Couples Therapy: Is It For Everyone?

I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of a nut when it comes to relationship advice columns. I follow a bunch of marital groups on Facebook that share marriage memes that I always relate to and always find articles online that I love reading. Sometimes I stumble across a pickle that people find themselves in, and they go to the internet for advice. The comments are usually filled with two solutions: Break up or go to couples therapy. The issue that I’ve noticed emerging from these posts is one thing: everyone generally waits for a crisis before thinking of getting any sort of help.

As you all know, I’m a huge believer in therapy. I’m not ashamed to admit that my husband and I did seek out advice from a therapist years ago when our communication was severely lacking. We didn’t wait for a life-altering issue to arise before we sought out help, and I believe that us going early was the best decision.

When I discuss this with others, they generally acknowledge how their therapy had a low satisfaction rate (as it does typically in today’s society). However, when I ask how long they waited to seek out help, I would get an average of 3-4 YEARS.

Waiting that long before seeking out help is very detrimental for everyone involved. The foundation that you both built together could already have collapsed, making the advice of breaking up the only sound reason for both of you. (There are exceptions to the rule but trust me when I say issues would be a LOT harder to fix the more you draw it out)

When you’re struggling with the same problems over and over again with your partner, don’t wait for something “bigger” to come along to necessitate a visit to a therapist. The sooner you can get in to talk and communicate about what’s happening, the easier it would be for not only you but the therapist as well. I can understand the reason why people feel shame opening up to a stranger, I’ve crossed that path numerous times before. It’s not easy to communicate what’s going on with you when you can’t even divulge this information to your partner. What you need to realize is that this issue is not just yours alone. Many struggle with this and I am confident that people who are close to you can confirm the same thing.

Admitting that there is an issue that needs to be addressed is an excellent first step. Seeking out a trained coupled therapist should be your second if you feel that both of you cannot communicate what you are feeling or unsure of where your relationship is going. Don’t feel too proud or ashamed, therapists are here to support us and not judge. When my husband and I finished up our sessions, I felt elated and back on track from a derailment I didn’t even notice.

Think of therapy as a booster shot, it may sting at first, but it’s needed for growth!

Holy Sh*t I’m a Mom

This has been one hell of a week for me, and even though I mentioned this would not be a mom-centred blog, I am breaking my rule this one time to go over how my anxiety shaped my experience of labour and bringing home my baby.

On Wednesday early morning (12:40 am to be exact), my water broke. I wasn’t sure at the time and I called my husband from downstairs to make sure that I wasn’t just peeing myself again (oh yes, the lovely late stages of pregnancy were terrific on my bladder) It wasn’t until I moved around slightly that my curious trickle turned into a full-on gush and the panic started to come full force. THIS IS HAPPENING. Immediately I felt my first contraction and went upstairs to lie down to time it out: 1 hour apart, lasting 1 minute. I wasn’t in active labour just yet, but my anxiety was flaring up with the usual physical symptoms: overheating, rapid heartbeat & dizziness. I did not feel safe at home and thought it would be best to go to the hospital. We packed up the car and went straight there, where I was closely monitored before being admitted.

I told my husband to go home and sleep, so one of us could at least be coherent when it came closer to being admitted – he was relieved. I spent the next four hours lying in bed, trying to get some sleep but the contractions were getting debilitating. Trying to walk around to ease the pain and move things along were not an option for me, and I already felt as if I were a failure. I cried in the darkened room, waiting for a nurse to come so I could ask for some pain medication. The O.B. on call came to see me about it and mentioned I could get some morphine, but I had to wait until my contractions were 5 minutes apart. It was roughly 6 am at this point, and I knew I was getting close to that time frame. I called my husband to let him know I was scared and I needed him, he told me everything would be OK and to try to calm myself down; he would be there as soon as possible. He arrived, and I instantly felt better, I always do. The pain was getting worse, and several hours went by – I was getting impatient. Around 9 am, I was finally admitted to the hospital; however, I was not dilated. Due to specific procedures that I had back in 2008, I was running into complications that would need to be addressed. The plan that we set at 6 am had now changed; however, I was able to receive an epidural early to help ease the pain. After 7 hours of my anxious mind racing through this pain, I welcomed it. I’m happy that my husband was coherent because it knocked me out, and he was able to fill out all the necessary paperwork.

