Chapter 5 Lies of the Magpie

Maleah Warner

Ep 27 Bed Rest for an Overachiever

In August I had my first prenatal appointment with my new Arizona obstetrician.

The week leading up to the appointment I had started having contractions. I’d hoped the preterm labor I’d experienced with Danny was a fluke, a one-time thing. No such luck. It seemed my uterus was prone to contract more than a team of commissioned corporate lawyers.

“You’re twenty nine weeks and already dilated,” Dr. Magnuson said with a grim expression. “Was you last baby premature?”

“No. He was born at 37-weeks and was perfectly fine. No complications.” I didn’t like where this conversation was going. Dr. Magnuson sent me to Labor & Delivery for monitoring. After two hours they sent me home with a prescription for Brethine and instructions to limit my physical activity.

The next day I didn’t take Danny for our morning stroller walk. I didn’t push him in the playground swing. I didn’t vacuum or scrub bathrooms. We didn’t go to the library or the grocery store. We didn’t go swimming. At naptime I didn’t carry Danny up to bed, but knelt behind as he practiced crawling up the stairs on his own. 

This new routine of non-doing was okay for a solid three days before we were both stir crazy and ornery.

 

The next morning, as usual, Danny was wide awake at 6:00 a.m. Our ever predictable early bird. For convenience, and to not wake up Aaron, I did carry him downstairs where I changed his diaper, fixed him a bottle of formula, and parked him in front of the television feeling grateful that PBS started their children’s programming at 6:30 a.m. with Caillou (in my opinion the second-worst children’s show in the universe only beat out by Teletubbies) followed by an hour of Sesame Street at 7:00 a.m. I fell back asleep on the floral beast and woke to the strains of the Elmo’s World them song at 7:45 a.m. as Aaron quietly closed our front door behind him.

He left without kissing me goodbye.

Immediately I called Laiah. “I think Aaron’s mad or annoyed with me.” I told her. She hurried over and we had an extensive conversation. I couldn’t do much of anything else.

“You can hardly blame him,” she replied. “He’s outside all day every day burning his butt off making money while you sit here in this cushy apartment doing nothing.”

The broken springs on the couch poked into my back. There really was no comfortable position on that couch;  if the floral beast was anything, it wasn’t cushy. “I didn’t ask to sit in an apartment all day,” I argued my case to Laiah. “I didn’t ask to have preterm labor and to be put on limited activity. I would one hundred times rather wash dishes and run errands than be cooped up all day, doesn’t Aaron realize that?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Laiah said. “Aaron’s working hard. You have to suffer equally or your marriage won’t be equal. It’s not fair if Aaron is sweating in the sun while you’re at home relaxing.”

Chapter 4 Lies of the Magpie

Memoir story of my journey healing through postpartum depression and chronic.

Ep. 26 Stay At Home Mother

The word default has two meanings. One, it connotes a failure to meet an obligation or expectation. And this is what happened. By the time I told Aaron the news about our imminent arrival, our internet store had still not made a single sale. We had a hefty monthly business loan payment and zero business income. Default hints at a lapse of judgement, a miss, an overlook, a mistake. But it couldn’t have been Aaron’s fault for enthusiastically jumping onboard when I wanted to buy the same internet retail package that I was selling to business-minded adventurers from Idaho to Iowa. Nor how could Galaxy Mall be blamed for believing that every person with a home computer would be clicking and ordering before the year’s end? Who could have known it would take twenty years to shift the public’s habits away from brick and mortar shopping? Nobody else inside Galaxy Mall was making any sales. My company went under and I found myself pregnant, unemployed, and working assembly-line temp jobs.

But the word default can also mean a predetermined setting that the programmer has chosen the mechanism will automatically revert to when no other alternative is selected by the user. Clocks revert to midnight, calculators revert to zero, computers revert to basic programming. Mothers revert to caring for their offspring. We house, feed, and grow them within our bodies for 9 months, naturally we provide for their sleep, shelter, and food. This is mother’s instinct at its strongest. It’s our default setting.

Click to listen to Chapter 3

SOUTH AFRICA: What I Learned from My Travels

giraffes, south africa

Ep. 25 South Africa

A few weeks ago I left my monochromatic Utah County life (which I rarely do, even though I love diversity) and traveled thousands of miles around the globe to visit South Africa and Lesotho. I experienced diversity in culture, language, race, religion, food, plant and animal life, and traffic. But for all the diversity, the biggest thing I brought home from my travels is the reminder that we are more alike than different.

