Paving the Way for Emotional Health In Teen Girls

Since its release, the movie “Inside Out” has helped put emotional health on the front burner of discussions and will hopefully make it a lot easier for families to talk about emotions on a regular basis.  This movie was, quite simply, brilliant in going somewhere no other film for children has ever gone (at least none that I’m aware).  Why?  Cuz emotions and mental health are topics that people have historically tiptoed about as if they were walking on eggshells.  It’s time we extracted our heads from out of the hole of ignorance, taboo and stigma.  There ain’t nothin’ about emotions and mental health that should warrant keeping our heads buried like that.  Nothin’ at all……….

I sincerely believe that “Inside Out” can be instrumental in helping children to better understand their emotions and realize that feeling sad is just as critical as feeling happy, it’s NORMAL to feel negative emotions like sadness and anger, and all emotions should be expressed rather than suppressed.  A good way to express/release/process your emotions is to talk about them or even write about them.

I’ve found that many adults have enough challenges in understanding/coping with/expressing/releasing/processing their own emotions, let alone help their children understand/cope/express/release/process theirs.  And thus the critical need for resources from experienced professionals that are abundantly available out there.  You just need to know how to find them.

I have mentioned one invaluable resource for girls in previous posts, and I want to bring it up again today.  It’s Girls Leadership.  Although the focus of my blog is on maternal mental health and mothers were all young girls at one point–all too many of whom have faced issues early in life that pave the way to the adults they are today–the information within the Girls Leadership articles below applies to boys as well.  If you are a parent of a girl, read through the website’s posts on a wide variety of topics, including confidence, identity, body image, books, school, friendships, role models, and conflict.  What a difference it would’ve made to me while growing up if such resources had been available to my mother, if I had had a better relationship with my mother, if I had had a network of support, and if I had had a mentor in my life. Speaking of mentor, “How to Find a Mentor” by Joanne Wilson on July 2, 2015 is a must read! The Girls Leadership posts I ran across in the past couple of weeks are:

  1. Emotional Intelligence Workout: respecting/expressing your feelings critical to development of emotional intelligence (EI)
  2. Removing the Stigma: understanding/talking about /seeking help for mental illness, which applies to 11% of teenagers by the time they hit 18; girls more susceptible than boys
  3. A Powerful New Tool for Girls’ Courage & Confidence: Self-Compassion: practicing mindfulness and self-compassion rather than self-destructive thinking

I want to bring particular attention to the 3rd post because it highlights issues all too many girls face, which are explained in such an on-point fashion in this post the likes of which I have not seen anywhere else to date:

  • tendency to dwell / fixate on their problems rather than realize/following through on solutions
  • tendency to feel more shame / self hatred than boys
  • tendency to feel the need to “fit in” and they are thus more easily influenced by social media, which appeal to girls more than boys.  Social media sites, such as Instagram and Facebook (which I will not allow my daughter to access until she can drive), are just another way to make girls feel more isolated and bad about themselves because these sites, for the most part, only provide glimpses of the positive moments in other people’s lives.  Let me illustrate. My Facebook circle is a rather small one compared to other people’s circles.  Of this circle less than 50% are considered active (i.e., log on, post, like and comment at least a few times a week).  Of my active Facebook friends, only about 5% post things that are truly accurate reflections of what’s going on in their minds and lives….like me.  I say what’s on my mind without sugar coating anything.  Of the remaining 95% or so of the active posters, you’ll see the accomplishments, smiling faces, and all is fine-and-dandy posts / pictures (with a couple people doing it more regularly than others).  It’s these kinds of posts that can influence young girls–ones with the tendency to dwell/fixate on problems, feel bad about themselves, and feel like the one priority in life is fitting in/belonging–into comparing themselves with others and believing that everyone else is living much better and happier lives.  Hence, the “why me, my life sucks” mindsets.  These sites are just as anti-social as they are “social” because rather than encouraging face-to-face interactions, they make you believe that interaction limited to the Internet is all you need to be “social.”

You may wonder how all this has anything to do with postpartum depression (PPD).  It’s important to remember that many cases of depression surface during the teenage years and follow you throughout life.  One of the primary risk factors of PPD is a history of depression. I delve into relevant statistics and risk factors in my book. And you may be interested in checking out my prior posts relating to teenage years.

Help Me Finish the Sentence: Just Because She Doesn’t Look Depressed…..

A super duper quick post tonight, as I have had too many windows open on my PC and need to shut it down to give my PC a break…not to mention install some updates.  Before I shut my PC down tonight I need to briefly jump onto my soapbox and put my thoughts out into cyberspace about not making assumptions and not judging books by their covers.  These 2 thoughts combined and in the context of new mothers produces the following:

Don’t assume that a new mom wearing makeup and a smile is happy.  

