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Retrain Your Brain After Depression: 6 Good Mood Super foods!

Retrain Your Brain After Depression: 6 Good Mood Super foods!

What you put in your body is very important for both physical and psychological health. As the saying goes, you are what you eat. Here are several foods that when consumed on a regular basis can improve your mood and help you retrain your brain after depression.

IMPROVE YOUR LIFE WITH DBT: STOP WORRY THOUGHTS

IMPROVE YOUR LIFE WITH DBT: STOP WORRY THOUGHTS

You’re lying in bed about to fall asleep when you suddenly remember you forgot to make your car payment. Your body tenses as you worry where you will get the money for your mortgage next week. Maybe if you take a cash advance on your credit card, but then the interest will be outrageous. How will you ever send your kids to college? Or retire?  Now you’re awake with little hope of getting back to sleep.

Beware of "Mean Girl" Mommies

Beware of "Mean Girl" Mommies

Becoming a mom can make you feel vulnerable and isolated. This is compounded when you find yourself in a new community without a support system. You eagerly open yourself up to other moms expecting to find people who share and understand your need for camaraderie. When instead you find the kind of judgment, cattiness and cruelty usually relegated to high school cliques the results can be devastating.

Why do Parties with Kids Always End in Disaster?

I love having parties at our house and it also scares me to death. A few weeks ago, in honor of my undergraduate alma mater’s participation in the Final Four (Let’s not talk about the game because the University of Oklahoma lost miserably to Villanova) we had a little gathering at our house. My husband was thrilled. He loves nothing better than presiding over the kitchen while several friends and family members eagerly await his offerings. He got to use his emersion circulator, his mandolin and his deep fryer. For him, the only thing better would have been to incorporate the smoker into the mix.

Our sons loved hosting their friends. They ran around the house wearing costumes, playing hide and seek and having epic light saber battles. Not one iPhone, electronic or computer game was used the entire night.

It was a great mix of people. We enjoyed introducing friends from different parts of our lives, and everyone got along famously. I, the mother of a 2-year-old, a 5-year- old and a 10-year-old, got to engage in the illusive adult conversation for several uninterrupted minutes. It was fantastic.

As we were saying our good-byes at the end of the evening, my husband and I were patting each other on the back congratulating ourselves on a successful party.

Then (cue the horror movie music), we went upstairs.

It looked like our house was ransacked by intruders who never found the goods. The pillows, sheets and blankets were ripped off the beds and strewn everywhere, closets were open and contents pulled out and dumped on the floor, furniture was moved. Legos, art supplies, puzzle pieces and books littered the floor. It seemed as if someone just pulled things off the shelves and dumped out all the baskets. Empty juice boxes and candy wrappers were mixed in with the toys.

Worst of all, my son’s bunk-bed slats were taken out one by one so if someone got on the top bunk they risked crashing down probably on the head of the someone on the bottom bunk.

When we asked our older boys how this destruction came to be their eyes grew wide as they shook their heads in disbelief and reported absolute ignorance of any wrongdoing.

I must admit this wasn’t a complete shock. After our first party in the house, I found someone had been in our bedroom. Inside our unmade, then clumsily remade bed, I found a pizza crust. Inside my closet, still packed boxes were smashed and there were shoeprints in my soaking tub. After that, I locked my bedroom when we had guests.

The thing is these are not bad kids. Individually, they are polite, kind, upstanding citizens, but when they get together something happens. A mob mentality takes over and it they seem to feel like anything goes.

While it’s happening, we grown-ups are just so thrilled to be able to talk to one another without much interruption. We try not to think about the devastation we might find at the end of the night.

Truthfully, it wasn’t terrible. I love that the kids were playing together, getting along and not staring at screens. As summer approaches these gatherings are going to happen more and more often. I need to figure out how to balance my fear of destruction with my desire to let the kids be kids.

Maybe the key is to not take it personally. Last night as we walked among the debris, I was not just angry, but hurt. How dare these children treat our home like this? We welcomed them, fed them, even gave them homemade chocolate chip cookies and they thanked us by wrecking the joint.

This morning I can look at the situation a little more impartially. Of course, the children were not trying to upset me. They were just having fun. My husband and I are not going to stop inviting people over for fear their kids might make a mess…even a big one.

