Archive for June, 2009

PMDD – Hard To Endure Harder To Explain

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

PMDD Hard to Exolain To Others

A comment on one of my previous posts (PMDD) has prompted me to write a whole post on the topic.  This woman’s comment was about how she wished she could better explain PMDD to her husband and family without feeling ashamed.  She also described many difficult symptoms eating up her life two weeks out of every month.  PMDD is finally getting some notice in the broad American culture, but it is still a mystery to many.

Even though PMDD and PMS aren’t the same thing, they are kind of like cousins.  It sometimes makes it easier for me to explain it as really really bad PMS.  But that’s inaccurate, and the comparison gives shades of something not well respected.

PMS has often gotten a bad rap over the years.  It conjures up visions of highly emotional irrational women, screaming and crying for days before her period.  Like saying a woman has PMS that day is a blanket excuse for all kinds of ridiculous behavior.  Not saying there isn’t some basis of truth there (highly emotional, sometimes irrational), but it’s been scoffed at and belittled so much it gets very little real respect.

So bring in PMDD, a true mental health disorder that rides piggy-back on a woman’s hormonal cycles.  The crashes are devistating, the return to normalcy is suspicious and all-too-short.  It’s like a roller coaster that doesn’t let you off.  Once you can see that the ups and downs are inevitable, the despair and anxiety set in.  What will I be like when my in-laws come over next week?  Will I still be OK, or will that be the first day I start going down the drain?  I finally feel better now, but just look at my wreck of a house!

It is embarassing and bewildering and depressing, just knowing this thing is going on and you don’t know how to turn it off.  My husband still doesn’t quite understand what all that was about, but I suspect many men don’t quite understand the undertow of hormonal emotion.

Just about the worst thing …

Post Surgery Thoughts On Depression and Worry

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Depression and Worries After Surgery

Things are going well after my daughter’s surgery.  She had a bone graft from her hip to her mouth to fully repair a cleft palate.  There are two surgery sites to watch out for and some rigorous care instructions and restrictions.  I’m so very glad to be over the hump, but the long haul of aftercare is here.

Lord, help me if we have to go through all this again.  My daughter, our family, and I know that if the post-surgery care isn’t followed to the letter, she could risk injuring the mouth surgery site or getting an infection.  Both of those things increase the chance that the surgery doesn’t take.  I’m certain there are parents who do everything right only to find that the surgery still didn’t take.  But I don’t want to know that I got lax on something that put her at risk.

It’s making me really protective of her and extra conservative about what she’s allowed to do.  I mean, parents are like that and I know I’m not unique in that sense.  But this isn’t just a bump on the head I’m trying to avoid.  I feel like there is so much at stake here, so much potential time and suffering on the line.  Even as I’m writing this I’m discovering that I have a lot of potential for guilt here if something goes wrong.  I”m her primary care person and I feel like the success of this surgery is on my shoulders.  And maybe, some of my motivation for being so conservative with her stems from trying to prevent the guilt.

What if I did let her cheat and walk on her own too soon?  What if I gave her something that wasn’t soft and liquidy enough?  What if I had a sitter here and my daughter fell or got really frustrated?  what if a stray ball did come close to hitting her in the face at recess when she’s still on restriction and I had said it was OK to stand outside?  These thoughts …

More Help Working with Sensitive Children

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Photo by A Girl Next Door on Flickr

Yesterday, you read about a few ways to effectively parent or work with a sensitive child.  Sensitive children are easily overwhelmed by new things in their environment and various sensations.  Your key job is to support and coach them through their adjustment so they can enjoy their daily life.  Here are two more important points to consider in this process.

Using Limits and Boundaries

Using limits is likely to make a sensitive child upset at times.  They are highly focused on their comfort level and their emotions.  When they become upset, the thing they want most is to feel more comfortable.  When you use limits and boundaries, you will need to separate yourself from them at some point.  This might be to stop an unacceptable behavior or as part of encouragement to join the new environment.

