Happy Mother’s Day 2022

In the sage words of Karen Kleiman of the Postpartum Stress Center, “Mother’s Day is really just a reminder that we should all honor our individual stories and take good care of ourselfs. Every. Day.”

Yes, yes, a million times, yes!

I haven’t been blogging as much lately, and just wanted to quickly share this with you…whoever is still following my blog.  I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day today.  And every day!

Nowadays, with lawmakers so anxious to take women’s rights away and to govern what they can and cannot do. One would think we are stepping into a Dr. Strange time portal back to the early 1900s.  It is seriously getting more & more crazy out there.  Sorry to digress.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

We are our own best advocates.
We must take care of ourselves the best we can.
Our individual stories are important,
and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.
Our individual situations are unique.
Don’t compare your situation with anyone else’s,
as that will not help whatsoever.
We must do what we need to do to thrive.
If we don’t thrive how could our children thrive?
Find the support that you need–whether it be practical support,
social support, medical help, or mental health help.
We deserve it.
We are mothers, we’ve given birth, raised our child/ren.
It is hard.
It is DAMN hard.
We deserve breaks.
We matter.
Our feelings matter.
We deserve to have our individual stories honored.
We deserve to take good care of ourselves.
Not just on Mother’s Day but
Every. Single. Day.

Sharing with permission from Karen Kleiman

I must be blue if….

I must be blue if….

Spring time, the usual gamechanger for me
……doesn’t make me smile
……doesn’t make me feel better
……doesn’t make me feel excitement of the return of
………………………………color
………………………………………warmth
…………………………………………………..sunshine
……………………………………………………………….. birds chirping
………………………………………………………………………………………..flowers blooming
I don’t hum with the music that I normally love to hear.
I can’t laugh at things I’d normally laugh about.

I must find a way to prevent the downward slide
toward depression where I can’t eat or sleep,
just a hyperfocus on how to disappear.
I’ve been there before, and it’s a pain that you never want to wish on anyone
I don’t ever want to feel that way again.

My lunar new year post just 2 months ago
expressed my relief that I was able to get through winter
without feeling blue.
Well, looks like I should wait after spring actually arrives–and sinks in–
to make such a statement.

What’s been dragging me down?
Thoughts about my parents and becoming like them.
Seeing them each week deteriorate more and more.
It’s really hard to stay upbeat when I think
about them and what’s in store for me in my old age.

What helps bring me out of this rut
is getting out, spending time with friends,
appreciating beautiful places and nature in person
not from inside my house.
But outside.
Breathing in the fresh air,
feeling the warmth of the sun,
and seeing the beautiful colors of the first spring flowers in person.

And smiling.

Lunar New Year 2022 – Year of the Tiger- February 1, 2022

I’m back after a little break from blogging! If you’ve been following my blog and saw my Lunar New Year post from last year, the Year of the Ox, you won’t be surprised with this post. If you’re thinking I’m going to make an annual tradition out of this, you’re right!

Unlike last year, I’m not struggling with the blues this winter, yay! And unlike last year, I’m now going to my NYC office twice a week. With the never-ending news of Asians of all ages being attacked, you bet I’m on high alert while walking on sidewalks, in Port Authority, and in the subways! 

Like last year, I’m still participating in my town’s initiative to encourage diversity and inclusion within my community.  It takes a village–both literally and figuratively–to counter racism, since racism exists in all communities, whether you’re aware of it or not.  The more community members take part in such initiatives, the better off all communities would be! Racism comes from stereotypes that come from ignorance that comes from fear. Communication and information have the power to wipe away all of that! But it takes a unified effort from within each and every community. There should be a ZERO tolerance for hate and racism!

And like last year, I’ve been asked to help my local diversity group to come up with information to share about the Lunar New Year.  I am honored to be part of the Advisory Council for that group and that they adapted the information below to share with our community.  

 


Interesting Facts about Lunar New Year

I created a 1-pager that contains 8 (8 is a lucky number for the Chinese) key points on the Lunar New Year on one side and a little tutorial on stroke order for the tiger character in Chinese plus a fun Word Search activity on the other side. This piece is great for sharing with kids and raise their interest and appreciation at an early age of the East Asian cultures that celebrate Lunar New Year!

The information contained in my blog post below is lengthier and couldn’t be jammed in to a 1-page document about Lunar New Year. Some of the information is even new to me, and all of it is just so fascinating that I had to share! Thank you for reading and sharing!

NYC Chinatown Chinese New Year parade years ago

The largest human migration in the world

Did you know that 3 billion trips are made each year (including return trips) to visit relatives by plane, train and automobile to celebrate Chinese New Year?  Referred to as chunyun (春运), it is the travel period up to 15 days before the week-long observance of China’s Spring Festival (or chunjie (春) and up to 40 days. It is up to 40 days in part due to the lack of transportation options available for the millions to make each one-way trek during the same timeframe.  Depending on one’s luck in buying airplane/train/bus tickets, travelers end up traveling within the window 15 days prior to the start of and 15 days after chunjie ends. This year, chunjie starts on January 31 (New Year’s Eve) and ends on February 6. In modern China, most elderly parents still live in the rural villages of their ancestors, while the younger generation works in the cities.  Why do they call it Spring Festival when it takes place during the winter?  The Festival marks the end of the coldest days of winter, with people welcoming the coming spring with planting, which represents new beginnings and fresh starts.

Most & Least Compatible Signs

Most Compatible Signs/Lucky Years: Dog, Horse
Semi-Compatible Signs:  Dragon, Rat
Incompatible Signs:  Monkey, Snake

A few celebrities who were born during the year of the TIGER

Ludwig van Beethoven

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Queen Elizabeth II

Sun Yat-Sen

Mary Queen of Scots

Marco Polo

Ho Chi Minh

General Charles de Gaulle

Charles Lindbergh

Jonas Salk

Emily Bronte

Emily Dickinson

H.G. Wells

Agatha Christie

Marilyn Monroe

Jay Leno

Jon Stewart

Stevie Wonder

Demi Moore

Jodie Foster

Rosie O’Donnell

Hilary Swank

Dylan Thomas

Hugh Hefner

Lionel Ritchie

Kenny Rogers

Jon Bon Jovi

 

 

My collection of red envelopes saved through the years

More on Chinese New Year red envelopes

Etiquette:

1. Do gift crisp, new bills, as gifting dirty or wrinkled bills is in bad taste.

2. Do receive a red envelope with both hands and express thanks with an appropriate phrase. It is considered impolite to receive a red envelope with one hand and not express thanks with an appropriate phrase.

3. Don’t gift coins.

4.  Don’t give amounts starting with the number 4, like $4, $40 or $400.  The number ‘4’ Chinese sounds like ‘death’ and is therefore considered bad luck. Even numbers are better than odd numbers.  The number ‘8’ is considered good luck, so gifts like $8, $80 or $88 would be best.

5. Don’t open your red envelope in front of the person who just gave it to you.

Taboos and Superstitions

As in practically all other cultures around the world, there are a lot of taboos and superstitions adapted over the course of centuries, all of which have the intent of attracting good fortune into the New Year and protecting against bad fortune.

Do’s:

  • Do talk about good, happy things to set the tone for the new year
  • Do pay back your debts before the new year starts
  • Do wear red because red is the luckiest color

Don’ts:           

  • Don’t cut your hair on during the New Year, as that would cause connections to be severed
  • Don’t wear black or white, as both colors are associated with mourning
  • Don’t wash your hair or do laundry on the 1st or 2nd day of the new year, as that would wash good fortune away
  • Don’t sweep on the 1st or 2nd day of the new year, as that will sweep away accrued wealth / luck
  • Don’t cry or argue, as that will bring bad fortune

World Mental Health Day 2021

#WorldMentalHealthDay   
#SelfCare
#LoveYourself

A super quick post that’s one day late for World Mental Health Day.  I wanted to remind you that self care is paramount.  Here are the 3 daily minimum actions you need to take (adapted from my friend Kayla’s weekly FriYays):

  1. stay hydrated
  2. move your body a few times a week (as in don’t sit on your tush all the time – it’s not good for your heart and back especially as you get older)
  3. eat fruit and/or veggies at least once daily

You are important no matter what negative voices you hear in your head and/or from those around you.

If you are a mother or father, you must ensure you are taking good care of yourself physically and mentally in order to take care of your child(ren).  If you aren’t in a good place physically and/or mentally, then you cannot take care of your child(ren) to the fullest extent possible.  The ol’ airplane oxygen mask analogy for self care.