The fact is life is messy. Our goal is not to keep the house perfectly clean (it never is anyway). Our goal is to make connections and memories and to enjoy ourselves. If we make a mess in the process, so be it…I’ll just make the kids clean it up.

Should Therapists Use Social Media? | BlogHer

Finding a therapist today is a little like online dating. It's not that much of a stretch; therapy is a relationship after all. For it to be effective, the client needs to be at least as emotionally vulnerable with a therapist as with a potential partner. Things get personal in therapy from the very beginning. People often reveal more in the first few sessions with a therapist then they ever do in other relationships. In order for clients to be comfortable, they want to feel a connection with the therapist before they commit.

Source: Should Therapists Use Social Media? | BlogHer

8 Tips for Conquering the Dark Side of Early Motherhood

Being a mother is something you’ve always known you wanted. As you counted down the days until the baby came you fantasized about how wonderful it would be to care for your beautiful baby. You imagined holding your baby in your arms, pushing your baby through the park, kissing the tiny toes as your baby cooed. Now all your dreams have come true. You have a loving husband, a beautiful house and the much longed for children. You also have a secret: you don’t like motherhood.

Of course, you love your kids, but for you, life as a mother is far from enjoyable.

In your mind, motherhood was supposed to be a deeply fulfilling…even magical experience. Instead you’re deeply exhausted. You are never alone, not even in the bathroom. It seems someone is always touching you, sitting on you, grabbing at you, needing you. You are constantly hearing screaming and crying dealing with mess after mess and it never ends. Even when you go to bed you can’t completely relax. You are always on alert for a child to cry out in the middle of the night. You’re worn-out.

When you were in the hospital having your baby they made you watch a video about the dangers of shaken baby syndrome. You just couldn’t imagine how someone could do such a thing to a defenseless baby. Now it's not such a mystery.

When the toddler is throwing her breakfast on the floor and the baby is screaming and your husband is away and you have barely eaten or slept let alone showered in days, and the house is a mess and this is not what you thought being a mother would be and you just want the crying to stop…you suddenly understand the importance of watching the shaken baby video, and you hate yourself for it.

A good mother, a loving mother shouldn’t be able imagine such a thing. And with every dark thought you also feel incredibly guilty. You LOVE your children. You really do, and you would never hurt them.

It’s no wonder you’re at the end of your rope. You’re completely drained physically and emotionally. It is incredibly difficult to offer kindness and empathy when you are empty. In addition, you’re disappointed. Your expectations of motherhood did not match up with the day-to-day reality of caring for small children.

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You are not alone.

Our society romanticizes motherhood. Mothers are revered, but not supported. Mothers are expected to dive into this new role with little training, little to no experience and often alone. They are doing all of this while recovering from the physical trauma of childbirth and the hormonal shifts that come after. Many moms rarely get breaks let alone days off. It’s no wonder so many moms feel at once at their wits end and incredibly guilty for feeling that way.

Give yourself a break. You are not a bad mom. You are doing an unbelievably hard job, and you’re doing a lot better then you think. It is not unusual to feel this sense of maternal discontent, or even to have dark thoughts. Being able to understand the impulse to lose control when you are at your wits end is far from acting on it. Many people have dark thoughts when they are overtired and stressed, but few people act on them.

What you need is support. Every mother needs support.

Here are suggestions for easing the stress of motherhood and getting the support you need:

  1. Take a break: No one can continue to work effectively without ever getting a break. It’s important to have regularly scheduled time off. Whether it’s an afternoon to yourself or a weekend away. Take some time off.
  2. Connect with other supportive moms: Join a mom’s group, take a mommy and me class, go to the park or story time at the library, go to a mom’s night out. Talk to other parents who have been there and have gotten through it.
  3. Take care of yourself: Exercise (join a gym with childcare), eat right, meditate, leave the dishes and nap when your kids nap…do something for yourself.
  4. Acknowledge your feelings: There are parts of motherhood that suck…and it’s okay to admit it. Recognizing the unpleasant parts, allows to you to see that it’s not all bad.
  5. Be mindful of what you love about motherhood: Close your eyes and focus on your happiest parenting moment. See it in your mind’s eye, feel the joy it evokes, allow that joy to envelop your body. Sit with it for a few minutes. Now open your eyes and notice how you feel. Doing this exercise on a regular basis can begin to offset the negative thoughts that you’ve been having.
  6. Find help: Call your friends, call your family, call your neighbor. Find support wherever you can get it. Parenting is much easier when you don’t have to do it alone.
  7. Focus on the relationship: Shift from seeing motherhood as a burden to seeing it a opportunity to cultivate a relationship with your children. Take a step back and look at them as interesting individuals rather than the source of more work. Be mindful of what makes them special and what you love about them. Notice their smell, the sound of their voice, the feel of their skin, the way their eyes light up when they see you. Engage with them in something they enjoy, and introduce them to something you loved at their age.
  8. Call a therapist: Life doesn’t have to be so hard. If you find you are excessively unhappy or anxious or if the suggestions above feel overwhelming or impossible to do don’t suffer in silence. This week new recommendations came out encouraging healthcare providers to screen all pre-partum and postpartum women for depression. An experienced therapist can help ease your pain. If you need a referral call your doctor or your insurance company.

