Is It More Than The Baby Blues?

The baby blues are an expected dip in hormone levels responsible for tears, loneliness, and a general blah feeling after the birth of your new baby. But what if those feelings persist weeks and months longer? How do you know whether it's just baby blues or if you might be dealing with postpartum depression? Find out more now. Don't survive in silence any longer.


Every pregnant woman is told to expect the 'baby blues', the hormonal crash that can last the first 6-8 weeks of your brand new baby's life. The baby blues are like PMS on overdrive, waves of inexplicable weeping, soul-sucking loneliness, and irrational fear. But what happens when those first 8 weeks pass and you're still feeling all that yuck? How can you tell when it's more than just 'baby blues?' How do you know when, or if, it's time to ask for help?
Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?
After the birth of my second baby (16 months after my first), I found myself in that exact place. I had enough good moments to feel like life was okay... or at least like I wasn't sinking quite yet. I rode big curling swells of laughter and moments of bliss and then crashed to the bottom of heart aching emptiness and unending pointless tears. I almost never had an answer to my husband's question of "What's wrong?" And I couldn't really talk about it with my mom or my friends because I didn't know what to say. I didn't feel depressed. I just felt yucky.

The longer it went on, the more I told myself to snap out of it, to enjoy what I had, to not let these precious baby days pass me by. I got dressed in the morning and pasted a smile on my face, believing if I could just pretend it long enough, it would feel real. But the days turned into months and the months into years and I still felt an aching emptiness where fulfillment and joy should have been. I spent 3 years slogging through that wasteland. I was even a doula, specially trained to recognize postpartum depression (or PPD) in new moms. But I couldn't see it in myself.


When It's Time To Get Help
I wish I'd said something sooner. I wish someone had said something to me sooner. I wish I hadn't wasted all that time. I wish... I can't go back and change my story. And now, on this side of my journey, I wouldn't want to. My journey has given me the voice to share and help other moms like me, moms like you. The answer to the question at the start of this post, "how do you know if you need help?", is this: If you're wondering if you need help, you probably need help.

There's too much going on during those early months of motherhood (whether it's your first time or your fifth). If you feel at all 'off', ask for help. There is no harm in talking to a counselor or therapist. You might be fine. Your therapist will tell you if that's the case. But you might not be fine, through no fault of your own, and a therapist can help you become fine again so you really can enjoy motherhood.

"If you're wondering if you need help, you probably need help."

Need More Direction?
Sometimes you need more than feelings. Especially if your feelings are super confused or if you've shut them down in order to deal with less. In that case, this questionnaire is an incredible objective tool for assessing your mental health. Answer these questions honestly and take it with you to your OB or Midwife at your next appointment. I guarantee they've got some awesome resources for you. Know why? Because 1 in 5 women deals with PPD. You are not alone. And you have nothing to fear by asking for help.

Believe me, there is more to fear in living with PPD than in getting the help to fight it. You're worth it, Mama. Your baby is worth it. Reach out today.
Think Your Wife/Friend/Daughter Might Have PPD?
First things first, ask her how you can help. Or better yet, just show up and do what needs doing. Bring her a meal. Wash, fold, and put away her laundry. Do her dishes. She might ask you to hold the baby while she sleeps, but what she won't ask you is to do the dirty jobs she believes are her responsibility. Take that on for her and then offer her this post or the questionnaire. Let her know you love her first. And stay by her side, even if she snaps at you or pushes you away. She really needs you right now. She just doesn't know how to say so.
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On Boredom and Depression

Boredom can aggravate your depression symptoms. It sure does mine. And it's been one of those weeks, can you relate?

Summer Boredom Is Getting To Me
School's out, so I'm not running around getting lists checked off and projects completed. I'm stuck at home with my daughters who are incredible and amazing and I love them dearly, but they just want to read the same book twelve times and then play with playdoh literally all afternoon. I'm chauffering them to swim lessons, then to the park, then the library, trying to keep our days full and exciting to make up for the sudden lack in my own life.

