I will never forget the fertility struggles my husband and I faced as we attempted to conceive our first child. We were both young and healthy. I had regular menstrual cycles, no reproductive issues (that I knew about), and always assumed that getting pregnant would happen instantly. Each month we tried to get pregnant, I was shocked that the little plus sign on the pregnancy test never appeared – not even once.
But my shock turned to despair when – after 18 months of trying and a million, sometimes very invasive fertility tests – we were told that my husband had a low sperm count. The first doctor we saw told us that his count was so low that our only hope of conceiving would be to use IVF, which we could not afford. I remember lying in bed, looking at the ceiling, feeling a level of hopelessness in my bones that I had never experienced before. Continue reading How Fertility Issues Impact Mental Health
Fathers are one of the biggest influences in our lives. Whether you are close to your father or have a distant (or non-existent) relationship with him, the role of a father in one’s life is hard to capture succinctly. As we approach Father’s Day, here are some ideas that I wish my father had told me about men and mental health. Continue reading What I Wish My Father Had Told Me (About Mental Health)
This morning, I was woken up at 5:13 am by my six-year-old, who desperately needed a drink of water — and who apparently needed to whine at the top of his lungs to tell me so. This would not have been such a big deal had I not been up half the night with a bad head cold…the same cold my son had kept me up all night with two days prior.
Needless to say, I spent the morning with a pounding headache, a full day’s work ahead of me that I couldn’t put off, and a good deal of resentment.
This small snapshot of my life is not unusual. As a working mother of two, there is always a lot on my plate. It seems as though someone is always sick, in need of food or drink, or emotional support. And because they are my children and I love them to the moon and back, I find myself putting my children’s needs about ten miles ahead of my own. Continue reading Why Parenting is the Biggest Challenge to Maintaining My Mental Health
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.
Continue reading Asking “Are You Having Kids?” Can Damage a Person’s Mental Health, Here’s Why…
“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.
Continue reading The Mental Health Costs of Infertility
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 my sons were little, I would tell them, “You are my left arm and you are my right arm.” Then with one on each side of me, either walking holding hands or snuggling on the couch, I felt whole. Now, as I literally face an empty nest — as I right now stare at the walls and empty chairs of a nearly empty house — I’m enraged at how quaint and inadequate the term is. Empty Nest. It’s more like no arms syndrome. It’s as if the two things that kept me afloat and alive in this cold world are gone. It’s a deep, physical loss. I feel broken, not whole.
When I was thirty-five I thought, this would be the time to have a third child. My sons were seven and five. We were out to dinner, a favorite restaurant, and I looked at my oldest boy, a very precocious, verbal and sensitive child, who I had somewhat of an intense relationship with: we are very alike. I asked him, “If I had another child, I’d pay less attention to you and that might be a good thing, right?” He looked straight into my eyes and gently answered, “You don’t pay too much attention to me. I like how much attention you pay to me.” And that was that. Two sons. My left arm and right arm. I didn’t need a third arm. Continue reading The Grief of an Empty Nest: No Arms Syndrome
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
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
Getting out of an abusive relationship is one of the most difficult obstacles single moms can face. Summoning the courage and tenacity to walk away when they have no clue what the future will hold takes gall and serious faith.
Fortunately, there is hope on the other side. Leaving an abusive relationship is only the beginning. Here are five ways to begin the journey of healing to help you not only survive, but thrive.
1.Talk to Someone
Get professional help. Sharing your story is one of the most crucial ways to heal productively after surviving relationship violence. Although the hurt and shame of it may continue to feel like a dark cloud over your head, one way to lessen the pain is to regain control and own your own story.
Sharing with close friends and family members is a start, but going to a licensed professional is much better. A psychotherapist trained in relationship trauma is prepared to offer a safe space as well as an objective disposition. His or her job is to guide people through pain while they are on the road to becoming their whole, healed selves. It is powerful to work with someone whose primary duty is to listen and help dissect the truth. Communicating with a person capable of supporting you in the journey of healing while sharing tools of empowerment can make a world of difference. Continue reading How Can Single Moms Heal After Domestic Violence?