Women, Hormones and Mood

Did you know that women experience twice as much depression as men? Would that be because we’re more sensitive? I think not. The explanation which best fits is that we are more affected by hormonal shifts which influence our brain chemistry, particularly around times when our lives change dramatically-like pregnancy and post-birth.

In fact, 1 in 8 women will experience a clinical episode of depression, anxiety, etc. during pregnancy, postpartum and menopause, which is greater than the occurrence of most health conditions. So, what will it take for emotional health to become an integral part of women’s health? Why aren’t women being routinely screened for mood and anxiety conditions? How can health conditions which have such a profound impact on developing families continue to be ignored?

I was having this conversation Friday with a local journalist and told him that women must lead the charge like we’ve done with breast cancer. We must come forward and share our stories to support each other in getting the help we need and deserve. We must be prepared to educate our health providers and make it clear that we expect to be cared for-body, mind, heart and soul. We must challenge our own biases about anxiety and depression, and accept them as “health conditions” just like heart disease or diabetes.

Ghandi said, “Become the change you want to see in the world.”

To learn more about hormones and mood, read Women’s Moods about pregnancy and postpartum, The Wisdom of Menopause, and visit www.womenshealth.gov.

PSI Missouri Supports Moms: Our Turn to Help

Last week, I found out that my first baby and oldest daughter, Jessica, got into residency in general surgery and following much excitement, it made me think back to when she was born 27 years ago this May 18th. When I had Jess, I was already counseling postpartum moms and still decided not to follow my own good advice and got exhausted, emotionally depleted and mildly depressed. What a combo! I was one of the lucky moms though. After 3 months back at work part-time, my depression lifted and I felt myself again but I will never forget the challenge of those first few months.

Long story short, when my younger daughter Rachel was born almost 4 years later, I made my SELF-CARE A PRIORITY and had a great adjustment to new motherhood the second time. Again, I was fortunate and I’ve been a big believer in LIVING SELF-CARE ever since.

Now, it’s my pleasure to give back and raise funding for PSI Missouri and my friend who runs it, Linda Meyer, through “GIRLS NIGHT TO GIVE BACK.” PSI Missouri provides free phone and group support for any mom may be experiencing pregnancy or postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD and other emotional health conditions.  I only wish they would have been around when I had my babies.

So, we’re looking for women who want to experience a fun, relaxing and tasty evening on Thursday, April 9 from 5:30-8:30 at Feed Your Vitality, a new cool healthy eating venue at 1821 Cherokee. Click here to go to the e-vite invitation. It promises to be a good time for a good cause and if you can’t join us that night, you can still make a donation to this life-saving group online.

To read more about PPD, click here for Carrie Edelstein’s most excellent article which just came out in St. Louis magazine. To read more about PSI Missouri, click here.

Hope to see you there! Namaste

Postpartum Progress Hosts Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health

mothers-day-rally1On Sunday, May 11th, we’ll be celebrating our 6th annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health here at Postpartum Progress. That day we’ll feature 24 letters to new moms, one posted each hour on the hour, from great writers who’ve been there. They know how it feels. 

Read more…

Self Care: How Not To Do It

jennifer_mcc_portraitToday’s Self-Care Month Guest Blogger is Jennifer McCullough. She is a 20-year PR and Marketing professional turned stay-at-home mom slash blogging fanatic. You can learn more about her and read her crazy mom antics at http://www.mommyhooddom.com. Please stop by and say hello. She’d love to meet you!

After my son was born in the fall of 2011, with the exception of two trips to the pediatrician’s office, I didn’t leave my house for a month. I mostly just cried all day and ate Peanut M&Ms. The idea of self-care, or taking even a minute for myself, was nowhere on my radar.

At the same time I was getting my sea-legs as a mom, I was mourning the loss of my mother, who had died a month before my son was born. In the course of a year, I moved to a new city far away from friends and family, had a baby and lost my mom – that’s a pretty good recipe for emotional upheaval!

One of the main reasons I didn’t go out more right after my son was born was because I wasn’t comfortable breastfeeding in public. My breasts were humongous and hard to conceal. Pumping hurt, so I didn’t like to do that either.

I didn’t much like breastfeeding in those early days, but my son LOVED it. It seems like he wanted to nurse every 20 minutes, around the clock. I found out what real sleep deprivation is like. It’s not the kind you experience when you’re having fun in college. It’s the kind that goes on for weeks on end and that is actual torture.

During that first month, I didn’t talk to many people. I rarely showered. I guess maybe that’s why they didn’t talk to me. I don’t know.

To say I neglected my needs for basic things like sleep, nutritious food, exercise, shampoo and emotional support would be the understatement of the century.  I was a case study in self-care:  how not to do it. Those first 30 days were tough to say the least, but things slowly got better.

I will never forget the first trip I made to the grocery store, which was also my first time out of the house alone, about a month after my son was born.

I guess my brain had forgotten how to process so much sensory stimulation because I remember being overwhelmed with all the colors and shapes lining the shelves! I couldn’t focus on any one thing. The barely audible overhead music combined with the sounds of shopping carts and occasional chatter from the other shoppers bombarded me like a Mardi Gras parade.  I realized I needed to get out more often or else risk becoming someone who could not go out – at all. And that thought frightened me – a lot.

I wish I could say I started going out all the time after that grocery shopping experience, but I really didn’t. Living in a new place where I didn’t know anyone made it tough. The weekly trips to the grocery store and the occasional weekend trip to the mall were big adventures. Mostly, we stayed at home, my infant son and me, while my husband was at work. The long winter days melted together.

The next spring, my son and I did start having a few play dates here and there. It was great to connect with other moms. My son loved the social time with other little ones. We worked our way up to visiting the library.