Shoes

While waiting to board my flight to Dubai, I passed time watching people. I was studying the traditional Arab dress of one particular woman, when I realized that she and I were wearing the exact same shoes. I wondered if she had bought hers at Costco like I had. Do they have Costco in Dubai? Or perhaps she lives in the States and is traveling to Dubai like I am. Did she buy her shoes for the same reasons I had, because they are perfect for traveling?

There is something about flying that connects travelers. All of us at Gate A-12 had booked tickets on the same flight. We were literally all traveling in the same direction. And at the moment we were all hoping for much the same thing: to get settled on the plane and to sleep as much as possible during the 13-hour flight. And we were probably all fretting about the same thing: having to use that itty bitty airplane bathroom.

Maya Angelou titled her 5th narrative memoir, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes

We come from different cultures, ethnicities, religions, traditions. We might speak different languages. But we are all on a journey, and we need good traveling shoes. 

Home

“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” Maya Angelou

As a black woman born in Missouri in 1928, Maya Angelou never felt completely at home in America. In 1966, at age 33, Maya traveled to Ghana in search of her roots, in search of home. She was surprised to discover that as a black American, she wasn’t readily accepted in Africa either. She wrote, “[I] had not come home, but had left one familiar place of painful memory for another strange place with none.” 

Home isn’t a place that exists, home is a place we create. It’s connection. During my travels, though I was far from “home,” I experienced moments of home—connecting with a mother traveling with her autistic child, washing my feet in the Dubai airport, traveling through familiar scenery in Lesotho, learning to say Sawubona, or realizing that an Arab woman and I were literally in each other shoes. 

Does any of us ever feel completely at home or do we all struggle to find the place where we truly belong? Is the human life really just a journey home?

Indeed, all God’s children need traveling shoes.

Chapter 3 Lies of the Magpie

postpartum depression

Ep. 24 The Story of My Journey Healing Through Postpartum Depression and Chronic Illness

Laiah was the first to see the flyer advertising the Miss Aspen Canyon Community College Pageant. “You should enter.” She ripped the flyer from its tack and handed it to me. “The winner gets a cash scholarship and a new computer.”

How would I compare in a line-up of accomplished young women? Growing up in a society where girls were not my comrades, but my competition, what would it mean to me if the judges scored me as the very best one? No friendships were at stake, my circle of girlfriends remained always the distance of my measuring stick. I filled out the pageant application, submitted a photo, and borrowed a dress.

The night of the pageant I was pacing backstage waiting for my turn in the talent competition when I heard a voice call to me. “Hey stranger,” Aaron walked towards me dressed in a sleek, black tuxedo, a ginormous grin covering his face.

“Well, you clean up pretty well,” I said taking in his aura. His hair was slicked with gel. He straightened his bow tie and winked at me, looking like a GQ model. I was already nervous, wringing my hands and pulling at my numb fingers. His presence filled me with electricity and I wobbled unevenly in my high-heeled shoes, fighting to stay balanced. The air in the dark back stage was frigid, but suddenly I felt an odd mix of hot and cold, as if my entire body had been placed in a furnace, except my arms, which were in a freezer.  I rubbed my shoulders, my wrists, my palms together and blew into them as if I were standing outside in a snowstorm. “What are you doing here?” I asked Aaron, trying to sound completely calm and in control.

“Madame Pageant Director asked the senators to be your escorts this evening,” he spoke with an exaggerated, sophisticated accent. “I just wanted to tell you good luck. You’ll do great out there.” He rocked back and forth in his black dress shoes and I wondered if he was thinking about giving me a hug or a high five. Instead he performed a classic Aaron pivot, and chugged his arms getting his train ready to depart. Before leaving he flashed me his huge smile. Our eyes locked, briefly and in those seconds, all the electric waves surging through me collected as if pulled by a magnet and traveled on one current that connected Aaron’s gaze to me. “Break a leg,” he joked and walked back behind the curtain. A jolt knocked me backwards as the electric connection broke. I stood trying to catch my breath and find my composure before my name was announced for my performance in the talent competition.

After my piano solo, I bowed graciously to the judges, smiled at the crowd, walked off stage and went directly into the dressing room to change into an evening gown and pin up my hair. The temperature felt like a hundred degrees backstage.

