Thursday, January 16, 2014

More than just winter blues: part 3 #mentalhealth series

Part 1 of More Than Just Winter Blues was an introduction to guest poster Natalie Mohr and her own personal journey as a mother struggling with mental health issues. In Part 2, Natalie shared some important lessons about finding professional help.

Natalie P. Mohr is the author of "The Tale of the Lantern Lady," an allegorical short story about those who suffer from mental illness and depression and those who bridge the gap between pain and positive change in their lives.

For the gritty and very real version of Natalie's journey, see her other guest posts via Hope Rising - Natalie Part 1 and Hope Rising - Natalie Part 2

Lessons from a Medicated Mama - part 3
*a guest post from author Natalie Mohr*

Finally, it is important to find ways of coping - and self-forgiveness - within yourself.

Seek to find ways of coping. Sometimes, medication alone is not the only remedy.  Learning coping skills help us face challenges and negative patterns that are counter-active to our improvement. We may be unaware that things we are doing are worsening our condition.  In these circumstances, a good therapist is essential.  Just like doctors, there are good providers and others who for whatever reason are not a good fit. Find one that specializes in your type of illness. If you are uncomfortable with your therapist or feel that their treatment is not helping, find another one. Do not assume that all approaches are the same.
When I am depressed,  I tend to think irrationally and go deeper into a downward spiral of negative thoughts. I think things will never get better, that I won't make it through the tunnel. I feel like I'm not  cut out for society.  I am sometimes overwhelmed by simple tasks and great feelings of guilt for not fulfilling my expectations of myself. I might uncontrollably burst into tears for no reason. When I am in the darkness, I often need the guidance of someone else to point things out, bring things to light and remind me of the positive times when I have fulfilled my expectations and have accomplished things. 

Don't be too hard on yourself. I personally set high standards for myself and have high expectations of what I think I should accomplish as a good mother.  I want to be superwoman. I want to take my kids to every enrichment opportunity out there, help them do crafts, read to them every night, all while having dinner on the table by 5:00 and a spotless house. I have learned not to completely eliminate goals, but to recognize my limitations and readjust them.  Sometimes it is as simple as altering long term goals into simple short term goals. Learn to recognize negative self-talk and destructive thoughts. Sometimes my house is a wreck. I have no energy. During periods of depression I can't bring myself to do laundry. I have to rely on the help of my husband to do household chores, cook and take care of the kids. I can't make it to church. I end up frequently cancelling plans. I don't want to get out of bed. I go without make up or fixing myself up. At extreme times, I have even had episodes of being unable to care for myself.  I feel an extreme sense of guilt, which worsens the depression. Accepting that I have limitations outside of my control during times of depression, especially in the winter, has been difficult for me. 
Eliminate stressors and negative people. Sometimes we have people, like family members or neighbors,  who we cannot completely cut out of our lives. But, if a person is abusive or contributing to your mental health decline, try to minimize contact with them. If possible, sever the relationship. Do not feel guilty about this. You cannot take the risk of allowing others to exacerbate your condition or enable unhealthy behavior.

Stress can be a major trigger for depression, anxiety and mental instability. If there are things that you can eliminate from your life that are worsening your condition, learn to say no. Do not over-commit yourself or submit to the pressures that lead you to take on more than you can handle.  If your job is contributing to your mental health decline, evaluate the benefits and the negatives. If the benefits of making that change outweigh the risks, it may be something you need to consider. An effective therapist can guide you to make reasonable positive changes or learning to cope with those stressors. 

Make time to take care of yourself.  This is can be especially difficult yet very important, especially if you are struggling with depression or a mental illness. In order to take care of your children,  you have  to ensure that your needs are not neglected. It is so easy as a mother to put the needs of our children and family before ourselves. But, do not feel guilty about making those steps a priority. Make sure you get plenty of sleep. Lack of sleep can trigger mental instability. Ensure you are making healthy choices in your diet and exercise routines. If you need time for yourself to decompress, find a way to make it happen. Sometimes as mothers, we need a break to maintain our sanity. Being a mother is a stressful job in and of itself. Consider ways to schedule time for yourself whether it be hiring a baby-sitter, enrolling your children in a mother's day out program, visits with grandparents, or even having Dad take them out of the house for a special date.

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Please read Natalie's short story...

"The Tale of the Lantern Lady" 
ISBN 978-1494233853
  Paperback $4.93
  Kindle $3.00

Apple iBook Store for iPad $6.99

Blurb Bookstore - fully illustrated version 7"x7"
  Softcover $16.99
  Hardcover, dust jacket $29.19
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