Tips from Therapists: Families, Relationships & The Holidays- Sarah Leitschuh Counseling, PLLC

The holidays can be an emotionally stressful time as we reconnect with family, examine our relationships and deal with past loss. Minnesota therapist, Sarah Leitschuh, has compiled several posts by therapists addressing these topics.

Source: Tips from Therapists: Families, Relationships & The Holidays- Sarah Leitschuh Counseling, PLLC

The Therapist Takes Her Own Advice: All Parents Need Support

I just lost it on my sweet little 4-year-old boy, Harry. He was eating his breakfast very slowly. I had reminded him several times that it was almost time to get dressed to which he responded several times “I’M STILL EATING MY BREAKFAST!” After the 3rd or 4th time, I lost it. I yelled. He cried then I cried.

As I got him dressed and hustled him out the door I told him I was sorry for yelling. We got down the hill to the bus stop just as the bus was pulling up. I hugged him. He got on and looked back at me with a very sad face. I waved and blew kissed to him as the bus drove away, but he still looked sad and a little confused. I’m heartbroken and so ashamed of my behavior.

I’m the grown-up, the protector, the helper...but I’m also human.

I’m not excusing my behavior. I wish this morning had gone much differently, but it doesn’t help to revel in guilt. Doing so would just perpetuate the shame, increase the stress and make it more likely that I’ll lose it again. Instead, I want to investigate how my behavior happened.

I was awakened at 5:30am by a toddler in a cranky mood. He spent the morning “airing his grievances.” He didn't want to be put down, but he didn’t want to sit on my lap. He wanted to eat, but he didn’t want to be in the highchair or eat anything I gave him. Needless to say, I was already on edge. So it’s no wonder I got so upset when big brother wouldn’t get dressed.

I don’t think my children are unusually defiant and I don’t think I’m unusually sensitive. I think it’s the situation that’s flawed.

Parenting happens in pairs or alone when what we really need is a community. Not just a community of people who live near us, but a community of people working together to help each other. Sounds like an impossible utopia, doesn’t it?

Humans are communal beings. We are hard wired to live and thrive together and yet so many parents are thrown to the wolves. We do it all, or most of it, on our own.

No wonder so many of us feel so often at our wits end and then so ashamed for not being better.

We need real support, real respect, real camaraderie...not judgment and competition or worse isolation.

Years ago, I worked on an inpatient psychiatric unit. It was a hard job. The only way I was able to do my job effectively was because I had a team to support me. If I was having a hard day I knew there was always someone there for me. How many parents can say the same thing?

It’s not surprising so many of us end up yelling at our kids at times. I don’t pretend to have the all the answers to this problem, but what I do know is that all parents could use more support. All of us need safe place to talk about our parenting mishaps without judgment. All parents need someone to vent to, someone who can remind them that parenting is a hard job. All parents need support.

When young Harry got off the bus at the end of the day, I hugged him tight and apologized again for yelling this morning. He said “That’s okay, mommy. I just thought you lost your mind.” From the mouths of babes...

6 Tips for Surviving New Motherhood

New motherhood is not for the faint of heart. From the overwhelming exhaustion to the unexpected mood swings to endless diaper changes, it takes a lot to be a mom. Here are a few tips to help you survive new motherhood.