Just as you would see a doctor for a medical issue (like a cardiologist for a heart/circulatory issue, pulmonogist for a lung issue, gastroenterologist for a stomach issue…you get the picture), you should see one of the below types of mental healthcare professionals for any mental issue that your brain is battling with.  Now, don’t see or hear the word “mental” and run in the opposite direction.  Don’t let any of those negative thoughts others may have about that word (derived thanks to inaccurate depictions in movies/TV) scare you from getting help.  After all, your brain is the most powerful and complex organ in the human body without which the rest of your body cannot function properly.  And the brain is taken for granted far too often.  Unlike the other organs, your brain enables you to feel emotions, think, analyze, calculate, reason, etc….you get the picture.  And I wouldn’t be the first person to say that everyone could stand to talk to a mental healthcare practitioner at some point in their lives over a particularly challenging situation, like death of parent or other loved one, difficulties at work or in school, etc.  It’s rare for a person to be able to naturally cope with all issues without help.  Seeing a mental healthcare professional is NOT a sign of weakness.  You should NOT feel ashamed for doing so.

Bottom line, you would not be taking adequate care of yourself if you don’t also take care of your brain and all that it has the power to do.

Type of Mental-Health Professional Degree(s)/Licensing Can Prescribe Meds?

Yes/No

What They Do
Psychologist PhD or PsyD in counseling and clinical psychology No (with the exception of a few states) A psychologist possesses training/expertise in human behavior and mental health. They evaluate and treat people with mental-health problems and can also provide counseling.
Psychiatrist MD=Doctor of Medicine Yes A psychiatrist is essentially a medical doctor who—having studied and trained in the assessment, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of mental illnesses—can  diagnose and treat people with mental-health problems. In addition to the ability to prescribe medications, some can also provide counseling. Some psychiatrists only offer therapy. Some do not offer therapy but focus on psychotropic medications. Some offer a combination of both therapy and medication.
Social Worker CSW=clinical social worker

MSW=clinical social worker with a master’s degree along with training and experience in psychotherapy

LSW=licensed social worker

LCSW =licensed clinical social worker who has passed a state licensing examination in social work

ACSW=social worker who has passed a national certification examination in social work

No A social worker focuses on helping people improve their emotional health and well-being. They help people work out personal and/or family issues, function in their environment by focusing on the positive in situations, identify resources, establish support systems, and improve relationships with others. They understand and call upon people’s strengths to overcome challenges and issues to the best of their abilities.
Psychiatric Nurse Advanced practice registered nurse who also holds a master of science degree in nursing or doctor of nursing practice (DNP/DrNP) and who specializes in psychiatric mental-health nursing. Yes (in most states) A psychiatric nurse assesses, diagnoses, and treats individuals with psychiatric problems/disorders. In some states, they are licensed to practice psychotherapy independently.

The Realities of Postpartum

I just realized I was supposed to blog again in September (my Sept post was meant for Aug), as I’d promised I would blog at least once a month from October 2020-October 2021.  So, this blog post is to make up for September, and I will be posting again for World Mental Health Day 2021.

Today, I’m going to blog about the importance of ALL information relevant to a new mother’s well-being.  I was pleased to see Good Morning America’s piece titled “Moms get real about what it’s like postpartum: ‘I felt like I got hit by a bus.'”  dated September 30, 2021.  I love that there is “real” talk about the realities of postpartum.  That is essentially the motivation and focus of my book, which I’d published back in 2011 because not enough people were talking about the realities of postpartum.  While my book uses the terms “hit from left field with PPD” and “PPD hits you like a ton of bricks” in Chapter 3 (Knowledge is Power), the general idea is the same, and it wouldn’t be so bad if more people talk about the realities of postpartum.  The 2 mothers in the article (Maria Alcoke and Jenny Laroche) share my desire to help educate other women so they can avoid the kind of negative experiences we had.  I mean, with knowledge, we have the the power to minimize fears and anxieties that come with first-time motherhood, as well as to get help EARLY.

Just like my book, the article mentions that there is plenty of information out there about preparing to become a mother, about pregnancy, and about baby care, but there isn’t a whole lot about the realities of the postpartum period, like hair loss, recovery from childbirth, anxiety with caring for a baby for the first time, societal expectation that the postpartum period is just for physical recovery from childbirth, and difficulties with breastfeeding–just to name a few.  For Laroche, who experienced heavy hair loss (“I had no idea that you lose so much hair. No one warned me,” said Laroche, who said she felt “like a passenger in my own body” postpartum) and was concerned about even the most basic of body functions, like bowel movements, these completely normal experiences wouldn’t have been so traumatizing and isolating had she known what to expect by talking about it with other mothers or reading about it.  Why are people so afraid to talk about their real experiences?  Is it fear of being shamed?  Judged by others? Not living up to their dream of being a perfect mother?  Wanting to maintain the notion that pregnancy and motherhood are always blissful experiences?  What I want to know is why people insist on keeping up these false notions.

Alcoke shares:

When talking [in] women’s circles and just talking with your friends and sharing experiences, you never want to scare someone away, right? People don’t necessarily want to hear that, like, ‘Oh did you hear about the vaginal tear that I had?’ but it’s part of the process. It happens. It’s super common.

These are things I touch on in my book in my Chapter 6 (My Postpartum Period – An Exhausting and Uncertain Experience) where I talk about Interrupted Sleep/Sleep Deprivation, Startle/Moro Reflex, Colic, Nasty Eczema and Cradle Cap, My Hair Loss, and Returning to Work.  I also talk about the realities of pregnancy, childbirth and the fact that breastfeeding isn’t always instinctive in Chapter 8.  Here’s an excerpt from my Knowledge is Power chapter:

It’s only natural for you to not want to hear about anything that could go wrong during the postpartum period. You may have enough pregnancy-related concerns as it is, with things like nausea, difficulty sleeping, getting everything ready for the baby’s arrival, spotting, cramping, bloating, preeclampsia, etc. I mean, who wants to look forward to her baby’s birth with anything other than positive thoughts? And who wants to think about something you’re convinced won’t happen to you? It’s natural to deal with concerns as they arise rather than worry about something that more than likely would not happen anyway. But remember that a cross-that-bridge-when-you-get-to-it mentality won’t help you if, once you cross that bridge, PPD hits you like a ton of bricks—suddenly and quite mercilessly.

and

From seeing the happy moms around you to those on the television and in magazines, you look forward to your future with your baby with joyful anticipation, thinking that, with happy thoughts, there will only be happy days ahead. And just because you never hear anyone you know talk about having PPD, it doesn’t mean no one you know has ever suffered from it. A friend, relative, colleague, or neighbor may one day suffer—or at this moment could be suffering—from PPD, and you may never even know it because she doesn’t know what is wrong with her and is ashamed to let anyone know that she is unable to enjoy her baby as she’d dreamed she would. No woman is completely immune from PPD after having a baby. With the right combination of risk factors and stressors, any woman—even you—could end up suffering from it.

The Good Morning America piece also touches on the fact that a woman’s body goes through huge changes that–besides the size of the belly–aren’t necessarily visible to an observer.  These changes are hormonal and even neurochemical.  And yet women are sent home from the hospital a couple days after childbirth to recover and with a newborn to take care of (in addition to possibly other kids)!  Everyone recovers in different ways, lengths of time, etc.  Most mothers experience postpartum blues (not the same thing as postpartum depression – which I talk about in Chapter 8 of my book) due to the huge hormonal changes that come with childbirth.  But a percentage (up to 20%) of new mothers experience postpartum depression (PPD), which is a general term for when there is a postpartum mood disorder.  What the article doesn’t mention is that there is also postpartum anxiety, postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder, and postpartum psychosis.

The piece also touches on the fact that new mothers are setting themselves up for huge disappointment if they assume that, when it comes to pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum, things will turn out the way they plan.  No amount of books/information and staying on top of details is going to fully prepare you for all the variables that include the way a woman’s body responds to childbirth, the huge hormonal swings from pregnancy and childbirth, and the baby’s personality and development…..just to name a few.  When it comes to having a baby, the more you want control of a situation, the greater your struggle will be if the results are not what you expect.

This is an excerpt from my book:

Being a first-time mother, you learn the ropes as you go. Practice makes perfect. But mothers with perfectionist or control-freak tendencies find it particularly hard to adapt to the fact that much of their motherhood experience is one in which mistakes will be made and it isn’t possible to have complete control of your life when you have an infant. Those who set high expectations and have specific thoughts of how their childbirth and motherhood experiences should be are setting themselves up for disappointment when their expectations are not met.

