mental health

You Never Hear About Parenting Teens

You always hear about how hard it is having a baby. The sleepless nights, the diaper blowouts, getting peed on, the tears and exhaustion. Everything is all worth when you get that first smile, all the snuggles, and to see the milestones of the tiny human that you created.

You hear about the terrible two’s and the temper tantrums, but you hold your breath until the phase passes. After that, it’s awards and concerts at school, accomplishments, performances, and smiling photographs plastered all over social media.

We just assume from there that everything is going well and that those kids were raised to be happy, healthy adults. The reality is that they stop sharing the details of their parenting. Everyone Likes to appear together on social media so we post our sweet memories and precious times for all to see, hiding the low times. We ask for advice on the best diaper bag but everything else is hidden. No one shares their stress and exhaustion; that’s private.

Nobody discusses parenting teenagers. It’s much harder than having a baby. It’s more difficult than the terrible two’s. It’s going to be the hardest of all. This is when depression, hormones, drug and alcohol curiosity, testing boundaries, wanting more independence, sex, attitudes and disrespect enter the picture.

No one tells you what to do when your baby grows up and tries to sneak out of the house or tells you to shut up. No one talks about those sleepless nights and the newfound anxious feeling that has taken a permanent residence in the pit of your belly.

No one talks about how to get your teenager through their first broken heart or depression from being bullied at school. This is when holding your child in your arms doesn’t make everything okay anymore. This is when you feel utterly helpless and lost, hoping that one day they can see how perfect and beautiful they are; just like the way you see them.

We just hope and pray that our children turn out okay and that they are happy. We hope they are successful and that we did a good job despite feeling like we are crumbling some days.

I can only hope that we discuss the difficulties of parenting more often and make the topic an open subject for others. Therapy is always a great option for your teen or for you, maybe even for the family. It doesn’t always mean that things are bad; it’s a tool to make everyone stronger.

It’s important to break the silence so that others aren’t blindsided when their perfect baby is suddenly a depressed teenager. Teenagers and mental health need to be a topic of discussion. Parents also need emotional support and advice but many are too afraid to reach out or share this side of their life. They are lost and don’t know what to do, because none of this shit is on Pinterest.

Resources:

http://www.taylor4teens.org/

Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255

Health

Have The Conversation

“In my time of dying want nobody to mourn. All I want for you is to take my body home.

Well, well, well, so I can die easy

Well, well, well, so I can die easy”

-Led Zeppelin

 

Nobody wants to interrupt the family dinner to simply state, “I want to be cremated.” When someone does mention the grueling details of where they are purchasing their pre-paid plot, it gets dismissed as if it will never happen.

“Stop that. I don’t want to talk about that.”

However, this is an important conversation to have. Death is very much a part of life. We discuss the details of our wedding, birthday parties and even what we had for lunch. This important detail gets swept under the rug. We all feel immortal and invincible. Perhaps you have thought about your plans but decided to discuss it later.

Sometimes, later comes sooner than you think. You will not be there to discuss the details. Maybe it was too late and that life insurance policy that you put aside on your desk just simply collected dust. Your loved ones have to put their grieving aside and the pain and sadness of your loss to focus more on worrying about the sudden decisions they must make, and the hefty fee that comes along with it.

Cremations start at the very minimum of $700 and that doesn’t even include transportation of the body or the box the ashes with go in, nor does it include a service. According to Lincoln Heritage Funeral Advantage, the average funeral costs between $7,000-$12,000.

Not leaving a will or sharing your last wishes can strain a family. I have even heard of people you would least expect having to go to court over assets. Could you imagine your loved ones stressing about what to do or fighting over who gets what? Death isn’t this sad cinematic moment where the loved ones scatter ashes over a  mountain’s edge while wiping away a tear as they smile about the fond memories of you. Though, it can be… if you just take the time to talk to your family about your final wishes. Purchase a life insurance policy so that your wife and children don’t lose their home, or write up a will for your loved ones to know what to do. Maybe you don’t have assets but even purchasing your cremation or plot can help make one less thing to worry about while your family mourns your loss.

Whether you are 28 or 63, death doesn’t discriminate. Always be prepared, for your loved one’s sake. You may not be here to worry about the final details but everyone else is.

Health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

What “I’m Tired” Really Means

When someone with a chronic illness says they are tired, it is not the equivalent to when you work a long day type of tired. It’s not the same as you not getting enough sleep last night type of tired.