It can be so tempting to soothe and protect a sensitive child from everything that makes them upset.  Unfortunately, this makes the child vulnerable to being easily overwhelmed with no action plan for coping.  Use acceptance and warmth along with structure and boundaries.  This follows the authoritative style of parenting, which is widely agreed to be the healthiest for children.

If they want you to constantly carry them, put them down for a while.  You don’t need to act mean, you simply show you understand their concern and offer them a different way to get to where you are going and have comfort.  You might offer your hand to hold, a favorite toy to hug, or you might offer to give them a break from the activity if it seems too overwhelming.

You might go halfway toward the activity and watch for a while.  Depending on the child, this adjustment process may take a few hours or even days.  Be understanding, but also continue to show them the opportunity to join in.  When they feel safe, they will participate in the new activity.

Encourage Initiative

Be certain that you offer and encourage the “move to action” part on a regular basis.  This isn’t being pushy, you …

Parenting and Helping a Sensitive Child

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Photo by diegodacal on Flickr

Every child gets whiny and demanding at times.  However, some children are highly sensitive by their temperament.  They often show strong reactions to things they don’t like or aren’t familiar with.  For these children, many days have demanding moments.  It takes them a lot longer to feel comfortable with new things.  Let’s take a quick look at a few things that will make their adjustment easier.

Empathy and Understanding

Whether you are a parent of a sensitive child or you are working with them for a short while, be sure you understand that their sensitivity is part of their temperament.  Temperament is a relatively stable set of
traits that make up someone’s personality.  They are likely to have these sensitivities all of their life, though they can certainly develop effective ways to manage them.

Empathy and understanding are vital for helping a sensitive child.  They need to know that you understand their fears and uncertainties.  These feelings are very real for a sensitive child, and brushing them off will
put up a huge barrier between you.

When someone knows that you have really heard and understood them, they are much more likely to follow your leadership.  This is very true for a sensitive child.  They will trust you much more when they feel you understand their concerns accurately and with acceptance.

Provide Structure

Another piece to the puzzle is providing structure for the child.  Just focusing on emotions is not enough.  Sensitive children do best when they can predict their environment and know the expectations clearly.
After a while, the new environment doesn’t hold as many surprises and they can eventually let their guard down.

Whenever possible, introduce sensitive children to their new environment or activity at regular intervals.  They need more exposure time to adjust to the situation and have a sense of curiosity draw them into it.  Obviously, this isn’t always possible.  But as they learn how to adjust in one area of their life, they can build on those skills as they grow older.

Tomorrow’s post offers two more important elements of parenting or working with …

The Merits of Promoting Self-Worth in Children

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Ever heard of the Sunday School song, “Don’t Build Your House On The Sandy Land”?  It talks all about building a house on a solid rock foundation rather than too close to the sandy shore.  Over-promoting self-esteem could be encouraging a child to build their personal self on a sandy shore.  Instead, I offer “solid rock” suggestion – self-worth.

What’s self-worth based on?  Actions and purpose in the world that make a difference.  These don’t even have to be big, glorious actions to make a difference.  Just bringing a smile to someone can be purposeful and make you feel good.  You attribute your good feelings to your ability to make a difference for that person, which adds to your self-worth.

People of all abilities, ages, and backgrounds can do things to build their self-worth.  And I don’t mean to suggest overpraising kids for each and every thing they do.  See a previous post about that.  I’m talking about genuine feedback from themselves or others to know that they have good purpose to their lives and in the world.

Find someone who feels like they have no real purpose and see how high their self-esteem is.  Pretty low because they have little to reflect back on and see that they made an impact.  Telling that person to cheer up and telling them to feel better about themselves will do little good.  They need to take some form of action, however small, to begin building their self-worth.

Then, when the emotional storms come through their life, they can still reflect on times when they had good purpose and persistence.  They made a difference before and they can do it again.  They know it takes action and involvement in their life, not just reflecting on feelings or empty positive affirmations.  It’s the difference between eating a banana smoothie or a banana split.  Both taste sweet, but the banana smoothie will give your body much more nutrition than the banana split.