The article also touches on the fact that postpartum care in the U.S. is lacking.  Once the baby is born, all the attention turns to the baby, and it seems everyone forgets about the mother.  The article mentions that, in 2018, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released new guidelines to help encourage more postpartum care.  Six weeks used to be the standard for the first new mother visit with her OB-GYN.  ACOG now recommends that new mothers contact their OB-GYN within the first 3 weeks after delivery, and that care should continue on an ongoing basis, ending with a “comprehensive postpartum visit no later than 12 weeks after birth.”  I believe the reason for this is for OB-GYN’s to assess if the new mother has any symptoms of a postpartum mood disorder.

Postpartum care for the new mother has been completely lacking in the U.S.  I discuss this in detail in Chapter 9 of my book.  Chapter 9 sections include these sections:
  • First Few Days at Home … Now What?
  • New Moms Need Nurturing Too
  • What Is Social Support?

I’ve blogged about social support in great detail previously here and here.  Hugely ignored is the importance of emotional and practical support during the first four to six weeks postpartum to enable the new mother to get the rest she needs while she is recovering from childbirth and at her most vulnerable, thereby minimizing her risk for PPD. A support network should be set up before the baby arrives. Be prepared to have support with how to soothe a crying baby, how to cope with reflux and colic, how to identify and deal with eczema and cradle cap, and how to deal with food allergies, etc. Not being prepared for these challenges and having to figure out how to deal with them via pure trial and error can cause anxiety levels to skyrocket.

LUNAFEST® Screening on October 15-16, 2021 presented by Postpartum Support International-NJ

Tickets are available now for the 3rd annual LUNAFEST®proudly presented by the New Jersey Chapter of Postpartum Support International (PSI).

This year, the event will be hybrid.  If you are in New Jersey, you can participate  in person.  If you don’t live in the New Jersey and/or would prefer to participate from the comfort of your home, you can participate virtually!  Please consider buying a ticket to support a wonderful cause!

IN-PERSON:
When: Friday, October15, 2021; Meet & Greet Reception @ 7:30 pm; Films begin @ 8:00 pm
Where: The Woodland, 60 Woodland Road, Maplewood, NJ
Tickets:  $40 includes a complimentary cocktail.  To buy, click here.

VIRTUAL:
When
: Log in anytime between Friday, Oct 15 @ 8 PM EST – Saturday, Oct 16 @ 8 PM EST.  The festival of 7 short films has a total running time of 86 minutes.
Where: A Vimeo streaming link and passcode will be emailed to you the morning of October 15, 2021.
Tickets:  Just $20!  What a deal!  To buy, click here.

Proceeds of this particular screening event will benefit the NJ Chapter of PSI.  PSI’s mission is to promote awareness, prevention and treatment of mental health issues related to childbearing.  The long-term goals of the PSI-NJ chapter is to create, throughout the state of New Jersey, a unified voice for the support, education and care of moms and families with perinatal mood disorders, as well as law enforcement and health care professionals.  support mothers (and even fathers) suffering from it.

If you support women’s causes and want to support mothers (and their families) who suffer from postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (e.g, postpartum depression (PPD), postpartum OCD and postpartum psychosis) to get the help they need, please consider coming to Lunafest and sharing with friends, family members, neighbors, and colleagues and even share widely on social media.

There will be information about PSI, PSI-NJ and other maternal mental health services in NJ at this event.

Thank you for the Postpartum Depression Mentions of My Blog

I hope this blog post finds you well (whoever still visits my blog nowadays)!  I hope you have been staying healthy and safe, and staying masked while in large gatherings both indoors & outdoors!

Tomorrow is the last day of July.  I just can’t believe August is almost here!  And before you know it, Halloween and all-things-pumpkin will be popping back up in stores….noooooooo!!!!!  As a summer lover, I totally do NOT look forward to the prospect that days will be cooling and getting shorter, and leaves will be falling soon!

Well, I did say I was going to have 2 blog posts for July.  I have been somewhat out of the loop and not following maternal mental health news and social media posts as I have done in the past.  So, I honestly don’t have a lot to post right now.  I have been meaning to give a shout-out and thanks to these 3 groups that mentioned me and my blog during the past 16 months since the pandemic started last March, so I’m going to do that now.  I am honored that people have chosen to mention my blog in their posts.  And it’s especially an honor that I can still reach folks not in my immediate area.

Parkridge Health System – Chattanooga, TN
Pregnancy and coronavirus: Postpartum depression symptoms and tips

Elevate Counseling Service – Massachusetts locations
Postpartum Mental Health post written by Erin Grady, May 19, 2020

And just 10 days ago, it looks like I somehow made it to Feedspot’s top 10 postpartum depression blogs to follow!  I’ve been on the list before, but not in the top 10 (or #2 spot).  Thank you, Feedspot, for this honor!

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of COVID

I didn’t even realize I failed to post for June, so will post at least twice this month!  For all who read this post, I sincerely hope you are well.  If you need to reach out to me for help regarding insomnia after having a baby and postpartum depression or other related mood disorder, please do not hesitate to leave me a comment.  It may have been 16 years since I survived my experience, but I am always looking to help new moms!

Now, with today’s post.  Let me start with the ugly and work my way to the good.  As with everything, I try to see everything as REALISTICALLY as possible.  And try to appreciate silver linings.

The Ugly:

-I learned that people who felt inconvenienced with mask wearing, lost their jobs and/or lost loved ones harbor so much anger that they look to take their anger out on someone, and that someone is Chinese-looking people that live everywhere outside of China – that includes Chinese Americans who’ve never been to China (like me), Taiwanese, Koreans, Japanese, Malaysians, Filipinos, Singaporians, Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodians, Indonesians….you get the picture, right?
-I learned that there is still much to be done with respect to Anti-Asian sentiment and racism in this country; and much for people to learn with respect to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI)
-I learned that the so-called leader of this country deliberately caused the ramp-up of Anti-Asian sentiment and racism in this country by constantly referencing COVID as the “Kung Flu” and “Chinese Virus”….and it didn’t stop there…..his divisive rhetoric made people all the more hateful of people who aren’t white and the “perpetual foreigner” that legally-immigrated Chinese Americans (like all other legally-immigrated people of European descent, etc.) have been viewed as since they first came to this country in the 1700s

The Bad:

-I learned that COVID was not the only reason to be fearful of returning to NYC if you look Chinese, since physical and verbal attacks on Asians are occurring at an alarming rate
-I learned that COVID is ruthless with certain people regardless of underlying conditions or perfect health
-I learned that front line health workers have sacrificed so much, including their own lives
-I learned that many people were furloughed until their employers asked them to return or lost their jobs because so many small businesses around the country were impacted by the shut-down
-I learned that COVID has kept families from gathering in large numbers (well, at least the ones who believe COVID is a real issue) to celebrate and to grieve (when death takes a toll on a loved one)
-I learned that COVID can make people prone to depression even more so because people prone to depression should not be staying inside and being unable to have in-person social interactions for prolonged periods of time
-I learned that rates of postpartum mood disorders (e.g., postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, postpartum psychosis) went up during lockdown:

The Good (yes, there are a few silver linings in the mix!):

-I learned that working remotely can have benefits, like getting more work done and getting more sleep, and being able to pick your kids up from school
-I learned that one can save a lot of money by not having to commute; I save upward of $500 a month from not having to commute to NYC and spend money on breakfasts & lunches
-I learned that one can get hours back by not spending time commuting – that for me means 3 hrs commuting on average each day, something I claimed I didn’t mind doing for almost 31 years leading up to March 2020
-I learned that another silver lining to staying at home is focusing on de-cluttering my life’s belongings, a thing I’ve been putting off for years
-I learned the importance of staying close to nature by tending to our garden, going on daily walks, and visiting the abundance of gardens in NJ, NY and PA
-I learned that technologies such as Zoom can work wonders to keep people connected when in-person gatherings are not possible
-I learned that true friendships pick up where they left off before the lockdown

Stopping AAPI Hate

I started Asian/Pacific Heritage Month (APAH Month) with my last post about the month, and as it comes to a close, I wanted to share the following that I learned from a recent Zoom event held by our company for its employees in the wake of the rise in anti-Asian hate around the country. I am grateful for my company’s leadership in the messages it has been sharing in support of Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and for my colleagues who have been working to organize such events.  I know I am digressing yet again from all things postpartum depression on my PPD blog, but as some of you know, I have blogged previously about experiencing racism while growing up, and it’s an issue that is even more important to me now than ever before due to the alarming rise in anti-Asian hate incidents around the country since COVID started.  I can’t keep quiet about this.  What’s happening isn’t right, and I fully blame the past administration and its racist rhetoric for where we are today.  We must counter the uptick in anti-Asian hate with an uptick in education (in schools, in social media, in companies, in communities) about Asian American history.  There must be an uptick in flocking (read on to find out more about flocking) and advocacy among the AAPI around the country.  We can’t just simply rely on a handful of advocates who are actors, like Daniel Dae Kim, or in government, like Grace Meng. 