Chapter 2 Lies of the Magpie

Postpartum Depression Memoir

Ch. 2 Lies of the Magpie

The story of my journey healing through postpartum depression and chronic illness. 

The thing Aaron remembers most about me from college is my fast-paced walk around campus. His tennis class met at three o’clock at the courts across from my off-campus housing. For weeks he watched me leave my apartment, hurry across the road, rush past the tennis courts, short cut across the grass and disappear into the Humanities Building. His tennis partner noticed him staring and said, “Don’t waste your time. That is Maleah Day. She is the Academic Vice President. Ten bucks says you can’t get her to stop to talk to you. She walks that fast everywhere she goes.”

It was my sophomore year. I was ten years older than the straggly nine-year-old girl from Ms. Wickersham’s fourth grade class. My bean-pole figure had filled out in a few key places. Two years of orthodontic work and contact lenses had tamed my profile, but my ambition—if possible—was still as potent. I’d traded my dream of becoming a firefighter and astronaut to becoming an Airforce pilot and a foreign ambassador. I declared a Political Science major and carried an application for the Peace Corps in my backpack.

Still, I’d never forgotten my dream to become Mrs. Murry from A Wrinkle in Time and have my own kitchen/chemistry lab. My scholarship covered full tuition and fees, regardless of number of credit hours, so in addition to my social science courses, I registered for a Biochemistry Series, Anatomy, Microbiology, and Physiology. These would cover all lab science prerequisites, just in case I changed my mind about Foreign Diplomacy and decided to apply to Medical School. It was a good plan, I thought, to keep both options open.

Play button above to hear the full chapter.

Listen to Chapter 1: https://maleahwarner.com/?p=1258&preview=true&_thumbnail_id=1269

Listen to the Introduction of Lies of the Magpie https://maleahwarner.com/new-summer-series/

 

Book Cover Art by:

Bethany Baker  of Midsummer Studios https://midsummerstudios.weebly.com/

Chapter 1 Lies of the Magpie

Memoir story of my journey healing through postpartum depression and chronic.

Ep.22 The Story of My Healing Journey

The road I’m traveling stretches endlessly ahead across the Sonoran desert winding through a vast panorama of monotony. Each new mile looks exactly like the last.  Faster, I urge the engine forward pressing my foot deeper into the gas pedal of my husband’s car. I’m supposed to be traveling to the Arizona Music Teachers Annual Convention in Tucson, but I haven’t seen another vehicle in at least thirty minutes. This can’t be I-10, there should be more traffic on a major interstate.

The red speedometer needle trembles over ninety miles per hour. Still, the barren scenery passes too slowly. I might as well be a pioneer driving an old wagon pulled by a pair of sauntering mules. The summer heat turns the car into a furnace. I reach over to crank up the air conditioner, but it is already blasting at full power in a futile effort to keep me, and my enlarged belly, from over-heating. So why is it getting hotter in this car?

A tightening pinch begins in my back and wraps around to my front. The contraction pulls and twists causing me to grab my stomach. I grit my teeth and grip the steering wheel to keep from swerving. Breathe, I remind myself, noticing that I’ve only covered  seven miles since the last contraction. I squeeze my eyes shut tight against the pain, then re-open a narrow slit of vision—just enough to make sure my car tires stay on the road. I wince and wait. Two full minutes pass on the digital clock before the pressure releases. Tears burn in the corners of my eyes.

Please, baby, hold on a little longer. 

Postpartum Depression with Amy-Rose White Part 2

mom postpartum depression holds baby

Ep. 17 Conversations on Maternal Mental Health (continued)

Episode 17 presents Part 2 of my conversation with Maternal Mental Health Specialist Amy-Rose White, LCSW. We discuss the importance of modeling emotional healthcare for our children as well as what dads, partners, and families can do to watch out for signs of postpartum health illnesses and steps for preventative care. Exciting changes are happening for Maternal Mental Healthcare in Utah, plus Amy-Rose tells us what changes she still wants to see. 

Did you miss Part 1 of this interview? Click Here for Part 1 

Q: Why Is It Important to Model Emotional Health for Our Children?

A: One way to help end the stigma surrounding mental health is to model healthy emotional needs for our children. We can say to daughters and sons, “I’m not well and I’m going to go get help and I’m going to figure this out.” Often it’s not easy to find the right help, the right team. Show your family that you are willing to keep trying, to keep opening doors and walking through until you feel well again.

