Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Parenting Update || Do You Yell? part 2

This Little Miggy || Parenting Update
Over a year ago, I went onto my Instagram stories to bemoan some parenting stress. In short, I talked about the fact that I was yelling at my kids, not daily, but frequently, and it was a problem. As I opened up on Instagram and asked for books or other solutions I got a huge response. Many people were sending books and advice, but so many others were sharing their own shame in this problem and asking me to  do a round up of the books, articles and advice and to please share! So I did. That post is here.

It's been over a year--I really didn't think it had been that long--and I thought I'd do a little update on what I've read, methods that work and one other major factor that has been beneficial to me in an effort to reduce my yelling as a mother.

I read some books.
Technically I read 1.5 books on parenting, but they were both very helpful. First, I listed to the book Peaceful Parent, Happy Kid and found it extremely helpful. I started to listen to The Whole Brain Child, but since it was through my library I didn't have the chance to finish before I had to return the audio copy. But, both books espoused very similar methods which were all about empathetic parenting. Empathetic parenting has to do with responding with empathy to your children and not trying to control them with punishments or rewards. As a parenting philosophy this resonates with me. I want a great relationship with my child more than I want a child who obeys my every command. Another suggestion that seems to have helped, especially for my youngest, is trying to make them laugh instead. Sometimes their emotions are all pent up and laughter can be as much of a release as anything else, including anger. Obviously you'll need to read the books to learn more and implement these strategies and I'm actually wanting to go back and read them again for a refresher, but I highly recommend both of these books.

I also recently read a fantastic book about parenting teenage girls called Untangled, recommended to me by one of my best friends who works with teen girls. I don't have a teenager yet, but the book does help with your pre-teen age girls as well--middle school is a common topic. This is another book I want to read again and again, but even the first read helped me feel a little more relaxed about certain pre-teen/teen behaviors when understood in the bigger context of our girls transitioning out of childhood. Again, another recommendation from me.

Sensory Awareness
One of my biggest triggers for when I yell at my kids, is when they are yelling. Go figure. Like any siblings they bicker and argue amongst themselves sometimes and I think it's important to let them work their difference out by themselves when necessary. However, sometimes I jump in just because I can't take the bickering anymore. But it's not just yelling, it's the singing, the playing and yes even laughing because while I love hearing my kids laugh and have fun, sometimes constant noise is just too much to handle. By far, the easiest and most effective measure I take against auditory sensory overload is to wear headphones and listen to either music, a podcast or a book and drown the noise out. So simple, but works so well. This works especially well when I'm making dinner.

Medication and Therapy
This, by far, has brought about the biggest change and it's really what this post is mostly about. One day last year--I honestly don't remember if it was before or after the post I wrote about yelling--but I was sitting there feeling angry and dazed from another outburst on my part and in my head I silently said to myself, "Amy, you are not well." It was one of the kindest things I have ever said to myself.


It was the realization that I could read all the books in the world, I could white knuckle my way through each and every day, but the problem was bigger than that. Interestingly, for about 2 weeks after that realization I was much calmer around my children simply because I knew, and acknowledged to myself, that I wasn't a horrible monster of a mother, I just wasn't well.

From that first realization that I wasn't doing well, it took a few months to find a good therapist. Then one day, after a few months in therapy, I brought up the idea of medication to my therapist. It had been in the back of my mind since the get go, but I still had my hesitations. My therapist seemed surprised as she didn't think I had depression. I told her that I don't necessarily think I have depression, but I was in my own head all. of. the. time. I was stuck with reoccurring, negative thoughts that just circled around and around in my head all day long. Additionally, no matter how many "breaks" I took from my kids I was always on edge. I was always on the verge of exploding, or unfortunately, over the edge. I told her that from my experience with taking medication when I had postpartum depression I thought this might help. (For clarity, my therapist can't prescribe medication, so it was more just running the idea past her to see what she thought. I didn't technically need her approval to start medication, but I trusted her and wanted her opinion. I had to see my regular doctor to get the prescription.)

Eventually I started medication and while I spent the first few weeks extra tired, the result in my disposition was night and day. It was like previously I had my toes hanging over the edge of the cliff and now I was about 50 feet away.  I could sit there with noise and bickering around me and not feel like I was having to use every ounce of power to resist breaking. It was a lifeline.
This Little Miggy || Parenting Update
You would think that since I had been on medication before and had such a positive experience with it, that I would be totally fine going on medication again, but that wasn't the case. It had been easier to "allow" myself to go on medication when there was a clear reason--postpartum. I had a new baby, life was hard, my hormones were out of whack, etc. See? All the reasons in the world for medication! It was much harder for me to decide to get on medication when I felt as though I didn't have a direct reason.

