Amazing contribution by Karen Kleiman and Amy Wenzel who wrote “Tokens of Affection: Reclaiming Your Marriage after Postpartum Depression”. As a clinician, I am particularly impressed with the emphasis on giving one partner permission to use the tokens of affection to work on their marriage, even if one partner is not ready. We mostly see women in therapy who benefit from the skills mentioned in this book, but it will enlighten their perspective on their marriage. It is so important to note that the author addressed the fact that working on your marriage is not easy, but there is hope and with the right support and commitment your marriage will be much better. The tokens mentioned in the book included Esteem, Compromise, Selflessness, Sanctuary, Expression, Tolerance and Loyalty which provides guidance for couples to work on forgiveness, resentment and frustrations. As couples, we must be gentle with ourselves and each other. Each person’s perspective will mislead us into a turmoil of frustrations. We all have a choice to be mindful of our thoughts and behaviors. We must protect ourselves and our significant others. The ripple effect of life and the unknown circumstances that creeps up on our lives are never-ending. However, we must adapt to the changes that comes our way. I would definitely recommend this book for couples who are simply recovering from the aftermath of postpartum depression and need to reconnect their relationship. Annmarie Wilson L.P.C-IT https://thehealingjourneycounselingfl.com/
I was inspired to write about my own lessons learned while being a military spouse. The following 5 lessons can be helpful for others to be aware of what really goes on in a military life.
- Be careful of what you say about a military spouse and never underestimate them.
(a) We may never have a stable career, but over the years I have volunteered, assistant teacher and counseled others. My main job is a stay-at-home mom with 3 children 2 boys ages 20, 16 and 13-year-old daughter who has downsyndrome. During the first couple of years of marriage, we have been separated three occasions which is a rare for those familiar with the military.
After we relocated overseas, I actively participated in spouse clubs et. My family always come first and I did everything by myself. If you saw me in action, you will be amazed so don’t judge someone for what you see on the outside, you will run the risk of never learning about their inner character and strength.
- Things are still the same
(a) Deployments haven’t changed for a very long time and it’s still a short notice, long and frequent. The time spent away from your loved one is very painful and lonely. I realized that I had to take on 2 roles of a mother and father and we missed our wedding anniversary which was not spent by myself, but with family. Being a mom is a very important job, but when you are raising your military children through a war this is challenging. Overseas assignments reminded me of the absence of family such as your parents who missed the growth and celebration of their grandchildren.
- Acceptance you didn’t marry a banker.
(a) Let’s be clear, when we said “I Do” that also took into account the to roll with the punches regardless of what career move my husband had. I would support him and at time he would work long hours or several weeks at a time which meant that he would miss school activities, sports etc. But he deserved a pass and its unfair to blame him due to the frequent moves every 3 years or so. We are almost near our retirement so until then, i will just let it flow.
- Expect the unexpected
(a) Oh yes, we do have a number of unexpected events, but there are sacrifices that come with the life of a military spouse. One thing that I have done when we relocate from one place to another is to plug into the community and reach out for some encouragement as I face these challenges. I also plug into a group of other military spouse who are family and we support each other. With that said, there may be some drama, but when women are together what else do you expect. Just make the best of it and move on.
- Make the best of life
(a) Life is what you make of it and with that it helps to keep your attitude in check. Life is an adventure, never a dull moment, but it is worth it. The life of a military is challenging, but we travel to various places around the world and we meet people who enrich our lives. Take full advantage of your life because no one is promised tomorrow. So surprise a military spouse the next time that you see her/him.
Today I enjoyed listening to a fellow colleague who talked about forgiveness and mindfulness. Forgiveness is something that takes some time and practice. But we need to allow ourselves the opportunity to choose to forgive others so that we can release the burden of hurt. I worked with several clients who came to therapy seeking help for the anger that they felt. We choose to either do two things forgive them or hold on to the hurt. The following are are some exercises to try so that you can process forgiveness into your everyday life.