Allow your children to see that you need rest and to see that self-care is natural and part of wellness. Know your self-care routine and what recharges your battery.  I expect my sons to contribute as community members now so that when they grow up and have partners, and possibly decide to have children, they will take the responsibility on as well. They will help carry the burden of raising children. Especially this generation of women, the “Millennials,” fight the “Have everything and have it all now”  pressure. Up and coming mothers are such high achievers and have a burden of options. The pressure is high, it really is. So it is essential to model caring for self and caring for emotional and physical health. 

Q: What Is Your Advice for Partners?

In the film about Postpartum Depression, entitled Dark Side of the Full Moon, one husband says, “Watch your wife. Keep your eyes on your partner.” I agree. 

  1. Focus on the basics. First, help mom get that 4-6 consecutive hours of sleep as soon as possible. This might mean paying for night nursing or doula care. Good nutrition and drinking two big pitchers of water a day are musts
  2.  Grounding is an anti-inflammatory measure which entail putting your bare feet in contact with the ground. Even in cold months, getting outside in nature, maybe a brief walk around the neighborhood, is healing. 
  3.  Getting a break from children every day.  My OB gave me a prescription for a daily break and it changed my life. I’d never had a medical provider say, “You matter and you have to nourish yourself and take a break. You’re not just a feeding machine. This is essential for you as a human being.” Mom needs an hour break to herself every day.
  4. Watch the signs. If your partner has history of depression or a history of sensitivity to hormone changes, they are at higher risk for postpartum emotional health complications. Other high risk factors include women who have tried three to five birth control pills before giving up because they all made her feel “crazy.” Or if your partner get PMS or Premenstrual Syndrome, watch them carefully during and after childbirth.

If partners can be educated about the warning and also help mom sleep, eat, drink water, and take breaks, these are preventative measures that can go a long way to prevent emotional health changes. Notice what your partner is going through and make the call with her or for her. Going with her to appointments says, “I love you enough that I want to help you get help and we’re going to figure this out together. There is nothing wrong with you.”

Q: How Can Fathers Keep Themselves Healthy?

Ten percent of  dads will develop postnatal depression, so a man also needs to watch out for himself, especially if mom can’t. Warning signs of postnatal illness in men are typically anger or withdrawal. The best remedy is to reach out to a counselor, which is not a guy thing to do. The language centers for men are different than for women. Men tend to need time alone to decompress. Another warning for dads is to be aware that if his partner has an illness, then his risk increases. Often I see that once a women is in remission and recovered, then her male partner gets the symptoms.

It’s a very sad thing I see in my practice, but sometimes relationships do end because of untreated Postpartum Depression. Divorce can occur during the postpartum period because the husband thinks, “This isn’t the person I fell in love with and I don’t see this ever getting better.” Or sometimes the woman might not be ready to get help, or the husband isn’t ready to get help. Postnatal health complications are challenging on a relationship.

Q: Speak to the Positive Side of Postpartum Struggles. What Growth Do You See?

The hundreds of women I’ve worked in say that even though their postpartum struggle was one of the hardest things they’ve ever endured, they wouldn’t trade the experience because of what they learned and who they became in the process of finding healing. Overall, couples who successfully work through postnatal emotional health complication come out with a deeper sense of empathy and compassion for human beings in general, as well as less judgment for women and for other moms.

The struggle creates a deeper connection for this universal experience on this planet of moms. Every mother in every country worries about essentially the same things: if her baby is eating enough and gaining enough weight and will get the education they need. We have a common thread as human beings that suffering brings to the forefront. 

Another positive outcome I often see, and this was certainly true for myself, is a sense of purpose and a calling to connect with other moms and to help women and families to know they are not alone, they are not to blame, and with help they will be well. Which is the message of Postpartum Support International.

Becoming a parent forces you to become less selfish. With a child, you are instantly integrated into the world of babies, preschool, and school, so you have a vested interest in community, school, safety and what our world is becoming. The process is beneficial for our communities, so it’s not a thing to fear. There is a lot of growth that can come through the journey. Like we’ve mentioned, a deeper sense of strength, connection to the human spirit and to moms and motherhood and that we have more in common than we have different. And a desire to contribute and give back

Another positive outcome of postpartum health struggle is the “unlearning” of false beliefs and patterns. A lot of our role models as women were stoic and muscled through pain and illness, often because they had no other choice.  Our mothers and grandmothers did the best they could, but now we are entering a different era where we can model being self-full. A postpartum health journey can help us to unlearn the conditioning of our ancestors to muscle through. Instead we can learn that when I am healthy, strong and centered, then I can be there in service for my children, my family, and for the planet. 