But...
Can I Be Really Honest?
I'm so bored. I'm not the kind of person who does well with free time because I tend to look at my to-do list and my open calendar and just push things off into one of the many blank squares. But I'm also the kind of person who needs to be working on something meaningful in order to keep on top of my mental health. The last three weeks have seen a significant and marked decrease in my mental health state. Writing, my number one self-care outlet, doesn't even have the same drive it usually does. I have a half dozen partially written posts for this blog in my line up that just aren't hitting the mark.

So I'm offering this.

This post, more of a rant really, a way to vent to you, Mama, because you've been around BohemiMama long enough to know I'm gonna be real with you and I'm gonna talk about the things us depressed, exhausted Moms need to talk about.


So, Summer Break...
Here's the deal: Summer break is long and hot and empty. Summer break is usually a time of entertaining our kids and sitting by a pool somewhere. If that's not your thing, then summer can be hard. I'm looking forward to a new year with new students and new lesson plans and all I want is to be in my classroom arranging labs for the coming school year. So summer feels like a chore. I can almost see all you working moms rolling your eyes at me right now. I know... And I'm sorry.


But Mental Illness Isn't Logical or Considerate
Mental illness makes us discontent with the lives we have. Mental illness makes us feel the weight of guilt as though it's been doubled or tripled. Mental illness makes us lose interest in the things we once loved. My mental illness leaves me feeling apathetic and lonely even in the best of company. I have a page in my bullet journal filled with ideas for when I'm in a blue place. It's full of projects because that's what makes me feel accomplished and fulfilled. So I'm painting my house right now, the entire interior. It's been nice to slap fresh new paint on the walls and watch the transformation, but it hasn't helped ease my writer's block. I'm open to suggestions and I see my therapist later this week, but until then...

Stay strong, talk it out, do something you love. That's all I can say today, Mama. This journey to mental health isn't smooth and it isn't really a destination you finally arrive at one day. So keep fighting and find the help you need to push through blue days or weeks like these.

Blessings,
Jessi
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The Depressed Mom’s Guide to Disappointment

Disappointments happen. How you handle them can make or break your day, even your week. Learn how to work through feelings of frustration, sadness, and fear in the midst of motherly depression, exhaustion, and loneliness so that you can weather life's inevitable storms with strength and courage. Click the photo to learn more.


Disappointment happens. Sometimes it's a small thing, like forgetting about and missing a coffee date with a friend. Other times, it's much bigger, like unexpectedly finding out you're pregnant again. Big or small, those disappointments can feel all the worse, even overwhelming, when you're already in an emotionally depleted state. Exhausted, lonely, depressed Mamas have the hardest time with disappointment because we're already functioning on less emotional energy. It doesn't take nearly as much to drain us completely.
Emotional Energy: How Disappointment Affects It
Imagine that you wake up each morning with one glass full of emotional energy. As the day goes by, you pour some out for your kids, some for your husband, some on work or other commitments; neighbors, friends, housework, bills, meal planning, etc. And some of that energy is poured into hopes, plans, or goals for future things, like those coffee dates or the things you might do once your youngest is in school full time. Fear, frustration, and sadness from a disappointing event can rob the remainder of your day's energy. But it can also rob you of the energy you've poured out and stored in those future plans and expectations.

Take that same glass of emotional energy, but now it's only half-full. That's what your emotional 'tank' often looks like when you're wiped out, dealing with depression, trudging through the loneliness of motherhood, or battling anxiety. That half-full glass is much closer to running dry, so when disappointments happen, one big slosh drains everything you've got. In my experience, that's been the hardest part about my depression. One little thing can steal the rest of my carefully budgeted energy and leave me wanting nothing more than to go to bed and start the day over... by 9 am! But fear not, Mama! There is a solution!!
How To Retain Your Energy After A Disappointment
Step 1: Give Yourself Five Minutes To Feel It
It's okay to need to vent some frustration or cry a few tears. Don't try to bottle up those emotions! Let 'em out! I give myself five minutes if I really can't hold it together. Alone in my room or the car, I'll let everything bubble up and over and cry as hard as I need to for five minutes. Then I can dry my face and move forward rationally. Sometimes you just have to let yourself really feel it. By acknowledging your feelings, you're allowing yourself to move on. (Makes me think of Sadness in Inside Out... Anyone else?)
Step 2: Salvage Your Energy By Channeling It Into Something Else
The energy you've stored in future plans and dreams is like a storehouse for your lowest days, the silver lining or the bright spot to look forward to when you're really in the trenches. When those plans change or get messed up by something outside of your control, your 'rainy day' fund of emotional energy can slip away and be gone forever. We can't have that! Being able to channel all that stored energy into something else you can honestly get excited about will salvage some, if not most, of your energy.