When it warmed up, we walked around our neighborhood. I remember being so happy just to get fresh air. It was such a small thing, but after being inside for months on end, fresh air felt like such a luxury!

Eventually, I started getting my hair done again. For the longest time after my son was born, I either cut it myself or went to one of those drive-thru hair cutters for the easiest, most low-maintenance style possible. It’s called a pixie and it takes forever to grow out!

My son turned two-years-old a few months ago and to celebrate, I went out with one of my girlfriends and got a manicure and a pedicure. It was awesome! It was only the second manicure I’ve ever had in my life and it was my very first pedicure! I thought surely they’d give me a discount! They didn’t, but that’s ok. I’m still going to go back.

I still breastfeed my son several times a night and before his nap, and whenever he gets an “ouchy.” But, I do sleep a little more these days. I’m still looking forward to getting a good 8 hours of uninterrupted slumber. I know it will come, eventually.

I joined a health club last week. Crazy, I know! I haven’t actually worked out yet, but I don’t want to do too much too fast. They say you should start slow. I figure I’ll get ON the treadmill around the first of March.

I started a blog called Mommyhooddom. Writing is great self-care therapy for me. I like to write sad stories about missing my mom and funny stories about being a mom. Connecting with other parents online is a huge blessing! They make me feel human on the days I feel like a wind-up mom.Mommyhooddom_logo150

I have a long, long, long way to go before I can say I’m good at taking care of myself. But, I have high hopes that by the time my son starts pre-school in the fall, I’ll be well on my way to remembering what it was like to have both of my legs shaved at the same time.  One can dream, even while awake at night!

©2014 Jennifer McCullough

Self-Care and Recovery from Postpartum Depression

coordinator-cor-meyerToday’s Self-Care Month Guest Post is courtesy of Linda Meyer. Linda is a mother of two, a Postpartum Depression survivor and a Missouri Co-Coordinator for Postpartum Support International. Thank you for your words of wisdom, Linda!

The term self-care was not even on my radar as a new mom. You give birth and this becomes your 24 hr/day job until eternity, right? No more lazy mornings, naps, lingering showers, uninterrupted meals, or socializing with friends.

Imagine that you are performing a monotonous mommy routine all day every day without thinking about yourself or your needs; you’re losing yourself.  Three months postpartum, motherhood became tremendously more difficult and overwhelming than I ever imagined. In fact, I was not in love with my new role, completely unaware that I was actually suffering from Postpartum Depression (PPD).  I did eventually seek help (not an easy task!). After receiving a diagnosis, I began working with a healthcare provider and a therapist, and self-care became instrumental in my recovery.

Here are some simple self-care suggestions for the new mom:

  • Get out by yourself without your baby (It’s okay to do this, I promise!)
  • Shower/get dressed
  • Eat a healthy diet and exercise
  • Talk with a therapist/counselor (important for emotional distress)
  • Stay in touch with supportive friends (or make new friends)
  • Sneak in a date night every so often
  • Occasionally ask a relative/friend to take your baby overnight (It’s okay to do this, really!)

It doesn’t matter if you choose to do one or several steps listed here. Choose whatever makes you happy, helps you relax and reminds you of the person you were before you became MOM.

Woman Plans; the Universe Enhances

Like most of us, I keep a calendar to make sure that I am aware of my daily appointments and things to do. However, on more days than not, my day ends up looking a lot different than my calendar! The opportunities that the Universe presents are abundant if I just keep my eyes open.

I am active in our local Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association, so I am often up at the Police Department, helping them out with whatever I can. Yesterday, I was up there installing a new computer for our association to use (the old one still had a 3.5″ floppy disk drive in it!). My plans were to visit with a friend afterward.

I was finishing up when an officer came in to the workroom and asked the volunteers present if anyone could help him out with a CIT (Crisis Intervention Training) class that he was teaching that day. He needed two people to role-play mentally ill folks in crisis so that the trainees could practice what they had learned. I called my friend, who was happy to come up and help, and so we ended up helping to train local police officers on how to deal with the mentally ill!

Not only was this a great opportunity to assist the police department, but also a chance to speak up about the stigma of mental illness and give feedback about how we, in the role of someone in a mental crisis, felt we were treated by the officers. The scenario I chose to play out was one of a severely depressed and suicidal new mother. Basically, I was re-visiting my past and got to see what might have happened had my crisis gotten so bad that my husband had called the police.

Being trained police officers, all of the trainees, save one female officer, were lacking empathy and ended up escalating my anger with their approaches rather than making me feel like cooperating. After the role-play, we did a de-briefing in which I got to tell them about how I felt about what they said and did. Only one team even picked up on the fact that not only was I suicidal, but that I had a plan (I kept asking for the time because my “plan” was to walk out into rush hour traffic). It was a wonderful opportunity to educate the officers about subtle clues and essential questions to ask should they come across a woman in that situation.

I left feeling great that not only had I assisted the police department in general, but also educated the class about postpartum depression! My schedule just “happened” to be open that afternoon, allowing me to participate. The Universe does things like that all the time…we just have to pay attention! So, keep your eyes and ears open, evaluate each opportunity that presents itself, and act on the ones that your intuition says “yes” to!

Namaste’

Celebrate Your Awesomeness with Kid President

I was looking for something fun and inspiring to kick off “February is Self-Care Month” when this Kid President video arrived in my e-mail. It’s about what he would tell someone if it were her “first day here.” I think that if you follow his advice and say these things to yourself, you’ll feel better and more accepting of yourself, which Buddha reminds us “you as much as anyone else in the universe deserve your love and affection.”

Please watch this video until you’re convinced of your awesomeness. Play it as often as you need to quiet your inner critic. It’s a great way to practice self-care. Enjoy!