Therefore, focussing on the personal strength you are developing through your postpartum health journey can be empowering. Though it’s a struggle, it can result in positive life changes including developing personal characteristics of empathy and connection as well as breaking down age-old habits and false beliefs.

Q: What Changes in Maternal Mental Health Are You Excited About?

This February PSI-Utah was successful in getting an appropriations measure passed in the state legislature to receive funding for three years to: 1) fund telehealth services for rural moms, 2) increase public health authority’s ability to screen and refer women, and 3) support the development of a new website through the Department of Health which will be a massive resource referral database where users can click on a geomap in your county and find counselors and support groups in your area that take your insurance.

The Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders Conference is coming up May 31 and June 1, 2019 in Salt Lake City. This is cosponsored by Intermountain Healthcare with keynote speakers and breakout sessions by postpartum health experts. The conference is open to medical professionals as well as the general public. Information and registration found at psiutah.org or click here. 

A State Subcommittee for Maternal Mental Health came out of PSI-Utah. Through the Utah Women & Newborn Quality Improvement Collaborative and the Department of Health, we are educating clinics  and providers how to screen.Primary Care is where that subcommittee is focussing on improving quality measures and outcomes. Neither medical schools nor social work schools teach Perinatal Mental Health.  

A lot of watch guards are hard at work continuing the dialogue about programs that need funding and increasing capacity for care. 

Q: What Are Changes You Want to See for Maternal Mental Health?

  1. For every woman to be educated about the different possible health complications, what the symptoms look like, and how to decrease her own risks. I want every mother to know that it’s in the best  interest for  her baby to take care of symptoms as soon as possible. To know what to look for and where to go. Part of that prevention is to do things while she feels well. Some postpartum symptoms begin during pregnancy, especially the 3rd trimester. 
  2. Have every person who serves and comes into contact with a pregnant woman to be educating and screening her. The conversation conveys the message that mother matter and we want to be involved in helping you feel well.  Even more, for women not just to be given information, but to know what to do and that there is hope. We need to be proactive and not just crossing our fingers and hoping for the best.
  3. For every woman to know about the resources available through Postpartum Support International (PSI) which is Postpartum.net.  You can click on any state and get free social help. There is also international, Spanish speaking, and  LGBTQ support. You can call a local number and speak to one of 8 or 9 volunteer moms who have been where you are.
  4. My biggest want is that women wouldn’t feel ashamed. It is changeable. Education is key. Understanding that it isn’t a character weakness, that there are physiological changes in the body causing the symptoms. This will take everyone telling stories and going to the State Capitol. Speaking up makes a difference.

Resources:

Amy-Rose White, LCSW:  http://www.arwslctherapist.com/

Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders Conference May 31 – June 1, 2019 Salt Lake City Utah:  https://www.psiutah.org/2019-perinatal-mood-anxiety-disorders-conference/

Documentary “Dark Side of the Full Moon” Maternal Mental Health: http://www.darksideofthefullmoon.com/

Postpartum Support International UTAH: www.psiutah.org

Postpartum Support International:    www.postpartum.net

The Emily Effect: https://theemilyeffect.org/

Ep. 15 Rally for Healthy Mothers

Vibrant Motherhood

Below is a list of resources and opportunities to Rally for Healthy Moms during the month of May. 

World Maternal Mental Health Awareness Day May 1, 2019

Please sign the petition calling on the World Health Assembly and the UN World Health Organization to officially recognize World Maternal Mental Health Day (WMMH Day), to be commemorated annually on the first Wednesday of May. The next day will be Wednesday, May 1, 2019.

Maternal mental health advocates, researchers, academics, clinicians, and people with lived experiences are committed to improving the mental health support for women during and after pregnancy throughout the world.

https://www.change.org/p/world-maternal-mental-health-day

The Emily Effect

Founded in February 2016, theemilyeffect.org is dedicated to support and provide resources for women and families during and after childbirth. After her death from complications of Postpartum Depression/Anxiety, Emily Cook Dyches’ family and friends started TheEmilyEffect as a way to expand the conversation about and end the stigma surrounding Perinatal Mood Disorders. The Letters of Light section is a library of real women’s stories about journeying through Postpartum Illness. Women also share their stories through Videos of Light on TheEmilyEffect YouTube Channel

On today’s podcast episode, I share my story about the twists and turns of life that led me to volunteering with TheEmilyEffect. 