- The Power of Breath and Visualization- This basically consists of conscious breathing that allows us to be present with our body. It helps to move the hurt, anger, frustration away from our body or shuts it down. First, close your eyes then envision a ball of white cloud or golden light at the base of your spine. Begin counting very slowly to 108 as you visualize the ball traveling up your spine. Hold the light or ball at each area of your back for 5-6 counts then slowly imagine the ball or light moving all the way to your head and extend it in front of you. Visualize the person that hurt you whom you wish to forgive surrounded by the light or ball. Breathe deeply and silently repeat the name of the person then say, ” I choose to let go of what happened. May you be surrounded and filled with this light.” Keep breathing through whatever emotions may surface or arise as a result. Hold the vision, repeat the statement, breathe through it until you feel a sense of calm and then gently open your eyes.
- Bilateral Stimulation: Swing those arms!- Bilateral Stimulation is a tool that change the brain chemistry. Walk briskly, swinging your arms (right, left, right, left) while feeling and thinking about the hurt. This creates a new pathway in our brain that allows access to more positive emotions, memories and beliefs. This practice also helps to lessen the impact of negative emotions. Notice how much calmer you feel while continuing to walk briskly and swing the arms. Be sure to breathe deeply and rhythmically as you are walking, feeling, and noticing.
- Sit in Silence and Stillness- Dedicate 15 minutes every day to sit with your spine straight, eyes closed and focus on the natural flow of your breath. Observe the silence and stillness which helps you to be present with what is without actively doing, changing, or fixing. As thoughts and emotion occur return your mind to focus on your breath and the sensation of your sitting. This helps the mind to be okay with what is rather than being hooked by memories and emotions.
The following is an excerpt for the above activity by Lynn Louise Wonders.
She is sitting at the side of her bed in her pj’s and its past 2’o clock in the afternoon. Where did the time go? Her hair is not comb and she has no makeup. On her face she looks sad and deep in thought. Suddenly, she begins to cry again which is a usual occurrence throughout the day. She recently gave birth to her daughter and something is drastically wrong with her. She doesn’t understand why she feels this way and begins to question herself. Why do I feel alone, sad and miserable? The baby cries and she simply don’t have the energy to fed the baby once again. Some may see this as a signs of postpartum depression which isn’t the same for all mothers. The following is a list of signs to look for in postpartum depression:
- Anger- Becoming angry at everyone that includes your baby, your spouse or even your older children. You have been throwing things or yelling at everyone. You can’t get a handle of this anger that is built up inside. You are mad all the time and you have no control over it.
- Brain Fog- You tend to forget things from time to time. It’s all a misery to you. You try your best to remember the right words, but nothing comes to mind. Then you try to multitask, but you cant do this. You find yourself in the middle of the intersection and realize that you flew pass the stop sign.
- Scary thoughts- Your thoughts are interrupted by “what if”, which begins to take over. What if something terrible happened? These thoughts are known as intrusive thoughts that interrupts your daily life which are a sign of postpartum anxiety and OCD.
- Numbness- Here I go again, I cant feel anything but just emptiness. You are going through the motions but yet you are not feeling it inside. You feel disconnected from everyone. You couldn’t care less about things and you don’t want to mention this to your doctor.
- Insomnia- Ahh…the little one is fast asleep and they say take a nap but nothing happens. You lay there at night wondering when will I get some sleep. You should be exhausted after one week of taking care of the little one, but still you lay awake at night wondering when will I fall asleep.
- Physical symptoms- My stomach doesn’t feel good again and my head hurts really bad. I begin to panic once again and I feel like I am having a heart attack. You feel aches and pain all over your body and you know that you don’t have a cold or flu.
I was inspired to write this blog on behalf of a fellow colleague Dr. Christina Hibbert who is a psychologist, mother and author of “This is How We Grow.” Dr Hibbert shared that she was a expert evaluator on a postpartum case for over five years. The woman is a 23 years old mother who has been sentenced to 40 years without parole for child abuse. How or Why? is this happening? According to Dr. Hibbert the woman is suffering from postpartum mental illness which included postpartum posttraumatic stress disorder (due to a horrible experience with childbirth), postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder, postpartum depression and later postpartum psychosis. The baby at the time was adopted after recovering from injuries and the 23 year old woman parental rights was severed. The woman also had an emergency hysterectomy during childbirth so she was childless. During her trial she was not evaluated for mental illness, but this incident was considered a child abuse case and she was the abuser. The prosecutor of the case sentence her to four back to back 10 years sentencing which total 40 years imprisonment.