How would you know better, then, you ask?  Well, the only way you’re going to know for sure is if you care enough to ask how a new mom is doing.  Take the time to have a chat with her and show you care. Look into her eyes when speaking.  Being the empath that I am, I can usually sense when something is a bit off with someone.  But I would most certainly confirm what my gut is telling me by talking to them.

I’ve also blogged about this previously (click here to read), but I do want to make sure you go over to Eve Canavan’s blog Small Time Mum and check out her blog post titled “You Can’t Be Depressed Dear, the Forestry Commission Don’t Have to Be Called to Trim Your Bush.” It’s a great post.

So, just because she (a new mom) doesn’t look depressed does NOT mean she is NOT depressed, and the only way you’re going to know is if you stop and ask how she’s doing and look her in the eyes.

Blue Light and PPD

Just a short blurb today to share an interesting Huffington post article on the connection of blue light with melatonin secretion (the hormone that induces sleep) and thus postpartum depression (PPD).  The title of the article is “The Connection Between Blue Light and Postpartum Depression” by Matt Berical.

I’ve always been fascinated in the biology behind PPD, in particular insomnia as a symptom, hence here I am popping onto my blog this July 4th weekend ever so quickly to blog.  I had previously blogged about blue light in my post from 2 years ago titled “Sleep is So Important, Especially to the New Mom.”  If insomnia is plaguing you on a antepartum (or prenatal) or postpartum (or postnatal) basis, or if you are an expectant mom who just wants to be in the know to reduce the chances of PPD hitting you from left field like it does for so many moms, then please read the Huffington Post article and my previous blog post.

I had not known what depression and insomnia were like before I was hit from left field with both, so I’m always happy when I see information made available to the public to educate people.  An important word I’ve heard used before, just not in conjunction with something like PPD prevention, is prophylactic.   It’s a synonym, after all, for preventive measure, which in the case of pregnancy prevention comes in the form of a condom and/or the pill, but in the context of PPD prevention comes in the form of knowledge of symptoms, where/how to get treatment, lining up adequate social/emotional/practical support, and if you want to avoid disruption of sleep, orange-tinted sunglasses that can be effective in blocking blue light. These sunglasses are recommended for anyone that has to either stay up late on a regular basis, like teenagers studying and being on computers (which emit blue light), to expectant moms who have difficulty sleeping due to having to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and new moms who have to wake up every 2-3 hours to feed their babies.

Whether it’s the anxiety that comes with new mom challenges or the hormonal fluctuations and decrease in serotonin and/or melatonin–both of which are hormones critical for sleep–sensitivity to circadian rhythm changes are further aggravated by exposure to blue light, a biological trigger to wake up, which means that repeated exposure to it during the night can mess with our circadian rhythms and melatonin production.

And hence, insomnia, which for me was my very first PPD symptom.

Free Copies of “Baby Basics: Your Month by Month Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy”

Psssst…OFFERING FOR FREE!  Note: This offer is for folks living in the continental U.S. only.

I have 2 copies of “Baby Basics: Your Month by Month Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy”…this book is available for $8 via the What to Expect Foundation and $13 via the march of Dimes and $5 or so via Amazon.  These copies are unused, so are as good as new.

Baby Basics

I am offering for just the cost of shipping (approximately $4). Please leave me a comment below and I will email you for your address to ship a copy (or both copies) to you.

This would make a fabulous gift for someone you care about that is expecting a baby.  The earlier on the expectant mom gets a copy of this book, the better prepared she will be in terms of what to expect during pregnancy and what to prepare for when baby arrives.  The info in it is VERY helpful/important that I wish I had received when I was pregnant back in 2004.  For more details on what the book provides, please click here.

The #1 Killer of Teen Girls Worldwide

I was motivated to write this blog post tonight due to a Telegraph article that appeared in my Facebook feed today written by Nisha Lilia Diu and titled: “Suicide is now the biggest killer of teenage girls worldwide. Here’s why.”

That headline shocked me.  And it is shocking a lot of people, even those firmly entrenched in the fields of global women’s rights.  This headline should shock everyone.  It should shock people into trying to do something to turn those statistics around.

Yes, suicide is now the #1 killer of girls/young women between the ages of 15 and 19.  Suicide has overtaken maternal mortality as the #1 killer of young women in the world….a statistic buried–yes, buried–in the latest World Health Organisation report.  This information does not deserve to be buried.  It needs to be written about, talked about and acted upon!  I am glad Nisha wrote this Telegraph article!  In the article, you’ll see the alarming numbers of suicides in girls ages 15-19 in the different regions of the world.