So rather than just focusing on self-esteem, help your child develop a strong sense of self-worth.  Give them tasks that press them to …

Which May Be More Valuable To Your Child – Self-Esteem or Self-Worth?

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Self-esteem was the buzzword when I was growing up in the 1980’s and in college during the 1990’s.  Lots of books and research articles came out about how a million things affected kids’ self-esteem.  And let me be the first to say that I’m glad so much attention has been brought to kids’ wellbeing and mental health.  But is self-esteem really the most important thing we can instill in our kids?

I beg to differ on that, though not because I think self-esteem is useless.  Self-esteem is certainly an important part of a person’s overall wellbeing.  It basically means that you have positive feelings about yourself.  Can this be valuable to a child?  Certainly.  It’s good to like who you are and be confident about yourself.

But here is where I take issue with self-esteem.  Its promotion has put a hyper-focus on attending to a person’s feelings for feeling’s sake.  Have you ever tracked your various emotions across one day?  I know I can feel joy, admiration, abject frustration, disappointment, and self-doubt in one day, and possibly within one hour depending on what I’m doing.  Fortunately for me (and millions of others), these feelings tend to pass most of the time with little harm done.

While the intent of focusing on self-esteem was good, it’s made people so much more aware of all the things that can hurt their feelings.  Some parents worry more about hurting their kids’ self-esteem than allowing them to suffer through frustration or competition.

It seems easier for people to be offended and self-focused in our culture now.  More than just recognizing the feelings, people tend to dwell on them.  This may not have been the direct intent of the people who started this movement, but it certainly is an outcome.  It makes feelings seem over-important sometimes, despite their naturally shifty nature.

Tune in tomorrow to read about how self-worth differs from self-esteem in important ways.  See you then.

PMDD Leftovers and Frustrations

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

For the great majority of the time after my diagnosis, the depression and PMDD that wreaked havoc on my life went away.  It was like a great fire being doused with water.  However, I still have a few leftovers that lingered on – some coals that still smolder.  If you have had a difficult time with your period and moods, this might be useful for you to read.

My PMDD went up and down every two weeks along with my period, and the moody time was actually clinical depression.  I had classic depression symptoms such as fatigue, sad feelings, tearfulness, sleeping difficulties, tons and tons of negative thougths.  I also had an  odd sensation of being disconnected from people even though I was talking and being social with them.  It was a crash, and I felt it it hit me hard and drug me straight down.

I went on antidepressants for about two years and gradually came off them, but something else remained.  My premenstrual week was filled with aggitation and irritibility.  I would fly off the handle more more easily than usual.  I’d feel tension in every part of my body, and it lingered much longer than it used to.  I’d keep my “mad thoughts”

longer, and everything in my day seemed to be touched by it.  I snapped at the kids, at my husband, felt like the whole experience was about how frustrating everything was.  I couldn’t possilby do enough yoga to tame this.  Fortunately, I was able to start on a birth control pill that was coming out then designed to help with PMDD.  I noticed a difference the first month I was on it and was pleased to finally feel like that week was under control.

I would say that now my premenstrual week is in the range of what most women feel like.  A little moody or frustrated for a day or two, but definitely something manageable.  The yet-lingering problem is that now I’ve had a lot of practice living angry.  Yes, it’s just a week out of each month, but that’s one fourth …

Help Your Kid Feel Confident About Their Unique Qualities

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

For decades, parents have had to deal with kids wanting the latest this or that on TV, the popular music group’s newest record/8 track/CD, and the biggest teen heartthrob of the year.  That’s just the way popular culture and kids interact.  But what about the kids who march to a slightly different drummer?

I had a conversation with one of my daughters about her interests today.  She loves snap electrical circuit projects, erector sets, elephants, ballet, gymnastics, football, and stylish tops with jeans that don’t get too glitzy.  Some typical girl things for her age, some not.  And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this.  But you know, kids can get cruel when the pressure is on to fit in.  I so badly want to keep a protective bubble around her sense of exploration for the next fifteen years.