This is something my therapist pointed out to me and it has really, really improved my ability to cope with disappointments. I have a page in my bullet journal where I record things I would like to do or get done. These are things that make me happy and fulfilled and which give me purpose. I'm a doer, so my list is 90% projects. Your list might include crafts with your kids or manicures or cleaning tasks or reading or vacation planning or... Fill in the blank for you. When a disappointment occurs, say you miss a date with a friend, you can look at your list and pick something else to channel your expectant energy into.
Step 3: Recognize The Root of Your Disappointment
Later, after you've had time to cope and reflect on the thing that caused your disappointment, take some time to dig into why. Why did missing that appointment affect you the way it did? What is it that scares or worries you about being pregnant again? I'm not great at recognizing my own triggers, which is why I love my therapist. She has a way of asking questions that lead me right to the answer. A good friend or family member who knows you really well can accomplish the same thing sometimes. Once you know what triggered your disappointment, you can work through those emotions and prepare for the next time something might hit you similarly.


Prepare For the Future
Mom life never really goes the way you plan it to go. It might be a spilled cup or a lost shoe right before you walk out the door, or issues in your marriage or with your job. But we're Moms. No one is as good as we are at anticipating worst case scenarios. It's time we start anticipating the worst case self-care scenarios. Little annoyances can quickly become major day changers when you're running on empty. Big things, like relationships and careers, can suffer a ton if you've got nothing left to invest in them after all your other mom duties. Self-care isn't just a bubble bath here and a manicure there. Self-care is a lifestyle that enables you to be the best mom you can be because your emotional tank is full and ready for anything. By taking care of your needs before they become NEEDS, you allow room for life to happen and for you to keep your stuff together on the rough patches.

Blessings,
Jessi

 
For more self-care ideas, click here.
For ideas on resetting with a weekend away, click here.
To find a therapist in your area, click here.
If you think life is just too much and you're considering suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255
 

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Why I See a Therapist (And You Should Too)

Therapy quite literally saved my life, but it's not a popular topic of conversation. I'm here to tell you I see a therapist every month. I pay cash to talk to her and I believe you, Tired Mama, should too. Here's why.
Why I See A Therapist
Once a month, I drive 30-minutes each way to meet with a trained professional who lets me talk for an hour and occasionally gives me advice or explains why I may be feeling the way I'm feeling. She hands me tissues when I cry. She listens as I pour my heart out, complain, and even brag occasionally. My insurance doesn't cover it. I pay cash to talk to someone. And it's worth every cent. By most standards, I might not even need therapy anymore, but I have no plans of ending our regular meetings in the near, or distant, future.

Let me back up a year or so. Before I started seeing my therapist, I was in a really, really dark place. And I mean dark. I would often stand in the shower crying because I just knew my husband and daughters would be better off with someone else as their mother. I felt as inadequate as it is possible to feel. Hopeless, misunderstood, spiteful, and irrationally angry were a few of the dominant emotions from that time period. I hated myself. But I didn't understand why.
At First, I Was Too Afraid To Admit That I Needed Therapy
I tried calling a helpline to find a therapist. He started to make me an appointment with some counselor in my area, but I got really freaked out and hung up. I don't hang up on people, but I did that day. I hung up and I cried.

Why did I cry? Because I was so worried about what people would think. I couldn't swallow the idea that someone would know that I had to see a therapist. The label, Mental Illness, terrified me. I was sure that I would show up and sit on some dingy chaise with a condescending, pen-in-hand psychologist who would give me a load of drugs to make me numb.
So What Changed?
One day last August, I lost my $#!&. I don't mean that in the cutesy way that moms Instagram say it. I mean, I totally lost it. Basically, what happened (and this is pretty embarrassing to even talk about) was I wanted, no, needed to get out of the house but felt like we were broke. We weren't. I asked my hubby if we could go to Costco. Long (and irrational) story short, the conversation devolved until I screamed at one of my kids and stomped up the stairs like a fourteen-year-old girl, huffing and puffing worse than the big, bad wolf. As soon as I closed the door behind me, my violent anger turned to wracking sobs and I hit the floor of my closet on my knees. That's where my husband found me. It was the first time I realized how much my emotions controlled me.


