One morning, I completely fell apart. I told my husband I wanted to die and he rushed me to the emergency room. I was prescribed an antidepressant and things immediately started improving.
I was suffering from major postpartum depression, which in my experience was like living in a completely different world from everyone I loved. I could see them laughing and smiling, but I couldn’t participate despite how hard I tried. I felt cut off, cut out, and on the verge of being discarded. I was completely convinced that I would keel over at any moment.
Still, I was very much a part of my son’s life. I played with him, breastfed, cleaned house, walked my dog, exercised, ate healthy, and generally attempted to enjoy life.
My moods oscillated between nervous trepidation and complete despair. My friends noticed that I was very sensitive and didn’t laugh the way I used to, but just assumed it came with the territory of new motherhood. My family noticed that I had lost my confidence, but couldn’t decipher any real problem.
It started almost immediately after giving birth. I was wholly unprepared to be a mom; totally unprepared for the overwhelming feeling of love and joy my son would bring me. Unfortunately, he suffered from colic, which despite everything I tried continued until he was four months old. Then, at four months, he stopped sleeping. My husband and I would manage two hours of sporadic sleep throughout the day. It was sheer torture. After a month of this I had lost myself. My husband said I would wander around the house mumbling under my breath.
We finally decided to hire a pediatric sleep specialist. She was a godsend. At six months, he would take two solid naps and sleep 10-12 hours a night. I finally had the opportunity to sleep. We thought things would improve for me too.
I slept better, certainly, but not well. My son still cried occasionally, like any normal baby, but to me it was agonizing. His occasional fits would cause me to breakdown. I would sob and shake until he stopped crying. We went on like this for two more months.
After eight months of this I’d become a different person. My son was healthy, happy, and sleeping well, but I couldn’t see it. I had somehow convinced myself that he wasn’t doing well, and that it was my fault. I had convinced myself that he had suffered from colic and sleep issues because of me, and that if he’d had a better mother he would have been happy and healthy from the very beginning.
And so, that one morning (described above), my husband took me to the ER and I got help.
Things have continued to improve. I’ve read hopeful and helpful stories on coming back from postpartum depression. My therapist cleared me a few months ago, and I see a psychiatrist every two months. I admit I was afraid taking antidepressants would make things worse, but it has truly helped. I never expected treatment to be this rewarding. Life is completely wonderful and I have the tools and support to enjoy it with my family. Getting help was the best thing I could have done.
My hope in writing this is that it encourages you, or someone you know, to get the help they need. No one should have to be afraid of treatment. Always consult your family physician when seeking any kind of medical care. The most important thing to remember with postpartum depression is that your well being is essential to the health of your child. Your baby needs you, everything else is secondary.
Howard County Library System has loads of books on parenting and mental health. I personally loved Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing up Bebe : One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.
Woman Consoling Man [Credit: Monkeybusinessimages] / [Dreamstime]
April is Defeat Diabetes month and we thought we’d write about a subject that isn’t often written about, how friends and family can provide emotional support to loved ones who have diabetes.
A diabetes diagnosis can be overwhelming emotionally for loved ones as well as the person with the disease. Friends and family don’t always know the best way to help. Licensed psychologist Lisa Hoffmeyer, Ph.D., a diabetic herself, gives friends and family the following advice:
Offer to Help
Ask what kind of help the diabetic needs and wants, and take a collective approach, “What can we do together to make sure you are healthy in the future?” Newly diagnosed diabetics wrestle with the notion that their life will be terribly different moving forward. They often feel their body has failed them. They might be angry. They need support as they make the necessary lifestyle adjustments to manage the disease.
In addition, the patient should also ask their family, “What are you scared of? How can I help you understand my disease? How can you feel safe and know that I am going to be OK?”
If someone with diabetes is open to it, attend doctor visits and educational classes together, but respect their independence. If your loved one has hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), you should know what signs indicate a possible emergency and what to do if your loved one loses consciousness. Family and friends should learn everything the patient does, with one caveat, they should not be the experts—the patient should.
Plan for the Future
Seniors with diabetes may face many challenges and they are twice as likely to get dementia versus non-diabetics. It is important that caregivers be prepared should the diabetic not be capable of managing their care. Have conversations about managing diabetes before it becomes an issue.