Thank you in advance for taking the time to read on. But before you do, here is a fascinating read I stumbled across today.  It’s a research paper titled “Anti-Asian American Racism, COVID-19, Racism Contested, Humor, and Empathy” written by Peter Huang of the Univ of Colorado Law School.  

In 2020, Dr. Russell Jeung launched Stop AAPI Hate, which tracks Covid-19 related discrimination in order to develop community resources and policy interventions to fight racism.  The tracking starting from 3/19/2020-3/21/21 reveals statistics summarized in this report. Other initiatives he’s working on include working with Disney and Tik Tok for messaging to reach young audiences, as it is critical for our future generations to understand the importance of embracing diversity and understanding Asian American history in this country.

Dr. Jeung has been a professor of the San Francisco State University’s Asian American Studies Department since 2002.  He is the author of 5 books and co-produced the documentary, The Oak Park Story (2010), about a landmark housing lawsuit involving his fellow Cambodian and Latino tenants.  His research interests include the Sociology of Race, the Sociology of Religion, and Social Movements. Dr. Jeung is extensively engaged with his students in conducting community-based, participatory research with Asian American communities.  See his complete bio here: https://faculty.sfsu.edu/~rjeung/

Dr. Jeung was invited to speak to employees at my company via Zoom.  Below is a summary of the information shared by him, which I wish more people from my company would watch, as it contains such valuable information that I myself didn’t even know before!

PERPETUAL FOREIGNER STEREOTYPE

Dr. Jeung starts with the explanation of the perpetual foreigner stereotype.  It is one in which those who look Chinese are objectified as outsiders not to be allowed into the United States.  This is different from how Europeans have historically been treated.  People viewing Chinese as a threat arose when they first immigrated to the U.S. and this view has always been in the racial subconscious of America.  Back in the 1800s, there was yellow peril fear that the Chinese were invading the West with diseases (cholera, etc) and were objectified as outsiders.  People yelled racial epithets at the Chinese due to differences in skin color and eyes (and unfortunately that still happens all too often today). The stereotype was based also on the fear that the Chinese were taking away white people’s jobs.  This is why the U.S. passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.  During the bubonic plague in 1900, the Chinese were segregated from whites due to the fear at the time that all Chinese were disease carriers.

As a result of the perpetual foreigner stereotype, Chinese and other east Asians have feelings of self doubt when it comes to belonging in the U.S.   People are being racially profiled because of political rhetoric and the words “Chinese Virus” and “Kung-Flu” deliberately uttered by the former President to prompt citizens to cast blame on all Chinese. Unfortunately, all those who look Chinese are being lumped together to be victims of the anti-Asian attacks that have been spurred on by the President’s words. The biological virus of COVID has been racialized, causing the assumption and association of all Chinese being disease carriers (and back to the 1800s and early 1900s we go). Such automatic assumptions and racial schema on ways people perceive the world is referred to as implicit bias.  When we see the President and hear him say these words over and over, the terms become chemically hardwired in brains that determine how individuals perceive and relate to others based on their race.  So, when people see Asians, they think coronavirus.  They think of Asians as a threat and they go into fight or flight mode (again, back to the 1800s and early 1900s we go).  They either attack or shun us. The physical appearance of looking Chinese is triggering others not necessarily due to intentional racism but implicit bias. 

For example, I used to believe an Asian person with a mask on is more likely to be sick with some kind Avian flu simply because we are not accustomed to seeing people wearing masks in the U.S.  That is just a conclusion that is drawn based on minimal knowledge of how another culture behaves.  The Chinese tend to be more conscious of others and therefore wear masks out of consideration for others.  They tend to wear masks to not only protect themselves from getting sick but to ensure that they don’t pass on an illness to others.  As we all come out of lockdown, with people looking for someone to blame and take their pent-up feelings of fear and anger out on someone, people who look Chinese are on the receiving end. The previous administration institutionalized the perpetual foreigner stereotype via his racist rhetoric, stopping immigration Visas, banning Chinese scientists from coming into this country, and cutting refugee resettlements.  These actions disproportionately impacted AAPI individuals.  The repercussions have been insidious and pervasive as with the thousands of verbal harassments and physical attacks registered with Stop AAPI Hate since March 2020 to date…. and even deadly (as with the Atlanta shootings).   Stop AAPI Hate was founded to track incidents and hold government accountable (that there would be no exclusion, segregation, detention, deportation and instead proof for governments to do something to address what’s happening).  7% of the cases reported were of people coughing/spitting. 11% of the cases reported were of people pushing, shoving, throwing rocks/bottles and even attempting to run people over with cars.  

AAPI have had their own fight versus flight response to what is happening.  Our fight response is learning self-defense and carrying mace with us.  Our flight response is telling our grandparents to stay indoors and children to stay home from school.  But we’ve also had a “flock” response in which we flock together to grieve and find solace, strength and support and to magnify our voices / amplify our concerns with fellow AAPI.  Our voices coming together has been critical to the creation of a collective voice, which has not only prompted Biden to create a White House initiative but the DOJ to make policy changes as well.  We should flock back to the community in support of Asian-run restaurants and nail salons that have suffered disproportionately (from people fearing they’ll catch COVID from these businesses) with daily early closures to allow employees to go home earlier for safety reasons and with unfortunate lay-offs due to lack of business.

A SYSTEM OF BINARIES & THE MODEL MINORITY STEREOTYPE

During the Zoom, Dr. Jeung showed us a slide depicting the white / black binary on vertical axis and insider (model minority stereotype) / outsider (perpetual foreigner stereotype) on the horizontal axis, and where AAPI fit in.  Because we are neither black nor white, we all too often feel invisible and excluded from race relations discussions.  We’re either insiders or outsiders.  We’re asked where we’re from because the assumption is we’re outsiders and don’t belong here (i.e., perpetual foreigner). We look different, eat different foods, talk differently (some AAPI citizens have accents if they’re not born here and can speak another language fluently), and have different religions (if we’re not atheist or Christian). On the other hand, sometimes we’re perceived as the model minority –i.e., “You’re successful because you’re Asian and hardworking” – and as belonging in the U.S. as white adjacent (we’re doing as well as whites).  But when times are tough, AAPI are scapegoated and treated as perpetual foreigners—e.g., in times of war (Japanese incarceration), times of economic downturn (laid-off auto workers killing Vincent Chin), and times of COVID (anti-Asian hate crimes now up over 150%).  AAPI are not perceived as real Americans (even though a large percentage of us are born here), and are told to “Go back to China, you fxxxing chink! Go back to where you came from. You don’t belong here.” This is happening to other AAPI that are NOT Chinese—for example, a Latino in LA was punched and shoved and told to go back to China, and an indigenous person in Vancouver was punched and shoved and told to go back to China. There are tons of other cases of this registered via Stop AAPI Hate.

AAPI are not seen as individuals but characterized one way or another based on stereotypes and boxed into this binary situation. On the one hand, many AAPI partner with BLM to dismantle the system that created the white/black binary.  On the other hand, many AAPI want the status, power, and privilege of being white. Many AAPI want whiteness to better fit into the society they live in. In my personal opinion from lifelong observations, there are many  AAPI who don’t flock with other AAPI because they don’t want their status to be jeopardized.  They may shun the Asian parts of themselves and prefer to identify as white Christians, with predominantly white friends living in a predominantly white community and feel no need to identify with other AAPI, acknowledge their ethnic heritage, learn their ethnic language, attend cultural events, and relate to others of their ethnicity, period.  In fact, some of them poke fun at other AAPI as if they were white themselves!  And that, my friends, is a shame but the unfortunate consequence of the insider/outsider binary.  You’re either on one side or the other.