I honestly feel that I don't negatively judge anyone else who is on medication. I have several close friends who take medication and I've always appreciated Gabby Blair, aka DesignMom's frank and frequent discussions about her mental health. And I know what a blessing it has been in my life. But I still found myself resisting the idea of medication for myself. I think the answer is in the first sentence of this paragraph, "... I don't negatively judge anyone else..." Like a lot of other things I can think of, I can be very accepting, understanding and approving of other people's life situations, but when it's me, my judgment measuring stick comes out in full force.

Here are some of the mental hurdles I had to get over and/or some of the things that helped me decided to try medication again. (And isn't it a kick in the pants that the one thing you need to see your situation clearly is the one thing that is not functioning properly: your brain.)

--As I said, I was caught up on the idea that there wasn't a clearly defined trigger like postpartum depression, so did this now mean I officially have mental illness? Would I struggle like this for the rest of my life? I still don't know the answers entirely, but I have talked to enough people that I now believe that mental illness isn't something that only some people will deal with all of the time, but rather something that most people will deal with some or most of the time. Just like some people are more prone to physical illnesses while others hardly ever get sick, I think mental illness works much the same way. All of us will be affected at some point or another, but for how long and to what extent differs from person to person.

--If medication didn't help, well then no harm no foul. But if it DID help, well then hot dog! Part of it was just about giving it a try and seeing what happened.

--Talking to my sister in law she mentioned that her and quite a few friends were on medication and she urged me to get back on as well, as she pointed out, "It's not worth living like this when you don't have to." But then I had one of those, "So now everyone just gets on medication?" type moments. I think we've all seen the magazine covers that talk about how medicated everyone is and how we rely too much on medication. Again, I don't have an answer for this. But I think instead of worrying about statistics and wondering if I'm one of those "over medicated" Americans, I thought again about how I think most people deal with mental illness struggles at one time or another. And I also remembered the writing of an older woman (I can't remember the source and I'm paraphrasing) who once said, "All these younger women worry about taking medication, while us older ladies know it's a gift from God." It helped immensely to flip the script on medication and think about it as a gift from God--much like penicillin or ibuprofen--rather than an overused crutch.

--It doesn't have to be forever, at least not right now. In speaking with my doctor and my therapist, neither of them them think this is going to be a long term medication. That being said, I'd much rather be on medication and feel more in control of my life and my decisions, than to "proudly" proclaim myself medication free but struggling mentally. In other words I'm in no rush to wean off medication.

--If I couldn't do it for myself, I needed to do it for my family. Especially my kids.


So that's my big update. I still yell at my kids from time to time, but the frequency is much, much less. I also still plan to listen to the parenting books above and try to implement more parenting strategies, but for the time being having control over my mental state has been the key. I'm curious to know if anyone else tried the parenting tips mentioned in my previous post and found success? What about mental illness and medication? Anything resonate about what I said above? 

16 comments:

  1. Man, this is what I needed to read today. I have been feeling that "white knuckling" feeling too much recently and saying that doesn't have to be my normal, feels really kind to myself.

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    1. Yeah...it is a HUGE relief.
      Hugs and encouragement from Ohio.

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  2. ErinInCA6:03 PM

    Amen! I am on Lexapro (antianxiety) and it has been life-changing. I had turned into such a tense, unhappy parent and partner. There were some personal crises in my life that had sent me mentally spiraling, and I just couldn't get out. For anyone who is considering medication but unsure, one thing I can recommend is to see a psychiatrist. I don't see mine for therapy, but she was amazing at sussing out which med would be best for me and at what dosage, then checking in with me often for the first year. (Also, when I wasn't sure whether it was working, she said, "well, the first time I saw you, you said, A, B, C, and I notice that you haven't mentioned any of those things...") Amy, I know how many steps it takes to get from that, "maybe I need help" feeling to actually seeing a therapist and getting meds, so you get a huge gold star!

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    1. Yes it takes A LOT of steps to get from that first step to help. I like your suggestion of seeing a psychiatrist as that would probably be a much quicker path to medication and relief. And it sounds like the person you met with was very thorough.

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  3. I didn't go on anti-depressants *for* the twitchy, thin-skinned, 2 steps from rage state, but holy crap did they help. Like... I cannot overstate the amount they helped. I wish this were talked about more, because the depression symptoms I always saw were "can't shower, feel sad 24/7," not "flayed by every bad sensory input and small thing that annoys you, mind raw and ready to snap with anger".