  1. Make sleep a priority. I know it seems like an impossible dream, but it’s so important to try to get your 8 hours. Leave the laundry. Leave the dishes. Enlist the help of family and friends. Let baby sleep on your chest if necessary (I did). Do whatever it takes to get as much sleep as you can! If you’re having a difficult time getting baby to sleep take a look at Dr. Harvey Karp's book, Happiest Baby on the Block. It’s a lifesaver!
  2. Eat well. Don’t let good nutrition go by the way side. You need to keep up your strength to care for yourself and your baby. When people ask how they can help let them shop and cook for you. If that’s not possible use Fresh Direct or another delivery service, but make sure you keep plenty of nutritious food at the ready.
  3. Get outside. Sunlight is a great mood lifter. Go for a walk. Go to park (a great way to meet other moms). Just get out in the sun!
  4. Do some social networking. Going online to connect is a great option for new moms with very limited and irregular downtime. With everything from mommy blogs to support groups, there are so many sources of support and information for moms online. Take a look at cafemom.com, postpartumprogress.com or blogher.com. I also highly recommend the podcast, longestshortesttime.com.
  5. Get exercise. It’s been said again and again, exercise is so important to maintain good health. Exercise for a new mom is particularly helpful. It improves your mood, allows you to do something for yourself and helps reacquaint you with your body. There are many stroller walking/jogging mom groups to join. Check out The Ultimate Fitness Routine for Moms. In addition, many gyms offer childcare services starting as early as 3 months. Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
  6. Get support. Whether it’s family, friends, a mom’s group or a counselor every mom needs support. Ask your pediatrician or OB for local resources. 

If the suggestions above feel impossible or too overwhelming contact me for an individual support session. You don't have to suffer alone.

Retrain Your Brain After Depression: Stop a Bad Day in its Tracks

Having a bad day sucks. Nobody likes it, but for people who struggle with depression a bad day can be really scary. The intense emotions generated can make you feel like you’re falling back down the rabbit hole of depression. The truth is when you have a history of depression sometimes all it take is a bad day to spiral you into another episode. Below are some tips to help you stop a bad day in its tracks before things get out of control.

  1. Breathe: When you get upset or agitated your sympathetic nervous system gets triggered and you go into fight or flight mode as if you were in real danger. Your adrenaline starts pumping, your muscles tense up and your breath gets shallow. Taking long slow deep breaths can start to turn that around. Deep breathing tells your mind and body to relax…there is nothing to fear.
  2. Do a body scan: Just sit or lay in a comfortable position. Focus your attention on each part of your body for a few moments. Notice where you are holding your emotional tension. Is it in your chest, your stomach, your shoulders? Allow yourself to feel the sensation in the body without judgment. Next imagine yourself letting it go with each exhalation. This exercise is not only deeply relaxing; it also helps you become more aware of the connection between mind and body.
  3. Practice benign interpretation: You are constantly making interpretations about everything. After a bad day, your mind might start turning in a negative direction. “This kind of thing always happens to me, my life sucks, I might as well give up.” Benign interpretation is simply not assuming the worst, but rather making a neutral or even a positive interpretation. With benign interpretation the above thoughts become: “This situation will end, I can get through this, tomorrow will be better.”
  4. Do something kind for yourself: After a bad day everyone needs a special treat. Get a massage, get your nails done, have your favorite treat, take a bubble bath, go out to dinner. Do something that makes you feel good. You deserve it after the day you’ve had!
  5. Call your therapist: Your therapist is there to support you. Maybe you just need a brief kind word or maybe you need an extra session. Remember you don’t have to get through this alone.

6 Ways to Retrain Your Brain After Depression

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If you’ve struggled with depression you are probably aware that depression changes your brain. Even after you’re stable on medication your thought process, behavior patterns and general sense of self well-being can be altered. You may still be behaving, thinking and feeling like a depressed person. Think of this way, when the cast comes off a broken leg or arm the bone is healed, but the muscles around it are weak. You need to do physical therapy to regain the strength you’ve lost. Healing after depression is similar.

Your thoughts might still turn in a negative way. You may still socially isolate, sleep too much, skip activities you once enjoyed. You may not feel like yourself and have no idea what to do about it.

Luckily, there is something you can do. The following are some strategies that can help. I encourage you to be patient with yourself, change takes time, but with regular effort you can retrain your brain after depression.