As I crept in and out of sleep, so did my husband. The nurses came in to check on me as often as they could, but our little one was still taking her precious time getting ready to make her grand entrance. My heart was pounding, remembering what doctors told me years previous that if I were to have a child, I might run into issues. The medication that they administered around noon to speed things up was taking its time, and we spent the next 8 hours waiting impatiently. Nurses needed to come in more often to help out; when I was awake, my mind would race with worry over the length of time that it was taking and I was starting to get more nervous and scared as the time approached for me to push out a tiny human. When I was stuck at 8 cm for several hours, I started to cry out of frustration; I just wanted her to be out of me! That’s when one of the nurses suggested I put this peanut looking ball between my legs, which essentially helps dilate you to where you need to be.

When the moment finally arrived at 8:40 pm, my heart sank, I was unsure how I would feel at this moment, and every emotion possible seemed to course through my body. All lights went on, and I noticed I was placed perfectly under a reflection of what was going on. If I kept looking up, I would be able to see it ALL. The nurse started to explain to me how to push, and I immediately thought I would somehow screw this up. I did my first push and couldn’t hold my breath long enough. I started to cry, again, thinking that this would take longer than usual and already felt like a failure. My husband and I already made a plan beforehand to play music during this process, so he put on my favourite album “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd. When the music started to play, I got emotional once again thinking to myself – Holy shit I’m about to be a mom. I’ve been preparing myself for this moment for MONTHS, but honestly, nothing can prepare you for that overwhelming sensation.

The song ‘Us & Them’ holds a lot of meaning for both my husband and me.

* It was the song that we listened to on our first visit to B.C., staying up late on our hotel room balcony basking in a moderate snowfall that was gorgeous.

* It was the song that we found an instrumental version of so I could walk down the aisle to marry him.

* It was the song that unintentionally played during our Gender Reveal party when I sliced our cake open sharing that we would be welcoming a girl

so, when it started to loom in the background after 30+ minutes of pushing, I told myself this is going to be the last couple of pushes, she WILL be born to this song. I put so much effort into these pushes that my husband needed to put ice chips on my forehead, which quickly trickled down the side of my face from the immense heat. The nurses cheering me on in the background as the last push brought her out into this world, 42 minutes later. Yes, I saw everything in that reflection. EVERYTHING.

The song ended, and I heard her cry, up to this moment I was so worried that I wouldn’t love her or want to hold her but as soon as I listened to that cry all I wanted to was calm her down. My body rushed with so much love for this little human being that I was overcome with joy and relief. I held her without interaction from anyone else and knew at this moment that I would never want to go through pregnancy again. Her though, she was worth it. We named her Eve Lilly, a name we picked out months prior but wanted to ensure she ‘looked’ like the name.

It wasn’t long before I was wheeled into my semi-private room with her in an adjoining bassinet. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her and kept saying, “I made this.” My husband asked if I wanted him to stay the night and even though a part of me did, I said he could go home. I wanted to spend my first moments with Eve together and try to bond over breastfeeding. The nurses tried to help, but it was extremely difficult for both of us, instead of being anxious over this, I told myself that plans never go the way we want them to. I asked the nurses for supplements, and they made me feel incredibly guilty for doing so, I didn’t care. All I did care about was that she was fed and happy.

My anxiety was levelling out, and I just wanted to be home, I was tired, sore and swollen that I couldn’t even put my shoes on! Being pregnant and giving birth has given me a new perspective on what matters and what doesn’t. I made some big decisions during this time, one of them being that I don’t think I can go through this process again for my mental health. After going through months of depression on top of my anxiety was trying. I don’t think that’s selfish of me in the slightest, regardless of what others think. I grew up as an only child and i’m somewhat normal 😉

Albatross

I want to apologize to my readers for being so distant these last few weeks; I’ve been working tirelessly on getting my first novel out before my daughter makes her grand entrance.

Keeping busy has distracted me from my depression, and I’m thankful for that small amount of effort.

I still anxiously debate if making my story public is the right thing to do, my trauma has and always will make me feel like I’m not worthy of a voice. Luckily, I’ve never been one to go with the flow, and it’s with great pleasure that I can announce that I am now a published author

For those of you who have anxiously waited, you can find my book on Amazon here:

eBook

Paperback

 

Battling Prenatal Depression

It’s been hard for me to write this article for the past couple of weeks, for two reasons

  1. I have lost the motivation to do what I generally love, including writing
  2. I’ve been debating whether or not I should share this

The truth is, I’ve been dealing with prenatal depression during my third trimester, and it has not been easy in the slightest. The reason why I’ve decided to share this is because pregnant women don’t divulge what’s truly going on with their mentality during or after their pregnancy – and since I come from a maternal line of different types of depression, I feel there’s a need for me to be open and honest with everyone.