In terms of what we can do to help ourselves, Dr. Jeung encourages us to teach our children about empathy, self-respect, pride, and awareness of systematic injustices and why certain groups have more power. We should teach them how to address micro-aggressions /bullying behavior.  If they receive such comments as “I bet you’re good with math” or “Where are you from” they can challenge the stereotypes at hand with “Why do you say (or ask) this?” 

ALLYSHIP

In terms of how others can help, Dr. Jeung encourages the following:

  1. Don’t be a bystander, be an upstander.  Those who see something can say / do something.  Go to the assistance of the one being targeted and don’t give the attacker any platform to share their racist perspective.  If you don’t do anything and stay silent, you’re basically complicit.  You can report the incident to Stop AAPI Hate, which is a means to document the extent/types of racist attacks. 
  2. At work, colleagues can reach out to fellow AAPI employees to check on them and show their concern.  Management can organize events (like this Zoom event and others throughout Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month) to give AAPI employees space to speak up and share. It would help if Asian styles and perspectives were acknowledged in the workplace, not to mention an awareness that different races are seen and treated differently due to implicit bias. 
  3. Schools can include Asian American history in their curriculum. Speaking of Asian American history, Grace Meng is working on legislation for NY schools to include Asian American history in its schools’ curriculum.  Illinois has already done this.
  4. You can donate to different groups like Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
  5. You can vote for politicians who promote racial justice.  
  6. Communities can form a diversity group (like my community did last year) to educate residents, advocate for the different ethnic groups that live and work there, and ensure a more inclusive and tolerant environment (race, sexual orientation, disabilities, etc). 
  7. Last but not least, realize that words do matter. Just as “Kung flu” and “Chinese Virus” spoken by the leader of the country normalized hate towards anyone who looks Chinese, leaders of companies can put out messages in support of its AAPI employees to normalize respect towards them and acknowledge their experiences.  Faith-based groups and schools should follow suit.  Parents should teach their children to be empathetic and to treat others the way they would want to be treated. 

Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month – May 2021

For the same reason I blogged in February about Lunar New Year, I am now blogging about Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.

I don’t normally post anything outside of the topic of postpartum depression–because, after all, this is a PPD blog– but as I mentioned previously, the spike in verbal and physical attacks on Asians in the U.S. has been a painful reminder of my experience growing up in a predominantly white area, dealing with racism much of my life and especially during my teenage years. Today, I live in a predominantly white area and participating in my town’s initiative to encourage diversity and inclusion within the community. If citizens of each community were to take part in such initiatives, our communities would be even better places to live! Racism comes from stereotypes that come from ignorance that comes from fear. Communication and information have the power to wipe away all of that! But it takes a unified effort from within each and every community. There should be a ZERO tolerance for hate and racism!

I helped my local diversity group to, once again, come up with information to share.  I am honored to be part of the Advisory Council for that group, and that they adapted the information below to share with our community.  

This blog post includes:

  1. Reading list of books for all ages – Download here:

2. Q&A on how Asian/Pacific American Heritage (APAH) Month came about, the countries/territories that make up Asian and the Pacific Islands, and the population of Asian and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) that live in the U.S.

3. All sorts of resources, including #StopAsianHate resources, historical resources, films, videos, resources for teachers, how to talk to kids about anti-Asian sentiment, and what the Model Minority Myth is.

APAH MONTH
RESOURCES

FILMS/VIDEOS:

  • PBS collection of more than 40 films available on WORLD Channel through your local PBS Station this May.  Check your local listings for air times. If you miss them on TV (or they’re not available in your area), you can find them online here: https://www.pbs.org/specials/asian-pacific-american-heritage-month/
  • 5-hour PBS film series: https://www.pbs.org/weta/asian-americans/. As America becomes more diverse, and more divided, while facing unimaginable challenges, how do we move forward together? Told through intimate and personal lives, the series will cast a new lens on U.S. history and the ongoing role that Asian Americans have played in shaping the nation’s history.

RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS:

HISTORICAL RESOURCES:

THE RISE OF ASIAN HATE:
WAYS TO SUPPORT THE AAPI COMMUNITY

This past year has seen a dramatic rise in hate, bigotry and violence directed at Asians, Asian-Americans, and Pacific Islanders. In a recent report, Stop AAPI Hate documented 3,795  hate incidents in the past year. Verbal harassment and shunning were the most common, followed by physical violence. (For the full report, including individual stories, please read here.)

In response, individuals can take action, raise awareness, and lend their support to AAPI  in your community and places of work. See below for how you can get involved and have an impact.

  1. Report incidents. Stop AAPI Hate is a coalition of organizations tracking and documenting incidents of violence, harassment, discrimination and bullying against Asians and Pacific Islanders. They have also compiled safety tips and resources. To report an incident or learn more, visit www.stopaapihate.org.
  • Donate. Community groups across the country are working to fight anti-Asian discrimination and support AAPI communities. These efforts range from escort services in response to increased violence to business and neighborhood support.
    • SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESSES
  • Intervene and stand up for others. What do you do if you see anti-Asian bigotry? Here  are some resources to learn how to stand up with those targeted.
    • Asian Americans Advancing Justice is offering bystander intervention training. To register for specific dates, visit here

 

Shout Out About Doulas in The Good Doctor….Can We Now Get One for PPD???

A brief post from me today, as it’s almost the end of April and I promised (for Amber) I would post at least once monthly for a year starting last October. Of course, I always start off saying it will be brief, but by the time I’m through, it’s not the short post I thought I was going to write, lol! Once I get my thoughts going, I could go on and on!

I’ve watched The Good Doctor since ep 1, and have absolutely LOVED the show for the way it’s written, cast, and directed. I was thrilled when doulas got a shout-out in a recent episode! I saw this on my Facebook feed a few days ago from a post by Raising Flowers Birth Services in Utah, which gave me the idea to blog about this. I bet more than half the people who watched the ep were like, hmmmm, what are doulas? I’ve mentioned them a bunch of times in my blog, but did blog about doulas specifically here.

I just wish they would do a show on postpartum mood disorders, as we desperately need a primetime TV show brave enough to get the message out that postpartum mood disorders are experienced by mothers (1 out of 7 in this country), and yet how all too often cases are missed, misdiagnosed, mistreated and have potentially fatal consequences for the mother and/or baby. I wish I could get a hold of Daniel Dae Kim on this (I did message him on Facebook yesterday but don’t expect a response), since he is a producer of the show, to see if he can work with Postpartum Support International. I don’t recall a primetime TV show ever having had postpartum mood disorders a focus of an episode. There might have been a shout-out or two or three these past years, but either I missed them or they were not substantive enough for me to recall.

Over the past few years, depression has been getting more attention, since Chicago Med and New Amsterdam have a mental healthcare practitioner on staff and they do have almost weekly examples of someone needing help from them. It’s a tremendous step in the right direction, and I am forever grateful. But…..WE NEED A POSTPARTUM MOOD DISORDER EPISODE!

Please, please, please, producers/directors of Chicago Med, New Amsterdam, Good Doctor….doesn’t matter which show. Please consider the importance of getting the message out because mothers around the country (and world, actually) are suffering and the public needs awareness about it because of the popular belief that, once people hear after a child is born that “mother and baby are doing well,” then all must be hunky dory and let’s all just focus on the baby. But…the baby will not thrive well UNLESS THE NEW MOTHER IS TRULY OKAY. And too many mothers suffer needlessly and painfully when they develop a postpartum mood disorder from out of the blue. Too many mothers feel shame because they don’t want others to know they can’t feel the joy that they “should” be feeling after the birth of their babies. The experience causes unnecessary feelings of despair and hopelessness, as what happened to me back in 2005. I got slammed with PPD from out of the blue. One day I was fine, the next day I wasn’t sleeping or eating, lost all my pregnancy weight and more in a few days, had anxiety attacks morning and night, and I thought I was not going to make it.

I would provide sample links to re-highlight why postpartum mood disorders like postpartum depression (PPD), postpartum anxiety, postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder, and postpartum psychosis are missed, misdiagnosed, mistreated and have potentially fatal consequences for the mother and/or baby, but I would be providing almost every link to every blog post I’ve ever written since 2009. And that’s an awful lot.

How Can I Help If I Can’t Tell If My Friend or Loved One Is Struggling with Postpartum Depression?

That’s a really good question, especially if the new mom doesn’t even know she has postpartum depression (PPD) and many new moms (I am guilty of this) want to hide the fact that they are struggling because they think that that would be a sign that they’re not as good of a mom as they’d imagined themselves to be.