  1. Exercise: Walk, run, bike, etc. Do something to get your heart rate up and those endorphins pumping. Studies show that doing 30 minutes of exercise most days can improve your mood significantly. If you’re new to exercise check with your doctor before starting a routine, and go slowly at first.
  2. Meditate: Meditation can do amazing things for you mind and body. It can help relieve anxiety, improve sleep, boost concentration, lessen minor aches and pains and decrease depression. You can practice in many ways from focusing on the breath to repeating a mantra to listening to a guided meditation. The most important thing is to be consistent in your practice.
  3. Journal: Get your thoughts and feelings out of your head and onto the page. Sit for at least 15 minutes and just write what comes to mind. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar or punctuation…just write. Believe it or not writing on a regular basis can be as effective as psychotherapy.
  4. Talk about it: Studies show that we get as much of an endorphin boost from talking as we can from sex.  When problems live in our heads they often feel much more overwhelming.  Getting them out in the open is often a huge relief.  You don’t have to do this alone. Call a friend, call a family member, call your priest, minister or rabbi. Pick-up the phone and talk about it.
  5. Rediscover your creativity: Everyone is passionate about something. Those creative passions often get buried under the detritus of depression, and remain forgotten. Take a moment to remember the last time you did something that filled you with pure joy. It may be baking, gardening, painting or dancing. You might have to think back. Maybe it was singing in the high school musical, ice-skating as a child or building with legos. Remind yourself of that which makes your heart sing and do it!
  6. Get therapy! The recommended treatment for depression and anxiety is a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Still, so many people take the medication and skip the therapy. Seeing a therapist helps in so many ways from helping you manage your stress to helping you improve your relationships to helping you create a plan for coping with crisis. If you need help finding a therapist ask your psychiatrist, call your insurance company or feel free to contact me, 917-721-2257 or rebekah@rebekahshackney.com Together we can work to retrain your brain after depression.

 

The Therapist Takes Her Own Advice: Bye-bye Breastfeeding

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shutterstock_217419520 My baby is now 17.5 months old and for the majority of that time, I have been his primary source of sustenance and soothing. He never took a bottle. I tried different formulas and I pumped, but he just couldn’t get used to drinking from an artificial nipple. He screamed bloody murder when anyone tried to foist a bottle on him. (By the way, I have a very gently used top of the line breast pump if anyone wants it.) Forget the rubbery sippy cups, he just chewed on those. If any liquid accidentally got into his mouth he would just let it spill out onto the floor, the same goes for a regular cup and a straw…until recently.

I’m happy announce that my baby can drink from a cup and sip through a straw! But lets back up to the weaning part.

I was very conflicted about the prospect of weaning. I love the closeness and the ability to comfort him. Still, it was really getting to be difficult for a variety of reasons.

The little guy does not like having anything covering his head so I often ended up flashing people when I nursed him. Plus, he recently began massaging the breast he wasn’t drinking from. Not just a little nuzzle, but full on up the shirt under the bra nipple massage action. This is actually very normal behavior, but it made me very uncomfortable. So I would take his hand out of my shirt, he would sneak it back. It felt like I was at once nursing and trying to keep him from going to second base. This was particularly fun while nursing in public.

I tried to cut back little by little, but I’ve always nursed on-demand. When I started to deny him, he would scream…for hours or as long as I was in his vicinity. When I left the room he was fine…little stinker.

Eventually we decided the best bet was to send him to grandma’s house for a few days, and that did the trick. A hop, skip and a weekend later, he was weaned, and I was on the couch using a bag of frozen tortellini to sooth my engorged breasts. Did I mention it's really not a good idea to stop breastfeeding cold turkey? Thankfully, a little Sudafed and some cabbage leaves (seriously) dried up my milk supply.

This is an important step, but I must admit it’s bitter sweet for me. On the one hand, I have my body back, and my toddler has become more affectionate. He offers more hugs and kisses, and he will now snuggle with me without trying to nurse (which he never did before). On the other hand, I miss the profound connection, and comfort we both got during the nursing process. He is my 3rd and final baby. I will never again give birth or nurse another child. I’m mourning the passing of this stage of life.

That said, it’s exciting to see how he’s growing and changing, and I look forward to watching his on-going progress.

On a side note, other day I got on the scale and saw that I was up 5 pounds. I hadn’t changed my eating or exercise habits. How did this happen? Oh, wait. I’m not burning calories by breastfeeding.