Fatigue for someone who is chronically ill is much different than being just tired. It is the utmost pure form of exhaustion. It is as if your body and your mind are separated. The mere thought of lifting your limbs to get out of bed sounds like the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest. Every cell in your body aches. Blood slowly moves through your veins; it’s as if there is not enough air to fill your lungs.

Unlike you, taking a nap or getting a good nights rest is not going to relieve anything. There’s no amount of self-care in the world that can touch this feeling. Imagine when you wake up and your body aches and you’re so tired, dizzy, and exhausted and realize that you have the flu. The good news is that in a week or two you will be all better and back to your normal self. For somebody who is chronically ill, those two weeks last forever. Those two weeks never end. You’ll never wake up feeling better.

mental health

The 8 Stages Psychosocial Development

*This is an essay I wrote for my Human Adjustment class. 

Abstract

Erik Erikson is a German-American developmental psychologist who developed the theory of the eight stages of psychosocial development. His theories highlight the importance of social relationships rather than Freud’s theory of sexual influence. This paper focuses on the final stage, integrity vs. despair. When a person enters this stage, they will decide if their life has the sensation of satisfaction or failure. It will depend on how each psychosocial crisis from each stage has been resolved and whether or not the person feels they had a meaningful life.

 

Integrity vs. Despair: The Eighth Stage of Erikson’s Psychosocial Development

 

Erik Erikson, born in 1902, was a psychologist and psychoanalyst specializing in developmental psychology and personality development. Erikson is well known for his Psychosocial Development and for coming up with the phrase and meaning of identity crisis. He was born in Germany but later became an American citizen. Erikson died at the age of 91 in Massachusetts. Sigmund Freud and Ruth Benedict heavily influenced Erikson’s theories. Erikson trained under the supervision of Sigmund Freud’s daughter, Anna Freud. He later won a Pulitzer Prize in 1970 for his book Gandhi’s Truth.

Erikson’s mother gave birth to him out of wedlock and fled; therefore, his biological father’s identity was never known. Though his stepfather raised him, it was kept a secret that Erik was not his biological son until late childhood. This gave him the feeling of being deceived and thus began the development of his quest to discover the meaning of and search for identity, the nucleus of his body of work. The last name Erikson is actually a last name Erik created and changed to, from his stepfather’s last name of Homburger. Erikson’s lifelong feeling of deceit and search for his own identity did not carry on to influence his own behavior with his children. His forth son, Neil, was institutionalized because he had Down syndrome; Erikson deceitfully told his children that he had died at birth (Nevid 48).

Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development is a theory of eight stages in which people pass through as they go through life. Each stage presents a challenge, leaving them with one of two outcomes, or a blend of both. Erikson believed that adolescence seek ego identity, unlike Freud’s theory, where the focus is more on sexuality rather than identity and who people see themselves as. Erikson also added stages beyond adolescence and into late adulthood.  If a person passes through each stage with a positive outcome, they will have healthy progression through life.

This paper will focus on Erikson’s final stage of psychosocial development, ego integrity vs. despair. Integrity vs. despair is the 8th stage of Erikson’s theory, which is experienced at the age of 65 and older. With each stage, a virtue is developed; for this final stage that virtue is wisdom. Wisdom is a sense of closure that helps with the acceptance of the inevitable end of life. Ego integrity develops when a person sees their life as accomplished and successful. Despair is developed when the person feels dissatisfied with their life, guilt, or unaccomplished. Despair leads to the feeling of hopelessness and depression (McLeod 2018).

Late adulthood begins at the age of 65. Life expectancy for women is the age of 81, and 76 for men, and continues to rise (2012). Physically, males’ testosterone levels lower as they age and for women, progesterone and estrogen decrease. Women have menopause and men have andropause. Decreased energy, lower bone density and muscle mass, cognitive impairment, low libido, and depression are common symptoms for men and women over the age of 60 (RUSH 2018). The endocrine system produces hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism, sexual function and mood. These levels decrease as we age. Life satisfactions tend to increase and then declines after the age of 65 (Nevid 468). According to WebMD, depression is common in late adulthood and can be harder to spot due to the way it presents itself. Depression is often overlooked in seniors because the symptoms are usually the same as general aging.

