I Took Care of People My Entire Life and Then I Broke

stressed out mom illustration

Ever since I was a little girl, I have been a caretaker. When I was five and our father left our family, I became my pregnant mother’s little helper, rubbing her feet and bringing her snacks and tea. I took care of my sister when my mother was busy working or tending house. And when my sister couldn’t sleep during those nights we’d stay at our dad’s house, I’d lie with her until she drifted off. Somehow, I was the one in our family that everyone relied upon — the responsible, wise, compassionate one.

I see now that this wasn’t the most appropriate role for me to take, since I was only a child, but it’s the role I seemed to naturally gravitate toward. And it’s a role I have found myself in throughout my adult life as well. I find myself drawn to needful people, and to professions that require care and compassion. I have always worked in caretaker industries: my jobs have included babysitter, preschool teacher, college instructor, soup kitchen volunteer, nursing home assistant, postpartum doula, breastfeeding counselor — and of course, mother to my two sons. Continue reading I Took Care of People My Entire Life and Then I Broke

Holidays and Mental Health: My Family After One Year of Trump

family arguing thanksgiving wine glasses

The majority of us acknowledge the world’s precarious state. In fact, according the APA, a survey of 3,440 Americans found that 63% feel the “future of the nation” is a very or somewhat significant stressor in their lives.

Election Night 2016 was an intense and polarizing event for the vast majority of Americans. Last year many people saw their holidays soured by the state of the world and their fears for the future. Others were frustrated with their families for not giving then President-elect Trump a fair chance to prove himself and provide for the country. Most were simply exhausted from the politics of the past couple years, hoping for a reprieve from the constant arguments.

The political climate rapidly tore my own family apart. My mom has always been pretty socially liberal and compassionate — and raised me accordingly. Social issue voters seemed to have a clear option: Hillary Clinton, who I support wholeheartedly to this day. My mom, however, voted for Trump. Continue reading Holidays and Mental Health: My Family After One Year of Trump

Can Childhood Traumas Cause Panic Disorder?

mother and father arguing sad daughter with teddy bear

I’ve had severe panic attacks on and off since I was 16 years old. Although I may never be able to pinpoint their exact cause, I’ve long suspected that some of the traumas I experienced as a child (divorce, abandonment, custody battles, and verbal abuse) contributed to my panic disorder.

Recently, though, my therapist mentioned something in passing that illuminated the whole phenomenon for me in an entirely different way. She said that when we hold our emotions inside, they tend to kind of morph into conditions like anxiety and panic.

A lightbulb went off in my brain then: I could picture myself, a young girl, witnessing and experiencing all sort of things that I now know were most certainly traumatic, and basically just standing there absorbing them all. I was always the “good girl,” whom everyone thought was so resilient despite all the difficult things that were unfolding. Continue reading Can Childhood Traumas Cause Panic Disorder?

4 Tips for Co-Parenting With a Narcissist

mom dad arguing on couch sad daughter on floor

Co-parenting is never easy, but co-parenting with a narcissist is a whole different ballgame. Narcissists are self-centered and incapable of putting anyone’s needs ahead of their own — including the needs of their own kids! Narcissists love chaos, drama, and control. Truly personality-disordered narcissists keep you off balance by forcing you to ride a roller coaster of abuse and seduction.

Here are four strategies that will help you build your strength and reduce stress:

1. Manage Your Expectations

A narcissist will not change, so it’s critical that you remember that the chaos and drama he creates is not about you. In the relationship, did he make you feel like you were walking on eggshells, always second-guessing, never good enough? Putting others off balance is a narcissist’s secret weapon, and he won’t give that up no matter what. Don’t expect him to step up, become empathetic, or give up his desire for emotional control. Managing your expectations will make things easier. Knowing that he won’t change establishes the groundwork for the next strategy. Continue reading 4 Tips for Co-Parenting With a Narcissist

The Emotional Impact Of Frequent Moves During Childhood

unhappy girl arms folded moving with parents

By the time I was 12 years old, I had moved 10 times — more if you count the separate moves my parents made after they split up. My parents were hippies (or beatniks, if you ask my mother), always up for an adventure, and always hoping that a change of place would fix their problems and make them happy.

In certain ways, I see the moves we made when I was a kid as part of a wild, interesting, beautiful ride. But mostly, I hated moving, and I think of the moves my family made as symptomatic of their impulsive, unstable behavior — and at least one of the triggers of my lifelong anxiety and panic disorder.