You just have to trust your instincts, be proactive in looking for signs that the new mom is not herself/extra exhausted and/or just ask her how the new mom is feeling. It can also be tricky, as just because she doesn’t look depressed doesn’t mean she’s not depressed. I’d blogged about that previously here and here.

It can be particularly tricky now with COVID and people not seeing each other face to face, and people wanting to take extra precautions to protect a new mom and her baby from exposure to the virus.

Megan Markle’s interview with Oprah and Huffpost article dated March 18, 2021 titled “How to Tell if a Friend is Struggling with Depression or Anxiety During Pregnancy motivated me to write this blog post. It reminded me how even I made it difficult for people to gauge that I needed help.  For those like me who don’t like to be the center of attention/make a big deal over something that causes embarrassment/want to inconvenience anyone and who want to appear a capable and strong woman and mother, we tend to try to shrug things off and shoulder on. Then there’s also the fact that PPD symptoms are different for different women, which makes it all the more tough to tell if something is wrong.  Heck, even medical/mental health practitioners find it challenging to diagnose a perinatal (during pregnancy and postpartum) mood disorder in many situations. 

Megan admitted she experienced suicidal ideation (thoughts of suicide).  According to a study published in 2020, there has been an increase in suicidal ideation among pregnant women in the United States in recent years.  Although I didn’t really experience suicidal ideation, I did get to the point that I felt the urge to disappear to escape the God-awful combination of feelings and fears that I found myself experiencing. That may have been one step shy of suicidal ideation, and I shiver to think of what could’ve happened had I not gotten medical help when I did! Because I was feeling at the end of my rope. It really was beyond awful.

New mothers struggling with a perinatal mood disorder should focus more on getting better and getting help than on feeling bad they even need help or are struggling.  It would help if everyone realized that depression and anxiety in expectant/new mothers is very common, and they should not feel any shortcomings if they do experience it.  They (and you) need to know that they need to get help if they experience any/combination of these symptoms, because it can go from bad to worse suddenly if they do not see a doctor and help:

  • Persistent and mostly inexplicable sadness/tearfulness and feeling empty inside
  • Loss of interest/pleasure in most of your usual activities; inability to laugh
  • Overall impaired functioning*
  • Sleep difficulties (either insomnia or sleeping too much)
  • Weight loss (usually fairly quick) associated with a decrease in appetite
  • Weight gain associated with an increase in appetite
  • Excessive worrying (e.g., about the baby’s well-being)
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • Feelings of guilt/inadequacy/of being a bad mom
  • Urge to run away/disappear/vanish into thin air
  • Onset of panic attacks
  • Sense of despair and/or hopelessness leading to thoughts of death/suicide

The Huffpost article lists the National Institute of Mental Health website and of course Postpartum Support International (PSI) as helpful resources that list common and unfortunately under-recognized signs.  PSI can also help an expectant/new mother to local support groups/mental health professionals.

It is extremely common for a pregnant/new mom to feel (and look) fatigued.  After all, there are a lot of hormonal changes going on.  But if she is really struggling, seems not her usual self and/or seems much more anxious than they normally are–to the point of not being able to carry out their daily activities and/or are having trouble sleeping—then you should suggest she see someone who works with perinatal (during pregnancy and postpartum) mood disorders.

Here are some ways you can help:

  1. Being aware of perinatal mood disorders (refer to PSI link above).
  2. Frequently check in with her and ask how she is TRULY feeling.
  3. Realize that pregnancy/postpartum is NOT always smooth and happy, so if she is struggling, tell her it’s okay that she doesn’t feel happy and it is of utmost importance that she is doing okay.
  4. Ask her if she needs help (but I would just offer it—for example, just drop off food).  We all know it’s common for neighbors, friends and family to bring over meals for the first few weeks so the new parents don’t have to struggle to put meals together while they are busy caring for the new baby.  I’ve blogged about postpartum help here.  Less common is offering the expectant mom a prepared meal, but doing that especially if you know your loved one is struggling would be a particularly caring thing to do.  Bringing over food/groceries is another way to show you care and during COVID times, these moments of connection (albeit brief and socially distanced) can help stave off loneliness.
  5. Arrange to go on walks regularly with her.  Walking and getting out are extremely important during pregnancy and postpartum weeks.  I wrote about the importance of getting out here.
  6. Last and not least, just be there for her. Give her company so she feels less alone (especially important during COVID times). It doesn’t have to be a long visit. Nor do you have to have a long conversation or do much (which is hard during COVID times anyway). But dropping by a couple times a week (if you’re able), would mean so much. Check out my previous blog post here.

The Huffpost article does mention that “postpartum care in the United States is anemic” but I won’t go into this because this would take up an entire blog post on its own.  I have already written posts about this in the past, such as this one.

Lunar New Year 2021 – Year of the Ox – February 12, 2021

I don’t normally post anything outside of the topic of postpartum depression–because, after all, this is a PPD blog– but I did say in my last 2 posts that I was fighting the blues (and I’ve since beat it, thankfully!). Being cooped up with nowhere to go and during a season I hate the most (short, cold days) has been contributing to my feeling down. The constant feeling of being a misfit has been haunting me as well. I’ve blogged about this before here and here. The past 4 years of disturbing news on attacks on Asians in the U.S. has been a painful reminder of my experience growing up in a predominantly white area, dealing with racism much of my life and especially during my teenage years. Today, I live in a predominantly white area and participating in my town’s initiative to encourage diversity and inclusion within the community. If citizens of each community were to take part in such initiatives, our communities would be even better places to live! Racism comes from stereotypes that come from ignorance that comes from fear. Communication and information have the power to wipe away all of that! But it takes a unified effort from within each and every community. There should be a ZERO tolerance for hate and racism!

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to help a local diversity group to come up with information to share about the Lunar New Year, which this year will land on February 12, 2021 and go for 15 days until February 26, 2021.  I am honored to be part of the Advisory Council for that group, and that they adapted the information below to share with our community.  

Warmly,
Ivy

 


Interesting Facts about Lunar New Year

I created a 1-pager (link below) that contains 8 (8 is a lucky number for the Chinese) key points on the Lunar New Year on one side and a little tutorial on stroke order for the ox character in Chinese plus a fun Word Search activity on the other side. This piece is great for sharing with kids and raise their interest and appreciation at an early age of the East Asian cultures that celebrate Lunar New Year!

The information contained in my blog post below is lengthier and couldn’t be jammed into a 1-page document about Lunar New Year. Some of the information is even new to me, and all of it is just so fascinating that I had to share! Thank you for reading and sharing!

More Fascinating Facts

Chinese Calligraphy
The Chinese character is derived from the pictogram of an ox:

Stroke order for the most part always goes from left to right, top to bottom. Also, generally, when a horizontal and vertical line cross, the horizontal lines are written first.  

NOTE: A great resource for stroke order rules: https://www.writtenchinese.com/chinese-character-stroke-order-rules/

The largest human migration in the world

Did you know that 3 billion trips are made each year (including return trips) to visit relatives by plane, train and automobile to celebrate Chinese New Year?  Referred to as chunyun (春运), it is the travel period up to 15 days before the week-long observance of China’s Spring Festival (or chunjie (春) and up to 40 days. It is up to 40 days in part due to the lack of transportation options available for the millions to make each one-way trek during the same timeframe.  Depending on one’s luck in buying airplane/train/bus tickets, travelers end up traveling within the window 15 days prior to the start of and 15 days after chunjie ends. This year, chunjie starts on February 11 (New Year’s Eve) and ends on February 17. In modern China, most elderly parents still live in the rural villages of their ancestors, while the younger generation works in the cities.  Why do they call it Spring Festival when it takes place during the winter?  The Festival marks the end of the coldest days of winter, with people welcoming the coming spring with planting, which represents new beginnings and fresh starts.

Most & Least Compatible Signs

Most Compatible Signs: Rat, Snake, Rooster
Least Compatible Signs: Tiger, Dragon, Horse, Sheep

A few celebrities who were born during the year of the OX

Barack ObamaPrincess DiMalala YousafzaiSimone Biles
Walt DisneyRobert F KennedyRenoirJohann Sebastian Bach
NapoleonMegan RapinoeMeryl StreepLouis Armstrong
Colin PowellJack NicholsonDustin HoffmanGerald Ford
George ClooneyB.B. KingMichael PhelpsMorgan Freeman
Malcolm XJane FondaPeter JacksonYogi Berra
Boy GeorgeJohnny CarsonBilly JoelEddie Murphy
Bruno MarsMargaret ThatcherBruce SpringsteenGeorge Takei
Anthony HopkinsCharles SchwabRichard BurtonSammy Davis Jr.
Dick Van DykeAlfonso CuaronPaul NewmanSigourney Weaver

More on Chinese New Year red envelopes

Etiquette:

1. Do gift crisp, new bills, as gifting dirty or wrinkled bills is in bad taste.

2. Do receive a red envelope with both hands and express thanks with an appropriate phrase. It is considered impolite to receive a red envelope with one hand and not express thanks with an appropriate phrase.