Therapy Wasn't What I Expected It To Be
The very next day, I called the therapist my best friend sees. Six days after that I found myself on a comfortable couch in a relaxed, even cozy, room in a historic building a few towns over. She didn't write a single thing the whole time I was there. She smiled, she listened, she assured me that I didn't have to continue to see her if I didn't feel like we clicked. She sent me in for blood work to see if there might be something chemical going on. (I secretly hoped there was because that meant the solution was a pill a day and I would be 'fixed'.) She asked me questions when I ran out of things to say or didn't know how else to continue. And she never once made me feel like my problems were smaller than they appeared to me. She also never diagnosed me. My blood work came back normal, but she didn't make me feel like it was all in my head (like I told myself upon getting my results). In short, she was nothing at all like what I expected. And I couldn't have been more happy to be mistaken.
Therapy Isn't Just For 'Crazy' People
In my darkest days, when I wanted to wander out in a blizzard and never come back, I told myself I was just tired, that life was too busy, and I just needed a small break. I was lonely, I felt like I didn't fit in my body anymore, like the life I'd built around me was somehow too narrow and too roomy at the same time. So, on this side of my healing journey, I'm here to tell you that therapists and counselors are NOT only for crazy people. They are not only for those who have a diagnosable mental illness. A therapist may not be for everyone, but I am convinced that a therapist can help EVERY mom. I mean it. We are a lonely, exhausted bunch. Parenting advice is slung in our faces at every single turn and mom guilt served up each time we open our eyes. We give our entire beings to the tiny humans we co-created and then sacrifice our time, energy, attention, emotions, and mental space to the care and development of these little people.
Therapy Is For Every Mom
Add to that the fact that our children are nearly incapable of self-regulation and we are, essentially, training them to not need us anymore, and you have a recipe for burn out. So how do we combat all that wear and tear? We need to deal with it.

The way you deal with your burnout and the way I deal with mine are going to be completely different, even if they look the same from the outside. We might both need 'alone time' but how you spend your time and what helps you cope in the midst of anxiety or depression is going to be unique to you, to your personality, to your history. I can't blog about how to help you help yourself. I'm not a trained professional. I'm just a mom who's spent the last year healing with the help of a trained professional.
Therapy Is The Most Undervalued Tool In The Self-Care Arsenal
My journey has shown me that therapy is an incredibly undervalued tool in the self-care aresenal. I don't shy away from telling people I see a therapist because a year ago, it's what I needed to hear. I needed to know that therapy didn't make me a bad mom, that talking about my feelings wouldn't risk losing my kids to the state, that having a mental illness didn't mean I was broken. My depression and anxiety are just as much a part of my journey as my poor eyesight or my weak hip. I don't feel ashamed to see a chiropractor every month, so why should I feel ashamed of seeing my therapist? She helps equip me to fight the battle going on in my mind. She handpicks the most applicable weapon for the job and teaches me how to use it properly so that when those blue days overcome me, I can keep swimming, I can keep fighting, I can keep living.

Blessings,
Jessi
For help finding a therapist in your area, click here.
For help choosing a therapist to work with, click here.
For the national suicide prevention hotline, dial 1-800-273-8255
 

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20 20-Minute Self-Care Ideas for Chronic and/or Mental Illness

20 20-Minute Self-Care Ideas for Chronic and/or Mental Illness | Busy moms, especially those with chronic physical or mental illnesses, NEED self-care. But how do you find the time? It doesn't have to be hard, click here for 20 quick and awesome ideas!