You can read my own Letter of Light herehttps://theemilyeffect.org/project/maleah/

Or watch my Video of Light here: [not yet published]

Climb Out of Darkness

These hikes are the world’s largest fundraising events to support the mental health of new families. Organized through Postpartum Support International (PSI), these local hikes bring women and families together to symbolically climb out of the darkness.

For more info on joining or organizing a hike in your area, visit: https://www.postpartum.net/join-us/climbout/

The Utah Valley Climb Out of Darkness Event will be Saturday, May 11th at 9:30 a.m. at the Battle Creek Falls Trail in Pleasant Grove Utah. The hike is one hour round-trip with a fair amount of incline leading to a beautiful waterfall. The short hike is kid-friendly. Bring your spouse, children, parents, best friend, or a new mom you want to support. 

For details or to donate click here .

Be Your Own Best Advocate

It is up to us as mothers to promote change in postpartum diagnosis and care. No one will solve the problem for us. Speak up. Use your voice. Be clear to doctors and health care providers about what you are experiencing. Demand satisfactory answers. Question diagnoses and treatments that don’t feel right. Ask clinicians to look beyond the “mood disorder” to find, explain, and treat the physical malfunction that is causing the emotional symptoms. 

Ways to Speak Up and Get Involved:

Share Your Story:

 https://wmmhday.postpartum.net/blog/

theemilyeffect/lettersoflight

 

Share Your Story

Ep. 14 What Rumpelstilskin Teaches about Curing Depression

The Power of Naming

The name depression implies personal weakness.

And people would rather be sick in secret than be perceived as weak in public.

Cure "Depression" by Changing its Name

I have an idea. A theory.

I think that one reason Depression (and resulting suicide) is a rampant problem in society is because we are calling it by the wrong name.

And I propose that we will never successfully eradicate  this disease UNTIL we identify and address it by its accurate name.

My thesis for today’s podcast is three-fold.

First: That using the word “Depression” to name a disease is a misnomer.

Second: That calling “Depression” by the wrong name leads to incorrect or insufficient treatment to cure the disease. 

Third: I propose that the simple solution of changing the NAME of the diagnosis from “depression” to a term that more accurately fits the physical causes of the disease will result in a decrease of resulting suicide, length of time suffered, and an increase of pro-active treatment.

Why "Depression" is the Wrong NAME for the Disease

Depression is an inaccurate name because:

  1. Depression is the name of an emotion, not the name of an illness. And not everyone who feels the emotion of depression has the disease the word is attached to. 
  2. Depression is only one of many possible symptoms of the illness.
  3. Not everyone who has this disease will have the one symptom it is named for.
  4. Depression can be a Symptom of Many Different Illnesses

Depression is an Emotion, Not a Disease

Have you ever been depressed? Yes! Depression is a human emotion. Feeling depression doesn’t mean you have the disease that society currently calls “Depression.” Why do we have an illness named for an emotion? The name “Depression” 

Depression is a Possible Symptom, Not the Cause

The term depression doesn’t go far enough. It stops at a symptom and doesn’t continue to address the root of the issue. Depression is an emotion, not a disease. Depression is a possible SYMPTOM of the illness, but it is not the illness. It’s like saying “Jody has low energy” and stopping there. When, if fact, Jody has anemia. Low energy is a symptom, not the cause. Low iron levels in the blood in the cause.  The name “Depression” puts all the focus on a symptom rather than focussing on treating the cause. 

I have had doctors explain to me the physical causes for “depression” such as low levels of brain neurotransmitters or malfunction in chemical absorption by the neuron synapses. So there is a physical cause. There is a malfunction in the body, in the brain specifically, yet we continue to call the disease after an emotion rather than for the physical cause. Diabetes is caused by the body not making enough insulin, but we don’t call the disease Shakiness or Exhaustion, we call is Diabetes.  