It is important for friends and family to realize the patient needs to own their disease and, unless impaired, they must be in charge of managing it. A lot of family members become the ‘diabetes police,’ and that’s not helpful. Instead of asking, “Are you sure you should be eating that?” a better way to help a loved one with diabetes is to ask, “What can I do to support you and help you succeed?”
Many patients with type 2 diabetes will become insulin-dependent or choose to go on insulin pumps. It isn’t a sign that they are doing anything wrong. Insulin may be the best treatment for some people and not necessarily a sign of worsening health. My recommendation is that the diabetic does what it takes to be healthy in the moment.
For more information about diabetes, view:
Do you have other support tips? Share them with us and our readers.
This is an emotional time of year for many of us. We can feel happy, sad, and stressed at the same time. Right now, I am happy that my kids will soon be home from college, but I am stressed that I won’t be able to clear the clutter off the dining room table in time for Thanksgiving dinner. I am also sad that this is the first Thanksgiving that my oldest son will not be home, because he recently moved across country. There is so much to do in a finite amount of time- cleaning, decorating, cooking, baking, and let’s not forget shopping. Are you one of those people that are near the front of the line waiting for the stores to open after you have finished your Thanksgiving dinner? If you are, I’ll admit I am a bit envious. I am usually the one endlessly circling waiting for you to leave, so I can have your parking space.
Managing your stress level is important throughout the year, but even more so around holidays. The best thing to do, which can seem impossible at this time of the year, is to work on preventing stress before it happens in the first place. Stress can lead to (or exacerbate) existing health problems. You can read about the causes of stress, its effect on the body, and how to effectively manage stress here.
It’s also important to recognize your stress triggers. I am embarrassed to admit that I canceled Christmas in our house one year, because I let my stress get the best of me. Some of the things you can do to relieve stress over the holidays are to set realistic and achievable goals, plan ahead, delegate, stick to your routine, get plenty of sleep, and don’t overindulge in food or drink.
One of the most effective ways I have found to reduce my stress is to take time for myself. The year I canceled Christmas I think what I really needed was a time out. So now I schedule time, just for me, around the holidays to do something I enjoy. What do you enjoy doing? Plan time in your week to do it. It can be as simple as taking a walk in your neighborhood or sticking to your fitness or yoga routine, meditating, listening to music, reading a book or watching a movie, or doing something more indulgent like getting a massage or a new haircut. It’s also the perfect time of year to support Howard County General Hospital and walk, drive or jog through the Symphony of Lights. Symphony of Lights is also a great place to send your family, relatives or guests if you need a few minutes alone (hint,hint)! Think about what you enjoy doing and do it! Everything will still get done and you will be happier. You can find more tips for enjoying the holidays here.
I hope everyone finds a little more peace and joy this holiday season. Happy holidays!
Do we need Girl Power today when girls have caught up and often outperform boys in school STEM-related subjects? When they are earning more college diplomas than boys, and are increasingly represented in STEM-related careers? So then, why Girl Power?
At the Central Branch of Howard County Library System, girls have an outlet for building self-confidence, developing friendships, and doing STEAM-related activities. If you ask these tween customers why they feel Girl Power is important, this is what you’ll hear:
“So we can encourage girls to do anything in the world.”- Anne (Age 10)
“Friendship!”- Marianne (Age 11)
“I believe that every single girl has power inside of them.”- Alexis (Age 9)
“It teaches girls to be brave & strong.”- Abby (11)
“It helps bring my inner voice come out.”- Trisha (Age 11)
“Because we want to fight back from being bullied.”- Brooke (age 9)
Research shows that as girls approach puberty and their bodies start to change, their self-esteem may decrease. An astounding number of tween and teen girls are unhappy with their bodies, and research shows that girls being worried about the way they look can influence their participation in activities. Thanks to national, state, and community initiatives in recent years, girls’ participation and success in STEM-related subjects has significantly improved. However, girls with lower self-esteem who believe in gender stereotypes such as “boys are better at math” suffer academically and consequently are less likely to pursue STEM-related careers.
There is good news! Positive female role models help combat negative female stereotypes. Likewise, getting hands-on experience in STEM-related subjects and activities can help give girls the confidence to pursue more STEM-related activities and/or careers. Another way to hone into that inner Girl Power is to check out the list of girl-empowering reads at the end of this post!