Melissa Moreno, LCSW-R, a Talkspace therapist, agrees that frequent childhood moves can contribute to anxiety for some children. “Frequent moves can bring up some uncomfortable feelings such as anxiety and impact one’s ability and desire to build and maintain relationships,” she told me. “Some individuals link frequent moves to lower life satisfaction and poorer psychological well-being.” Continue reading The Emotional Impact Of Frequent Moves During Childhood

Why We Don’t Talk About Miscarriage

teddy bear in empty child room

Miscarriage and stillbirth are emotionally intense and very unique forms of grief and trauma, ones that often occur in privacy and silence. For parents eagerly anticipating the arrival of a new family member, fetal death — whether it occurs early or late in pregnancy — can be devastating. The shroud of secrecy that hangs over these topics may make it challenging to talk about, but it’s critical to bring these conversations into the light.

I talked with two experts, Boston-based psychologist Aline Zoldbrod and Doctor Elizabeth Fitelson of Columbia University’s Department of Psychiatry, about the emotional and cultural issues surrounding miscarriage and stillbirth — and how to approach this very distinctive life experience. Continue reading Why We Don’t Talk About Miscarriage

How Therapy Helps You Recover from Childhood Trauma and Abuse

woman client therapist talking

If you experienced trauma or abuse during childhood, you might wonder if you should seek therapy. But maybe you are too busy to commute to appointments. You don’t even have any time to feel everything, much less talk about it.

Then there are the plethora of worries people sometimes have when they consider working with a therapist. You might think, “What if I end up feeling worse? What if the therapist thinks I don’t have any problems? Am I exaggerating my experiences?”

Then you start wondering why everyone else seems so happy, while your head swims with worries and you slog through each day. You are not alone, and there are ways to feel better. Continue reading How Therapy Helps You Recover from Childhood Trauma and Abuse

A Parent’s Guide to College Mental Health

Asian mom daughter holding college books near car

I remember the transition to college as one of the most emotionally challenging times of my life. I wanted all the freedom and intrigue I knew college could offer me, yet I still felt very much like a child. Suddenly being out on my own felt jarring.

I was not alone, according to Amanda Rausch, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). Rausch says the transition from home life to college life isn’t easy for most college kids. In fact, explains Rausch, the transition can be experienced like a series of losses for your college-bound child.

“They leave their home, regular schedule, high school relationships, and even pets they have grown up with…it is a lot to process!” Rausch also mentioned the huge decisions young people are responsible for during college. “They experience the adjustment of being on their own, figuring out finances, new classes, new people, new places and, oh yeah, the decision of what to study, which determines their career and the rest of their lives!” Continue reading A Parent’s Guide to College Mental Health

How To Survive Wedding Season Stress

bride planning wedding on tablet

Life transitions — regardless of whether they are happy or sad occasions—are inherently stressful. And yet, they are something we all go through at one time or another, whether it’s a job change, a break-up, a big move, or the birth or death of a loved one. Watching others go through these transitions can be stressful as well, especially if they trigger our own difficult memories or feelings.

While wedding season can be a time of fun and merriment, it can unearth all sorts of mixed emotions. Weddings are a major life event jam-packed with feelings of fear and high expectations — expectations that can be easily crushed.

If we are the ones getting married, we will likely have our own deeply personal set of fears about this transition: Will life ever be the same as it once was? What if our feelings change? Will our marriage last? These questions are natural, but extremely stressful nonetheless. Continue reading How To Survive Wedding Season Stress

Parents, Your Mental Health Is Everything. Don’t Neglect It.

mom stressed baby crying desk

In my 20’s, I diligently tended to my mental health. I went to therapy weekly, exercised daily, and journaled all my thoughts and feelings. This all did wonders to help me manage my anxiety and panic disorder.

Then, at 28, I had a baby, and to say that things began to slide in terms of my mental health care routine would be a huge understatement.

I think it’s natural and necessary for parents to push their needs aside when they have children. At first, I found motherhood all consuming, the power of the love for my child like nothing I had ever experienced before. That feeling that you would literally lay your life down for your child is real and not an exaggeration for most of us parents.

And beyond those primal feelings of love and protection, parenthood is a 24 hour job, the needs of our children — especially when they are young — endless and unrelenting. And with parents stretched so thin in terms of finances, childcare, and general support, it is understandable that so many of us end up putting our needs at the very bottom of the list. Continue reading Parents, Your Mental Health Is Everything. Don’t Neglect It.