I was raised by a strong, imperfect, funny, loving, idiosyncratic, amazing single mom. I don’t think I realized how incredible she was until I became a mother myself and experienced first-hand just how intense and challenging it is to raise children — and I was doing it with a highly involved partner. I have no idea how my mother did it alone.
This post is part of our #TherapyHelpedMe series for Mental Health Awareness Month. Talkspace shares stories of how therapy helps people of all backgrounds work through the daily challenges of modern life.
My therapist sits next to me on the couch, my eyes red rimmed. We’re both staring at the phone face up in my palm, my right index finger hovering over the call button. I’ve already protested about making this phone call, but my therapist insists. I look at her one more time and then hit the call button. My mom’s phone starts ringing.
Fifteen years earlier, this was the scene…
Almost everyone has experienced family drama at one time or another. For some people, there is sibling rivalry that continues into adulthood. For others, it is a dramatic parent who expresses their disapproval in very obvious ways. Nobody feels good about family conflict, but, in some families, it is bearable and fairly infrequent. However, in other families, drama becomes a constant source of unhappiness and even toxicity.
Ever been on the receiving end of the following conversations?
It’s Mother’s Day brunch, Thanksgiving, or the Fourth of July picnic, and a well-meaning person sidles up to ask, “When are you having kids?”
Or worse yet, you’re at a networking event and an acquaintance asks the same. As if inquiring about personal reproductive issues is appropriate small talk, let alone in a professional environment where choices about children are complicated (for women especially).
Discussion about having children is a charged issue that has no place in unsolicited conversation. Not only that, whether they’re child-free by choice, haven’t made up their mind yet, or have experienced heartbreaking issues while trying to have children, asking a person or couple if they’re having kids can be damaging to their mental health.
“I’m sorry to say that your test results were negative.”
Moments before the answer, I knew the nurse was about to deliver another bout of crushing news. The tone in her voice and subtle hesitation quietly revealed that despite our best efforts with a superovulation cycle, I was still not pregnant.
After the call, I brushed a stray tear aside and went back to my desk to finish the work day, only to release buckets of emotion the moment I slid into the driver’s seat of my SUV to head home.
There is a time in many healthy families where a child grows into adult and their relationship with their parents transforms into a more friendly, equal, relaxed relationship. However, this doesn’t happen for everyone. There are certain people who need to come to terms with the fact that their parents will never be able to be their friends, or to interact with them in a friendly, casual way. Some reasons for this include:
- Differences in values, e.g. different religions or political views, which preclude one or both parties from being able to get along as friends.
- Parents who have personality disorders and are mean to their children; this includes parents with narcissism or Borderline Personality Disorder.
- Children who have experienced emotional, verbal, or physical abuse by their parent have severed or severely reduced contact.
- Parents who dislike a child’s partner enough to not want to see the child/couple or who make comments that are hard to ignore.
- Parents who come from a culture or ethnicity where it is not acceptable for children and parents to ever interact in a more casual, peer-like way.
Often when we talk about the holidays, we tend to focus on the stressors and challenges of this time of year. Nonetheless, the holiday season isn’t all bad, and there are certainly some powerful positive benefits for our mental health this time of year.
It Gives Us Some Much Needed Downtime
For most of us, the holiday season is a period of high stress and represents a strong departure from our regular routines. This disruption can be challenging to manage. On the other hand, it is also a period in which we experience a much-needed escape from our regular obligations and responsibilities. Continue reading The Mental Health Benefits of the Holidays
The holidays can herald challenges for everyone: awkward family issues, travel stress, gift expenses, religious conflicts. Those with mental illnesses might encounter triggers for various symptoms and issues. Addiction is no exception and can be especially burdensome.
During a time of excess and indulgence, it takes even more self-control for people in recovery to abstain from substances. Friends and family members might offer them a drink or invite them to smoke. There is a higher frequency of ads for alcohol. It seems the entire world is consuming without a care, yet those in recovery need to be more cautious than at any other time of year. Continue reading Why the Holidays Are Difficult for People With Addictions
Giving birth can be one of the biggest events in a person’s life, and it’s a loaded experience. Everyone has expectations about what a “good birth” looks like, but birth doesn’t always go as planned. For some parents feelings of disappointment, fear, or stress about the events surrounding the birth of a beloved child can transition into something more serious: birth trauma, also known as perinatal PTSD. This condition is a lot more common than you might think.
Our expanding understanding of psychological trauma has highlighted the fact that PTSD is an issue much broader than the emotional aftermath of experiencing combat. Any intense traumatic experience can have psychological ramifications, whether someone has a history of mental health conditions or not, and no matter how well-prepared someone might be. Birth, accompanied with intense physical and emotional experiences, is no exception. But the myths surrounding pregnancy and childbirth can make people uncomfortable when it comes to speaking out, or uncertain about whether what they’re experiencing is normal. Continue reading Birth Trauma — Perinatal PTSD — Isn’t Unusual, and You’re Not Alone
When I was growing up, my family and I made an annual trip to Tampa, Florida to spend the winter holiday with my mom’s relatives, the Lebanese half of my racial identity. We always stayed at my Teta and Jido’s house (grandma and grandpa in Arabic). There was a consistent source of drama, stress, and hurt during these visits: my Teta. My mother dreaded Christmas because she associated the day with Teta driving her crazy, twisting every errand and conversation into a test of emotional stamina.
For many years I was too young to understand exactly why my grandmother was such a toxic person. Her and my Jido fought nightly, and I could hear them yelling through the walls in Arabic or French. I couldn’t fathom why their relationship was so strained, though. Because she was clearly unhappy, I felt sympathy for her. I didn’t have enough context to place blame. Continue reading How to Deal With a Family Member’s Mental Illness During the Holidays