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    1. RIGHT. Getting on medication isn't always about the classic depression symptoms and I think a lot of people don't realize that. In fact I called a good friend of mine who has dealt with mental health issues for a long time to talk about my symptoms--and most of it centered ruminating thoughts that I couldn't seem to let go of and being in my head ALL. OF. THE. TIME--it was moreso those things than it was yelling at my kids...I just thought that was a by product of the constant anger and annoyance I felt.

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  4. Wow this is hitting close to home. Makes me think I need to look into this further. I hateeeeee when I catch myself spiraling into yelling at my kids. :(

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    1. It is really worth looking into. Even talking to a close friend or family member who has dealt with mental health issues could be a good starting point. For me, reaching out and talking to a few people was part of the push to get me help.

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  5. This was so helpful. I've been thinking about it for myself for a while now, but like MC said, everything I have read about depression has been "can't get out of bed, sad" stuff. Mind you, for the past month that's been me 100% in a way I've never felt before, but before that, it was the angry all. the time. for no tangible reason. My doctor is a jerk and I need to find a new one that i can talk about this stuff with. Thank you for this post today.

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    1. Finding the right doctor is a huge part of getting help. But it is definitely worth the effort. Good luck!

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  7. After a series of incredibly stressful life events in 2016, and being a person who only takes the minimal amount of any medication needed, I had a bunch of health problems that weren't adding up. Heart palpitations which a cardiologist fismissed, throat problems an ENT said was general reflux (though I'd never had it), and several other issues I saw specialists for. Finally in december, I saw my GP and she asked if I had been stressed out .I looked at her and started sobbing out of nowhere. Uncontrollable sobs and just poured out my woes. I went on Lexapro and it changed everything! I was so much better to my kids, nicer to my husband, able to handle everyday life, etc. I thought I'd only be on for a few months but life threw a few more curveballs and every time I ever thought about going off ifIget a knot in my stomach. Finally a month ago I decided to start tapering extremely slowly. I'm at half a dose now and I can tell a difference but the good news is I can also tell that I can handle things better on my own. I'm able to respond calmly to my kids even when I really want to wring their necks. I was someone who thought I'd never need anti-anxiety meds but I am so grateful I've had them.

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  8. I got on medication for my family for exactly these reasons about 16 months after my youngest was born. I'm still on it 3 years later. Sometimes I feel guilty I'm still on it. But you know what else? I get so frustrated when people talk about all the Latter-day Saints (did I do that right?) who are on anti-depressants like it is some horrible thing. Guess what? Life is hard. At least we are seeking out help. Also we don't self medicate with alcohol. I truly believe if more of us drank we may not need anti-depressants but WE DON'T. So we do need that extra help so we aren't raging at our families all.the.time. And that is ok, right?

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  9. Anonymous6:31 AM

    If my mother had access to anti-depressant or anxiety medication decades ago, she probably wouldn't have been an alcoholic. She was obviously self-medicating and I'm so sad for her. She wasn't happy, her life hadn't turned out the way she envisioned, her marriage falling apart, and her family on the other side of the country.

    Thank you Miggy for your honesty and openness. So many times social media only highlights the carefully curated "perfect" and happy parts of life. This makes your blog so special to me, life isn't always sunlight and rainbows, and you share that with us.

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  10. Thanks so much for being vulnerable and sharing! Would you mind sharing how you searched for your therapist? I have recently (in the last year) started seeing someone for grief therapy. She is not the right person for me to see long-term, but I get so overwhelmed in the search.

    Also, as a note, my therapist did say that anger is generally a sign of depression in most men. I'm thinking it is probably a sign of depression in a lot some women as well... at least it has been for me.

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  11. Anonymous10:06 AM

    This is hitting close to home for me, too. I remember when my oldest was about 3 and my youngest not quite a year old and I was just FURIOUS all the time and I didn't like anyone in my house and it didn't occur to me that I was depressed. I've been depressed before, hospitalized even, and medicated, and all of those times I felt the deep sadness, the lack of motivation, all that kind of thing. This was different. Going to therapy or on medication probably would have helped; instead, I went back to work and we had a daycare and then a nanny and then my husband quit his job to stay home. I've been the breadwinner for almost three years now and it's done wonders for our entire family.

    But on weekends, when I'm with the kids...the noise and chaos really gets to me. I ruined our last day of vacation this summer with yelling. I do not feel patient and loving, and my time with the kids is so limited because I am at work or traveling for work. I hate that my limited time with them is spent feeling frustrated with them. I don't feel sad-depressed like I have in the past, nor do I feel anxious/angry-depressed like I did my last months as a SAHM...but maybe there is something else there that a therapist could help me work through.

    Thanks for sharing.

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