The fact that depression is only one of many possible symptoms of this disease increases the confusion caused by this misnomer. Other symptoms can be insomnia, significant weight loss or weight gain, loss of appetite, muscle pain, moving slowly, difficulty concentrating. Furthermore, it is possible for a person to have this “disease currently known as depression” without experiencing the symptom of depression. I did not treat my illness currently known as Postpartum Depression because I didn’t feel depressed. I didn’t feel well. I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep. I ached everywhere and my body felt heavy as if I were made of concrete. I moved slowly. I lost a lot of weight, not in a good way. My head was always foggy. But I didn’t feel “depressed.” And failing to treat the physical causes of my disease caused my overall health to get worse until I also had auto-immune disease and chronic illness. 

The inaccurate label “depression” hindered me from getting correct treatment.

Depression Is a Symptom of Many Illnesses

Another reason that the term “Depression” is a misnomer is that it’s too broad. The feeling of depression can be a symptom for multiple diseases, like head injuries, cancer, or MS. Also we can experience depression without having a physical disease. We can experience depression while grieving a loved-one’s death or after losing a job or because it’s winter and there’s not enough sunlight. Depression is a common and variegated emotion. I can feel depressed in the morning and be happy by afternoon. So to call a real brain illness after such a kaleidoscopic EMOTION, seriously interferes with treating the disease.

Calling it Depression Causes Misdiagnoses and Treatment

The name Depression deters people from seeking treatment and taking steps to heal the disease.

The word “depression” connotes a character flaw. The term “depression” does not separate the person from the illness.  Why? Because we identify with our emotions. Our emotional state is linked with our personality. We describe people by their emotions:  He’s a jolly person, a happy person, an energetic person, she’s a sluggish person. She’s always “down.” We even have a nickname for this personality type: “Debbie Downer”  Calling a disease after an emotional state creates a false perception that a person diagnosed with depression has a bad personality. This is viewed more as a personal weakness than a physical issue.

The equivalent assignation for a person who’s had a stroke would be to say, “He’s a mumbler, you can’t understand when he talks. Mumbling is associated more as a character trait. But we don’t say that. We say, “He had a stroke and it’s affecting his ability to speak.”

In most cases we are good at separating the results of an illness from the character of the person. But not with depression. And the social impact is that many people who have “the illness currently known as depression” don’t say anything, don’t seek treatment because the name Depression insinuates personal weakness. And they would rather be sick in secret than to be perceived as weak in public.

Change its Name

Rumpelstilskin had power to take the Queen’s baby unless she could call him by his true name. Calling a physical disease after one possible emotional symptom is like  calling Rumpelstiltskin by the wrong name and then crying as he steals our baby.

I propose we begin by discontinuing the term “Mental Illness” and instead calling it “Brain disease” or “Brain Illness.” The brain is an organ just like the kidneys, lungs, and heart. When the lungs are sick, you can’t breathe well. When the brain is sick, you can’t think right. Thoughts and emotions are processed in the brain through electrical-chemical reactions. If the electric wires malfunction, the thoughts go dark, just like when power lines go down. If the chemical recipes aren’t right, the emotions come out bad, just like using salt instead of sugar when baking cookies. It’s science, not emotion.

So let’s call it by what it is. Let’s name it for the cause, not after one of the numerous possible symptoms. I don’t have authority or the training to come up with the best name, but I propose it be scientific, sound official, and be related to the root cause of the ailment rather than a resulting emotional symptom.  

For example, the term diabetes is shortened from Diabetes Mellitus which comes from the Greek word diabetes which means to siphon – to pass through and the Latin word mellitus meaning honeyed or sweet. This is because in diabetes excess sugar is found in blood as well as the urine. Excess sugar is siphoned through or passes through the blood. This name helps us to focus on treating the cause of the illness rather than concentrating on the idea that in the United States we currently have over 100 million people who can digest their food properly.

Recently my son was experiencing lack of focus, bouts of anger or depression, head fogginess, and headaches. I dreaded hearing the diagnosis “Depression.”Rather he was diagnosed with Postconcussive Syndrome. That name empowered us. We know to let his brain rest, to cut back on learning new things like memorizing his violin music. He told his school teachers who were understanding and willing to accommodate if he needed extra time for assignments. It was much easier to tell his teachers that he had a concussion than that he had depression.

Currently, this same care and attention isn’t happening with the disease known as depression. The word Depression holds a lot of judgment and misperception. The stigma surrounding depression interferes with accurate diagnosis and treatment. 

To reNAME this disease will empower us to  perceive & understand in a different, more enlightened way. It will help us move out of the space of impatience. The attitude of “Snap out of it” and “This needs to be fixed NOW!”  and into the place of giving people time and  support to heal.