 

Tips on Taming End of School Year Stress

I've been thinking a lot about the stress students are under these days, particularly after seeing the new documentary, Race to Nowhere, a film that questions the benefits of giving so much homework students.  It seems anytime I speak to the parent of a school age child, they are telling me about how much stress their kids are under.  They have so many responsibilities with schoolwork, sports, music, community service, after school jobs, religion classes, etc. The pressure seems to double this time of the year with finals and other end of the year activities. Kids are not getting enough sleep, and they are totally stressed out.  So how can kids stay involved without losing their minds?  Here are a few tips:  

  1. Get more sleep:  Teens are often sleep deprived especially as finals loom.  But lack of sleep greatly effects a student's performance in school.  So do not sacrifice sleep for extra study.  Instead spend a set amount of time reviewing for the next day's test then turn out the lights, and sleep.  Reviewing right before bed can help solidify facts and make them easier to recall the next day.
  2. Exercise:  You probably know that exercise is great for stress relief.  What you may not know is that getting exercise immediately before a test or a big presentation has been shown to help students do better.  So skip the last minute cramming, and go for a run instead.
  3. Don't Multi-Task:  When you devote all of your focus to one thing at a time you are much more effective and faster then if you try to do many things at once.  In addition, if you put all of your attention on one task at a time you are less likely to be distracted and overwhelmed, and you retain more information.
  4. Vent:  Life is hard during finals, but it won't be hard forever.  Talking or writing about how you're feeling can help you process and move on rather than getting bogged down in negativity that keeps you from the task at hand.
  5. Visualize Success:  This may sound cheesy but it works!  Imagine yourself successfully taking that difficult test, making that presentation, accepting that diploma, etc.  You can also visualize the reward...relaxing during the summer break!
  6. Build in breaks and small rewards:  Work of any kind is much easier when you are looking forward to something.  Breaks also help to give your mind a rest allowing you to come back refreshed, and ready to work again.
  7. Get Help:  If you or your child is increasingly tearful, getting nauseated or vomiting in relation to stress, not eating, having difficulty sleeping, or displaying other concerning behaviors engage a qualified therapist.

 

 

Is it “Baby Blues” or Postpartum Depression

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The baby you have anxiously awaited has just arrived. You should be on top of the world. So why are you so sad? It’s not clear, but you are not alone. As many as 80% of women have some mood difficulties after giving birth. They feel alone, disconnected, upset, scared or unloving toward their baby…and, of course, guilty for having these feelings.For the majority of women, the symptoms are mild to moderate and go away on their own. However, about 10-20% of new mothers experience a more debilitating mood disorder called postpartum depression. So how do you know if its just common baby blues or something more serious?

The “baby blues” are a temporary state of heightened emotions that effect about half of mew mothers. This usually peaks 3-5 days after giving birth and can last for about 2 weeks. Indications of baby blues include, crying easily, difficulty sleeping, irritability, sadness and edginess. Baby blues are not considered an illness, and do not get in the way of a woman’s ability to care for her baby. The tendency to develop postpartum blues is not connected to a previous mental illness and is not brought on by stress.

On the other hand, postpartum depression is a serious illness, and it requires the mother to get help.  Postpartum depression occurs in about 10-20% of women who have recently given birth.  It usually happens within a few months of delivery, but it can develop anytime in the first year.  Risk factors include previous episodes of depression, severe stress, inadequate social support and previous premenstrual dysphoric disorder (a severe form of PMS).

Symptoms can include depressed mood, tearfulness, inability to enjoy pleasurable activities, difficulty sleeping, low energy, change in appetite, suicidal thoughts, feelings of inadequacy as a parent, and impaired concentration.  A diagnosis is made when these symptoms are present for a least a week.  Unlike baby blues these symptoms do not resolve on their own, and they do interfere with the woman's ability to function.

If you experience postpartum depression, you may worry about the baby’s health and well-being. You may have negative thoughts about the baby and fears about harming the child (although women who have these thoughts rarely act on them). Postpartum depression  impedes a woman’s ability to care for herself and her baby, and if left untreated can create a very dangerous situation for both mother and child.

If you suspect that you or a loved one has postpartum depression call do not wait until the situation gets worse.  Call your obstetrician or contact Rebekah Shackney, LCSW at rebekah@rebekahshackney.com for questions or concerns regarding postpartum depression.

The Therapist Takes Her Own Advice: Unto the Breech

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  So I’m 38 weeks pregnant today.  I just come from the doctor who told me the baby is not only around 8 lbs, 15oz, but he is also breech.  The first part is not surprising as his brothers were both big boys as well, but breech…yikes.

