, and reading. She is bless to have such a wonderfu  support system in her life. she continues to work on herself daily but feels confident in the progress that she has made. 

How to Seek Treatment for Postpartum Mental Health

When you feel you have identified that you need professional help for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) there are some things to consider.

Make The Call- How to Seek Treatment for Postpartum Mental Health Issues

Finding a Provider

When you are looking for a provider you will need to know if they accept your insurance through contacting them or checking their practice’s website. You may also want to contact your insurance to inquire as to any limitations or co-pays that exist with behavioral health services. Insurance companies may only provide coverage for a certain amount of sessions per year (many times this is 52 sessions per year). If you receive Medicaid it is also important to inquire about service limitations as well as each state may have their own coverage limits.

Mental health professionals come from various educational backgrounds. Therapists can be psychiatrists (MDs), psychologists (Ph.Ds), counselors (their credentials may vary from state to state but LPC or PC are common) and social workers (also varied credentials but LCSW, LSW, or LISW are common). For counseling you will most likely see a psychologist, counselor, or social worker. Like counselors, social workers that specialize in mental health received training in graduate school in mental health interventions.Many people have a stigma towards social workers when it comes to seeing them for therapy because of the negative stereotype of us being people that take children away from their families.  This article from Lifehacker explains the differences in these specialities in greater detail. The credentials of your therapist are not as important as finding a therapist that specializes in what you are seeking services for and the rapport you feel with them.  

Visit Postpartum International’s link  for a list of regional coordinators that can provide you with a list of local professionals here.

 Visit  Postpartum Progress’s page here for providers.

In Australia you can access PANDA’s directory of services and providers here.

If you have difficulties finding a provider that specializes in PMADs such as postpartum depression or anxiety you can seek professionals that specialize in depression, anxiety, OCD, or psychosis. Interventions will be similar whether or not your therapist specializes in PMADs, although therapists that specialize in PMADs may have better resources and experience that are tailored to pregnancy and postpartum.

It is perfectly common and acceptable to seek a therapist of your own gender or have a gender preference. It is always helpful to have a provider in mind when you call a large practice by doing research first but if they are unavailable and you are offered alternatives it is acceptable to request a female or male depending on your preference or trauma history.

If you believe medication may need to be part of your treatment it is a good idea to look for counseling practices that contain a psychiatrist and mental health professionals that provide counseling services. In many circumstances psychiatrists only provide medication management and not counseling. Having a psychiatrist and therapist in the same practice is beneficial because your therapist and psychiatrist are more likely to communicate if they are in the same practice which provides you better care. Your therapist can also help you advocate to your psychiatrist when you have concerns about medication.

What to Expect From Your Therapist

In your first couple sessions with your therapist you will be asked a lot of questions. This will consist of why you sought treatment, your current presenting symptoms, history of medical conditions or previous mental health history, family medical or mental health history, any history of traumatic events, and your current family situation. Understanding your symptoms, your history, and your environment all help the therapist form a context to help you.

Depending on the therapists own style they may or may not be writing things down as you speak. If they don’t write down while you talk know that they will probably be writing down notes after you leave the session. If you have any concerns about your privacy you should ask your therapist for their privacy policy and how they keep records. Your records should be kept in a locked cabinet to ensure your privacy. Just like medical records you are protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA). For more information on your rights under HIPPA go here.

Your therapist should inform you of the limits of confidentiality. Everything that is said in a therapy sessions is confidential with the exception of 1) plans to harm self or commit suicide, 2) a plan to harm someone, 3) child abuse/neglect. In this case the thearpist may contact an emergency room or police depending on the situation. This should not deter you from sharing thoughts of wanting to harm yourself or others. Therapists are able to deciper thoughts from an actual plan and if you are a potential harm to yourself or others it is best that the safety of yourself and others is protected. Therapist are also mandated reporters of abuse/neglect of children. If you disclose that your child or a child you know is being abused the therapist may work with you to contact family services so that the child’s safety is protected.

Your therapist should be conducting an assessment and may come to a mental health diagnosis. Diagnosis is an important part of being able to provide you with treatment because many insurance providers require a diagnosis for billing purposes. But in my first posts I mentioned the important of understanding diagnosis as a billing ticket and not a label that needs to follow you around for life. Diagnosis helps therapist receive compensation for services and also helps the therapist plan a course of treatment.

Your therapist should also inform you of the course of treatment and what approaches they will be using. This may vary as many therapists use an eclectic approach based on what you share in sessions. However, it is helpful to know the course of your treatment and what will be asked of you in sessions.

What You Need to Do in Therapy

It’s simple but difficult. Be open, be honest, be vulnerable. Be willing to hear feedback. Be willing to change your thinking. If it helps write symptoms, thoughts, or problems you experience during the week and bring that into the session. Sometimes the day of therapy is a great day and you may show up not thinking you need anything and forgetting that 3 days before you felt you were an absolute mess.

Try to think of what you want and need from therapy and communicate that. How would you like your life to change? What would that look like? Having a vision of what you want therapy to achieve will help your therapist get you there. Be prepared to talk about what is on your mind each session.

Some Signs That You May Want to Seek A New Therapist

He or she talks more than you do in sessions. Sometimes people that seek this line of work find the work more therapeutic for themselves. Sometimes therapists that want to connect to you find it important to find ways to relate and then end up monopolize the conversation. If you feel you can’t get a word in edgewise it might be time to look elsewhere.

He or she offers a lot of life advice. It may seem strange but it is really not our job to offer you advice. We offer you tools to develop insights into your own life so that you can arrive at the choice for you. We are taught to value self-determination which is to respect the client’s authority to make their own choices. We may offer information, tools, and provide you with questions or ways to brainstorm solutions but it is the cornerstone of our work to ensure that you are making your decisions based on your own values and opinions while knowing their impact.

He or she is acting like your best friend. It may sound harsh but therapy is not a reciprocal relationship. If a therapist becomes too emotionally invested in your relationship then their judgment is clouded when providing you with treatment. Therapists should not be meeting with you outside of your sessions for coffee. The boundaries in your therapeutic relationship should be clear.

You feel you aren’t making progress and you’ve communicated with your therapist about this. Sometimes thearpeutic relationships can reach a plateau and something the way a therapist is approaching your problems may not be the best way for you. As therapists we know this and understand that a different perspective may work best for you. But to show respect it is always best to have the conversation first and explore if there are ways your therapist can change her approach before you begin trying to find a new one.

You feel judged by your therapist. One of the most important parts of therapy is that if feels like a safe place. If you feel your therapist has responded with judgement or shamed you in any way for some of your choices you need to find a new therapist that validates your feelings, helps you find a path to self-forgiveness for mistakes, and helps you change shameful thinking patterns. You shouldn’t be hearing things from your therapist like “Why in the world would you do that?!” or “Well that wasn’t a good choice!” Any therapist that perpetuates your shame is not working in your best interest.

 

Making that phone call for help is sometimes the hardest part. But it is strength. It is vulnerability. It is love for your child, yourself, and your family.