3. Don’t gift coins.

4.  Don’t give amounts starting with the number 4, like $4, $40 or $400.  The number ‘4’ Chinese sounds like ‘death’ and is therefore considered bad luck. Even numbers are better than odd numbers.  The number ‘8’ is considered good luck, so gifts like $8, $80 or $88 would be best.

5. Don’t open your red envelope in front of the person who just gave it to you.

Taboos and Superstitions

As in practically all other cultures around the world, there are a lot of taboos and superstitions adapted over the course of centuries, all of which have the intent of attracting good fortune into the New Year and protecting against bad fortune.

Do’s:

  • Do talk about good, happy things to set the tone for the new year
  • Do pay back your debts before the new year starts
  • Do wear red because red is the luckiest color

Don’ts:           

  • Don’t cut your hair on during the New Year, as that would cause connections to be severed
  • Don’t wear black or white, as both colors are associated with mourning
  • Don’t wash your hair or do laundry on the 1st or 2nd day of the new year, as that would wash good fortune away
  • Don’t sweep on the 1st or 2nd day of the new year, as that will sweep away accrued wealth / luck
  • Don’t cry or argue, as that will bring bad fortune

A new year and a new perspective on things

I did something on New Year’s Day that I thought I’d never be able to do. What’s that? I deactivated my Facebook account and I’ve stayed away from Facebook for a week. That may not sound like a long time, but for someone who has pretty much posted daily ever since she started up her account in 2009, that’s saying a lot, relatively speaking.

What prompted me to temporarily quit Facebook? Well, if you read my last post, you’d see that New Year’s Day was a crappy day for several reasons. The couple of days following that were crappy too. I felt blue for all the reasons I stated in my last post, including some health issues preventing me from eating normally to the point I had to see my doctor today. My diet has to change for at least the next 6 weeks.

Today, I told someone at work that I was feeling blue, and she thought it might have something to do with what was going on in DC or at work. Without getting too detailed, I told her it was neither…. that I was just feeling blue in general from being cooped up with nowhere to go. I don’t know about you, but when I feel down, I withdraw. I don’t feel like smiling, laughing, doing things that I find fun, etc. I sure as heck don’t want to see pictures of people smiling and posts where people are kidding around with each other. I’m not in the mood for any of that.

I don’t know when I’m going to feel up to returning to Facebook, but I found out something during my 1-week reprieve. No, actually, I found out a few things.

First of all, I am not as addicted to it as I (and certain individuals may have) thought I was.

Second, I’ve learned that even people who use Facebook regularly don’t necessarily realize that a daily Facebook poster like me who has suddenly deactivated her account for no apparent reason just might be going through a rough patch and a hello would be nice. If I realized a friend deactivated their account suddenly, I would reach out to them via IM, text, email or phone; in fact, I have done this several times in the past 12 years!

Third, sure, Facebook kept me buoyed from crashing mentally during the past 4 years of sheer hell (which is thankfully ending on 1/20) because of all the like-minded groups I’ve found and local friends I’ve made. But…..I’ve survived pretty much all my life without emotional support from anyone, so I can do it again now with practically no one reaching out to see if I’m okay.

Fourth, despite all the negative stuff that’s been happening (i.e., the first-ever non-peaceful transition in presidency and even mayhem in the Capitol), I’m still able to stay optimistic because the Dems won the GA run-offs 2 days ago, flipping the Senate and we are finally ditching Mitch and the so-called leader of this country that has successfully incited hatred and divided citizens like no other President has done.

Fifth and last but not least, yes, I’ve been blue from the cold, short, cooped-up days but I am slowly coming around again, once again telling myself that if I kicked postpartum depression’s butt, I’m sure as heck going to kick whatever funk I’m finding myself stuck in right now.

Speaking of kicking, I’m not going to let folks kick me when I’m already down by de-friending me while my account is deactivated….what’s up with that anyway? That’s some seriously strange behavior, and I just have to say that life is too short, and I am too old and tired to deal with people like that. Seriously. Time to use the blocker. These aren’t really friends if they de-friend you even if you did nothing wrong! They don’t really know or care about you at all. This is why I have been so picky about who to send friend invites to and whom to accept invites from for the past 12 years. Why do I need to become “friends” with someone if all they’re going to do is de-friend you for no reason, anyway? Nah, life is way too short for sh!t like that.

So, thank you, blog, for once again helping me to get this all off my chest. Time to kick the winter blue’s a$$ now!


Winter is no friend of mine

Short days
Days spent stuck indoors
With light fading by 4:30 pm
Cold, nowhere to go, nobody to see
Thanks to the pandemic

I post pics of me smiling on social media
During all of the pandemic I’ve had
Daily walks, activities throughout summer & fall
But winter there is nothing to do, especially with this damn pandemic
But I still post pics of me smiling

Lack of sunlight causing super low vitamin D levels
Too much computer time causing a large bump on the back of my hand
80-90 hours of mouse usage weekly
Other health issues stubbornly refusing to go away
And finally, starting 3 days ago, teariness

I saw friends on Zoom today
New Year’s Day
With 2020 behind us
And initial optimism for 2021
All faded quickly

All it took were some triggers
Words uttered by my husband
Behaviors of my daughter
Made me question my existence

What are my goals?
Aside from certain bucket list places
More kayaking & sailing adventures
Beyond this, not a whole lot still impassions me

I used to collect things
But I don’t anymore
I used to love shopping & going to craft shows
But I don’t anymore
Nowadays, it’s all about getting rid of belongings
Cuz you just never know

I’ve seen all I’ve wanted to see in this country and Canada
I’ve survived postpartum depression
I’ve written a book
I’ve blogged and helped moms but not able to do much of that anymore

I’ve been at my company for 31 years
Lately, it’s all-too-unhealthily consumed me
For 80-90 hours a week, I get up, go to work, and go to bed
Repeat that over and over and over and over again

2020 has left a bad taste in my mouth
On top of the pandemic
It was daily ridiculousness of a disastrous presidency
With a pandora’s box of hatred galore
All over the country are hateful people
Who hate you simply because you’re not white

Tired physically and mentally of this world
Seeing more negative than good
My only goal apparently is to pay for my parents to live
(my daddy’s girl daughter is in good hands with my husband)
With bad decisions made that left them with nothing
Father had a stroke in 2019 and cognitively impaired
Mother has been withering away for the past decade
I see them deteriorate every time I visit

I don’t want to get old and be in their shoes
I used to be afraid of death
Now I don’t think I’m afraid anymore

Do I think I’m depressed?
No, because I’ve been there before
It was called postpartum depression
I have never been depressed before that
And do not have it now
At least not yet

The return of sun and warmth and colors
Time spent outdoors
Time spent with friends
Might help me to remember
There is more to life
Than my winter blues lens is showing me

2nd Edition of Transformed by Postpartum Depression by Walker Ladd, PhD

Over nine years ago, my dear friend Walker Ladd, MFA, MA, Perinatal Mental Health Contributor for Science and Sensibility, Giving Birth With Confidence, and Midwife Connection, told me she was conducting a dissertation research study exploring transformational dimensions of postpartum depression (PPD). The study was part of the criteria to assist Walker in meeting the requirements of the Global Doctoral Psychology program at Sofia University.  She asked me if I wanted to participate.  She explained that participation would be a valuable contribution to a deeper understanding of the topic of personal transformation through the experience of PPD. 

By December 2014, Walker turned her dissertation into a published book titled “Transformed by Postpartum Depression.”  Just as the title suggests, this book focuses on the transformative power that women suffering from a postpartum mood disorder like PPD possess. It is a critical book that women suffering from PPD must have a chance to read. This book is exactly what I wish I could’ve found when I was sick with PPD and was desperately seeking other people’s stories but only found those written by celebrities, not of regular folks like myself.

It’s been nearly 16 years since I came out of that dark tunnel, but despite the number of years, the number of people treating women in a medical capacity that are uneducated about PPD still greatly outnumber those who are educated about PPD. This book should be mandatory reading for all individuals in the medical and mental health occupations who need to treat expectant and new mothers at any given point of their careers.  It should absolutely be on the required reading list for medical/nursing schools!!!