If someone were to ask me right now how I’m feeling, I will generally say “I’m dealing with some depression, but I’m trying to remain positive” instead of the typical “OK” I would typically say during any depressive state. When others ask pregnant women how they are feeling they’re not looking for a paragraph response of ailments, but, I’m hoping that with my concise response that we can change the way society looks at pregnant women instead of thinking we’re all fine and dandy with our belly and glow.

The last trimester of pregnancy is a whirlwind of emotions and a roller coaster of hormones which should be going up and down throughout these last months. However, I still feel as if I’m at the starting point, on the bottom, waiting to feel elated from the adrenaline rush. When I mentioned this to my OB over a month ago, I was given one of those questionnaires that are all too familiar with me. I’ve filled these out numerous times before when I was seeking help through a therapist. When I tallied up my point score at the end of it, I started to shake. I knew that I had been feeling off due to circumstances out of my control, but the answer had been lying in front of me the whole time. I am depressed.

After I got my request to go to a mood clinic, I left the office angry. Why was I angry? Because this whole time during pregnancy, I’ve been anxious about postpartum depression, that I didn’t even think that I could get prenatal depression. I was angry at myself for thinking in the future instead of listening to my present, which, is one of my anxiety symptoms.

I started to look back at my triggers from March onwards: Not only did I go through some stressful life events (losing my Grandmother and the events that followed) but I was also feeling alone in my relationship with my husband. He started on a new production that is being managed a little out of the ordinary, and I’m lucky if I see him once throughout the working week. Add my family history on top of all of this, and you’ve got your recipe for depression.

I was showing the basic signs:

–    Persistent Sadness & withdrawal from others

–    Difficulty concentrating and making decisions

–    Sleeping & crying too much; my exhaustion is pretty extreme at times

–    Loss of interest in the things I usually enjoy

–    Change in eating habits

–    And of course, my lovely sidekick: Anxiety

I have to admit; I was in denial during those moments. Since these symptoms mirror usual pregnancy symptoms, I felt that it was just a bump in the road. What I did realize, after the fact, is that it’s not normal to feel consistently sad/uninterested and I started to feel guilty that I was making my unborn baby feel this way on top of it all. What started to worry me was the fact that I felt as if I couldn’t take care of myself properly, from a lack of motivation to cook and eat. During these moments I turn to my Grandmother’s spirit and think ‘what would she say?’ – the Jewish guilt is still palpable, and even if it was a quick PB&J that I fixed for myself, I knew she would be happy to know that something is better than nothing.

Since I’ve dealt with depression before, I started to do the following to help (aside from Therapy):

  1. Meditation

I remember a time when I meditated every morning, but ever since I got pregnant, it went down to the bottom of my list. I’m trying to put more effort into this, even if it’s just for 5 minutes a week

  1. Going outside

Even though Toronto humidity is killing me most days, I know that being in the sunshine helps me a bunch. I recently bought some frozen fruit bars to enjoy while I sit on my balcony basking in this sweltering heat! Mmm fruit bars.

  1. Napping

Even though I feel unproductive nowadays with my excessive exhaustion, I still manage to try and nap each day to make sure that I’m getting enough rest. My logic is, either my body or baby need it so everything else can be a lower priority

  1. Set up Reminders

I’m terrible at remembering to drink water throughout the day so several years ago I set up reminders in my phone. It’s been an enormous help, and I started to use it again to remind myself to eat throughout the day. Although to be fair, this little Spawn is the best reminder of all since she likes to kick me in the ribs if I don’t eat on time

  1. Spend time with family and/or friends

This one has been hard on me, so I decided my priority is to spend time with my family instead of my friends. I only have enough energy for one visit at a time now, but I make sure that I STICK to it and remind my friends, online, that it’s me and not them. I’m lucky that they understand that.

  1. Hire Help (if you can)

It’s been no secret with my family what I’m going through, I was honest with them from the start about my depression, and I’m glad that I did so. My mother-in-law suggested that we hire a cleaning service for the time being so I don’t have the responsibility or guilt to get EVERYTHING done personally. I’m glad I listened to her – the service is outstanding, and what would typically take me 8 hours to do, they did in under 3. Worth. Every. Penny.

  1. Communicate

There are days that I don’t feel like communicating, and I want to bask in silence on my couch. Then there are others when I need to express what’s going on. Unfortunately, I don’t have a proper routine for when these moods strike me, and they generally coincide with my husband’s schedule – the need to talk to him some nights when he’s working can feel excruciating at times. When I do see him, I try to cut past the moods of silence and force myself to tell him how I’m feeling, even if I can’t make sense of it myself at the time.

