PTSD: It’s NOT a Shame

PTSDAs Diane has mentioned, June is PTSD Awareness Month.  In 2010, Congress named June 27th PTSD Awareness Day (S. Res. 455). Since then, during the month of June, The National Center for PTSD asks that the issue of PTSD be discussed openly and without judgment, in the hopes of reducing stigma.

Anyone who has dealt with mental illness either directly or indirectly knows that, indeed, not all wounds are visible…or measurable, for that matter. No, there’s no blood test to measure levels of depression, anxiety or trauma. Many people look “just fine” on the outside, while they are suffering greatly on the inside.

Trauma is not the same for everyone. Many people think of Veterans when they hear the term PTSD. While Vets surely are a group that’s at greater risk, anyone can develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. And what traumatizes one person may not affect another. In fact, traumatic events don’t have to be “catastrophic” to cause this reaction! Losing a pet, having your child get off at the wrong bus stop, car accidents and other “everyday” events can cause traumatic reactions in some people.

On September 13, 2008, Hurricane Ike came through my neck of the woods. Since it was “only” a Category 2 storm, we decided to ride it out. I took a sleeping pill that night and had no clue if it was scary or not – I was asleep! However, the next day, I fell apart as we drove around looking at the damage the storm left in its wake. We lost our back fence – we were lucky that it wasn’t worse. But until recently, any time the power went out at my house, I would instantly panic. So, it wasn’t the catastrophic hurricane that caused the traumatic reaction – it was the loss of electricity that became my trigger!

PTSD symptoms – anxiety, panic, sudden anger, nightmares, flashbacks – can be caused by just about anything and is the brain’s natural response to protect your psyche from pain. They are also signals that you need to process the event, no matter how “small” you perceive it to be!

PTSD is NOT a shame…it’s an opportunity to get help and come out on the other side a healthier, happier and more resilient person! To find therapists who specialize in PTSD in your area, visit psychologytoday.com‘s therapist list. For more information on PTSD, visit The National Center for PTSD.

“Climb Out of Darkness” to Reduce Stigma of Mental Health

Last week, I blogged about “Teens Tackle Depression Stigma,” and what two Michigan teens are doing to reduce stigma about what I call “emotional health” conditions (depression, anxiety, addiction, bi-polar, eating disorders, etc). Click here to view the post.

This week I want to mention two events that are occurring in June also aimed at reducing stigma. The first is “Climb Out of Darkness,” sponsored by Postpartum Progress.  This event, started by Katherine Stone, focusses on raising awareness and diminishing the stigma associated with “emotional health” conditions affecting pregnant and postpartum moms.

“Climb Out of the Darkness is the world’s largest event raising awareness of postpartum depression, anxiety, PTSD, psychosis and pregnancy depression. The event was created by and benefits Postpartum Progress Inc., a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization that raises awareness and supports pregnant and new moms with these illnesses.” Click here to learn more about it, find a climb near you, and register. 

The other event , “KNOCKOUT STIGMA,” offers St. Louisans a fun, interactive platform to raise awareness about mental illness, one of the most unrelenting human diseases. While raising awareness to combat the negative effect of STIGMA, this event will connect our community to the worthwhile work of Independence Center. Held at The Title Boxing Club in Rock Hill, participants will enjoy a fun one-hour workshop while benefitting a good cause. Click here for more info.

DID YOU KNOW? One in five people worldwide have a “mental” disorder at some point in their lives. Over 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental illness among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.Treatment works, but nearly two-thirds of people with a known mental illness never seek help from a licensed professional. STIGMA, DISCRIMINATION and NEGLECT prevent care and treatment from reaching people with mental illnesses. (World Health Organization Report, October 2001)

While we’re making progress in reducing stigma, there’s still to do. Please help support these events, and those you know with “emotional health” conditions. Namaste.

 

New PPD Book Launches Tomorrow

For one in five women, the joy of motherhood is a mirage that seems further away with every step you take toward it. Postpartum Depression (PPD) is the #1 complication of pregnancy and childbirth, yet millions of women suffer through it alone.