Cognitive change is part of aging and the brain can be affected in normal everyday tasks such as reasoning and memory. The number of Americans over the age of 65 is at an all time high (NIH). It is important for healthcare providers and loved ones to understand the cognitive changes as individuals age, and to differentiate between behaviors and impairments such as dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death; it is an irreversible brain disease resulting in the death of the brain cells, causing gradual deterioration in the mental processes (Nevid 464). Social changes in seniors may vary based on the outcome of their crises and their cognitive state.

The stage of ego integrity versus despair comes at a very tough time in life. Facing the approach of death or dealing with more and more health issues can be a challenge in itself. At this stage, one may question if their life had meaning. As a person moves through the stages of life, the previous stages and crises may influence how they choose their outcome. For example, the previous stage of generativity versus stagnation takes place during the ages of 40 to 65 years old. Generativity produces feelings of usefulness and accomplishment, such as volunteering, contributing to society or being involved in the community (McLeod 2018). In Generativitiy outcome leads to the sense of finding your life’s work and meaning. Failing to contribute produces the feeling of stagnation, or being stagnant in life with no motivation. The person may feel disconnected or uninvolved at this stage in life. As the person enters ego identity vs. despair, the conclusion of the prior stage can play a large role. If the person was feeling stagnation, it is likely they will feel despair in their final stage.

This final stage focuses on the person’s reflection of his or her own life. A person who lives in a state of despair will feel like they have failed themselves, did not accomplish their goals in life, and may feel as if their life was wasted. People in this stage will likely appear grumpy, miserable, bitter and angry, as they feel hopeless without any answers. In contrast, at the end of life, when a person accomplishes ego integrity, they will likely accept their death and feel proud and accomplished. The person will contemplate whether or not they had a successful and fulfilling life. Wisdom is accomplished when successfully balancing the two stages and ending with a sense of closure (McLeod, 2018).

The good news is that nothing is set in stone. Each person can continue to search for his or her ego identity, to find peace and closure from previous stages, by resolving the crises at a later time. If an individual is 65 or older and feels guilt and regret, making peace with their past and working through their feelings may help accomplish a positive outcome. Volunteering is an example of a healthy way to find a sense of satisfaction during this existential crisis. Erikson’s theory is meant to be a ‘tool to think with rather than a factual analysis,’ and provides a foundation to allow the consideration in which social stage of development a person is in throughout their lifespan.

 

References:

 

McLeod, Saul. Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development. Simply Psychology, 2018https://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html

Nevid, Jeffrey S., and Spencer A. Rathus. Psychology and the Challenges of Life: Adjustment and Growth. Wiley, 2016

 Hormones as You Age. RUSH, 2018.http://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/hormones-you-age

Harada, Caroline N., et al. Normal Cognative Aging. Clinics in Geriatric Medicine, 2014. http//:www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4015335/

 

Previous Blog Post: Drunk Dad also covers Erikson’s theory in a more personal way.

 

 

mental health

Bars, Friends, and Mental Health

My story and opinion may be different from the experiences of others, but it’s my story.

Friendship isn’t tapping your glasses together in a smokey bar. It isn’t a love that revolves around a bottle of booze. Relationships are deeper than a pint glass. It took me most, if not all, of my 20s to figure that out.

I found that when I removed alcohol from the equation, many friendships crumbled. There were no phone calls asking how I have been. No one checked up on me to see what was new in my life. I didn’t see any of those people anymore. Many people whom I considered friends were nothing more than strangers sharing blurry stories that would be forgotten the next morning. The only time spent together outside of drinking was to fill in the gaps while keeping a consistent flow of having reliable drinking buddies.

When the bar scene was ditched, gone were the calls, texts, visits and hangouts. Even after countless times of trying to establish friendship outside of bars, I was consistently stood up. No one wanted to get up early; they were nursing a hangover. No one wanted to go see a movie, there was a party going on somewhere. The “friends” only came out at night. I soon realized who my real friends were, and they weren’t at the bar.

Depression was something I ignored for a very long time. I never acknowledged it. I never considered that I had this huge dark cloud weighing me down, drowning me at times. I was barely hanging on and sometimes I even wondered, “what is the point?” I masked it all behind being social and pretending to be okay. My smile and laugh mimicked a good time, light and love. In reality, I was trying to forget the pain and trauma by floating in an alternate reality of being buzzed and numb with all my fake friends.