Even though I’m still battling this depression, I feel as if I must make this public since most women don’t seek treatment for their prenatal or postpartum depression out of embarrassment, shame or guilt.
To be honest, I feel thoroughly embarrassed that I’m going through this, and the guilt is heavy. But you know what? There’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with how I’m feeling or the fact that it even crept up on me silently throughout these last months. I am now more susceptible to postpartum because of this, and the fact that I’m already on the right path of healing and treatment is excellent news for baby and me. Untreated depression can lead to a lot of issues, not only for yourself but for your unborn baby too.

If you think there’s any chance that you’re suffering from this type of depression – ASK FOR HELP. Your baby will need a mother who is healthy, not only in body but also of mind.

Handling Finances with Depression

When you’re fighting off depression, it’s hard to get a grasp on even the basic things that you need. When I go through my depressive states, the thing that I struggle with the most is fighting an impulse to overspend. It’s easy to look for material things to fill a void, however, even in my darkest hour, I tend to fight off that little voice that tells me “no” and just bounce right into getting an item that I don’t need.

I have a few examples that I think most of you can relate to:

#1 Culprit: Food

When I get depressed, food takes the first hit. I lack the energy to even think of what I want to eat, let alone get up to prepare and make it. Even though I will have all the things I need at home to make myself a decent (and also cheap!) meal, I will find solace in getting take out or junk food. Pizza is a good example here, I usually make a great homemade one on the weekends with my husband for roughly 8$, but if I’m in one of these states, you can see me spending at least 50$ on the same amount of food, delivery & tip. The worst part about this type of expenditures is that they make me feel worse, both physically and emotionally – yet, I continue to do it. It’s a vicious cycle.

#2 Hair & Makeup

I’ve gotten better at this section over the last few years, but that doesn’t mean that I’ll have a slip up once in a while. The thing that I do the most to make myself feel better is to change my appearance. Nothing drastic, a little trim, darker colour, new shade of lipstick, etc.
The only issue is, I don’t get these things cheap in the slightest. My hair alone will cost me roughly 200$ a pop whenever I decide to go to the salon, so, I’ve tried to keep this down to a minimum of once or twice a year. Back when I was struggling as a newcomer in Ontario, I would be in the salon every 2-3 months and watch my money disappear as I tried to find happiness in a hair colour. Being a retired makeup artist also has its problems, I always want the latest and greatest and try to validate my purchases every time I find the new trend. Even though I’m clearly out of business, I still find the need to be “in” with it and will pour my money into makeup that I will use maybe once and watch it dry out as the year goes on.

#3 Gifts for Others

Even when I have only 10$ in my account, my immediate thought will be “oh, maybe I should get something for my husband.” When I get gifts for other people, it’s because I think that their happiness will brush off on me and I’ll be equally as happy. The funny thing is, I never am. I can spend up to 200$ on a person, thinking that this tangible thing will make the both of us happy but it’s only a façade and will last maybe a day (or two, if I’m lucky)
I also include Donations in this category too, if someone needs 20$ or 50$ for a cause that they’re supporting, I try my best to donate as much as I can towards it, even if I don’t have the money. My thought process is, “but it’s for a good cause!” even though my bank account always hurts in the end.

Of course, these examples are more geared towards me, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t flood over into other impulse spends like a pair of designer shoes, another video game to add to the ever growing pile, etc. What I’m trying to get across is that you’re not alone in this. Don’t ignore these problems and please don’t feel shame in saying that you are struggling with your mental health OR your finances. Being in debt, broke or just overall unemployed can lead to a worse depression or even a meltdown, so taking steps to avoid being in this situation is key. It’s important to remember that there is always help around the corner.

The number one thing that I’ve done to help combat against my financial struggles is keeping a budget. I got my parents to help me with categorizing and also a spreadsheet from my local bank to help track where everything goes. I’m currently on my third year of doing this, and I have to admit how eye-opening it’s been – I still slip up from time to time, and I think that’s normal for anyone in my situation, however, I’m on the correct path and just knowing that helps aid in my depressive states.

If you’re still wondering how to overcome your Finances, check out my article from last year

What is “High Alert”?

I haven’t been posting as much as I’d like on here, but I know that my absence is in good faith. For the past three weeks, I’ve been on “high alert,” as I like to call it, due to circumstances out of my control.