Pamela Zimmer is a mother, a wife, a sister, a friend, and a #1 bestselling author. She is an expert in PPD and a mentor to women. Her heart is open, she’s been through PPD, she knows exactly how to help women heal and reclaim their joy in motherhood.

Her book Reclaim The Joy of Motherhood – How I Defeated Postpartum Depression is the one she wishes she had while fighting her own battle. She openly shares her story and experience, offering hope and healing, and a practical pathway to happiness for anyone going through PPD. She also offers insight for family and friends seeking to understand what their loved ones are going through. Her message is simple: Everything’s going to be okay.

On June 3rd Pamela’s book will become available through Amazon.com. Please go to www.ReclaimTheJoyofMotherhood.com anytime on Tuesday June 3rd to purchase Pamela’s book and join her on her mission to spread awareness of Postpartum Depression, and help women all over the world begin their own personal journey of healing to happiness today.

Teens Tackle Depression Stigma

A month ago, one of my colleagues mentioned that her daughter had an article which was about to run in a very important publication. She said she couldn’t tell me where yet, but sent me a link just before Memorial Day to her daughter, Madeline’s piece with the other co-editor of their high school paper, Eva, which was published in The New York Times.

If you haven’t seen this already, click on this link-http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/22/opinion/depressed-but-not-ashamed.html?ref=opinion&_r=0. Until more of us speak up about our personal experiences and encourage our family and friends to do the same, we support the conspiracy of silence which contributes to people of all ages and stages of life with “mental illness” including depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, addictions and eating disorders feeling alone, isolated and flawed. The word alone makes you feel bad

As I tell my clients, no family is untouched by “mental illness.” Everyone has emotional health vulnerabilities inherited from their gene pool,  and under the right circumstances, they develop into clinical conditions. In my family, several generations have experienced clinical depression and anxiety, and I experienced some mild depression following the birth of my first child.

In fact, women often  experience clinical episode during times of hormonal and major life changes-puberty, pregnancy, postpartum and menopause. To encourage childbearing women to say something and not “suffer in silence, ” when experiencing postpartum depression, New Jersey created their “Speak Up When You’re Down” campaign. For more info on this program, click on this link-http://www.state.nj.us/health/fhs/postpartumdepression/pdf/PPD-brochure.pdf. Or, visit Katherine Stone at Postpartum Progress and find a Climb to help support your recovery.

To hear more about Madeline and Eva’s editorial and the story behind the editorial, listen to their NPR interview by clicking here- http://www.npr.org/2014/05/24/315445104/students-struggle-with-depression-and-with-telling-the-story

And, let your voice be heard. Namaste

Back to Mindfulness AND Self-Care.

May turned out to be a “too busy” month for me. While our double graduations, my mom and daughter’s birthdays, my anniversary, and Mother’s Day all went well, I’m realizing today that “too much of a good thing” is still too much. Despite a busy life, like many of you who follow us, I usually have enough time to sit on my porch or walk around our lovely neighborhood, all of which restores me and helps maintain my health-mind, body and spirit.

Not this month though which was supposed to be our “Mindfulness Marathon which led me to two important insights. First, I need to keep practicing self-care whatever is going on because this is the foundation of my health and well-being. As a psychologist, I talk about four pillars of health-exercise, nutrition, sleep/rest and stress reduction. Even with my regular mindfulness practice when these are lacking or diminished by life’s busy-ness, I’m more out of sorts, short-fused, reactive, and “crabby” which my daughter informed me yesterday.

The second insight in the absence of self-care, “mindfulness” does prevent me from losing perspective altogether and falling into an abyss of unpleasant thoughts, feelings and sensations, from which I struggle to return. Throughout the month, there were many times I was able to observe my experience and my changing thoughts and emotions and know that “this too shall pass.”  I had moments of joy and elation peppered with frustration and irritation and more neutral times, “living the full catastrophe” over and over again.

So, back to mindfulness AND self-care. For me, and maybe for you, I’m reminded that I need both for life to go well. What happens to you when you lose sight of either one or both? What can you do to practice each this week? Let us know.

Namaste.