As the morning came and I faced myself in the mirror, I felt even more alone. I felt more lost and buried deeper into my state of depression. The wounds grew and I never ever asked for help. I had no intentions on asking for help. No one usually does.

I am fortunate to live to tell the story about how and why I stopped drinking. I hated me. I hated the choices I made and the way my body was starting to look. I hated how I felt the next day. I hated the regret and embarrassment. I hated the emptiness. So that was it: I chose that day to stop creating memories in a bar and to change the environment that I put myself in. I focused on the people who mattered and the ones who cared, even when I couldn’t see it at the time. The people I thought were my friends continue to live the same night every night, in the same bars with the same stories. I was out of sight and out of mind, replaced by another seat-warmer.

If you worry about someone’s mental health, ask them to meet you somewhere else. Check on them outside of social events. Hang out with them before the sun goes down. Misery loves company. Are you just with company or do you really care? Will you still be around if they trade the bar scene for their living room? If your friends are depressed, get them out of the bar.

If you worry about your own mental health, please evaluate your friendships and where you are hanging out. Ask for help because it’s likely that no one can see your pain behind the masks. Change your surroundings and change your scene, because it’s all going to be the same years from now. No one there wants to pour into your soul, they just want to pour you another glass.

At the end of the day, no one can help us. There are no magic words or healing advice that can save another. It’s up to you to spark a change in your own life. It’s up to you to seek help. No one can force you to get help. I still struggle but I make my mental health a priority and cut the toxic elements out of my life.

Suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Health

Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying condition in which you hear ringing in the ears.

Silence for me is not silence at all. Silence means more noise. The ringing, it’s like a symphony of tones all at once. The infinite pitches echo forever. Everything is louder when it’s quite. Sometimes the ringing is so loud that it feels like my skull is vibrating. I also hear the blood rushing through my veins. Whoosh. Whoosh. My brain feels as though it throbs with each heartbeat at times. The sounds keep me up at night. High tones, low tones… all at once, in the darkness.

Once I begin to drift to sleep, I am jolted by a skipped heart beat or wake up to the fact that I am clenching my jaw (unintentionally from chronic pain), or because I will soon have to get up to pee for the 10th time.

The clock reminds me how much I am failing at getting a good nights rest. Buzzing, whooshing, ringing, thumping: the chaos that no one else can hear but me.

Health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

Dysautonomia International Education Day

Dysautonomia International Education Day in Clearwater, Florida 11/09/2019


The Education Day in Clearwater was great. I definitely would love to host a local (Brevard County) get together soon. I would love to have more time to talk and get to know the other warriors. Here was my quick take on everything:

It was pretty cool to hear that 30 different universities are currently studying dysautonomia. Lauren Stiles said the push for research funding comes from us patients wanting answers. It is assumed that 1-3 million people have POTS. Dr. Laura Pace (neuro gastric MD) says “we need to treat the cause, not the symptom.” Amen! She also had an amazing point that some of us (especially with Mast Cell) can develop eating disorders as a protective mechanism from symptoms. She had a case of a young girl that was diagnosed with anxiety and eating disorder but after Pace’s testing, she actually had severe gastroparesis and POTS. She is a huge advocate for the Smart Pill.

Dr. Raj was awesome! He was very funny and witty. He had pointed out that many patients do better on low dose beta blockers vs. the typical higher doses that are prescribed. I completely agree as my doctor originally had me on a very high dose, which bottomed out my bp and made my heart even more tachy. I do much better with low dose. Dr. Raj also briefs The Faces of POTS journal (2019, B.H. Shaw, L.E. Stiles, et al.) and points out that 89% of patients missed school, 28% were homeschooled, and 25% dropped out of school as a result of their POTS (B.H. Shaw). Dr. Raj recommends exercise tips, suggesting every other day or 4x per week for 30 minutes. He suggests if you are done and quit in 13 minutes then you need to go slower, pacing yourself. He does not suggest upright exercises. Behavioral therapy is also important in dealing with chronic illness; Dr. Raj states, “ultimately people have different strategies for learning to cope.” Yoga, therapy, SSRIs, mindfulness etc. are different options in coping (2019, Dr. Raj).

Dr. Laurence Kinsella (neuro) had great recommendations for CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) to help with coping. I also love that he mentioned “symptom snowball” which makes diagnosis tricky because of the long list of symptoms that we have. He discusses the longterm effect of meds used for migraine treatment and suggests Migreleif as a holistic approach, along with an elimination diet. He also suggested a free course to help with sleep management: free mindfulness course.