Ep. 8 The Power of PLAY to Beat Winter Blues

Play to Beat Winter Blues

The Power of PLAY to Beat Winter Blues

How do you beat winter blues? Does anyone else get sort of bluesy during the winter? After moving from year-round sunny Arizona to four-season Utah, it took me a few years to realize that the sluggish, gloomy, “can’t seem to get my motor going” struggle wasn’t me. Phew, it isn’t a character flaw— or maybe it is, but at least it’s a temporary character flaw. Snow and freezing wind in December is fine. I love a white Christmas. I’m even game for some snow-man building and downhill sledding in January, but as February d-r-a-g-s into March and the sky is still gray and gloomy, I become convinced that I will never see the sun or green grass again. I want to stay hidden under my bed covers and it seems to take a Herculean effort to get me out of bed and moving in the morning. 

Learning that my wintertide melancholy was a real thing (seasonal affective disorder) and was common (I’m joined by 10 million Americans), I felt empowered to take back my February & March and rediscover my winter wonderland.  Here are three ways I’ve given myself permission to play away the winter blues. 

Finding a PLAYFUL Way to MOVE My Body

Exercise in snowy winter was a challenge for me since my go-to routine was out-door walks. But I dislike slipping on icy sidewalks. I’m a wimp in cold weather. So after a series of immobile winters I knew I had to figure out a way to keep moving from January until the sun came out again. If not for my own mental health, then at least for my family’s.  I tried the treadmill at the local rec center, but running in place like a hamster—not super exciting. I needed a fun, playful way to move. Something I could look forward to. Something I would actually want to leave my warm, cozy bed covers to do. 

A minitrampoline!

Perfect.

I’d read about the multiple benefits of kinetic jumping, from clearing the lymph nodes and boosting your immune system to stimulating a sluggish thyroid and increasing Serotin levels. I needed all of those benefits to help beat winter blues.

And jumping on a trampoline felt a lot more like play than like exercise

Santa’s elves brought me a minitrampoline for Christmas and I spent the rest of January, February and March jumping my way right out of winter blues.

PLAYING Outside Again

While waking up and jumping to 80s cardio tunes got me out of bed in the morning, I still struggled with feeling cooped up indoors. It was time to make a decision.  I decided that winter was cold and that I could still go outside. Mind-blowing, I know. But it was for me. I just decided that I could still go for walks outside. I could put on gloves and earmuffs. My nose would turn pink and drip and I would live. I changed my mind that walks had to happen first thing in the morning and I started going for walks at lunchtime.

Miracles happen when I make a decision, when I set an intention: a friend starting inviting me for spontaneous afternoon walks. This winter I have spent more time outdoors and the cold hasn’t bothered me. I feel more energized. I don’t feel like I’m dragging through winter. In fact, I can hardly believe it’s already March.

Planning a PLAYFUL Winter Getaway

The third way I’ve made winter more playful is to give myself permission to take advantage of opportunities to getaway. If my husband has a business trip, I give myself permission to ask for help with the kids and tag along. A change of scenery (especially if the weather is warm!) is effective medicine for winter blues. I’ve also found that winter is a great time to go on a writer’s retreat. The kids have fewer sports activities, I’m not as occupied working in the yard & garden, and I can usually find great rates on an airbnb. Holing away with a mug of hot chocolate and a manuscript feels like medicinal hibernation. And I get a lot of work done, too.

For moms with young kids, an overnight getaway may not be in the cards, but you don’t have to travel far or spend money to have a change of scenery. One of the most healing things I discovered when my kids were young was to getaway one night a week to the local library where I could curl up in a couch with a stack of the most recent periodicals and read short articles (nothing too brainy) or even just flip through the pictures. If you’re an introvert like me, any time alone is extremely recharging. If you’re an extrovert, you probably want to plan a night out with friends. In either case, looking forward to some adventures on your calendar will help winter feel more exciting than tedious. 

Make Winter Fun

The bottom line is that while winter is cold and gray, it is also  magical. Giving yourself permission to play through winter helps you maximize the benefits of winter and diminish the gloom. Find fun ways to stay active. Find a local state park with inexpensive ski rental options. In Utah, the Wasatch State Park offers a $12 cross country package that includes all the equipment rental. This makes a great Saturday afternoon getaway adventure. 

Have some fun discovering your winter adventurous self. Making a decision to be more adventurous and giving yourself permission to be more playful can really help to beat those winter blues.