Single Moms: Celebrate Yourselves on Mother’s Day

young daughter kissing mother's cheek

When I was a single mom, I started a tradition of buying myself a pair of sandals on Mother’s Day. My kids were too young to take me out to brunch. Instead we went looking for sandals for Mommy.

I began this ritual because the thought of Mother’s Day brought up a storm of negative emotions: Regret that I’d decided to end my marriage, guilt that my kids didn’t have happily married parents, and self-pity that I didn’t have a spouse to make my day special. Sandals represented the optimism that accompanies the warmer, longer days and joys of summer. My new shoes were a reminder to stay positive on a day that, for single mothers, can be fraught with a myriad of negative emotions.

Obviously I’m not suggesting that all single moms should run out and buy sandals on Mother’s Day. I’m sharing my story to encourage single moms to create their own strategies for optimism and joy, especially on days when it’s common to experience negative emotions.

The buildup and hype surrounding Mother’s Day can be emotionally challenging for moms parenting on their own. As someone who works with and on behalf of single mothers, here are some insights I’ve learned along the way about regret, guilt, and self-pity. Continue reading Single Moms: Celebrate Yourselves on Mother’s Day

I Wasn’t in Therapy as a Kid, But I Should’ve Been

teen girl couch therapist

While Talkspace is not available to people under 18-years-old, we recognize the importance of providing support for the parents of children with mental health issues.

As an adolescent in high school, I didn’t feel right.

I was always angry and miserable. I felt overwhelmingly sad and hopeless and alone. I spent an unnerving amount of time thinking about suicide. I would punch walls until my knuckles bled. I would have increasingly frequent mental breakdowns.

But I didn’t know why. And I didn’t know what to do about it.

Nobody I knew voiced that they felt similarly and I didn’t hear of anyone feeling extremely sad for no apparent reason. I hadn’t even heard of anyone I knew killing themselves. I thought the word “depressed” was simply a synonym for sad. I didn’t have an explanation for what was going on in my head. I felt completely trapped, with no one to talk to, no one who would understand.

Because I didn’t understand myself and couldn’t put words, terms, or definitions to how I felt, I would have regular panic attacks. At night when gloomy and confusing thoughts would take over, I’d sob and shake and sweat, my heart racing. I didn’t have an understanding of what was happening. I thought I was insane. Continue reading I Wasn’t in Therapy as a Kid, But I Should’ve Been

I’m Glad I Sent My Son to Therapy

boy couch female therapist

While Talkspace is not available to people under 18-years-old, we recognize the importance of providing support for the parents of children with mental health issues.

When he was six-years-old, I began noticing that something was a little off with my son, Alex. It was a nervousness and uneasiness — a caution that’s not typical of what should be a rambunctious, energetic first grader. At first I wrote it off as him being shy or an introvert like me. But by the time he was nine, I realized something deeper was going on. His anxiety was distressing, so we decided to seek professional help.

As a mental health nurse practitioner, I prescribe medications to adults on a daily basis. With my son, however, my husband and I took great pause in pursuing a medication regimen for him and putting pills in such a tiny body. Medications help for some people, along with appropriate lifestyle changes. Knowing the incredible efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy in treating anxiety disorders, however, we decided to pursue this route instead. Continue reading I’m Glad I Sent My Son to Therapy

My Childhood Experience in Therapy

teen boy couch therapist

While Talkspace is not available to people under 18-years-old, we recognize the importance of providing support for the parents of children with mental health issues.

I’m no stranger to therapy and mental health help. Long before I faced my own mental health issues, my mother passed down stories of my grandmother, who spent most of her life battling the demons of drug-induced psychosis and what, in retrospect, seems to have been borderline personality disorder.

Later, my mother also opened up about her own struggles with depression, anxiety, and the post-traumatic stress she carried from her abusive childhood. Likewise, my oldest sister, my father, and many of my family friends talked frankly about their issues.

Naturally, this has a downside: there’s nothing like being six-years-old and realizing everybody around you has some serious issues. But it also offers some benefits. Mainly, I didn’t have to deal with the stigma when the time came for me to seek help for my own problems.

As you’ll see, by the time I was facing true despair, I’d already had years of experience with mental health professionals. My story will enlighten you on the experience of seeing a therapist while you’re still growing up and what we can accomplish for our children. Continue reading My Childhood Experience in Therapy

Steps Your Teen Can Take to Reduce Chronic Anxiety

asian male teen test classroom

Talkspace is not yet available to people under 18-years-old. Nonetheless, we have a duty to provide mental health advice to parents of teens.

Parents know being a teenager can be stressful and anxiety-provoking. There is a barrage of tests, social pressures, and people constantly nagging teens about their future. It’s no wonder one in eight adolescents have an anxiety disorder.