If this guy doesn’t get into position, I’ll have to have a c-section.  This was not in my plan.  I wanted to go into labor naturally, and have a regular delivery.

This is really disappointing, but I suppose I have to practice what I preach.  I often tell clients who are expecting to make a birth plan, but be ready to throw the whole thing out the window if something changes.  Having a safe birth is far more important than following a birth plan.

Still, it’s going to be so hard to start life as the mother of 3 after having surgery.  Already, I feel guilty about the sacrifices my other two will have to make.  My 8 year old is being forced to share his room with his 3 year old brother until we get a bigger house.  This is not a tragedy, but it’s really annoying for a guy who is used to having his own space.

My 3 year old is not going to know what hit him when the baby comes.  He’s not going to like sharing his mommy with his baby brother.  He’s not going to like that his brother gets to breastfeed and he doesn’t.  He’s not going to like that his brother gets to sleep with mommy and he doesn’t.  He’s not going to like that his brother gets to use a Binky and he doesn’t…the list goes on and on.

If I focused on all that could go wrong, I might lose my mind.  For now, I’ll focus on what I can do.  I’ll talk to the boys about what to expect, and reassure them that they are and always will be loved.

By the way, I haven’t given up on getting the baby to move into a head down position.  I’ll try anything…acupuncture, visualization, headstands, etc.  If you have any suggestions please send them my way.

And at the end of the day, if he’s still breech, I’ll work on acceptance.

Resolve To Improve Your Life With Meditation

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I recently read an article about students at Visitacion Valley Middle School in San Francisco who were dramatically changed when the school incorporated meditation.  This was sold to the students as “Quiet Time.” 

The results were amazing.  Suspensions, fighting and stress decreased significantly while test scores, attendance and happiness increased significantly.

This happened in a neighborhood where shootings were so common the school had it’s own full-time grief counselor.  Almost everyone knew at least one person who had been wounded or killed.

If meditation can change the lives of these kids, imagine what it can do for you.

During this time of year so many of us make New Years Resolutions.  Maybe you find you want to lose weight, quit smoking, manage debt, start a fitness program or reduce stress.  If you do, you’re not alone.  Those are some of the most common New Years resolutions.

The problem is most people fail when they make resolutions, but why?

Well the truth is we are creatures of habit, not creatures of change.  Even when the habit is unhealthy or unpleasant making a change is hard.  Still, don’t let that fact discourage you.  Change is possible.  You just have to be smart about it.

My suggestion is to put your mind and body in the most optimal condition before  you start to work on your resolution.  Learn to meditate like the Visitacion Valley Middle School students.

Twice a day (in the morning and in the late afternoon ideally) take about 10 to 20 minutes to sit quietly and clear your mind.  Do that regularly for a month then start to work on your New Years Resolutions one at a time.

I can’t promise you will be successful.  However, if it worked to turn around the lives of those struggling students it just might work for you.

 

 

If you are interested in learning meditation in a supportive group setting contact me about joining my Mindfulness Group for Women.

THE THERAPIST TAKES HER OWN ADVICE: MY FATHER’S FINAL STRUGGLE, PART 2

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Last September, my father fell and broke his neck.  This fall impaired his ability to swallow, and he developed aspiration pneumonia several times. Then in April, Dad had surgery to correct the problem, and we were finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.  After all the recent turmoil, Dad seemed to be on the road to recovery.

Following surgery, Dad was moved to a rehab facility to rebuild his strength.  After spending so much time in a hospital bed, he had almost lost the ability to walk and his ability to talk was also severely impaired.  Still, we had hope.

It was slow going.  Dad was easily exhausted leaving him and the physical therapists frustrated.  He started to refuse treatment.

Then we learned that some of his pain medication had been discontinued while at the hospital.  No wonder he refused treatment.  His medication was restarted and hope was rekindled.

Still, he was not improving.  The nursing staff was becoming more and more frustrated saying Dad wasn’t trying hard enough.  They decided to discharge him.  They gave Mom one week’s notice to find another placement.

Mom couldn’t take him home as the house was not wheelchair accessible, and mom couldn’t care for him alone.

She was able to place him in a nursing home.  Though the care was good the place was to depressing (and expensive).  If he stayed, mom would exhaust all her savings in about 5 or 6 years.