I was kind of a quirky kid myself.  I really liked outer space, rigging up weird contraptions in my house, making up elaborate imaginary play situations with my best friend, tracking weather, show tunes, and even listening to talk radio while my friends listened to the Go-Go’s (I didn’t even know who they were for a while).  But my mom and dad never led me to believe there was anything wrong with being interested in these things.  They took me to museums, let me have a radio in my room, took me to musicals and concerts, and my farmer father talked a lot about the weather with me.

I certainly had my share of teen girls angst, but I have also found many treasures of enjoyment through these interests.  I enjoyed a great deal of musical performance during school, including instrumental, vocal, and marching band. I did competitive speech, made my own telescope, I still love tracking weather (tracking a severe thunderstorm in our county right now), I listen to all kinds of radio now, and I love recalling goofy memories with my elementary school best friend.  All of those interests have served me my whole life, and my parents’ open minded approach to interesting things has led me …

The Ties That Bond – Family Traditions

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

One of the most fun parts about family life is partaking in family traditions.  These could range from little inside jokes to elaborate holiday gatherings.  No matter the style or size, it’s the bonding that matters.  I’ll start by sharing a few of my family traditions and what they mean to me.

My oldest daughter and I go to a favorite Italian restaurant when she has an annual medical specialist clinic visit out of town.  We don’t have this restaurant near our home and she really dislikes the clinic visit.  So it’s a nice distraction and it gives us something genuinely special to look forward to.  She has banned anyone else from going with us – she gets me all to herself every time.  Talking about scary doctor stuff is always easier over a huge plate of ravioli.

When I was growing up, my parents and sister and I drove to Florida every Christmas to visit my maternal grandparents.  The first day of travel was pretty boring.  The first few states away from our home state all pretty much looked the same.  But the second day was a different story.  We counted the signs for “See Ruby Falls” all the way through Tennessee (though we never stopped to look).  We had waffles at The Waffle House, no matter what time of day it was.  We played the same Christmas CD for most of the trip.  When we’d finished counting signs, had our waffle, and got tired of the CD, we knew we were just about there.

My mother’s side of the family is big on Scrabble.  My husband doesn’t really play and my kids aren’t quite old enough to do it.  So I can almost always count on the Scrabble board getting pulled out on holidays at my parent’s house.  Of course, mom wins nearly every time, and my sister is the best competitor with her.  I’m glad to get second or third.  I’m bringing up the girls on Scrabble Jr, word finds, and other word puzzles.  So I’m hoping …

Stay at Home Or Working Parent – Both Valuable

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

A while ago, I received a rather strongly worded comment about some differences between stay at home moms and full-time employed moms.  Without going into any details, it strongly indicated that full-time employed moms had it a lot harder than stay at home moms.  Well, I have been in both positions and that comment made me think a little bit.

When my oldest two were much smaller I worked full time at a community mental health agency.  I had some flexibility to my hours, but it was still full time work.  My husband did a fine job when I wasn’t there and we did have two incomes for that period of time.

However, I found that the stress of having two little kids and a full time career was almost painful some days.  I felt like I was half there at work with frenzied periods of work and some periods with inconsolable worry.  At home, I felt like I hardly saw my little ones.  Eventually, I brought down my hours with the intention of quitting.  I didn’t see how I could possibly keep living like that.  It was like I had a leak somewhere in my soul and I was losing more than I was gaining.

Now I know that the drain on my soul and my life was really my postpartum depression.  Yes, there was certainly stress from the adjustment of kids and work, but many women do that and do it well.  The depression made all the difference.  It tipped everything out of balance for me.  My transition was somewhat rough and awkward, but staying home with the kids was something that would work out.

No, it was not easy, and no, we often just scraped by for a while.  Thankfully, staying home completely exposed my postpartum depression and PMDD.  By then, it was working well for me to be at home.  I’ve never pursued full time employment since then but I have had some part-time work since my kids were still little.   Now with my kids …


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