It is great to have a community driven for change, giving answers to the patients and education to health care providers. Dysautonomia International is not only raising awareness and providing education, but they are advancing medicine in a grey area that leaves millions in the dark. They are shedding light and discovering much needed answers, with much more to come.

Print Outs:

10 Facts About POTS

What is Dysautonomia?

10 Facts About Dysautonomia

Health, mental health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

I am not strong

I am not strong.

I am not this tough, battling warrior that some may see me as. I am scared. I am depressed. I am angry. The cards I have been dealt leave me no choice but to try to roll with the punches. I may do so gracefully on the outside, but on the inside I often find myself questioning, “why?” as I carry around the grief of living with a chronic illness.

Every day I wake up in pain and discomfort. Some days it is just my normal everyday life and I accept and move on. I get up and start my day, tucking the pain away. I ignore my reality of a failing heart and the dozens of risks that hang over my head. I sweep under the rug all of my nervousness and worries and I focus on what is good in my life. People think that may be admirable but really, it isn’t healthy. Also, what other option do I have?

We are always told to focus on the positive, while ignoring the dark and negative aspects of life that exist for all. For me, the only way out is through. Acknowledging and dealing with the darkness is healing. Society teaches us to suppress ourselves and our feelings, which leaves us depressed, hiding behind a smile. We are pressured to be put together and strong no matter the circumstances.

Other days, when I wake up, I can’t tuck away the pain. I can’t pretend that I don’t have this horrible genetic condition that eats away at me, that I forever have to live with. I look in the mirror, before my exhaustion is covered up with makeup, and I see how how hurt and tired I really am. I see how sick I look. I begin to hide it, first with my morning meds and then with makeup. I cover it all up.

You wonder how I am so busy? I have to be. I have to keep myself so distracted because the moment I sit down and stop moving, I feel it all: mentally and physically. When my mind has no distractions, I cannot help but feel the storm come. I think about, “what if I die?” and “I am so sick and tired of being sick and tired.” It’s not fair. My mind will go into dark places. And I just have to tuck it away. I have to “be strong” because that is what everyone wants to see, right? No one wants to see someone complain or pity themselves.

I don’t give up because I fight for my kids. I fight for my husband and my family. I fight for others that may one day be in my shoes. I fight for advocacy and healthcare equality.

I still have someone in my life who haunts me, tells me how much of a burden I am. “You always have something wrong with you. I can’t keep up with all your surgeries. What, am I supposed to carry around a calendar?,” he screams over the phone just 5 minutes before surgery, due to a delay and miscommunication in last minute changes (with the schedule with our child). Sometimes I let the past (and ongoing) emotional abuse of this ex get to me. I find myself questioning how much of a burden I am to others. This is often a question the chronically ill deal with. There is always someone without empathy that has a heartless opinion about you and your health.

Then, you have those “healers” who have the cure for you. “Try this holistic approach if you want to cure yourself and be free of illness and magically live healthy forever.” Apparently these people don’t know that I already eat a strict, clean diet without preservatives, dyes, additives, artificial ingredients. I am a certified herbalist. I don’t drink alcohol or caffeine. I take herbs and supplements. I am very knowledgeable on natural remedies, which I use for most ailments. What people don’t understand is that their basic education does not cover a vast amount of information on the human body. Sure, you can change your lifestyle, diet, and start supplements to reverse or mend many issues. But at the end of the day, it is not going to fix my heart and it isn’t a one size fits all answer. My heart is anatomically unable to be altered by herbs. This isn’t a lifestyle thing, stress or cholesterol induced issue. PLEASE FUCKING STOP sending your unsolicited “cures” to me and others. It is absolutely horrifically disrespectful and insulting.

——

It’s currently noon. My neck is stiff and I have yet to brush my hair or teeth. I glare at my heart meds on the dresser that I still need to take. My back is in pain, spasming and out of place. I am dizzy and know that my heart rate will shoot up and my blood pressure will drop as soon as I get up. Nausea and headache to follow, as I hold onto something to keep from falling. But, I will put myself together. I will suck up the pain, anger, frustration, sadness and make myself look strong with a pretty dress and red lipstick.

But I am not strong.

This is just my life.