Thankfully, my brother and his wife agreed to move in with mom to help care for Dad, and construction began to make the house wheelchair accessible.  We pinned our hope on the day Dad could return home.

But it was not meant to be.  Dad started developing pneumonia again, and his body became weaker and weaker.

On August 3rd, I got a call that Dad was nonresponsive, and I should come right away.  I booked the earliest flight I could, for 6am the next morning.

That evening, I went to a family party with my father’s brother and sisters and their families.  While there my brother called to tell me that Dad was awake and alert.

I told dad I loved him, and I was on my way.  Everyone at the party was thrilled to hear that the situation did not seem as dire as we originally thought.

But, the next morning as the car pulled up to LaGuardia, my phone rang.  It was 4:45am. My mom told me that Dad passed away.

When I spoke to Dad, he had just been anointed by his priest.  His responsiveness was the last burst of energy that often comes before death.

At first, I was disappointed that I didn’t get to say goodbye to Dad before he died.  Then I realized that the phone call the night before was our goodbye.

He knew I was with his siblings so they could share in the experience.  He also knew that I was on my way to Oklahoma to be with Mom.  He could go in peace.

THERAPIST TAKES HER OWN ADVICE: MY FATHER’S FINAL STRUGGLE PART 1

  As I have mentioned in previous blogs, my father has been ill this year.  Last September, fell and broke his neck.  He was just walking to his car, and he tripped.

My father was born with cerebral palsy, which means he walks with a limp, and he doesn’t have the use of his right hand.  So falling was not unusual.  But before you feel sorry for him, know that he has also run over 30 marathons (one of which he won) so his disability did not impede his ability to live his life.

After the fall, he had surgery (thankfully there was no paralysis), and he went back to life as usually.  It seemed there was no permanent damage done.

Then in December, he was hospitalized for pneumonia.  He recovered, and again went back to his life.

However, the pneumonia recurred in January, and it was then that the doctors discovered that his swallowing reflex was damaged. Every time he would eat or drink some of what he swallowed went into his lungs.

He was no longer allowed to eat or drink on his own, but instead he was fed and hydrated through a tube….boy did that piss him off.

Even with those precautions, he got pneumonia again and again.  He would be discharged from the hospital to rehab then he would have to be readmitted for pneumonia.  This cycle went on from January to April, during that time he never made it back home.

In April, Dad’s situation looked dire.  His kidneys were failing, and he had contracted mrsa.  Plus, he was physically and emotionally exhausted.  He was ready for an end to this terrible cycle.  I flew to Oklahoma to say goodbye to my father.

Just as everything was looking bleak, he doctor who had done the surgery on Dad’s neck stopped by when Mom was there.  She told him that since the surgery Dad has lost his ability to swallow and has had many episodes of aspiration pneumonia.

The doctor was certain that another surgery could fix the situation, and for the first time in months we had hope that dad would recover.  We all breathed a sigh of relief.

The Therapist Takes Her Own Advice: PMS and Pizza a Dangerous Combination

  February 23, 2013

Okay, so we have now entered the time by which I have failed most previous diets…only to restart them a few weeks later.  I’m officially having PMS.  I can feel it intensely.  My ability to be satisfied with a salad…even a hardy salad with roasted vegetables and hummus is extremely compromised.  My craving for carbs is intense.

To keep myself from eating an entire bag of pretzels, a whole loaf of bread or a dozen donuts, I’ve been satisfying my carb craving in little ways, one tortilla on fajita night instead of none, adding whole wheat noodles to my soup, etc.  It’s been working for the most part until…

Yesterday, I took my almost 2 year old, Harry, to a playdate where pizza was served…Pizza  I love pizza.  It’s my favorite food.  I once worked as a pizza delivery driver just to be around and eat more pizza…I loved that job.  Pizza is the food I crave when I have PMS.  So there I was, watching everyone eat PIZZA, and I was going to be strong, stick to my diet, not fall to temptation.  That lasted about 10 minutes, and then I gave up and gave in.  It tasted so good, and it made me so happy, and guess what, it was okay.

The world didn’t end, nobody died and it didn’t erase all of the progress I have made this month because I didn’t let it lead me to the traditional downward spiral.  I didn’t then have chicken parm for dinner or go through a drive-thru for a midnight snack.  It didn’t erase my all the progress I’ve made this month because it didn’t become a pattern of behavior.  It happened, I enjoyed it, my craving was satisfied, now I’m moving on.