 

Hello, everyone! If you’re new to the blog and joining because of the 30 Days to a Healthier Mom Life Series, welcome! And Jessi, thank you for having me.
About My Self-Care Journey
My name is Kat, and I am a 25-year-old wife and a mama to a 3-year-old little girl. In my day to day life, I wear a lot of hats. I am in charge of a daily (M-F) before and after school program. My job can be stressful, but I genuinely love it. I love working with kids. I am also starting another part time job. In addition, I write and am working on publishing a novel: hoping to either find an agent or become self-published by the end of 2017.

On top of all that, I take care of myself which is, honestly, often a full-time job in itself. You see, I have chronic mental and physical illnesses. Just finding answers in getting them diagnosed has taken nearly my whole life, and I’m sure more diagnoses are to come (I’m already to the second hand’s worth of fingers in counting them!)
Why We Need Self-Care
Parenting is a hard gig. Parenting with a chronic illness, like fibromyalgia (I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome), or a mental illness, like anxiety or depression (I have anxiety and Bipolar II), can seem almost impossible some days. Some things that make it easier for me are small acts of Self-Care.

Self-Care is a big, important buzzword going around, as it should be because taking care of one’s self is so important. But for us Mamas, it can be daunting. Another thing to do!? We already do 385882+ things, how will we have time to take care of ourselves on top of all that? And when it comes to self-care, for us chronically ill Mamas, we often can only manage the basics; our medications, our doctor's appointments.
Self-Care Doesn’t Have to Be Hard
But self-care doesn’t have to be grueling or time-consuming. It doesn’t have to be another commitment and doesn’t need time blocked off of your already overflowing family schedule unless it’s the only way you can do it. Below are 20 easy ways to take care of yourself that can be done in 20 minutes or less. In combination, done in bits and pieces around a busy schedule in a very full life, I cannot overstate what a HUGE difference they have made for me. How I care for others depends on me first taking care of myself. My self-care makes me a better educator, wife, and mother.

Set a timer so you don’t spend the whole time watching the clock (a total calm-killer) and enjoy. And remember, we are all different, and those of us who are affected by chronic and/or mental illness are all affected in different ways. So some of these tips might work great for these, and others won’t be your style. That’s OK! Take what works, and let the rest go.


20 20-Minute Self-Care Ideas
1. Spend some introspective time, whether it’s in your journal or your mind
Think about who you are, how far you’ve come, and where you want to go. I’m a details person who often gets bogged down by them, so it really helps for me to step back and take some time to see the big picture. I’ll take 20 minutes to just write down everything that happened in the last month. Maybe on a day that I need some particular encouragement, I’ll write down every good thing that happened in the last month. Or every challenge from the past year that I have now overcome. Mountains look like molehills when you step back!
2. Spend time in the Word
I never thought I’d be the person who read the Bible on her phone. I had nothing against others doing it, but I loved the feel of a heavy paper Bible in my hands too much. I love turning the delicate, thin pages; love the smell; love writing in it and highlighting it; love the ribbon bookmark. I love feeling fully immersed in the tangibleness of God’s eternal word through the written Word.

But I also am not a purse person. I am barely even a wallet person. I’m trying to be better at this (see #5), but for now, I barely carry anything around, other than my phone and keys. So I found the YouVersion Bible app…And to say it has been a life changer for me would be an understatement. It has made reading the Bible such an easy, instinctual process. Now, whenever I feel an EDS pain flare or panic attack coming on, getting comfort from scripture is as simple as reaching for my phone. It has become second nature to me, and I am reading the Bible so much more now. And I can do it in such short, easy chunks! I definitely recommend it.
3. Watch 20 Minutes Of Low-Commitment TV
This is going to sound bizarre, but I am terrible at watching TV. Terrible! I’ll get hooked on a TV show, but then have no time to watch, so I’ll stop watching altogether. So for self-care, I’ll watch something I feel OK with only watching for 20 minutes at a time. I’ve been watching Top Chef All Stars for this purpose.
4. Put a little color on something
Minus the pressure to be perfect. “Adult coloring” is really in right now, and for those who it helps…Great! But for me, it was always more anxiety-provoking than it was stress-relieving. I had a Star Wars coloring pillow that I hadn’t colored a single part of since December because I just couldn’t find the time or motivation. It seemed like another chore, not relaxing.

