Asking “Are You Having Kids?” Can Damage a Person’s Mental Health, Here’s Why…

Woman holding man's arm in the forest

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…

The Mental Health Costs of Infertility

Empty baby crib in soft light

“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

Birth Trauma — Perinatal PTSD — Isn’t Unusual, and You’re Not Alone

woman giving birth doctor and nurse treating her

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

The Grief of an Empty Nest: No Arms Syndrome

woman alone on swing sunset in background

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

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 Can Single Moms Heal After Domestic Violence?

mother with son drawing

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?

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

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.

Online Therapy is a Godsend For Busy Parents

mom smartphone daughter drawing

Parenthood can be difficult whatever your life circumstances are, but these days, parents seem more over-extended than ever, and stressed to their maximum capacities.

As a result, mental health issues among parents are common. We know that about 1 in 7 mothers are at risk of postpartum depression (and that a growing number of fathers are as well). If untreated, PPD can last for months, or even years. But even beyond the earliest phase of parenthood, mental health disorders abound. Many parents I know battle loneliness, depression, anxiety, and off-the-charts stress and exhaustion.

Very few, however, seek help for these problems.

For most parents, the idea of going to a therapy session for treatment of something like anxiety or depression feels like an impossibility. I know it did for me, for many years. A lifelong anxiety sufferer, I’d been in therapy for 10 years before I became a parent. My anxiety was relatively under control, and when I experienced a brief bout of postpartum anxiety when my first child was born, I brushed it off, thinking it was the usual “just me being anxious.” Continue reading Online Therapy is a Godsend For Busy Parents