Teen girls ages 15-19 face, regardless of location:

  • hormone changes
  • emotional changes (e.g., increase in vulnerability and decline in self confidence)
  • behavior changes (e.g., attracting mate, sex drive, competition)
  • identity issues (e.g., acceptance among peers, desire to fit in, peer pressure)

Add to that the following disadvantages society places on women, including:

  • societal expectations
  • disempowerment
  • marginalization

Add to that the use of social media throughout much of the world.  I’ve blogged in the past about it, but I will sum up the basics of the detrimental impact social media can have on emotionally vulnerable teen girls.  The malicious words of a complete stranger, aka troll, that confirm an emotionally vulnerable teenager’s feelings (i.e., self hate, thoughts of suicide) by saying things like “Yeah, you’re ugly alright. Why don’t you just go kill yourself.”  These are the trolls I wish more than anything in the world–with the exception of the complete eradication of mental health stigma, terrorism, misogny and people killing each other–can be located and zapped from existence.  Like in a video game.  These haters are a danger to others and need to be stopped.

I need to mention the tragic story of 12 year old Izzy, which I learned about from this blog post last week.  While we do not know what exactly led to her being publicly shamed online by her father after he hacked her hair, and it is unlikely that the video alone led to her jumping out of a car and off a bridge to her death, what I do know is that ANY teen acting out (e.g., doing drugs, rebellious behavior, locking themselves in their rooms) needs help, NOT punishment or public shaming.  FULL STOP.

As in so many cases you will read about in the news of teens taking their own lives, there may have been no signs that they were distressed to the point that they felt they had to end their lives to escape the pain with which they are struggling.  Today, I came across this touching obituary written by the parents of Clay Shephard in North Carolina, whose son was smiling despite what was driving his drug addictions. There was no indication whatsoever that he was going to take his own life.  Included in the obituary were these words that sound very much like my post about a fellow alum’s son’s sudden tragic passing a few months ago:

To all parents, pay attention to your children and the world that revolves around them – even when the surface is calm, the water may be turbulent just beneath.

You may wonder how all this has anything to do with postpartum depression (PPD).  It’s important to remember that many cases of depression surface during the teenage years and follow you throughout life.  One of the primary risk factors of PPD is a history of depression. I delve into relevant statistics and risk factors in my book. And you may be interested in checking out my prior posts relating to teenage years.

It’s with knowledge that there is any hope of REDUCING STIGMA AND REDUCING DEPRESSION!

Pet Peeve Blog Post #3 on Celebrity Post-Baby Bodies

I was just browsing the Internet one last time before turning in for the evening.  I was in a relatively good mood, despite having to work late.  It took me less than an hour to get home (a record!) and just in time to watch my favorite of all television shows So You Think You Can Dance, had dinner and a can of Ballas Point grapefruit sculpin while watching the show with my husband and daughter, and looking forward to a day off tomorrow (my third day off thus far this year!).

But then I ran across an E Online article titled “Jessica Biel Debuts Her Amazing Post-Baby Body—See the First Pics!”  The words “post-baby body” used in conjunction with a celebrity peeve me just as much as sitting next to a guy who manspreads on the bus or subway.  It is annoying as ALL HECK.  I started keeping a photo journal of all the manspreading examples I come across during my commute to/from work.  So, I’ve decided to keep a journal of all the celebrity post-baby hoop-la examples as well.   LOL

Jessica Biel is one hot mama!…..she looks incredible!  Wearing a trendy full-length jumpsuit and ankle-strap heels to a local studio for some work, the new mom looked incredibly trim for having given birth in early April! She paired her summery outfit with a light beige cardigan and a bottle of Veuve Cliquot, which we’re hoping she uses to celebrate how great she looks!

So, I’m going to get this off my chest right now.hcx3r

And I’m going to get my good ol’ eye roll GIF out once more to express my annoyance.

Altogether now:   WOOP DE DOO AND LA DEE DA

I am so tired of this crap.

Magazines should stop glorifying the return of a celebrity mom’s post-baby bod, as celebrities do NOT represent the norm.  Do you think new moms want to see or read about this waste of paper (if magazine) or html coding (if Internet page)?  It’s like taunting 99% of the new moms out there with a “Look, this hot mama was able to return to look incredibly trim in an amazingly short period of time.  She’s even got herself a bottle of Veuve Cliquot that we’re hoping she uses to celebrate how great she looks.  Can YOU beat that?”

Not to be mean spirited or anything, but I have a lot more important things to occupy my mind and time with than to be concerned about a celebrity’s post-baby body, thank you very much.  Why do magazines/Internet sites continue to obsess over that?  Why do the magazines/Internet sites obsess over celebrity women who have babies managing to appear as if they were never pregnant or had a baby?  Exercising to return my body as quickly as possible to my pre-baby condition was not even a blip on my radar after I had my baby.  Exercising still isn’t a blip on my radar, ten years later.  Exercise is good for the health and spirit, there’s no question of that.  But as long as the mother is taking care of herself in the way she chooses to or is able to care for herself–whether that includes exercising or not doesn’t matter–so she can properly care for her baby, that’s all that matters.