Presently in 2014, she served 13 years in the state prison system and through several help by attorneys, advocates and experts that worked pro bono, she received “clemency” of her current 10 year sentence. Recently, she had an hearing and after a total of six hours and after drilling Dr. Hibbert and other expert witness her clemency was denied.
Postpartum psychosis is a very real issue “that affects 1-2 of every 1,000 births in which the mother becomes detached from rational thinking” (Hibbert, 2014). The symptoms of postpartum psychosis includes the following:
- Delusion or strange beliefs
- Feeling very irritated
- Decreased need for or inability to sleep
- Paranoia and suspiciousness
- Rapid mood swings
- Difficulty communicating at times
It is important to know that there is help out there and the sooner someone gets the help the better life will become for you. If you know of anyone that may be suffering from this illness, please encourage them to speak to a professional.
Hibbert, C. (2014). Postpartum psychosis + Mental Health Stigma = 40 years in prison: Its time to speak up! Retrieved from http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/blog/
Postpartum Psychosis. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.postpartum.net/Get-the-Facts/Postpartum-Psychosis.aspx
Effective strategies for calming your emotions
Understanding overreactions- We must be aware of the things that triggers our emotions for instance we may overreact to situation that is fueled by past experiences and raw emotions which we have not dealt with yet. I completely understand how we can get so worked up about something and we must acknowledge our emotions that cause us to overeact and gets us in trouble. Not everyone reacts the same way which is something that I had to learn during the course of my life. Each of us as a different range of emotional equilibrium that is known as “the degree to which we can mange stressful experience in a calm and thoughtful way” (Siegel, 2010,p. 9).
The Exploder and the Imploder
When I saw this title I could relate to the imploder which is the quiet person who puts their feelings aside while the exploder gets very upset and loud. Exploder has a hard time holding on to their feelings and are easily agitated. For instance, a child whose feelings are not noticed by teachers and parents which leads depression or becoming ill. There are three ingredients to overreacting that includes “the event that triggers a sense of danger, an immediate response that involves our emotions as well as our physical state, and an interpretation of unfolding events that may be colored by defenses and emotional memories” (Siegel, 2010, p. 12). The way how we view a situations has an effect on our psychological well-being which has an effect on the way we view a situation.
In order to manage our reactions we must first be aware of the way how we tend to react. Here are some questions to help you with this exercise:
- When someone gets very angry at your, do you tend to withdraw?
- Would people who know you describe you as someone who is mainly logical?
- When the stress in your life builds up, are you likely to feel fatigued or ill?
- When someone asks you how you are feeling, do you give them information about events or description of your emotional experience?
- Do you often zone out or have an escape fantasies?
If you answered yes to most of these questions, then you are an imploder style. However, here are some other questions for a exploder style:
- Do you frequently lose your temper or fight about an issue that seems important in the moment but that you barely remember a few weeks later?
- Do you speak your mind if you think someone has acted inappropriately?
- When someone challenges you, do you get annoyed and stand up to them?
- When another car cuts you off in traffic, do you try to catch up to them or start swearing?
- Do people tell you that you are too emotional?
If you answered yes to most of these questions, then you are a exploder style.
The following is a body scan exercise that will help you to become aware of your feelings. First, start from a relaxed position, close your eyes and focus on the different parts of your body. Ask yourself is you are aware of carrying any tension in your body. Is your heart racing? Do your muscles feel tense? How about your neck is it tight?Are your hands relaxed? Are your fingers open or clenched? What does it feel like in your stomach? When you know how your body is when you are relaxed, you will begin to notice how you change when you are under stress. Secondly, we must explore one of the feelings such as being angry and try to learn more about it. We can look back at how we felt when we were angry and begin to do a body scan by asking yourselves all the questions in the first part of this exercise. Think about the tension that you are carrying to different parts of your body, If you are uncomfortable, where do you notice this most? If you feel better, do you notice it in any part of your body? By noticing the different sensations throughout the body you are beginning the grasp a whole new way of exploring your feelings. Thirdly, we can now begin to try a guided exercise where you revisit how you feel when you experience something good. By learning how we felt during that experience we can call it up during the times that we are feeling angry or upset. If you open up yourselves to positive feelings, “you will add to your reservoir of well being” (Forsha, 2000).
Siegel, J. (2010). Stop Overreacting. Effective strategies for calming your emotions. New Harbinger Publications, Inc.