I remember when I received a copy of “Transformed by Postpartum Depression” back on December 13, 2014 (12/13/14!).  I was beyond thrilled for Walker.  And I was deeply honored Walker had chosen to include me in her book. 

Now, six years later, her second edition of the book is out! 

I will never be able to fully convey how honored I truly feel for her choosing me (of all people!) to write a foreword for this new edition. I will also never be able to fully express just how much respect I have for Walker and gratitude for the amazing gift of a book–so intelligently-written, informative, inspirational, and fact- and research-filled– to help new mothers and their families.  She worked so hard on the interviews and research to write this book, so let’s make sure people read it!  

This book isn’t just one survivor’s story. It’s the stories of 25 survivors (5 new ones added to this edition). Twenty-six, actually, if you count Walker’s! Go get your copy today!  At the very least, please be sure to share information about this book with others!  Thank you!

 

A Short Film that Shows the Importance of Having a Maternal Mentor

Last weekend was Postpartum Support International-New Jersey‘s Lunafest fundraiser. The seven short films were diverse and interesting, but the one that happened to have some relevance to maternal mental health was “How to Swim” by Noa Gusakov. It spoke to me the most, which is why I decided to write about it. It made me think about the importance of social support. Having adequate social support from other maternal figures (and doulas when there are no family members or friends as options) is very beneficial, to say the least. Having inadequate social support can increase the risk of postpartum mood disorders, especially if there are other biopsychosocial factors in the mix.

If you haven’t yet watched the short, please do so before reading on, as my review below has tons of spoilers.

“How to Swim” is a 14-1/2 minute short film about Avigail, a young woman pregnant with her first child who is so anxious about being a new mom that she “kidnaps” a maternal stranger one afternoon. There are moments throughout the film that touched me and made me laugh. This is a short that is definitely worth watching. I can see how it has won awards and recognition at numerous movie festivals.

The film starts in the waiting area of the hospital where Avigail and her husband are waiting for their visit with the doctor. She observes the interactions of another pregnant woman and her mother (Tammy) with envy, wishing her own mother could be with her. When the other pregnant woman leaves the waiting room, Avigail goes over to talk to Tammy who, as it turns out, was leaving the hospital. Wanting to spend more time interacting with Tammy, Avigail pretends to be a childhood friend of Tammy’s daughter. Avigail tells Tammy she happens to be going in the same direction and offers her a ride. Tammy needs to go to the mall, and Avigail says she also needs to get something from there…..and they end up shopping & chatting away the afternoon. They seem to bond, but all due to the pretense that their lives intersected with Tammy’s daughter.

Of course, the truth does come out and Tammy reacts with shock/fear that Avigail “kidnapped” her, but she becomes somewhat understanding once Avigail explained why she did what she did. One gathers from watching the way Avigail talks about her mother that she isn’t simply too far away to be with her. My reaction was immediate sympathy for Avigail. I don’t believe Avigail planned to “kidnap” Tammy, but just wanted to have a conversation with her that led to their spending the afternoon together. It really is sort of a creepy thing to do, but at the same time, I could imagine myself in Avigail’s shoes. I could imagine feeling scared of going into motherhood for the first time without my own mother by my side to guide me. I could imagine wanting a maternal mentor so badly that I would try to become friends with one that I have a good feeling about. I don’t know if Avigail has any other maternal figures in her life, like other relatives or friends that are mothers. Assuming she doesn’t, then it makes first-time motherhood all the more frightening. This is why I had all the feels and was drawn into this film.

The film ends with Tammy walking away from Avigail. It made me sad to think that the bond they formed–even though it was under false pretenses–vanished and they may not see each other again….and it was back to Avigail having no one to help her after the baby arrives. Although the film ends on somewhat of a positive note–with Avigail learning that the bra that Tammy had suggested she leave on and not pay for was actually paid for by Tammy when Avigail went back to pay for it– I still couldn’t help thinking it would’ve been nice if they exchanged contact info so Tammy could stay in Avigail’s life.

LUNAFEST® Virtual Screening on November 13-14, 2020 presented by Postpartum Support International-NJ

Last year, I had to start my post, “If you live in New Jersey.”  Well, this year, you can participate from the comfort of your home, wherever you live!  Please consider buying a ticket to attend LUNAFEST®, which is proudly presented by the New Jersey Chapter of Postpartum Support International (PSI).

When: Log in anytime between Friday, Nov 13 @ 7 PM EST – Saturday, Nov 14 @ 7 PM EST.  The festival of 7 short films has a total running time of 97 minutes.

Where: Virtual  via streaming link that will be sent along with passcode to all attendees the morning of Friday, Nov 13.

Tickets:  Just $25!  What a deal!  To buy, click here.  I bought my ticket, and can’t wait!  Last year’s event was a huge success, and I was so glad to be a part of it!

About:  Since 2000, LUNAFEST® has showcased a collection of short films by, for, and about women. LUNAFEST® is dedicated to promoting awareness about women’s issues and highlighting female directors. Discover the ground-breaking work of female filmmakers who are changing the industry with this year’s lineup of seven short films.

Proceeds of this particular screening event will benefit the NJ Chapter of PSI.  PSI’s mission is to promote awareness, prevention and treatment of mental health issues related to childbearing.  The long-term goals of the PSI-NJ chapter is to create, throughout the state of New Jersey, a unified voice for the support, education and care of moms and families with perinatal mood disorders, as well as law enforcement and health care professionals.  support mothers (and even fathers) suffering from it.

If you support women’s causes and want to support mothers (and their families) who suffer from postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (e.g, postpartum depression (PPD), postpartum OCD and postpartum psychosis) to get the help they need, please consider coming to LUNAFEST® and sharing with friends, family members, neighbors, and colleagues and even share widely on social media.

In Memory of Amber

On October 26th, I found out that a friend and wonderfully passionate and caring postpartum depression (PPD) advocate and blogger passed away over the weekend.

Her name was Amber Koter Puline.

I was shocked. Heartbroken. I haven’t really been able to process this over the past 5 days. I’ve only blogged 4 times since last August, but I felt the need to blog about this, to pay tribute to her.

I’m having a hard time conveying my feelings right now. I don’t think anything I write will adequately convey what this loss really means to me and so many people who were fortunate to have known her, loved her, befriended her, and been helped by her. Although my words don’t flow as beautifully as they do for those who are naturally gifted in writing, my intentions and feelings are genuine.

I met Amber almost exactly 10 years ago today at the annual Postpartum Support International (PSI) conference, which took place from October 27-30, 2010 in Pittsburgh. I remember feeling so excited to meet her and 2 other fellow PPD bloggers–Lauren Hale and Katherine Stone–at that conference. I greatly admired them all. Amber for her Beyond Postpartum blog and her work facilitating postpartum support groups and helping connect mothers with resources in the Atlanta area. Lauren for her My Postpartum Voice blog and her work with PPDChat on Twitter. And Katherine Stone for her very well-known blog Postpartum Progress. Between the time I first started blogging in February 2009 and for a year or two after that, we were the only individual bloggers whose blogs were focused specifically on PPD and other postpartum mood disorders (e.g., postpartum psychosis, postpartum OCD, postpartum anxiety). We used to run ideas by each other. The three of them inspired me.

Anger from my PPD experience helped my words flow freely, which is why I used to write frequent blog posts. Words used to flow from my head, out through my fingertips, onto the keyboard, and onto the computer screen whenever something fired me up that was PPD-related. That process helped promote healing. Ever since my anger dissipated in 2018, I’ve been at a loss for words and the desire to blog. This sudden loss of Amber, after not really being in touch with her much for the past few years, fills me with much regret. I’ve decided to channel this regret into positive action. So, just as Amber inspired me to blog 11 years ago, she is now inspiring me to take up blogging again.

Starting now and ending next October, I will write a blog post at least once a month in dedication to you, Amber, my friend and fellow PPD survivor mama. You helped so many mamas over the years that there is so much good karma because of you! Even though you are not physically with us, we know your spirit will continue to be with us as we find ways to keep that positive momentum going in your memory, like helping a new mother who is struggling, spreading awareness about PPD and/or donating to one of the following 2 organizations in your name:

Mental Health America of Georgia https://www.mhageorgia.org/donate/
Postpartum Support Internationalhttps://www.postpartum.net/donate/

Yes, I will do this in your memory, Amber.