As a person who has G.A.D, I usually find myself in this state when I’m in a new situation, a new (or triggering) environment or in the presence of others. Funnily enough, within three weeks, I was in all of these conditions, so I’m not surprised that my anxiety went through the roof. I’ve been so sensitive to my surroundings that my initial reaction was to just cocoon and let the world continue in the background, but I had responsibilities…

It started with my baby shower, and even though I was surrounded by people that love and support me, I was still anxious. I wish I could pinpoint WHY I felt this way but I can’t – my body just automatically felt like I was going to be in some danger, so I started showing physical symptoms (sweating & fast heart rate) even though there was nothing to worry over. I chalked it up to my pregnancy when others noticed, but I did confide in my husband and best friend.

The following weekend I had family obligations in Montreal. Montreal, for me, is a triggering environment since the majority of my trauma happened in this city. Luckily for me, I was only in town for a day, but that doesn’t negate the fact that my anxiety increased and fear set in. I was in the city to say goodbye to my beloved Grandmother who passed on earlier this year, so when I was becoming emotionally withdrawn, I was able to chalk this one up to my grievance. I saw family that I hadn’t seen in years, and even though it was nice to see them again, all I wanted to do was go back home.
As soon as we were on the road heading back to Toronto, a lot of my emotional and behavioural symptoms were subsiding, so I figured I would quickly feel better.

I didn’t immediately.

Now that I’m on my third week feeling like this, I started to look up my symptoms. It turns out, this is called “Hypervigilance” and is quite common for people with Anxiety, PTSD and Schizophrenia.

Here are some of the common triggers:

  • feeling trapped or claustrophobic
  • feeling abandoned
  • hearing loud noises (especially if they’re sudden or emotionally charged), which can include yelling, arguments, and sudden bangs
  • anticipating pain, fear, or judgment
  • feeling judged or unwelcome
  • feeling physical pain
  • feeling emotional distress
  • being reminded of past traumas
  • being around random, chaotic behaviours of others

so, what can you do if you find yourself in these situations?

  • I would talk to your doctor or therapist first so they can help with treatment. If you’re in a situation like me where you can’t take medication – the best thing you can do is be mindful.
  • Remember to take deep breaths (I have some breathing videos saved on my phone for these situations)
  • Before reacting to anything, pause and reflect. Taking this small step can help avoid any further issues or symptoms that you are feeling
  • Acknowledge how you feel NOW and remind yourself that you won’t feel this way forever.

I’m on the path to feeling better, but I think that everything is amplified due to my pregnancy.
I tried to take my mind off of things yesterday by organizing the nursery, but that just brought me into a hormonal cry over hanging up baby dresses next to my full-length ones. To be fair though, I’m crying over commercials that I see on T.V anyways!
I don’t have any more obligations to attend for the remainder of the month, so I’m hoping with this “time off” that I can recharge and get back to my old self.

Burn Out

It’s official! Burnout is now a legitimate medical diagnosis.

You have no idea how happy I am that this has been recognized by WHO – I experienced this first hand back in 2013/2014, I’m not ashamed to admit it. I was working long hours at a job for a boss who didn’t understand personal boundaries, and it affected everything surrounding me. My anxiety was at an all-time high, and even though I admitted to the burnout systems, I was unable to get adequately diagnosed from my doctor.

So, what is burnout?

  1. You have feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  2. You experience an increase in mental distance from your job, or you feel negative or cynical towards your job
  3. Your professional efficacy has been reduced

TLDR: Burn-out occurs when the demands of your job outweigh your recognition and relaxation.

Burnout has been in a blurry spotlight for a long time now; medical professionals need to rule out anxiety and mood disorders first before considering these symptoms. However, this is regarded as one of the most widely discussed mental health problem in our society today. I’m so thankful that this has now been reclassified as an occupational syndrome.

People who suffer from burn out feel as if their ambitions and goals are being trampled on, and they start to worry about different aspects if they quit such as financial impacts, psychological effects and physical ailments.
There’s been a study about the long-term health risks of continuing in this atmosphere – it’s shocking (but not surprising) to see that there’s a significant risk of coronary heart disease.  Not to mention, the psychological effects which can include insomnia & depression

If you feel as if you fall into this category, I cannot stress enough to go to your doctor. Many tools can help you – one that helped me drastically was going back into therapy. Even though I was depleted and angry that I needed to go, it made me realize that it was not MY fault for the way that I was feeling. I believe that it is possible to reverse the effects of burnout if you are willing to work on it.