 

 

Mindfulness is For Everyone

When my daughter got to 6th grade, things quickly turned ugly for her. This was the year that the 4 hours worth of homework, advanced classes and extracurriculars began. Neither of us were prepared for the onslaught or how it would trigger her anxiety in such a big way.

I remember those days vividly, even though they happened 3 years ago. Nothing makes me feel more helpless than my upset child. But this was even worse than that. Picture an 11-year old girl weeping and screaming hysterically because she’s paralyzed and overwhelmed with anxiety. Nothing could calm her down except time and distraction. It was obvious that the DNA that my husband and I gave her had kicked in…the anxiety genes!

I took her to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed her with GAD and OCD. She began taking Prozac when she was 13 years old. She had barely even gotten her period (though I’m sure the hormones helped aggravate her dormant symptoms, too)! Fortunately, the medication helped her. It took the edge off. I took her to counseling, but she could not seem to form a rapport with any of the folks I took her to. I refused to “be her therapist,” but got her a couple of books on coping skills and spoke to her about some of the techniques.

Of all the different coping mechanisms I went over with her, including reframing (looking at things in a different, more healthy way), positive self-talk, breaking down tasks into steps, time management and deep breathing, mindfulness ended up being the thing that helped her the most!

She said that there was just something about knowing that she can handle things right now, even if the future still frightened her. It resonated with her that life is a series of right nows and that the future is just an abstract construct in our minds. We don’t know what’s going to happen in 5 minutes much less 2 weeks.

Three years later, my daughter still turns to mindfulness when she feels overwhelmed. She hasn’t given meditation a fair shot yet, but she says it’s something she wants to try during the summer months. I look forward to practicing with her! Her experiences just reinforce the importance of mindfulness for me. I hope that her story will help you as much as it did me!

Namaste.

And Now For the Rest of the Story

Am I the only one who misses Paul Harvey? I bet not.

I digress. Sorry about the missing Thursday post! Life has been busy…isn’t it always? I volunteer a lot of my time at my local Police Department, and we had our giant yearly fundraiser on May 10, followed immediately by National Police Week activities. Thursday, I was wrapping muffins and preparing for the annual Police Banquet!

I offer this not as an excuse, but as a beginning. I am blessed to have so many things that I am passionate about in my life. Many people have problems finding one passion, much less several! These things bring purpose and fulfillment to my life, at least right now. It wasn’t always this way, however, and probably won’t be this way forever. The one thing we can always count on to stay the same is change!

I think back to when my daughter was born back in 1999. Like many of you, I had an unrealistic view of what motherhood would be and was thinking about finding a way to be a stay-at-home mom. It sounded ideal to me! I could raise my child my way, save on daycare and not have to work, at least outside of the home (we all know that SAHMs are some of the hardest working ladies out there!). I was assigning raising my daughter to be my purpose in life.

Many mothers, grandmothers, dads and other caregivers have found fulfillment in this for thousands of years – I figured that I could, too. But I was wrong. And because I was restless, depressed and felt purposeless, I didn’t enjoy my time with my baby girl. Instead of looking at changing my situation, I blamed my discontent on myself as some sort of character flaw. I thought that ALL mothers naturally felt such joy with their babies and something was wrong with me because I didn’t. Those thoughts snowballed into a severe, suicidal depression with a nice, juicy side of panic.

I can look back now and understand that there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with me…I was just trying to make myself fit into a box that was a different shape than I needed. Over time and with therapy and medication, I got to that understanding, went back to work and felt much better. And, of course, as the years passed and my daughter got older, my preferences and passions have changed into something I never really expected. That’s the awesomeness of life at work – if we stop trying to force ourselves into boxes and instead just roll with things, doors will open that we have never even considered!

I knew that y’all would be cool with me being late with this post because we’re all Living Self-Care here! Now, my challenge to you is to sit with yourself and try to identify your life passions and purposes. Are you living them? Do you even know what they are? If not, use mindfulness to observe when you are truly content and in the flow…where time passes without notice. Those are the things that you LOVE to do and are PASSIONATE about. Life is too short not to have passion in your life. Whether it’s a hobby, a part-time job or a full-time career, fulfilling your true purpose is essential to basic good health, well-being and Self-Care!

Namaste