Hey, celebrities have money, hired help, personal trainers, etc., which 99% of new moms DON’T have.  Emphasizing such things doesn’t help the majority of people who live in the real world….so it brings me to the question:  Why do it at all?  Why do you keep on emphasizing the point that rich celebrities can immediately go back to their pre-baby bods?  Oh yeah, it probably has a lot to do with the fact that SIX corporations own ALL of the MEDIA in the country and if they choose to continue to be misogynistic, then no one is going to stand in their way.

This is why we need FEMINISM.  We need strong women to speak up, to challenge convention and bring about positive change for the sake of women.

We need to focus on moms getting the help they need–practical, emotional and social support in the 1-2 months following childbirth.  Click here for what really matters to help new moms, and in so doing, help reduce the occurrence of postpartum mood disorders.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again….there needs to be at least one article a month (in every magazine that has anything to do with parenting) that speaks about postpartum depression and postpartum adjustment, mothering the new mother, the fourth trimester, where to find local resources (doulas, postpartum support groups, PPD support), etc.

Let’s focus on what TRULY matters.  #MOMSMATTER

Postpartum Support International’s 2015 Blog Hop – Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month

On the eve of Mother’s Day, here I am struggling with a blog post for the 3rd annual Postpartum Support International (PSI) Blog Hop for Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month.  The topic of the blog hop is “You are not alone: Focus on Support Groups and Resources.”

PSI Blog Hop Badge by Lauren Hale

Please consider joining the blog hop to help spread awareness!  All you have to do is go to the Dr. Christi Hibbert’s blog, and read the guidelines.  There, you will see all the other blogs who are participating in this blog hop.  You have all month in which to join the blog hop.

Support Groups and Resources can be in the form of local organizations, like PPD support groups in a local hospital or in your community (too many to name, but I do list many under my Support Groups/Local Resources links on my blog, in addition to all the local resources listed on the PSI resources page).  You can also find a number of excellent online PPD communities for support, like the closed Facebook groups Postpartum Progress#PPDChat Support, and Postpartum Support International.

I saw a post earlier tonight that inspired me to write the below “poem.”  I’m not sure what I wrote constitutes poetry, but at least you can see I tried to rhyme.  That’s all I remember from my high school days of writing and reading poetry.

I was just telling my husband earlier tonight how it seemed that more mom friends I know are either indifferent about Mother’s Day or dreading it for one reason or another.  Even this morning’s Z100 phone tap was focused on a son’s pretending to argue with his mom about having a big get-together at Peter Luger’s Steakhouse for Mother’s Day.  She was dead set against it because she historically has never wanted to celebrate Mother’s Day (and she could have a very good reason but we don’t know what that is….and neither does the son, apparently).

Before my own motherhood journey that made me realize that not all motherhood experiences are glowing from the get-go or at all, I just assumed that all mothers looked forward to Mother’s Day because it was a day that celebrates and acknowledges mothers for all their love and hard work.

Now, after having gone through what I went through and meeting many new moms in the past ten years, I know there are a lot of moms wishing there wasn’t such a thing as Mother’s Day. It’s these moms I want to dedicate today’s post to.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Are you pretending to look forward to Mother’s Day
When all you really want to do is treat it like any other day?
Or be left alone so you don’t have to spend the extra energy showing your children
How happy you are they remembered to abide with the tradition
Of a card, flowers, gift and/or brunch or dinner out.
After all, that’s what Mother’s Day is really about….

Or is it?

I know that for some women, Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of certain things.
I won’t bring up the reasons for the pain for fear of triggering negative feelings.
Whatever the reason,
Know that you are not alone.
Just like childbirth and motherhood experiences always appear so smooth and happy,
They aren’t…..it just appears that way.
It’s natural for you to feel alone if you had any childbirth or postpartum difficulties.
But there are communities
Of women out there who share a similar deal
As you and can help  you to heal.

So, if you are feeling low
And don’t feel up to celebrating Mother’s Day, then say so.
No point in pretending to say and do
Whatever people expect of you.
Like have a whole big to-do
With the extended family, in-laws too.

The important thing–and it should be every day–
Not just on Mother’s Day (a good ol’ Hallmark Day),
Is that you focus on self care.
Whether it be sleeping in and then sipping a hot cup o’ joe, lounging in PJs, getting a manicure,
Watching a flick or two, sipping a glass o’ wine or two, reading
A favorite book, or a day free of laundry, dishes, cooking and cleaning.
You deserve to treat yourself in such a way
Not just on Mother’s Day, but every day.

With love,
Ivy