If your teen is feeling stressed out, worried, and nervous about various aspects of life, they’re not alone. Anxiety is a feeling everyone experiences.

Chronic anxiety, however, whether it be seasonal, general, social, or specific phobia-related, is something that should be addressed. When anxiety begins to take a toll on day-to-day life and starts affecting social interactions and relationships, your teen could be suffering from an anxiety disorder.

Below are some steps your teen can take to get chronic anxiety or an anxiety disorder under control. Continue reading Steps Your Teen Can Take to Reduce Chronic Anxiety

Children’s Mental Health: When To Worry, How To Take Action

sad boy arms folded

Approximately one in five children experience a diagnosable mental health condition in their lives.

I once worked with a young man (whom I will refer to here as James) who was in his early 20s and had been plagued by difficulties at both work and his personal life. About two years prior to our first meeting, he left school due to his inability to keep up with the schoolwork and the stress that it caused him. James told me he always felt as if he were playing “catch up.”

Throughout our time together in therapy James came to recognize he had been living with untreated ADHD. He spent years internalizing negative messages from his teachers and family members about his behavior and difficulty concentrating. They labeled him as “bad,” and he believed it. Continue reading Children’s Mental Health: When To Worry, How To Take Action

How Caregivers Can Avoid Burnout and Stay Mentally Healthy

daughter taking care of sick mother

“In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering, if you feel ‘burnout’ setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have a long-term perspective.” – Dalai Lama

I once worked with a client named Patrick who came to therapy feeling anxious and overwhelmed by what he had recently been experiencing. As a young professional he was trying to balance all the facets of his life. He was dating and trying to maintain a healthy social life. Patrick was also struggling with caring for his aging mother who had several medical and emotional issues to sort through.

As many therapists will tell you, caring for others is one of the greatest experiences we can have as humans. There is research that caring for others and demonstrating compassion outwardly, such as volunteering, may help us feel better within ourselves both physically and mentally.

Nonetheless, we also know caring for others can sometimes be a daunting and even thankless experience. Many of us who find ourselves caring for others often lose our balance. We even begin to view our self-care as being selfish. We may say to ourselves, “I can’t take this time off. What will happen when I’m gone?” Continue reading How Caregivers Can Avoid Burnout and Stay Mentally Healthy

How Can Families Reunite After Trump’s Victory Split Them Apart?

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Before the 2016 election, writer Michael Noker was “incredibly close” with his mother. He saw her as a role model because of her strength, feminism and history of overcoming abuse. Before he came out as gay, his mother was already teaching him the importance of respecting members of the LGBT community.

Then he learned she was voting for Donald Trump. Because of Hillary Clinton’s persecution of her husband’s accusers during his sex scandal, his mother didn’t perceive Clinton as a more feminist choice than Trump. She was also disappointed with Obamacare and seemed to want a new leader who would change it.

When Noker told her about Trump’s comments on the infamous tape with Billy Bush, she dismissed them as “probably taken out of context.” He also informed her of the many sexual assault allegations Trump faced. She dismissed them as well, saying it was suspicious that women were coming forward so many years after the purported incidents. Continue reading How Can Families Reunite After Trump’s Victory Split Them Apart?

6 Ways to NOT Let Your Family Stress You Out Over the Holidays

Gilmore Girls family fighting

Are you dreading the holidays? Chances are it’s because every year your family stresses you out when all you’re trying to do is take a break from the stress of work. It’s especially bad if seeing your family evokes painful memories and dredges issues you would rather save for a therapist.

To help you manage this stress, here are six tips for staying calm and dealing with the most challenging members of your family. They might reduce that holiday dread.

1. Set Boundaries

Sometimes family members upset us frequently to the point where we have a rough idea of how long it takes for them to stress us out. Do you know what your limit us? If so, make sure you can say goodbye to your family before approaching that limit. Tell them your time frame ahead of the reunion so they can manage their expectations. This will also help you avoid hurting their feelings.
If you don’t know what your limit is, try to be careful and figure it out for next time. For now air on the conservative side.

You can also set limits on what you’re going to do when you’re with family. If they have a holiday habit of goading or guilting you into something you hate, tell them ahead of time that you’re not going to put up with that. Continue reading 6 Ways to NOT Let Your Family Stress You Out Over the Holidays

8 Mental Health Challenges Single Moms Face

mom daughter smiling couch

Imagine you suddenly had sole responsibility for two children, earned around $26,000 a year, found your friends drifting away, and continually felt judged for your parenting, no matter how well you handled it.

Welcome to the life of a typical single mom.

As the founder of ESME.com (Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere), I’m astounded by the resilience and fortitude of single moms, who currently are raising 23 million children in the United States alone. The route women take to single motherhood varies, but parenting alone is physically and emotionally demanding. For some single moms, it can take a toll on their mental health. Continue reading 8 Mental Health Challenges Single Moms Face