A Raleigh Therapist's Blog

Thoughts on counseling, healing, and creating the life you want

Postpartum Depression

Parenthood teaches you many things. For instance, this morning my son taught me that one can reach a certain level of exhaustion at which she will wear a shirt covered in baby vomit to her hair appointment. Then, he taught me that when babies with wet hands grab a hand full of said expensively coifed hair, it does indeed lose its curl. As the saying goes, “Yay, memories!” All joking aside, the post partum period is hard ladies– and not just on your freshly-done blowout.

 

Pregnancy and the first year postpartum are without question two of the most vulnerable times of a woman’s life. We are different physically, emotionally, and spiritually in ways that are difficult to explain to our family and friends. In fact, it is one of the few times in our lives (except perhaps puberty) when our worlds are rocked to their very foundations by such far-reaching changes. This is compounded by the fact that we are responsible for a new life at a time when we may still be experiencing pain and discomfort associated with the pregnancy or delivery. Experts report that symptoms of anxiety or depression occur in 10-20 percent of new mothers. Unfortunately, these symptoms may go largely untreated because of shame or self-blaming. Though women with a personal or family history of depression or abuse are most at risk, postpartum depression is a physical response to the cascade of biochemical and hormonal changes that take place in every pregnant woman’s body. Lack of support and other social and emotional factors can complicate the picture further. Even women who have no history of anxiety or depression can develop sadness and anxiety that is more than just the baby blues. These feelings are treatable with therapy and/or medication, and you can get help. You can speak to your OBGYN, psychiatrist, or therapist about how to get started. Here are a few tips in the meantime.

 

1)      Examine your Mothering Myths: There is an idea out there (or perhaps just an ideal) that all new mothers immediately greet their infant bundles of joy with fresh-faced glee and joy. Mothers who are ambivalent or scared about their new responsibilities often feel inadequate, different, or ashamed. Women can be pressured to express disinterest in things they used to value like work, social activities, or alone time. In truth, many women report that they did not bond instantaneously with their infants, but rather built a loving relationship as they got to know one another. And, there is no more perfect recipe for a good mom than one is engaged with her world in a variety of ways.

2)      Make time for Yourself: The superwoman our culture holds up spends all day working or caring for her children and never needs time to recharge. One of the fastest routes to feeling very overwhelmed is constant immersion with no reprieve. Even if your “me” time is walking the dog, ask for other adults in your life to help you carve out time to nurture your health, individuality and personal growth.

3)      Make room for Daddy: If he or she is available, let the baby’s other parent take an active role in the child’s life. You’re not the only parent who can change a diaper, quiet a fretting baby, or wipe a stuffy nose. In fact, do your relationship the favor of creating the expectation for balanced childrearing responsibilities from the start.

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Counseling for your teen

teen1One of the things I love most about being a therapist is working with teenagers. Most of my colleagues think I’m crazy for feeling that way, but go ahead and call me nuts.

Once upon a time, I used to work exclusively with teens because they’re fun, hold you accountable for the stuff you say, and usually need a therapist with a thick skin. I have good reason to respect the teen client, because I have been one myself. When I was about 15, my family went to faimly therapy, and in my anger at being subjected to the experience at all, I made my graduate student therapist cry in session. The point of telling you that story and making myself sound like a young ogre (Laura, I’m sorry wherever you are) is to point out that the developmental job of teenagers is to test boundaries and develop emotional independence. This often manifests as the sulky, mean-tempered behavior I directed towards Laura. So, if your teen is driving you crazy with temper tantrums, slamming doors, and sassy back talk congratulations! He or she is mostly right on track! Your job is to remain consistent, firm, and sane.

You might be in need of a more intensive intervention if the annoying behaviors start to develop into dangerous ones like self-harming, drug abuse, promiscuity or running away. Let’s talk some about what might help.

1) Family Therapy: Many of the parents with whom I have spoken would prefer to drop their teen off for individual therapy, have me “fix” their child, and come back an hour later. Oh, if only that would work. When families are sailing on a sinking ship together, it’s very important that everyone help bail out the boat too. If parents and kids learn collaboratively how to work together in a different way the therapy is shorter, more effective, and (yeah, I said it) cheaper. Working on one part of a family system in isolation almost never works as well as intervening in the whole. When I work with teens I do mixture of individual and family sessions.

2) Embrace the Force you Must:The force of the influence you have over your child, that is. Parents (me included) know that there are some factors about your child’s temperment that appear to simply be God-given and part of who he or she was upon arrival. Others have developed due to events within the family and the kind of social rules that govern each unit. Children who have been triangulated into their parents marriage emotionally, or those who have been parented in a “friend” rather than firm manner will expect to have an equal say, and will rebel when that doesn’t extend to driving the family car to Daytona on Friday night. Therapy can help both you and your teen figure out how you will negotiate which issues you will take a stand about, and support the family through this change in structure.

3) Self-Esteem Adjustments: There is no time more perilous for the fragile human ego than high school. It’s a melting pot of hormones, developing personalities, and stress. Therapy can help teens sort out how they will maintain a sense of self while balancing academics, dating, and family life.

If you think your teen may benefit from individual, family, or group therapy feel free to contact me for more information and appointment times.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

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