So instead of those fancy markers, I bought a Crayola art kit that was on clearance, and finally brought that pillow into work and colored it with my school kids. It was done in less than an hour. Is it perfect? Of course not! Is it the colors I chose? Nope! But the coloring still relieved stress and, now that it doesn’t have the perfectionism attached, it’s more fun for me to do at home, too.
5. Put together a self-care bag
Like I said above, I’m terrible at carrying a bag, but I’m putting one together to have self-care on the go. It has a paper copy of the Bible, my art kit, teabags, a pen, a picture a student colored me, and lavender lotion, so far.
6. Immerse yourself in a child’s world
A lot of times, we are with our or other, if you work with children like I do, children, but we aren’t really intentional about the time we spend with them. When I want to forget about my anxiety or pain, one of the best ways for me to do that is to get on a child’s level and spend 20 minutes really engaging with them, playing with them, just being silly and being a kid.
7. DIY aromatherapy
I really like lavender and smelling it really calms me down. So I’ll put on some lavender lotion or light a lavender candle and breathe deeply.
8. Drink some tea or coffee
Make it the only thing you’re doing. I find it almost glamorous to have time where all I’m doing, all I need to do, all I expect myself to do, is drink a piping hot beverage and really enjoy it, really taste it, without fear of it getting cold or any other obligations.
9. Take a bath
Epsom salts, especially lavender, really help with my chronic pain in a bath. Even 20-minute baths do wonders for me.


10. Go for a walk
Getting some fresh air and vitamin D can do wonders to change my perspective. I try not to push myself on distance or speed. If I can only go slow and lean on a tree, then go slow and lean on another tree, there is no shame in that.
11. Swim
For me, swimming is something my body really likes that I need to be intentional about doing more. I feel so much more natural and free in water than on land. Even five minutes a week in a pool honestly makes a big difference for me.
12. Stretch
Doing ankle stretches, arm stretches, leg stretches, any sort of stretch break always reminds me how much that stretch break was needed! I try to take as many stretch breaks as possible.
13. Do a breathing/meditation exercise
My husband taught me a great exercise years ago when we were just dating. Close your eyes and imagine compressing all your anxiety into a little ball in your chest and work on pushing that ball out of you. It works really well and I always feel more peaceful when I actually take the time to do it.
14. Read a chapter of a book
There are so many books I want to read, but reading them all seems so overwhelming. A chapter at a time is totally doable! Choose books with short, easy to read chapters, and remember little pieces add up to big progress!
15. Write something creative
I love working on writing my novel and escaping into my creative world for 20 minutes. Write a short story, a poem, part of a chapter of a novel, a play…Anything that helps you escape the hard reality of chronic physical and mental illness for a bit!
16. Read an interesting article you have saved
If you’re like me, you have a bunch of articles bookmarked or saved that you haven’t actually gotten back to. Intentionally crack one open.
17. Find your next book to read
I hate the feeling when you want to read something but just finished a book and have nothing to read. Spend some time reading book reviews and find your next page-turner!
18. Take a power nap
Don’t scoff! 20 minutes can actually be a restful nap, especially if you can fall asleep right away.
19. Rest
If you can’t nap, act like you are. Lay your head on the pillow and pull the blankets over your head for 20 minutes. Sometimes for me, it’s even more relaxing, because I’m actually awake to enjoy it!
20. Intentionally do nothing at all
You’re not napping. You’re just being. Sometimes, this is my favorite thing to do of all…Time to sit on the couch, quiet my thoughts, and just exist. Take a moment to breathe, calm down, and remember that, in the scheme of things, today is just one day, and whatever I’m facing today is likely small.


Which of These Can You Do Today?
I hope you found some ways to spend your next 20 minutes making an investment in your own wellness. It can be a small-but-mighty help to your overall well-being as a mom and an overall person. Sending love to all of you, and thank you for reading!

 



About The Author
Kat is a 25-year-old Midwestern mama who performs a daily balancing act. She has a career she loves; a charming, precocious three-year-old daughter; and is married to her college sweetheart, who still makes her laugh so hard she squirts juice out her nose. Kat is a writer and on top of working on publishing her first novel she blogs about living with chronic and mental illness as a frequent contributor on The Mighty. She also writes on her own blog, Writer Kat, and you can follow her blog Facebook page here.

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