It’s also important to remember that not every girl will aspire to be a scientist or a mathematician, and that is perfectly okay! Girl Power is all about girls having the confidence to reach their individual potential and feel an inner happiness. Allison, an HCLS Girl Power attendee, sums up best why girls still need opportunities to explore and embrace their inner power: “To empower girls not to be afraid to do anything we put our minds to.” Check out hclibrary.org to register for the next Girl Power class.
TEEN GIRL FICTION
TEEN GIRL NONFICTION
Several weeks ago I was hospitalized for severe depression. I’d been dealing with a stressful project at work, my father’s terminal illness, and just getting over a painful breakup. For weeks it felt like I was drowning in my own head. I constantly felt exhausted. Simple tasks, like showering and getting something to eat, felt like climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro without oxygen. Crying for no reason became the new norm. I went through my normal routine, numb and almost robot-like and could not find it within me to feel any pleasure in what I did. My range of emotion was limited to sad, hopeless, and angry. I’d suffered from depression and anxiety most of my adult life, but I realized how bad it was getting when I started to have recurring suicidal ideations.
These ideations were what scared me the most. I had no control over my mind. It didn’t matter what I was doing, thoughts of ending my life became persistent. In a sick way, the thought of dying provided comfort in finally putting an end to my misery.
One morning, I had an extremely difficult time getting out of bed. I slowly showered, dressed for work, drove to the office, and told my boss that I was afraid I was going hurt myself. He knew about my struggle with depression and I explained my life was so unbearable that I wanted to end it. I cannot remember much, but I do know I was brought to the psych unit of the ER. I cried hysterically several times, begging the hospital staff not to admit me to the psych ward.
I was admitted to another hospital for short-term hospitalization where I was stabilized with medication and group therapy. I am currently in outpatient therapy to learn coping skills, stress management, and recognize behaviors that I need to work on.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Bipolar Disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a chronic brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.
I am Bipolar II which means I have patterns of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes, which involve elevated, high-energy moods. When I am hypomanic, I feel extremely energetic, talkative, and overly confident. For example, I’ll take on dozens of tasks at work and insist I do them on my own. Most of the time, I’m unable to complete the unrealistic goal I’d set for myself.
My psychiatrist said I am a high functioning bipolar. I’d been misdiagnosed with major depressive disorder all these years. Everyone that knows me thinks I’m a workaholic overachiever with a sweet, bubbly, outgoing personality. They think I have this tank of never-ending energy when I am up until 3:00 a.m. baking batches upon batches of cookies for no reason. Or when I can take care of a sick family member at the hospital all day and then answer work emails until 4:00 a.m. night after night for a week and not feel exhausted. I learned that this was also my hypomania.
No one ever saw the depression because I have mastered the art of hiding it from everyone, including most of my family and exes (even the last guy, who also had bipolar). When I am agitated or what I now know is an unstable mood, I always make a deliberate effort to be kind to those I interact with because I’m a firm believer that you never know what kind of day they’re having. It was only when I was alone that I allowed the dark depression to devour me and keeping up this act of normalcy took its toll.
MANAGING MY DISORDER IS MY RESPONSIBILITY.
The key to leading a happy, functional life is managing my disorder to the best of my abilities. Thanks to my ex boyfriend (also bipolar), I have a huge head start in educating myself about the disorder. I am fortunate to have a strong support system to help me cope and finally adjust to my new reality.
I am doggedly determined to maintain my stability and health not just for myself, but the people in my life. I am working out a plan with my doctor and therapist to make sure I stay on track. I am learning to manage my stress and look out for triggers. And most of all, I am holding myself accountable for how I manage my disorder moving forward.
I’ve seen so many negative things in the media about people struggling with bipolar. Not one bipolar person is the same -and to negatively label all of us is ignorant and requires more education about the disorder. We, with bipolar, also ask for empathy and understanding. I know good people who struggle with this disorder; who work incredibly hard every day to maintain their stability for themselves and their families.
I did not choose to be bipolar. No one with this disorder did.
[Editor’s Note: This post is a personal account of one of our contributors who asked their name be kept private. If you or someone you know is suffering with depression and feels unsafe, please go to your nearest emergency room or call 9-1-1.]
Did you know teens read nonfiction too? And, no, we don’t just mean Wikipedia or sources for research papers. A lot of questions come up during adolescence, and sometimes when you’re a teen, you want to find a reliable answer without having to consult another person (or swim in the sea of too many conflicting answers known as the Internet). This little video highlights some of the Teen Nonfiction Collection at HCLS.